With all the various ways one can eat, it can get overwhelming when looking at all the different options out there. You know I am not a huge advocate of following one specific diet, but I do believe that there are options for everyone out there.
This will be the first of a few “”diet review” posts in which I hope to clarify a few things on certain diets if you need clearer answers.
First on the list: the Ketogenic diet!
What is it
The ketogenic diet is essential a very low carbohydrate diet.
You only eat 5% of your total calories from carbs, eat a regular amount of protein (25%-35% of total calories) and eat a lot of healthy fats, 60% of total calories or more.
Woah woah that’s a lot of fat!
Yes it is, and yes fats are good for you. But remember I said here that fats bring in 9 calories per gram versus 4 calories for every gram of carbs. You will be eating less food on this diet because the foods you eat will have a higher energy value.
You get as much energy from eating half an avocado than you do eating 145 grams of cooked brown rice, each brings 161 calories. For visualization, 145 grams of rice is roughly one and a half cup.
I think the biggest misconception about high fat diets is the amount of food eaten. If you want to eat a smaller volume of food per day, then high fat diet, like the Keto diet is the way to go.
The biggest mistake people are making, in my humble opinion, is trying to do high fat and keeping a lot of carbs. It's so easy for example to make a delicious smoothie that's high in fat but then you always want to add the banana, the fruits and veggies. Carbs add up very, very quickly.
The other misconception is that fats are unhealthy for us. Too much fats leads to artherosclerosis! Fat makes you fat! Fats are bad for the heart. Please read this study and this one as well. They each say that there is no correlation between saturated fat intake and cardio vascular diseases.
The only type of fat that is bad for you is trans fats. Trans fats are biologically modified unsaturated fats and are very bad for you. Since there chemical structures have been altered, it’s very hard for our bodies to process them. It’s like eating something that’s not food. Like eating plastic, just gross..
Let’s take an example: Joe needs 3000 calories per day to sustain his lifestyle.
Under the Keto diet, here is his calories proportions PER DAY
150 calories will be eating in the form of carbs (5%)
900 calories wil be eaten in the form of proteins (30%)
1950 calories will be eaten in the form of fats (65%)
An exemple of what Joe could eat, per day
Meal 1: 2 tablespoons psyllium husk, 1-2 cups of coffee, 2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream, 2-3g
Meal 2: 5 large eggs, 1 cup of steamed spinach, 2 Italian sausage links.
Meal 3: 20 medium asparagus spears (5.25 to 7 inches in length), 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 8 ounces of cooked skirt steak.
Meal 4: 2 cups of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 1 scoop whey protein, 2 ounces of walnuts.
Meal 5: 8 ounce boneless pork chop, 2 cups of steamed broccoli, 2 tablespoons of butter, 1 ounce of grated parmesan cheese.
Aren’t carbs fuel for your body?
Usually, your body uses carbs as it’s main fuel source. Yes carbs supply you muscles with energy, yes there is glycogen in your muscles, and yes you need carbs to regulate blood glucose. BUUUUUT your body can do all of that with fats as well!
Way back when we used to be caveman, our bodies evolved to sustain long periods without food. We also needed to have energy in those periods to run away from predators and chase our own dinners. Ketosis is metabolic state that kicked in such periods.
Ketosis is basically the breakdown of fat cells in our body. They break down to form ketones. It is those ketones that produce the chemicals we need to produce energy.
What the ketogenic diet aims to do is REPLICATE this situation, while keeping your food intake healthy by limiting the carb intake.
Here is a extract of a study I highly recommend you read if you want more on this subject:
During very low carbohydrate intake, the regulated and controlled production of ketone bodies causes a harmless physiological state known as dietary ketosis. Ketone bodies flow from the liver to extra-hepatic tissues (e.g., brain) for use as a fuel; this spares glucose metabolism via a mechanism similar to the sparing of glucose by oxidation of fatty acids as an alternative fuel. In comparison with glucose, the ketone bodies are actually a very good respiratory fuel. Indeed, there is no clear requirement for dietary carbohydrates for human adults. Interestingly, the effects of ketone body metabolism suggest that mild ketosis may offer therapeutic potential in a variety of different common and rare disease states. Also, the recent landmark study showed that a very-low-carbohydrate diet resulted in a significant reduction in fat mass and a concomitant increase in lean body mass in normal-weight men. Contrary to popular belief, insulin is not needed for glucose uptake and utilization in man. Finally, both muscle fat and carbohydrate burn in an amino acid flame.
You may know that the body need ATP to make energy. And that glucose and glycogen are important to make ATP during high intensity exercises. The truth is that you can get that same energy without the glucose and glycogen. In the sciency lingo, gluconeogenesis, is the formation of glucose from non carbs sources, mainly lacate and glycerol.
What foods can you eat
You can eat the same foods that are recommended in any healthy lifestyle.
Like I said earlier, the biggest change is your macro split. So you won’t be eating a lot of grains and not a lot of fruits. Since your carbs are so restricted I would recommend prioritizing veggies as your sources from carbs.
Any grass fed animal product is good, dark leafy greens are good, nuts and avocados are very popular and low carb veggies such as bell peppers, onions, broccoli or cabbage.
This post summarizes the foods very well, and here's a picture summary:
In my eyes, the biggest benefit is that you will eat a smaller volume of foods. If your lifestyle is a little hectic, you’re always running around, you have kids, you never have time to eat, this one might be a good one for you.
I also like that since you won’t eat too many carbs, your grocery shopping will be a little easier with less things to buy.
I haven’t done the research to see if this diet is suitable to children, mainly considering their growth. All my research is based on adults. I haven't done extensive research on this diet and athletic performance either and plan to write about it in the future.
They're are claims that this diet is great to prevent inflammatory diseases, increases brain function and is better for gut health.
Are there side effects?
There are side effects associated with starting a new diet. You might experience headaches, fatigue, decrease in physical performance for a week or so. You may get cravings but they will go away after that first week.
I haven’t found any long term side effects to this diet apart from not eating carbs.
The only drawback to this diet, in my eyes, is that it’s very restrictive on the carbs. I personally love fruits and don’t think I could go on long term without them.
I love the theory behind the Keto diet. Forget theory, with the studies I outlined in this post, you should see that this works.
If you can handle eating very little carbs, and staying lean is your goal, then I would strongly recommend this diet. Like I said, I need to do more digging about intense physical performance on this diet and will talk about more in detail later.
Keep in mind that like all “diets”, this should be implemented as a lifestyle. This will only work if you eat this way for a long time.
Has any one tried it? Shoot me an email and let me know what your thoughts are!