The Keto diet is a diet that has been getting a lot more publicity now on social media. This has inspired even more people to try out the diet in their everyday lives also. What is the keto diet though?
The keto diet is a diet in which people consume approximately 70 percent of the calories from fat, 25 percent from protein and 5 percent from carbohydrates. Human beings usually consume most of their calories from carbs and we are often encouraged by nutrition experts to consume approximately 60 percent of our diet from carbs for multiple reasons. The first is that carbs are the easiest source of energy for humans to derive glucose from, which is necessary to power our cells. The second is that too much protein can result in kidney issues. The third is that too much fat can result in blood flow issues. Now this is an oversimplification but that is the simple run down.
The keto diet advocates such low carb intake and high fat intake because of the very reason people turn to the diet. People use the keto diet in order to burn fat as quick as possible. Predominately people looking to loose a lot of fat quickly or bodybuilders looking to get lean quickly will turn to the keto diet. But why do they use the keto diet to do this as opposed to any other diet?
The reason people turn to keto for fast fat burning is because of what the diet is named after. Keto is short for ketogenic. Ketogenic means of ketogenesis. Ketogenesis is the process by which the body creates energy from fat in order to power the cells. This process is much more difficult than deriving glucose from carbs. During ketogenesis, the body creates ketones from fat cells and uses them for energy. The body usually resorts to ketogenesis when it is not getting enough carbs to create the amount of glucose needed. This is the situation that occurs when people are starving. However, the keto diet has figured out a way to not actually starve, but to make the body act as if it is starving in order to more efficiently burn up body fat. It does this by having its adherents consume very high fat and very low carbs. The body will get enough calories but not have enough carbs to create enough glucose. It will have to resort to the fat that is being taken in and the fat that is in the body already to create glucose. This will make the body more efficient at using fat as its main source of energy and so people use it in hopes that it will help them loose fat quicker. This is typically a short term thing and once the goal is reached people usually go off the diet.
But how does one eat a diet 70 percent in fat, 25 percent in protein and 5 percent in carbs? And what foods do people on the keto diet eat?
Well since fruits, veggies and grains are predominately made of carbs, people on a keto diet usually totally avoid grains and have a very minimal amount of vegetables and fruits. When it comes to veggies and fruits avocados are a must since they are a very fatty fruit. They may have a slice of a tomato or onion but other than avocados they will usually stick with a fist worth of leafy greens a couple of times a day to get some carbs,vitamins, minerals and fiber. The predominant foods that are eaten on a keto diet are meats (red, white, sea creatures), eggs, high fat milk and dairy products, nuts, seeds and oils such as olive oil or coconut oil. These foods are high in fat and protein and so it fits the needs of the diet perfectly. When it comes to drinks, water and milk are the only choices.
So besides helping to burn fat quicker, are there other benefits of following a keto diet? There are a few. Because of the high amount of fat and protein that is taken in, people on a keto diet will feel fuller more easily. This makes it easier to stick with the diet because you won’t have an appetite to munch on snacks on the side or have more than your portion. The keto diet has also been found to treat cancer, epilepsy and may treat Alzheimer’s. In the case of cancer, cancer cells thrive on glycogen from carbs and so the low amount of carbs essentially starves cancer cells and stunts or slows their growth. It helps to control epilepsy for some people who suffer from seizures. The diet was originally created to help control epilepsy. The keto diet may help Alzheimer’s patients by slowing the progression of the disease. There seems to be a link between blood sugar glucose and Alzhiemer’s disease. The keto diet makes the body more insulin sensitive because of the low amount of glucose we are receiving from carbs. This would help decrease the blood sugar glucose and maybe slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. However, regarding Alzhiemer’s this is not certain.
Ok so what are the negative aspects of following a keto diet? Unfortunately there are a lot more cons than pros:
- The extremely high fat intake will slow blood flow by making the blood thicker.
- The extremely high consumption of animal products (meats, sea creatures, eggs, dairy) will raise cholesterol by a lot.
- High cholesterol will lead to atherosclerosis if gone on for too long. This is the build up of plaque on the artery walls. This will narrow the blood vessels.
- Slower blood flow, higher cholesterol and atherosclerosis will increase risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Ketoacidosis could occur. Ketones are released during ketogenesis. Ketones are converted to energy for the cells. Ketones are blood acids. Too many ketones present in the blood can make the blood too acidic and cause ketoacidosis. This happens to diabetics when they cannot process glucose properly. This can be fatal.
- Higher cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone. It is released in response to stress. This most likely occurs during a keto diet because the body thinks it is in starvation mode. That’s pretty stressful.
- Low fiber because of low grain, fruit and vegetable consumption. This can cause constipation. Constipation can lead to shorter term negative conditions such as hemorrhoids and longer term negative conditions such as diverticulitis.
- You may have less energy to perform very intense workouts because of the low levels of carbs. Low carbs means less glycogen to power muscles.
- It may be harder to build muscle after being on the diet a while because of the low levels of carbs. Low carbs means less glycogen to fill muscles for recovery.
The keto diet is gaining popularity but that doesn’t mean everyone trying to loose weight or lean out should use it. Ultimately, the choice is up to the individual and that individual should consult a dietician if they feel weary about starting any new dietary program. However, the main plus of a keto diet for the vast majority of people would be fast fat loss. However, being that there are many serious health drawbacks to this diet, it is safer to loose fat the good old fashion way. If someone eats incrementally less calories than they need, they will lose weight. It’s that simple. Eating healthier and exercising are great ways help reduce the calories that are taken in everyday but those are not even necessary for weight loss. No fancy diets are needed either. Less calories in is all that is needed. You can eat carbs, fat, protein, alcohol, grains, nuts, seeds, cookies, veggies, fruits, sodas, meats, junk food, healthy food, sit around or exercise. If your goal is weight loss, all you need is less calories. If your goal is to be healthier and ripped, well then that’s another story. Eating healthy and exercising will be necessary in that case.