It's advertised as the answer to fat loss, but is it actually superior, and is it worth it?
Essentially, the ketogenic diet forces the body to use ketogenic bodies (a type of fuel that the liver produces from stored fat) for energy, instead of glucose from carbohydrates.
This reduction in carbs allows the body to enter a metabolic state known as ketosis, which is where your body breaks down fat stores to produce energy in the form of ketones.
Burning fat to lose fat, sounds like the dream, right? However, getting the body to make ketone bodies isn't as easy as it seems.
•You must deprive yourself of carbohydrates. No more than 20-50g per day. (For reference, a medium banana contains roughly 27g of carbs).
•It can take a few days for you to enter ketosis.
•Eating too much protein can interfere with ketosis.
What Can You Eat?
When following Keto, around 75% of your daily calories will come from fat. So for example, a 2000 calorie diet could be broken down into 165g of fat, 40g of carbs and 75g of protein (the exact ratio will depend on your personal needs).
Although healthy unsaturated fats (such as nuts, seeds, avocados, tofu and olive oil) are allowed; saturated fats (such as palm oil, coconut oil, lard, butter and cocoa butter) are encouraged in large quantities.
When it comes to protein, I'm sure you'll normally have been pushed to eat more lean sources. However, keto doesn't differentiate between these and those high in saturated fat such as beef, pork and bacon.
Finally, when it comes to fruit and veg, your choices are limited. Fruits are usually restricted to small portions of berries, and vegetables to leafy greens (such as kale and spinach), broccoli, peppers, onions, cucumber, celery and mushrooms.
You may notice that many of the guidelines go against what you've always been told is healthy. This can therefore lead to some risks:
•Increased risk of heart disease: the Keto diet can be high in saturated fat, leading to an increase in 'bad' LDL cholesterol, which is linked to heart disease.
•Nutrient deficiency: as fruits and veg are limited, there is an increased risk of nutrient deficiency due to a lack of micronutrients, most commonly selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B and C.
•Liver problems: as there is more fat to break down, any existing liver problems could be exacerbated.
•Brain fog and mood swings: the brain uses sugar from healthy carbohydrates to function. Low carb diets can lead to irritability and brain fog.
So, although keto is made out to be the best way to lose weight, you need to weigh up the risks, as well as how easily it would realistically fit into your lifestyle.
Remember, you can lose weight sustainably while still eating carbs. It depends if you can live without pasta or not! 🍝
(Disclaimer: if keto is something you are genuinely considering, consult your GP first to ensure you're not at a higher risk)