Unless you’ve been living underneath a rock, you’ve likely heard of the Ketogenic Diet, also know as the Keto Diet. The Keto Diet is SO fetch right now. You’ve probably heard people touting their success on the diet, bragging about intermittent fasting (IF), or talking about the dreaded keto flu.
But what exactly is the diet? What does it entail, and why are people starving their bodies of carbs if the brain thrives off of carbs? With the help of some experts on the topic, here is our breakdown of the good, the bad, and the straight up ugly.
WTF is the Keto Diet?
The Keto Diet has actually been around for quite some time. Fasting and other dietary regimens have been used to treat epilepsy since at least 500 BC. In the 1920s, doctors at the Mayo Clinic noticed that some epilepsy patients with signs of low blood sugar had fewer seizures. As a result, they created a diet meant to trick your body into thinking it’s starving. You know, without the whole not having enough sustenance to live part.
Introducing the Keto Diet.
According to Ohio-based personal trainer, Chris Cucchiara, “in monitoring these patients, doctors also noticed that patients were able to get into ‘ketosis’. This is where one is able to burn fat primarily as an energy source.” Ketosis happens when glucose stores are depleted within the body.
HOLD UP… WTF is Ketosis?
WebMd states that ketosis is “a normal metabolic process, something your body does to keep working. When it doesn’t have enough carbohydrates from food for your cells to burn for energy, it burns fat instead. As part of this process, it makes ketones.”
If you’re generally healthy, and eat a balanced diet full of nutrient-dense foods, your body naturally controls how much fat it burns. When you cut way back on your calories or carbs, your body will go into ketosis in search of a new energy source.
So… what is the difference between Atkins and Keto?
When looking at these diets, they can look super similar. Both fall within the category of severely restricting carbohydrate intake. The biggest difference is that the Keto Diet is a total lifestyle diet, and is not completed in ‘phases’ like the Atkins diet.
The ideal breakdown with the Keto Diet involves a sustained lifestyle of:
- 60-75% fat
- 15-30% protein
- 5-10% carbs
With the Atkins diet, there are four phases when followed properly:
- Induction: Phase 1- Under 20 grams of carbs per day for two weeks. Eat high-fat, high-protein, with low-carb vegetables like leafy greens. This kick-starts the weight loss.
- Balancing: Phase 2- Slowly add more nuts, low-carb vegetables and small amounts of fruit back to your diet.
- Fine Tuning: Phase 3- When you’re very close to your goal weight, add more carbs to your diet until weight loss slows down.
- Maintenance: Phase 4- Here you can eat as many healthy carbs as your body can tolerate without regaining weight.
Even just comparing the breakdown of these diets, you’ll see that they have similarities. The biggest difference is the focus on high-fat foods with the Keto Diet, whereas there is a stronger focus on protein with Atkins, intended to keep the body feeling fuller, for longer. The common denominator is the restriction of carbs.
Why would you ever starve your brain? It thrives on carbs!
“Although most bodies thrive on carbs, it can actually thrive on any energy source granted it is given enough of it,” says Chris Cucchiara. “That is why the Keto Diet works when it does, because fat and protein are still energy sources that the brain can use. Back before we harvested grain, we often had to survive on very little carbs, relying on meat and fat. We survived as a species because our bodies can adapt. Just like they can on a ketogenic diet.”
Is the Keto diet healthy?
This is a complicated answer. When your diet consists of bulletproof coffee and a pound of bacon, NO, it’s not a healthy diet or way of living. If you’re going to give the Keto Diet a shot, please do not go about it this way. It’s not sustainable, nor is it healthy.
However, it can be done if you consider nutrition as an important factor.
Our friends at Green Chef are here to offer some healthy AND Keto-compliant meals. These low carb, yet healthy dishes are packed with nutrients. Click on the photos to get the recipe and directions.
The first days/ weeks of the Keto diet
Before you fail to heed any warnings, and decide to jump straight into this lifestyle, there are some downsides, including:
- Rapid muscle loss if you’re not eating enough calories
- Constipation because your diet is lacking fiber
- In people with diabetes, there is a risk for complications from low blood sugar
Ginger Hultin- a Seattle based Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist and Arivale Coach- states “Many people experience some changes in the way they feel, especially in the first week days or even weeks of doing a ketogenic diet. Symptoms can include lightheadedness, fatigue, headaches, diarrhea or cramping. If you experience these symptoms, make sure to meet with your doctor for safety, and also consider taking it easy to give your body time to adjust.
Glucose (blood sugar) from the carbohydrates we eat are a quick energy source to draw off of during exercise. When the body is deprived of this energy source, there is a shift in the way the body creates energy and you may feel a difference in how challenging exercise is for you, especially at first. Some people do find that they fatigue more quickly or feel tired making exercise harder at first.”
Ginger Hultin warns, “Despite the short-term weight loss and some potential positive changes in certain blood markers, ketogenic diets do have potential concerns and lack of scientific information on the long-term effects.
Specifically, there is a possibility of:
- Kidney damage
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Side effects including: constipation, dehydration, fatigue, and nausea
Drastically shifting the diet to keto on certain medications or conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure can be dangerous. In addition, adherence to a ketogenic diet may prove to be a challenge. In general, if a person follows a ketogenic diet, they should do so only for a brief time and under close medical supervision. Individuals and their healthcare professionals should weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a ketogenic diet.
The ketogenic diet isn’t for everyone and should be discussed with a physician before starting. It can be challenging to follow correctly and also comes along with some potential health hazards. Unless it is indicated as a therapeutic diet (often for seizures or other neurological conditions), it may not be a diet that many people can, or want to, follow for general health or weight management.”
The Bottom Line
At Bad Yogi, we are believers in sustainable diets that don’t feel like a diet. Rather, can be sustained as a way of life. When diets start to restrict certain foods, or entire food groups, it can be challenging to sustain.
Chris Cucchiara states, “The keto diet can be great for people looking to shed fat quickly, but only do so for a short period of time. When a person chooses to come off of the diet, they need to do so gradually.
If you jump back onto a large amount of carbohydrates quickly, there is a great possibility that your body will retain them more readily than if you are eating them everyday. Hence, gaining fat at a faster rate than normal.
Keto isn’t the end all cure all. The best solution is to find a diet that is sustainable for you. One that you have confidence that you can adhere to most of the time. Extreme diets almost never work.”
About our sources:
Chris Cucchiara is a passionate personal trainer and fitness advocate who has competed as a natural bodybuilder. His first love came in the form of personal development. He had read over 200 books on the subject and integrates what he has learned into his professional and personal life to help people and find more day to day happiness in order to live a purposeful life.
Ginger Hultin, MS, RDN, CSO is an Arivale Coach and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She is board-certified in oncology nutrition and also holds specialty certifications in weight management, personal training and group fitness. Ginger contributes regularly to Today’s Dietitian and Food & Nutrition Magazines. She is the current Chair of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group and Past President of the Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Green Chef was the first USDA-certified organic and certified gluten-free meal kit company. Green Chef offers menus that cater to a range of dietary preferences, including: vegan, keto, and paleo, along with omnivore, carnivore, and vegetarian. Green Chef makes it easy to cook healthy, delicious, organic meals in just 20-40 minutes. Each delivery contains all the essentials to create three nourishing dinners for two or four people. Each chef-crafted recipe is organic and includes pre-measured ingredients.