The Ketogenic Diet has been in the spotlight for quite some time now as a featured diet for weight loss and athletic performance. But did you know the diet started as a treatment for epilepsy in the 1920s? Doctors noticed that some epilepsy patients who fasted had fewer seizures, so they created a diet meant to trick your body into thinking it’s starving.
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The Keto diet gets its name from the idea that you are essentially forcing your body into a state of ketosis. What this means is your body is burning fat for energy instead of carbohydrates, our bodies preferential fuel source. In order to enter ketosis, you must severely limit carb intake (the rule of thumb is 20-30 grams or less). Ketogenic dieters’ macronutrients usually consist of about 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. The weight loss comes when on top of following this dietary pattern, you create a calorie deficit. Remember: no matter the dietary pattern, this calorie deficit is the key to weight loss.
Okay, I want to start off with a disclaimer. I acknowledge that the ketogenic diet is something that should be tested longer than just one week in order to reap the true “benefits” that are discussed. However, my goal was to simply get a feel for the dietary patterns associated with this diet.
When I started my meal planning for the week, I quickly realized how fast carbs add up. To give you some perspective, 30 grams of carbs is 1 banana; or 3 large carrots; or 1 ½ slices of whole wheat bread. I also realized that I typically don’t eat a huge amount of fatty sources that are highlighted for Keto dieters. I was not keen on the idea of adding butter to my coffee, eating coconut oil fat bombs, or shoving my face with meat–but eventually I found keto-friendly recipes and ideas that worked for me. I experimented with different low-carb tricks like creating a taco shell out of baked cheese, microwaving a flax seed muffin in a mug, and creating peanut butter coconut oil bark to satisfy my sweet tooth.
To my delight, a lot of the recipes I already make are keto such as taco salad, feta herb crusted salmon, and mini egg bites. I noticed the higher fat content of these meals kept me fuller longer. However, I found that even though I was full, I was not 100% satisfied.
It might just have been in my head but after the first 60 hours or so of restricting my carbs, I started to get a massive headache, dizziness, I was extra fatigued, and my workouts felt blah. These symptoms are usually known as the “keto flu”. After a few more fat bombs, hard boiled eggs, and oil drenched salads, I knew very well, this diet was not for me. Even though the keto diet allows indulgent foods like cheese, meat, and butter– these are just not foods I typically crave. Truthfully, I just crave a big bowl of cereal, a fresh smoothie, or some carrots and hummus!
Later that week, I cheated and ate a higher-than-twenty-grams-of-carbs meal at dinner with my co-workers. That’s when I realized human experiences like these make it super difficult to sustain this diet (or any strict diet, for that matter). We all want to attend social gatherings and we all want to eat delicious food. Food that sometimes isn’t keto… but food that is a part of enjoying life and the amazing taste buds we were given.
I’m very open to hearing about the experience from those who have tried the keto diet for a longer period of time and have differing thoughts. I think this is a diet that could certainly work well for some, but for me personally, I found it way too restrictive.
Like most all diets, Keto has both pros and cons.
Pros: This diet cuts out basically any added sugars and a lot of junk foods, which is a plus. The increased fat provides satiety and fullness leading to less hunger pangs. The science behind this diet is surely there and people may find some weight loss success with the diet.
Cons: Even though the Keto diet cuts out added sugars, it also cuts out natural sugars found in fruits and milk. I think any diet that puts a limit on fruits and vegetables is one to question. We’ve been told all along that F&Vs are good for us–and that’s still true. Fresh produce provides us with essential nutrients to keep us healthy and protect against certain diseases. Potential side effects and dangers of the ketogenic diet are not completely understood as available long-term research is still limited.
Main Takeaways: Keto is a diet that is usually hard to stay on long-term. Although the diet can most certainly provide some short-term weight loss results, these results are typically not sustained. I would instead recommended following a well-balanced, more realistic dietary pattern filled with healthy fats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. However, if you would like to try keto or believe this is a diet that fits well into your lifestyle, the key to staying healthy here is to ensure you are getting proper essential nutrients like B vitamins, vitamin C, and fiber that are typically low in a keto diet. Keto dieters should also be sure to monitor their saturated fat intake, as too much can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.