In the ever evolving fitness world, it’s hard to constantly keep up with all the fads. The newest craze is the “Keto Diet” with its talk of ketones and ketosis. I personally have been following a keto diet and have dropped 15 pounds in a month which was the last amount of weight I could not get off after my second child no matter what I did. I feel better than I have in years and have more energy than ever. I'm a firefighter, business owner and mother of two and I feel with this diet I have the energy to keep up with my crazy life.
In recent years the keto diet has exploded even more. More and more endurance and elite athletes are going to high fat. There are iron men that have done the entire race in a state of ketosis. Military and resistance trainers alike are using this method of eating to fuel their training. Some are still fuelling their workouts with carbs, because there are definitely catabolic and anabolic benefits to carbs in and around workouts for resistance training. But for endurance athletes, ketosis seems to be the way they really excel.
Why fat is better
Fat is more satiating and satisfying when trying to drop calories and has been proved to sustain workouts. With carbs you are restricted to how much you can eat but with fat you don’t have to count the calories as much. Calorie needs can vary day to day depending on how your body is metabolizing everything, and you do have to think of what the brain and the body uses, and equate to macro nutrients. Some clients need to have a certain amount of carbs and fat where others don’t.
Everybody is different. You have to find what works for you. On the keto diet I eat bacon and cheese and dark chocolate and cheese and even keto ice cream. Did I mention cheese? I maintain my strength and muscle mass and have a lot of energy and look and feel better than I ever have and I’m pushing 40 with two kids under four years old.
What about nutrition?
Some people also ask about the nutritional quality you’re receiving on a keto diet. I try to buy from organic farms and source more natural ingredients as much as I can. The fatty acid profile of meat or eggs is determined by what the animal ate and what conditions they are raised in. I try to choose products from animals that are the raised as close to nature as possible.
What about the “Keto Flu”?
With the Keto diet you can feel groggy for a little, but you get benefits within 24 hours. You have to make sure your fat content is high as well as your water intake and increase your electrolytes. People are scared of the high fat content without understanding that fat makes the ketones. You have to ensure your carb intake is low enough and understand the longer you stay in ketosis the more benefits you feel.
How do I know I am in Ketosis?
You can check your ketone levels with a meter to ensure you are in ketosis. Low carb high protein can also make you hyperglycemic and you if you are using a meter to check your ketone levels, know that they will be lower in the morning and peak towards the night. Morning cortisol can also be higher which stimulates gluconeogenesis and kicks you out of ketosis. Typically, between four to eight hours you can get back into it and feel your best. Stabilizing energy levels is easier when you keep your ketone levels high. Your ketone levels are indications that you’re oxidizing fat for fuel. This is helpful when oxidizing fatty acids for an endurance event or getting the most out of your diet.
If you want to be in true ketosis you have to measure and sustain your ketone levels, measure your blood acetone levels and make sure you are constantly in ketosis for it to truly work. I, however, don’t always sustain a true ketosis state. I watch what I ‘m eating, do high fat and low carb as well as intermittent fasting as am able to stay in ketosis most of the time. There’s just so much to look at and you need to do your research. Where does your food come from and can you buy locally? This could make a big difference. Vegans that want to do the keto diet can do a plant based protein – just try to pick foods that have the highest nutrient profile.
Benefits of Keto that I’ve discovered
On the keto diet I have noticed that my intestinal issues are completely gone. You are going to have a different gut biome depending on where you are living. For instance kale is grown differently in each climate. Avocados are sent from all over the world. Ketogenic diets promote a favorable shift in the gut biome and the flora and the gut biome brain combo, and also a favorable shift in producing more helpful bacteria. Keto is high in fiber and probiotics and can aid in maintaining gut flora. Since I have weaned off wheat and carb based products, my gut health has remarkably improved. Inflammatory issues like eczema have gone away. I have had major changes in how I feel – in fact I feel younger than I have felt in years.
Ketosis can also help with thyroid function and hormone production, blood pressure issues and even diabetes. People ask will it screw up my hormones by restricting carbs? Each individual is different and the longer you’re in ketosis the better you can exploit ketones as fuels. Lymphomas and blood cancer, autoimmune disorders and even dementia have been shown to improve with diet alone. Some people are going to be skeptical of this, but science has shown this is a viable therapeutic adjunct. It can help with the therapy they’re already doing and put the body into a more sensitive state.
Benefits for Athletes
MMA athletes or sprinters or mountain bikers use hard bouts of high intensity energy. These types of athlete’s are going to want to maintain the keto diet and use carbs intermittently for workouts spread throughout the event. They are going to want to oxidize fatty acids the most they can during workouts. Overtraining and calorie restriction can cause certain metabolic conditions. You do have to ensure you get enough calories and avoid overtraining, as this is common with elite athletes. Exercise enhances androgenic receptors in the body. With that said you need to make sure you have sufficient carbs as these can help sustain the workout if you’re going to restrict your diet and over train.
Criticism of Ketogenic Diets
While the diet industry flaunts this seemingly unstoppable keto craze, nutrition and health experts are still going to be sceptical. Most experts agree that a ketogenic diet can lead to weight loss but rarely do they encourage the low-carb lifestyle. They still have the mentality that a well-rounded eating pattern includes four to five main food groups: fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and sometimes dairy. Some feel that increased amounts of saturated fat in the diet can increase the risk of conditions like obesity, heart disease, cancers, and more. They feel the keto diet can also make disordered eating habits worse and create an unhealthy relationship with food, and believe it isn’t entirely sustainable.
I am in the middle and feel that there are benefits to a keto diet as well as harmful aspects to it if not properly managed by a dietician. I think focusing on small healthy changes can lead to lifelong sustainable health habits. I have seen great health benefits, and my strength as well as my mental clarity have improved immensely. However, I'm not 100 percent keto as I have my cheat days. I think what’s important is to find that happy medium and find what works for you. Talk to your trainer, dietician or physician and see what would work best with your specific body make up. What works for some might not work for others. Listen to your body and do what you think is best for you. Overall you will be happier and healthier in the long run.
Editor’s Note: It helps to work with a dietician and/or health practitioner who is versed in the benefits of a ketogenic lifestyle. Comparing blood results from pre-keto to present keto is often an eye-opening experience – if keto is done correctly, insulin sensitivity and blood pressure markers often improve over time, and a keto diet has been shown to be very healing to the metabolic damage that years of yo-yo dieting, consuming sugar and other processed foods have inflicted on the body. There is also a misconception that the keto diet is harmful because of ketoacidosis – the keto diet relies on the action of ketosis to remain in a state of fat burning, while ketoacidosis is a condition that is related to Type 1 diabetes and involves dangerously high levels of ketones. There's also some confusion about eating so much fat on the keto diet as most people think that eating fat (even the good kind) will make you fat. But the body is so much more wonderfully complicated than that – basically including quality sources of saturated fat in the diet (while restricting carbs) in effect adapts the body to be more insulin sensitive (rather than insulin resistant) thus efficiently burning body fat.