The Keto diet (short for ketogenic diet) is an incredibly popular means to fat loss right now. If you haven’t had a family member, mailman, or Nancy at the BMV talk about how they just started the keto diet, you’ve been living under a soundproof rock. But why is this diet so popular right now? Does it actually work? And is all the hype exactly that… hype? My opinion is mixed on how to approach this topic because as with most things, it really depends on the person and his or her specific lifestyle. Before we get into what you came for, here’s a brief rundown of the Keto diet.
Your body is pretty awesome because it does tons of cool things like lifting weights or jogging with your dog. And to do things, we need fuel. That fuel under normal circumstance is called glycogen. Glycogen is what we’re left with after carbohydrates are consumed and converted into a more usable form of energy. We store it primarily in our muscles along with a small portion in our liver. But what happens when we just stop giving our body carbs, as with the Keto diet? We don’t have the same glycogen that was once available. Instead, we need a different fuel source. So, our resilient bodies begin converting the fats we eat into ketones, which through a whole bunch of chemistry become our new fuel.
The Keto Diet is known for allowing people to drop weight very quickly. However, refer back to the description of Keto above, and think about why the scale shows results so quickly. If you aren’t taking carbohydrates in, there’s little glycogen to be stored in the muscles and liver. Our bodies hold a finite amount of glycogen, and this weight shows up on the scale. So, if you don’t eat a carbohydrate for a week, that glycogen level drops like an anchor, and your scale weight will follow suit. The bad news is, that weight isn’t “fat weight.” It’s the same weight you’ll gain back when carbs make their way back into your diet. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily but something to make peace with prior to beginning the diet.
That’s the crux of the Keto diet: Very high fat – VERY low carbs (<5-10% total caloric intake). With that settled, let’s get into the meat and potatoes (or in this case, just the meat). Who does Keto work for?
Recently, I published a blog about how food temperature indirectly affects fat loss. The cruxes of my claims were that foods eaten at room temperature are more convenient to eat and inherently non-satiating, leading to a caloric surplus. They’re also almost exclusively made up of carbohydrates – a feature not mutually exclusive from the aforementioned points. Save for my packets of tuna I toss back frequently, the foods in our cabinets are predominantly carbohydrates. Therefore, if you decide the Keto Diet is for you, recognize that you’ll need to cook the vast majority of your food. Red meat, fish, eggs, cheeses, etc. are all popular low-carb/no-carb options, but they also take more preparation than a sandwich and chips might. For someone who likes cooking, this may work out beautifully!
Personally, I’ve never done a Keto-style diet. Reason being, I place a large priority on my performance in the gym where carbs are my best friend. I say this as a weight lifter, but this holds especially true to a runner or someone who cross-trains due to the much higher levels of energy expenditure and physical demand. Without getting into a lengthy physiologic discussion, carbs allow us to produce force quicker and with more intensity than fat does. There’s a reason marathon runners carb-load prior to a race, after all. However, if you’re someone who prefers low-level aerobic exercise, the trade-off may be worth it.
Imagine carbohydrates consisting of 60% of your diet on Thursday, and suddenly they’re cut to <10% on Friday and thereafter. That’s a big adjustment to your body. And from a mostly anecdotal perspective, the results can be uncomfortable. People often report increased fatigue, difficulty concentrating, etc. Can you blame your body? There’s an adjustment period to be made when you’re attempting to replace a main source of fuel with another. The essence of The Grinder is someone who understands the road will be a bit uncomfortable but is willing to accept those consequences.
My opinion on the Keto Diet is mixed. I do believe that with a sufficient understanding, it can be a useful tool for fat loss. I’m not typically a fan of drastic dietary changes because from my experience, they breed drastic mental-emotional changes as well. I mean, any diet putting a harsh limit on fruits and vegetables in a time where the obesity epidemic in the U.S. is at full force causes me to pause. However, cutting carbs may be useful when trying to lose fat efficiently but perhaps to a lesser extreme that fits someone’s lifestyle.
This was simply an introduction to the Keto Diet and my personal thoughts. I advocate doing further research if you’re considering implementing these strategies because education is power. Someone told me that once.
Thanks for reading.
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