“Keto” this, “keto” that; you’ve read and heard about the keto diet all over the internet and in the news over the past couple years. Many of you may have even tried to adopt a keto diet. Like many diets they come and go like the seasons, but the keto diet has persevered as the best new weight loss diet… or is it? Will following a keto really aid in weight loss? Is following a keto diet beneficial to YOU? We are going to break down what’s actually going on in your body while you’re on a keto diet and the pros and cons to eating this type of way.
What is the keto diet?
The keto diet is characterized by consuming higher amounts of fats and lower amounts of carbohydrates. A “true” keto diet may put you as low as 0-5% of your total calories coming from carbohydrates (this is a drastic change from the standard American diet, which consists of roughly 50% total calories coming from carbs). This will mean eliminating starchy vegetables, grains, legumes, sugars, and many fruits from your diet. Carbs are your body’s favorite energy source; meaning it is the easiest of all macronutrients to break down and use for energy in our bodies. When we consume very low amounts of carbs our body starts to turn stored fat into the main fuel source. This raises the possibility to kick start “ketogenesis” which is what the keto diet is named after. The ketogenesis process is essentially the breakdown of stored fat to produce an alternative fuel source, called “ketones”. Consuming low carbs and using fat as fuel sound great right!? Yes, and no. To get a better idea, let’s look at the pros and cons of the keto diet.
Impact on insulin - The keto diet can have a huge impact on insulin resistance. Thanks in part to our country’s overconsumption of carbs; a majority of Americans have insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes or other metabolic disorders. Carbs aren’t bad, but like all things moderation is key. Reducing carbs can help control insulin resistance which prevents the onset of diabetes and metabolic disorders.
Brain boost - Studies have found that using fat as a fuel source may help protect you from neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
May aid in weight loss - The keto diet is magic, but by eliminating one of three macronutrients (carbs), you are bound to be consuming fewer calories. Over time this will result in weight loss since you’re using more calories than you’re intaking. Also, with consuming more fat and less carbs, we are eating more satiating, fiber-rich food sources meaning we stay fuller, longer, leading to weight loss.
Extremely restrictive - If you eliminate one of three macronutrients, you are eliminating a ton of food options/sources. This can make the keto diet more difficult to follow/adhere by since most foods have carbs in them. With less food options, you will find yourself eating similar foods more often.
Easy to become deficient in key vitamins and minerals - Reiterating the last point, with carbs essentially eliminated, we run the risk of becoming deficient in some key vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, B, and micronutrients. It is important to try to get those key vitamins and minerals when on the keto diet. However, vitamin supplements may help with this.
Not ideal for exercise/performance - Carbs are your body’s primary source of energy and play a key role in physical performance. With significantly low amounts of carbs in the diet, one’s physical performance may suffer. If you are training seriously for a physical challenge/goal, the keto diet may not be the most advantageous diet for you.
Rebound effect/hard to maintain - This again, goes off what we talked about earlier; if we eliminate one of our macronutrients, we will have limited options in our food choices. This makes the diet harder to maintain and the inevitable “rebound” that much worse. Rebound refers to the concept that eventually you will be in a situation where you go back and consume a similar diet to what you were eating prior to the keto diet. Drastically increasing your carb intake can lead to adverse effects in your gut, stomach, and/or digestive system. Again, it is these drastic changes that encourage a larger rebound and greater adverse health symptoms.
In The End…
The keto diet can work wonders for some people: alleviating internal gut issues, improving cognition, and maybe even weight loss. As a whole, the keto diet is not ideal for everyone. Changing to the keto diet can be an extremely drastic change to how we are currently eating which will only make it harder to follow and adhere by. The restrictiveness of eliminating a whole macronutrient (carbs) leaves you with limited food options and may lead to deficiency in some vitamins and minerals. Ultimately, it can be a valuable practice to try all kinds of diets; every person reacts differently to different diets. Trying all kinds of diets for some time each and listening to your body is the best way to figure out what works for YOU. In general, adopting a diet that has similar properties to the keto diet will benefit most people, but for many the keto diet is too drastic and unrealistic in the long term. No one knows your body better than you; pay attention to what you put in your body and how it makes you feel.
Blog by: Kurt Bieniek
14 E Scranton Ave | Lake Bluff, IL 60044