By: Craig Capurso (Cellucor Athlete, Former IFBB Pro, Online Fitness Coach & Author)
In the fitness world where fad diets come and go, it's frustrating trying to find one that lives up to the buzz. Although I have a relatively balanced diet approach, I’m not above testing out the latest diet trends. With all the hype surrounding the Ketogenic diet; I figured I'd give it a shot.
For those of you who haven't heard of this diet or need more insight, here's a brief breakdown:
In a nutshell, the Ketogenic diet helps shift the body’s primary fuel source (glucose/carbohydrates) to its secondary fuel source (fats) to help with weight loss.
Before you read on, there are a couple of things you should be aware of. The first is that, unlike many low carb diets, the Ketogenic diet emphasizes fats over protein. Depending on your health and fitness goals, this aspect of the diet could present an issue. Another thing to note is this diet is tough to maintain over the long haul--but more on that later.
The very first step in the Ketogenic diet is to calculate calorie intake. This should be close to maintenance since the shift from carbs to fats will be your primary focus.
Once you've established total calories, you divide fats, proteins and carbohydrates for ketosis:
- 75% of calories should come from fats.
- 20% of calories should come from protein.
- 5% should come from carbohydrates.
OK, now you know how the Ketogenic diet works. Before you jump into it, let me share my experience.
A firsthand account
They say the first two weeks of any diet are the hardest. As for the Ketogenic diet, this period is also the most significant. This is when the body enters ketosis. Many people experience mental and physical fatigue from low carbohydrate intake. But once you make it through this point, the body adapts, the fog lifts, and energy increases.
Truthfully, I’ve never been a high carb eater so this phase wasn’t all that terrible for me. However, I did notice a difference in appetite. The higher levels of fat kept me satisfied and I didn’t experience too many cravings, which to me is a win. In my opinion, half the battle when you're trying to lose weight is moderating appetite and temptation.
This diet isn't as restrictive as it seems. While I wasn’t gorging on bread, potatoes or brown rice, I had a whopping 75% of fat calories to play with. That sounds like a lot, but I kept it healthy. I enjoyed good fats like avocados, olive oil and almonds, and still had room to splurge a bit on fattier cuts of meat and hearty helpings of dairy.
There are a few downsides to the Ketogenic diet in terms of workout performance. Any short burst of energy like weightlifting or sprinting, for example, requires more carbs for fuel. On high intensity days, I struggled because I wasn’t getting the adequate kind of fuel to push myself as far as I normally would.
Aside from performance, I found this diet to be helpful for my particular goal, and in the timeframe I wanted to achieve it.
So, should you try it?
I can argue plenty of reasons not try a diet, but I will make the case for this particular one--especially if you have a decent amount of weight to lose.
That said, we are all unique with our fitness and lifestyle. Low carbohydrate diets, though they're popular, aren't for everyone.
If you do choose to give the Ketogenic diet a shot, stick it out for at least 30 days, then decide if you should quit or continue. It may not be a way of life, but it can help with weight loss.
Check out two Ketogenic recipes here.