‘Keto’ has been making headlines as THE go-to diet, but is all the hype justified?
Before you dive in head-first, consider these pros and cons of the ketogenic diet.
WHAT IS A KETOGENIC DIET?
The keto diet is simply high-fat and low-carb. The diet lowers blood sugar levels, essentially shifting your metabolism from carbs to fat.
The theory behind keto and the reason many people use it for fat loss is that by restricting carbohydrates, your body will eventually reach a state of ketosis – a metabolic state whereby it burns fat for energy. Ketosis can only occur when carbohydrates are kept at extremely low levels (usually below 30/40g per day).
KETOGENIC DIET: THE PROS
Keto Can Help You Lose Body Fat
Research, anecdote, and proponents of the diet have boasted that going keto can help you lose body fat. When you strip away the body's main source of energy (carbohydrates), it's forced to adapt by using body fat for fuel.
Gifu University of Japan found that a ketogenic diet does show a marked impact on the amount of body fat that you can burn off and metabolize for energy.
In addition, eating higher-fat foods throughout the day can help minimize cravings and increase feelings of satiety, ultimately helping you stay on track and within your recommended daily calorie count.
Keto Benefits a Sedentary Lifestyle
Sedentary lifestyles are all too common – a factor often dictated by desk jobs and long work hours. Even if you work out for 30 minutes a day, if you aren't moving much the rest of the time, there is ample reason to keep your carbs low since you don’t need the muscle glycogen.
Additionally, you can make the carbs you do have work more efficiently for you by timing your intake around your pre-workout and post-workout schedule.
Keto Resets Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin sensitivity occurs when the body has a tough time metabolizing glucose and making use of the sugars from carbohydrates. It also reduces the storage of glucose within muscle cells, negatively affecting training, performance, and results.
A period of low-carb intake via the ketogenic diet may help boost your sensitivity to insulin, ensuring that you can safely reintroduce carbohydrates at a later stage at no cost to physique or performance.
KETOGENIC DIET: THE CONS
Your Brain Needs Sugar
Unfortunately, there are some risk factors and side effects of the keto diet. The ability to focus is essential not only for hitting the gym but also for work and your personal life.
If you’ve ever tried a very low-carb diet, you may have experienced the “keto flu.” Flu-like symptoms like sluggishness may occur, especially in the first few weeks.
The reason for this is pretty simple: your brain derives energy from blood glucose – which in its most simple sense is a sugar. Carbohydrates are needed for glucose to enter the bloodstream. In the absence of this sugar, your cognitive function could take a hit.
Carbs Fuel Performance
If you are an athlete or someone who leads a very active lifestyle in general, you might want to avoid ‘going keto.’
A 1996 study conducted by Copenhagen University found that a low-carb, high-fat diet resulted in poorer training adaptations when compared to a high-carb approach. The researchers found that both power output and performance in endurance competition were negatively impacted by the ketogenic diet.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s published guidelines have since urged athletes to avoid low-carb diets, so you should heed this advice if you want to train and perform at elite levels.
Medical Use Only
The ketogenic diet is typically recommended in a medical setting, in order to improve the health of those who suffer from conditions such as type 1 and type 2 diabetes, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and metabolic syndrome.
In that sense, keto can work. For these people, lowering blood sugars through the removal of carbohydrates, particularly processed ones, may prove necessary in preventing serious health problems.
However, you could argue that this has been misinterpreted for use in the fitness world, where carbs help to fuel your workouts with much-needed muscle glycogen.
Calories Count Most
Weight loss is generally governed by calories in versus calories out. If you are burning off more calories than you consume via food and drink, then you will lose weight – regardless of the ratio of macronutrients (proteins, carbs, and fats) that you adopt.
It could feasibly be claimed that, when it comes to weight loss, the ketogenic diet places too much emphasis on fat, and not enough on the overall calorie count.
TWO KETOGENIC SALAD RECIPES
When eating a ketogenic diet, your fat intake is high, protein intake is moderate, and carb intake is low. We've partnered with Jolene Kohne to build two salad recipes that are high in fiber, packed with healthy fats and both contain valuable sources of protein. Enjoy!
Spinach and Goat Cheese Steak Salad - 2 Servings
- Flank Steak 6-8 oz
- Baby Spinach 3 cups
- Crumbled Goat Cheese 3 oz
- Thinly Sliced Red Onion 1/2 medium onion
- Diced Avocado
- Diced Cucumber
- Soy Sauce 3 tbsp
- Balsamic Vinegar 2 tbsp
- Minced Fresh Ginger 2 tbsp
- Minced Fresh Garlic 1 clove
- Olive Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Minced Fresh Ginger
- Black Pepper
- Prepare the marinade and start marinating the steak at least 4 hours before cooking
- Whisk together marinade ingredients, add the steak and ensure it’s covered
- Preheat the oven to 375*
- Heat an oven-safe frying pan on medium-high until hot
- Sear both sides of the flank steak for 2 minutes then transfer the entire pan into the oven. For a medium-rare steak, bake for 7-10 minutes
- Pull the steak out of the oven and allow steak to rest for 5 minutes before slicing it into thin slices
- In the meantime, grab a bowl, add the spinach, red onion and cucumber
- Prepare the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together in a small bowl, then adding the dressing to the spinach, red onion, and cucumber tossing to cover
- Plate the salad, top with avocado, crumbled goat cheese, and sliced steak. Enjoy!
Pulled Chicken Taco Salad with Lime Crema Dressing - 2 Servings
- Lettuce 2 cups
- Cilantro 1 bunch
- Avocado 1 whole
- Feta Cheese 3 oz
- Salsa 1/4 cups
- Red Chilis (optional)
- 4-6 Boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Chilli powder 2 tbsp
- Garlic powder 1 tsp
- Onion powder 1 tsp
- Coriander 1 tsp
- Cayenne Pepper 1/2 tsp
- Salt - to taste
Quick Pickled Red Onions
- Red Onion finely sliced
- White Vinegar
Lime Crema Dressing
- Greek Yogurt
- Juice of 1 lime
- Cook chicken thighs in 1 tbsp oil and with the homemade taco seasoning
- As the chicken is cooking, add the water, vinegar, salt, and red onion to a small saucepan
- Bring the ingredients to a boil then reduce heat and allow them to simmer
- Once the chicken is fully cooked, using a fork pull apart the thighs until all meat is shredded
- Wash and chop the lettuce and cilantro, plate the greens for the base of the salad
- Add the toppings including the chicken, then drizzle the Lime Crema over top, if you choose to add the red chilis, sprinkle them on top
Research does reinforce the pros of the ketogenic diet – particularly in its ability to target body fat stores for fuel. However, whether this approach is intended to last long-term is up for debate.
The loss of water weight is a short-term solution, for one, and you run the risk of tainting your training with prolonged periods of restricted carbs. Glucose provides fuel for the brain, and muscle glycogen for your time at the gym. If you are serious about building muscle mass or achieving peak sports performance then perhaps going keto isn’t for you.
The best advice is: consult your physician to determine whether this diet is good for your personal goals, body type, and lifestyle.