What is the keto diet?
The keto diet – or: ketogenic diet – is a low-carbohydrate diet in which 60 to 80 percent of your total calorie intake consists of fats. It is mainly used for medical purposes, for example for people with epilepsy or type 2 diabetes. It puts your body in ‘ ketosis ‘, because you take away the natural fuel source, carbohydrates. This is mainly expressed as: you burn fat.
Filling your hungry stomach with fatty foods while the pounds fly off? It sounds too good to be true. Of course, there are also certain conditions. Because ketogenic is not for everyone.
Losing weight with the keto diet: ketosis
Ketosis is achieved through a physical process called ketogenesis. Because you eat extremely few carbohydrates, your brain remembers glucose, their main food. Your body still needs fuel to function, so it increases the concentration of ketones in your blood by breaking down fatty acids. Think of it as a hybrid car that runs out of gas and continues to run on electricity.
According to some theories, your body would even start using fat as fuel as soon as you lean much less on carbohydrates. This is said to improve your physical and mental performance, regulate your appetite, lower your insulin levels and increase resistance.
What are ketones?
But what are ketones then? These are compounds that your liver makes from your fat stores when your blood sugar is low. “Your liver is constantly producing ketones, but the amount depends on your carbohydrate and protein intake,” says Jeff Volek, an Ohio State University ketogonese expert. Because your diet consists mainly of fats on a keto diet, proteins make up 10 to 15 percent, less than 10 percent is obtained from carbohydrates. Really, less than 10 percent. That’s just over half a croissant.
The Health Council recommends getting 40 to 70 percent of your calories from carbohydrates if you want to eat healthily. That makes the ketogenic diet quite a challenge: can you stick with it long enough to reap the health benefits?
Keto diet: what can you eat?
There are stories of people following a keto diet and being allowed to eat a hefty supply of bacon. Yes! But no, a large amount of bacon is not good for your health. You also do not suddenly drink frying fat because it is rich in fats.
Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn and pumpkin have too high a carbohydrate content for a ketogenic diet. The same goes for many fruits. Oh yeah, and milk, beans, rice, pasta, bread: forget it. A carbohydrate-filling ‘cheat meal’ is also excluded . The diet is not labeled as extreme for nothing.
What can you eat then? Below you can see a nice example.
- BREAKFAST: 4 eggs, ½ avocado, 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
- LUNCH: 125 g baked salmon with 1 tbsp olive oil, ½ asparagus with 1 to 2 tbsp butter
- DINNER: Ribeye steak, 450 g spinach with coconut oil, 100 g macadamia nuts
Is a keto diet better than other diets?
Is keto better than low carb ? Unfortunately, there are no long-term data on ketogenic diets versus other diets. A 2007 study called “The A to Z Weight Loss Study” comes closest to it. Long-term weight loss by the Atkins, Zone, LEARN and Ornish diets was compared. The female subjects who followed the low-carb diet (20 percent carbohydrates) were found to eat 35 percent carbohydrates at the end of the 12-month study period. More than their diet allowed, and a percentage that is a long way from the 10 percent or less carbohydrate intake required for ketosis.
Studies show that people lose weight on a ketogenic diet, but there is a catch. Participants in an Italian study in 2015 lost 12 kilos in 3 months thanks to a ketogenic diet. About half of the participants adhered to the diet for 1 year, but lost very little weight in the following 9 months. Participants in a 2014 Spanish study who followed a very low-carb ketogenic diet lost an average of 20 pounds in a year, but a third gave up prematurely.
The Macros of a Keto Diet and Other Diets
The keto diet and exercise
Nutrition is important, but ultimately you want to know what the keto diet does with your sports performance. Can you still go full blast in the gym without the energy of carbohydrates? The answer: probably. Only explosive workouts like HIIT are best avoided .
It is also important to listen to your body. It takes time to adjust to something extreme like the keto diet. Don’t go full throttle right away and focus on short, powerful sets. Don’t push your body to the limit, but adjust to what feels right for you.
Remember, keto is a diet, and dieting decreases your muscle mass. Research shows that people who follow a ketogenic diet lose just as much muscle mass as people who follow a normal diet. Although the keto people did lose more muscle mass in their legs. So it can cost you legdays!
Your muscles are used to functioning on carbohydrates, so they will appear a bit flatter. Focus on preserving your muscle mass as much as possible. Go for short sets and workouts, try to keep your strength up. When you get tired, choose light weights to give your muscles some pump, but don’t train for too long.
Is the keto diet dangerous?
An extreme diet always carries risks. Your body is shocked by the big difference in your diet. Furthermore, some studies have been conducted into the dangers of a ketogenic diet. So be careful with what awaits your body.
Research on children with epilepsy, who were treated with a keto diet, showed that these children had an increased risk of kidney stones. 13 of the 195 patients suffered from kidney stones. This risk increases especially when you put a lot of meat – especially processed meat – on your plate.
Keto diet and diabetes
Another study found that following a keto diet resulted in rapidly falling blood sugar levels. Therefore, it is probably unsuitable for you if you have type 1 diabetes. Blood sugar is strongly influenced by grains, sugar, and therefore carbohydrates. You completely remove these foods in a ketogenic diet.
As dangerous as you make it yourself
The most important thing for your health is a healthy diet . Without carbohydrates you can still get fat and still eat unhealthy food. Especially when the fat values of your food have to be high – a requirement for the keto diet – it is a danger that you take a lot of saturated fats. Keto diet or not, these fats continue to carry an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, among other things.
Consult a doctor or dietitian
Furthermore, there is a risk that you will not get enough food, for this it is advisable to consult with your dietitian or doctor which supplements can work for you when you follow the keto diet. This also allows you to discuss which health risks you risk. Know that everyone reacts differently to a diet. Hence, the written opinions can often be divided and false . Listen carefully to your body and go to a professional with complaints.
Is a keto diet for you?
It sounds like a clincher, but the best diet is one that you stick to. For Volek, who has been on an ultra-low-carb diet for 20 years, it works. But does it also work for you?
Some experts label the diet impractical. “Extreme diets, including the ketogenic diet, have no therapeutic or practical benefit for people without neurodegenerative disorders such as epilepsy,” says MH nutrition consultant Alan Aragon.
Are there no ketogenic supplements? New. While it’s possible to boost your ketone levels by taking ketones, there’s no point without the low-carb boost, Volek says. ‘Then there is no net increase in ketone production, no reduction in insulin levels and no net increase in fat oxidation.’ Therefore, do not trust trainers and ‘body hackers’ who claim that you can quickly boost ketosis without adjusting your diet.
Is keto for you? Maybe if you are an endurance athlete who performs at a high level, thrive on structured diets and want to try something new. If you’re just a guy looking to lose 5 pounds and struggling with yo-yo dieting, keto probably isn’t for you. But you can learn 3 important things from it:
1. Avoid Empty Carbs
Do not count yourself rich with the total amount of carbohydrates you take in a day, but research what those carbohydrates provide you. Do most carbohydrates come from fruits, which are also rich in fiber and disease-fighting antioxidants? Awesome. Do you get them in the form of added sugars (cookies, candy, cola) or white flour? Then you know what to do.
2. Don’t fear fat
The ketogenic diet is the opposite of the low-fat trend of the 90s. What to believe? According to most studies, it is best for your overall health to eat a diet that is somewhere between these 2 extremes. Make it easy on yourself: eat oily fish twice a week (salmon, mackerel, herring) and cook with varied fats (olive oil, rapeseed oil, avocado oil).
3. Go green
Leafy vegetables are rich in nutrients. Eat as much of it as keto fans. Have fun with kale, spinach, bok choy, chard, watercress and/or arugula.
And what happened to the bacon-eating couple? Their experiment worked until their lives changed dramatically. They had a child. They were moving. They stopped the diet. That proves that eating unlimited fat eventually gets boring.