I’m not sure if any diet can stack up to the hype of the ‘Keto Craze’ - especially over the past year or two. Rightfully so as it has shown incredible results in short periods of time for many people, but Keto also has raised lots of controversy in a number of groups. I mean, remove carbs...forever?!
Keto can have a lot of benefits when done properly, and it can also be a great option for some populations, but we want to make sure that you know whether or not it is right for YOU. If it is, we want you to understand how to take the smartest, most effective approach as it is a diet that can be dangerous when done incorrectly.
In this article, we are going to be covering what the Keto diet entails, some benefits, what populations may benefit and who may not, as well as how to take the best first steps towards being successful with Keto!
The ketogenic diet is a very high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb intake. The typical range of macronutrient ratios for keto diets are 60-75% of calories from fat, 15-30% of calories from protein, and 5-10% of calories from carbohydrates.
This reduction in carbs in favor of fat raises blood ketone levels and puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. When this happens, your body becomes more efficient at burning fat for energy. The reason that protein intake stays moderate is so that it cannot be turned into glucose (sugar) through a process called gluconeogenesis. This is what provides the other energy sources for the body that it cannot get from fat/ketones.
Some of the benefits of the Keto diet include:
Some pretty large benefits, but are you someone who should give it a try?
1. Obese/Overweight -
This is beyond the population of ‘wanting to lose the last 10 lbs’. This is including individuals who have considerable amounts of weight to lose and also who may have known metabolic risk factors.
Anumber of different studies have shown that a very low carb approach has proven more effective for weight loss, maintaining muscle mass, and lowering metabolic risk factors than a low-fat approach for those that are overweight or obese.
2. Metabolic Syndrome/Blood Sugar Imbalances -
Blood sugar plays an important role not only in weight management, but also the prevention of chronic disease including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and some preliminary studies even show Alzheimer’s being in this group.
Many of these diseases are driven by consistently high blood sugar, and an easy way to bring blood sugar down is severely reducing your carbohydrates, especially if you are sedentary.
3. Digestive Disorders
A high carb intake can actually make symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) worse by feeding pathogenic bacteria in the gut. (Source). A lot of these microbes ferment carbohydrates, which produces gas and stomach pressure. This can also lead to bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
By reducing carbohydrates, there is less fermentable substrate for gut bacteria, which reduces the amount of gas in the small intestine. It should be noted that the gut needs fermentable carbohydrates to survive, so it is recommended that this population follows a cyclical ketogenic diet vs. a long-term, strict keto diet.
4. PCOS (Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome)
This condition is characterized by 3 main things, insulin resistance, menstrual irregularities, and hyperandrogenism (Source). The ketogenic diet has been shown to help improve fertility in women with PCOS by improving insulin resistance, assisting in weight loss, and inducing better ovulation (Source).
1. Individuals with Gallbladder Disease or No Gallbladder -
The gallbladder’s main job is to help create ‘bile’, which then breaks down and digests the dietary fat we consume. The gallbladder then stores this bile before it goes into the small intestine. When the gallbladder is removed or impaired from disease, it becomes very difficult for the body to digest and absorb large amounts of fat and the keto diet may stress digestion and bowels. (Source)
Specific training methodologies that include high intensity and explosive movements like martial arts, CrossFit, heavy lifting, or olympic weightlifting utilize the body’s glycolytic stores. To have proper stores it is important to take in at least amoderate carbohydrate intake rather than a keto diet. It should be noted though that endurance athletes may do totally fine on a keto diet since that type of exercise can utilize fatty acid oxidation and ketones.
3. Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women
As women are pregnant, they obviously supply the baby with all of the needs to help it grow at a healthy rate. That growth and especially crucial brain development require a consistent flow of glucose (aka carbohydrates). Reduced glucose availability caused by a maternal ketogenic diet may have long-term adverse effects on infant health, including abnormal growth patterns and alterations in brain structure. (SOURCE).
4. High-Stress Individuals -
Chronic high stress can cause HPA axis dysfunction, and when you consume adequate carbohydrates, it can help support this process of the body as well as lower cortisol levels. When carbohydrates are consumed, insulin gets produced within the body, and the presence of insulin assists in lowering cortisol (our stress hormone). It should also be noted that a keto diet has been observed toraise cortisol levels and may push your stress-response into overdrive if you are already currently high-stress.
As you can see, a low carb diet can be a good choice for certain people, as long as they pay attention to several important factors that can ensure their nutritional status isn’t negatively impacted by this somewhat restrictive diet. We came up with a comprehensive list to help you take the right first steps to finding success and better health with keto!
1. Eat enough protein
Many ‘standard keto’ diets recommend keeping protein lower, but research has shown you can still maintain ketosis with the higher end (30% of calories) coming from protein. Protein assists in maintaining muscle mass and helping keep hunger at bay.
Exercising, especially lower intensity (endurance) helps deplete glycogen stores and can get you into ketosis faster and can also help your body burn additional fat for energy.
There aremany things that can get depleted on a keto diet, but if you are aware, you can make sure that it does not cause problems in your health or how you feel. Here are the main things we find necessary to supplement with while on keto:
4. Drink PLENTY of water!
As we said above, keto has a naturally dehydrating effect on the body. It’s extremely important to maintain hydration levels and that takes a bit of extra effort without adequate carbs to help store that water.
5. Decrease Stress and Prioritize Sleep
High stress elevates cortisol, which then stimulates gluconeogenesis (the body’s production of glucose) in the liver. This then causes our ketone levels to drop and make it difficult to enter ketosis.
Sleep has a very similar impact as stress on ketosis because inadequate sleep causes higher stress! Less than 7 hours of quality sleep a night has shown to increase blood sugar levels and cortisol hormone circulation.
So if you’re considering giving keto a shot, just make sure it is the right fit for YOU and you cover all your bases with supplying your body what it needs to thrive!
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