In the world of weight-loss diets, low-carbohydrate, high-protein eating plans often grab attention.
First, what you need to know is that good nutrition always comes down to balance.
Above all things, the goal should be to ensure that you’re getting enough of the right vitamins and minerals and fuel to feed your body well. Each of our bodies is slightly different, so what works for me, might not necessarily work in the same way for you.
There’s not a single way to achieve good nutrition.
Everyone is different, and thus, you can fuel your body by following a number of different nutritional methods.
One method that’s become increasingly popular is the ketogenic (“keto”) diet. And the question of “Should I try the Keto Diet?” is one that women ask me almost daily.
It’s a cultural craze that began as a medical diet and has now moved mainstream. But like most things relating nutrition and training, it seems the fitness industry has been filled with many myths and incorrect information.
My goal with this blog post is to help you learn the foundations of the ketogenic diet, learn how you can customize this diet for yourself to get the best result and ultimately answer the question: “should I try the keto diet?”
What is Ketosis?
Simply put, your body’s preferred method of fueling itself is carbs. When it runs out of carbs, it has a mechanism in place to turn fat into carbs (or glucose). A byproduct of that process is ketones.
“Being in ketosis” just means that you’re burning fat for fuel.
If you intentionally (or unintentionally) deplete the glucose stored in your muscles and liver, your body is forced to resort to burning fat to produce energy to keep you alive.
The diet required to get someone into the state of ketosis can vary from person to person.
And there are both PROS and CONS to being in a state of ketosis….
Should You Try the Keto Diet? Pros
As mentioned above, the keto diet began in the medical field. Initially, it was used clinically as a way to decrease symptoms of epilepsy in children. The medical community is experimenting with a keto diet as a treatment for other health conditions such as diabetes and even cancer, however at this point more research is needed before these correlations can be made.
But most commonly, the keto diet is currently being used in the mainstream for weight loss by women looking to shed some fat.
The ketogenic diet has been shown to be an effective method for weight loss when overall caloric intake is appropriate. And many health professionals link a proper keto diet with the following benefits:
- Balanced blood sugar and insulin levels
- Hormone production and rebalancing
- Increased fat loss
- Reduced Triglycerides
- Increased your levels of HDL (the good cholesterol)
- Decreased blood pressure
- Improved brain health and increased protection against dementia and other disorders
- Improved memory and clear brain fog
- Improved digestion
- Increased energy levels
- Better fertility
- Help you achieve higher quality and longer restorative sleep
In addition to weight loss, some keto proponents swear by the diet’s ability to decrease anxiety and mood swings. In one study, over 100 people were put on a calorie-restricted diet for a year. Half of them followed a low-carb, high-fat diet, and half of them adhered to a high-carb low-fat diet.
Researchers found that those on the high-fat diet generally had a better mood! They also experienced fewer incidences of anger, confusion, and depression.
One big reason that the keto is so popular for some women is that they find they’re able to eat more of the foods that they enjoy. A properly structured keto diet doesn’t allow you to simply eat whatever you want (your total daily calories must still be within the correct range for your goals) but it does allow room for many foods that traditional diets may try to avoid, like bacon, steak, butter, etc.
Should You Try the Keto Diet? Cons
A keto diet is not for everyone. And along with many benefits, there are also some cons.
For example, some of the initial weight you lose on a keto diet may not be from fat. One study found the percentage of weight lost on a 10-day low-calorie keto protocol was primarily water weight, and many low carb dieters often risk losing muscle mass if they’re not following a properly structured keto diet. Thus, short-term “crash” keto diets are not effective for burning fat and end up doing more harm than good.
In addition to risking losing muscle or simply dropping water weight, the keto diet does come with some side-effects.
When you switche to a high-fat low-carb diet and your body realizes that carbs are gone, you may experience withdrawals. When this happens, you experience flu-like symptoms that can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
Many women also report feeling lethargic after starting the keto diet. Because our bodies are accustomed to using carbs as energy for the most part, it’s normal to experience fatigue when they’re removed.
This usually goes away once your body has successfully begun to rely on fat as a fuel source, but it’s always best to listen to your own body and make adjustments as needed.
If you do find that you need to reintroduce a higher level of carbohydrates into your diet for energy and performance, it’s important that you be advised to do so slowly.
This is something that many keto supporters fail to mention.
Science shows that after several months or more without carbs, your body can become less efficient with carbohydrate usage and may even become somewhat intolerant.
Carbohydrate intolerance may cause issues like digestive troubles, intestinal discomfort, and weight gain when you reintroduce carbs back into your life.
If you integrate them slowly and strategically back into your diet you should be able to lessen these effects. Once your body re-adjusts to carbs in your diet again, they ought to go away completely.
But the development of carb intolerance is one reason most professionals suggest that you cycle the keto diet.
Energy from Fat vs. Energy from Sugar
When following a properly structured ketogenic diet, you’re efficiently and effortlessly able to tap into your “fat stores” for energy whenever you need it.
To give you a little science, when you consume sugar, the energy that doesn’t get used up immediately gets stored in your body (muscles and liver) as something called “glycogen.” Whatever is left over is stored as fat.
The average 150-pound woman can store up to 2,000 calories worth of energy in their body as glycogen (sugar). Even if this woman is ONLY 10 percent body fat (extremely low), she is storing about 15 pounds of fat, which is equivalent to over 52,000 calories.
You may have heard of marathon runners “hitting the wall” before. This is basically when a “sugar-burner” has depleted all their available energy in the form of glycogen.
Even though this person has THOUSANDS of calories worth of fat to be able to pull from for energy, their body is not efficient at the conversion process – and they hit the dreaded wall.
“The wall” is dreaded by marathoners and endurance athletes world wide.
It’s basically when their brain and vital organs are competing with their muscles for the last available amount of energy in the form of sugar. The brain and vital organs win the battle, and the muscles get shut down.
People who hit the wall feel an intense amount of pain, and sometimes can simply fall over, because their muscles stop working.
When you’re keto-adapted or living in nutritional ketosis, your body is efficient at tapping into these fat stores for energy, which means you’ll never hit that wall.
But more than that, it also means you’re not dependent on sugar for energy. You’re now dependent on fat.
As with all properly structured nutrition plans, you’ll need to customize your keto diet plan based on your own personal needs like energy expenditure, personal weight loss or weight gain goals, etc.
Should You Try the Keto Diet? Where to Start
For a properly structured keto diet, you’ll begin with macro set at approximately:
- 5%-15% Nutrient Dense Carbohydrates
- 20%-25% High Quality Protein
- 60%-75% Healthy Fats
If you’d like more help to personalize your macronutrients, I’d be happy to help you one-on-one. Just click here for more information about customized nutrition coaching Use coupon code KETOVIP for 25% off any customized nutrition pacakage of your choice.
The keto diet is a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb diet. It’s based on manipulating your macros in order to promote greater fat loss.
The most extreme keto macros breakdown by percent is about 70-75% fat, 20-25% protein and only about 5% carbs. However if you’re new to a keto diet, I recommend beginning at a more moderate range.
Should You Try the Keto Diet? Sustainability
If you’re interested in trying the keto diet as part of your healthy lifestyle, I encourage you to incorporate cyclical ketosis by intentionally having “high-carb” days and making the keto diet plan more sustainable.
Cyclical Ketosis is great for boosting hormone production, replenishing carbs for higher intensity based workouts, and for thyroid health (especially in women).
Once a 21-day keto diet plan is complete, most women can practice cycling in higher carb days every 4 to 7 days for optimal results.
After your 21-day challenge, introducing carbs back into your system for a day will knock you out of ketosis.
However because you’ll be keto-adapted, you’ll be able to pick right back up the following day with a ketogenic-style diet and won’t skip a beat!
Keto is generally meant to be cycled, and not recommended as a continuous, permanent lifestyle. But it shouldn’t be used or viewed as a crash diet either.
Most fad diets involve a ridiculously low caloric intake and are meant to be picked up for a month or two and then dropped. While they sometimes result in weight loss, it’s usually regained later.
Your task is to find a style of eating that is healthy, helps you meet your macro goals, and that you enjoy enough to stick to indefinitely.
Should You Try the Keto Diet?
Want to learn how to do keto the right way?
New diets and workout plans feel great at first… but weeks, or even days later, you give in to your cravings, and end up back at square one.
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