Are you new to the “keto” buzz swirling around you? Over the last decade, the ketogenic diet has experienced a renaissance and hit the mainstream in a big way over the past few years. Social media is awash with seemingly every celebrity in Hollywood following a “keto” diet with smashing success.
The tsunami of keto-inspired books, recipes and cookbooks making the rounds on the internet can be inspiring for some, but confusing and even frustrating for others who don’t see progress.
Is a ketogenic just the latest fad or is there substance as well? Is it really the “best diet” for weight loss? How about if you’re just looking to improve your health?
Let’s dip our toes in and test the waters.
What Is A Ketogenic Diet?
A ketogenic diet – shortened to keto (which sounds pretty cool) – is a very-low carb, high fat, moderate protein diet.
All types of animal protein are fair game, from beef and wild game, to fish and seafood, poultry, eggs and dairy. Fats make up the bulk of your caloric intake on a keto diet, most commonly from food items like butter, olive oil (and other oils), full-fat cream, animal fats, etc.
Effectively, you cross off most starchy carbohydrates from your food list; no bread, no rice, no potatoes, no pasta, etc. Also, many fruits are off-limits (or at least, allowed in smaller servings) because of the higher carbohydrate content of fruits like bananas, apples, etc. Fruits with higher fiber content – like raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc. – are allowed in moderation.
While no hard scientific definition exists, experts Dr. Jeff Volek PhD and Dr. Stephen Phinney PhD suggest in their early research about 30-50g of carbohydrates per day is a good target to aim for.(1
What does a typical meal on ketogenic diet look like?
For example, a keto breakfast could be 3 eggs cooked in extra-virgin olive oil, with half an avocado and a half cup of raspberries. This would net you approximately 540 calories derived from 45g of fat, 15g of carbohydrates and 20g of protein.
You can even try starting your day with a ketogenic coffee using Organika's MCT Oil Powder
Health Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet
Heart disease, diabetes, lung cancer (due to smoking) and other cancers top the list of chronic degenerative conditions. If you’re looking to improve your health and prevent (or delay) the conditions, is a ketogenic diet a viable, long-term strategy?
Let’s review the research.
High fasting triglycerides – levels of fat in your bloodstream – are one of the strongest predictors of your heart disease risk.(2
) Ketogenic diets have consistently shown the ability to reduce your triglyceride levels, suggesting a reduction in your risk of heart disease.(3
Belly-fat is another red flag. Excessive visceral fat around the mid-section is associated with increased inflammation, high blood pressure, poor blood sugar and insulin control, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes (type-2). How do keto diets help belly-fat? Ketogenic diets show a high affinity for weight loss around the mid-section, which is good news for overall health.(6
All of this suggests ketogenic diets can be a great tool for supporting overall health.
However, what often gets overlooked is that you can achieve these results with other dietary approaches as well. The key is consistency (more on this below).
Now, let’s take a closer look at weight loss.
How Can A Keto Diet Kick-Start Weight Loss?
If you were simply to scroll through social media, it might appear that a keto diet is a secret weapon to washboard abs and a six-pack. While it can no doubt support healthy weight loss, it’s no magic bullet.
All of the meta-analysis studies – research that pools together a number of independent studies on the same subject, in order to determine an overall trend – find it fairs no better than a low-fat diet for weight loss.
At first glance this may appear shocking; calories still matter.
Let’s look at things a little more closely. How can a keto diet help you to lose weight?
The following are three quick examples of the mechanism behind why a keto diet can succeed:
1. A Keto Diet Reduces Your Total Calorie Intake
When you adopt a keto diet, you dramatically reduce your carbohydrate intake. Processed foods, which make up over 50% of household spending in North America, are typically high in carbs. In short, by going “keto” you stop eating processed foods and, as a result, your calorie intake drops (often dramatically). Big win for weight loss and better health.
2. The Keto Diet Improves Satiety
In order to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories. Processed foods not only mean more calories, they also throw off your blood sugar control, putting you on a roller coaster of highs and lows. This triggers increased cravings, typically for sweet or salty tasting treats. Generally, if you adopt a keto diet, you’ll eat more protein, more fiber and more healthy fats than normal which help to curb appetite - not to mention, the ketones produced internally as a result of carb-restriction have shown some satiety effects.
3. The Keto Community
When a diet is popular, lots of people are giving it a try. Your friends, family and colleagues at work can all exchange anecdotes, share recipes and highlight successes.
The key here is community (not the specific dietary strategy). The interaction, interest and motivation from others is huge when it comes to successfully changing behaviours (i.e. like what you eat).
The Rest of the Story
What you don’t tend to see on Facebook or social media are all the failures or the stalled progress. Nobody likes to share the fact they didn’t succeed, or got stuck in a rut, when it seems like everyone around them is knocking it out of the park.
The reality is, after some significant initial weight loss, the majority of people will hit a plateau. In fact, if we look at weight loss statistics as a whole, 90% of people who lose weight will fail to keep it off after one year.
If you want to succeed in your quest for better health and weight loss, the research is clear that there is one critical determinant; consistency.
You need to be able to stick with the diet in the long-term. Choosing “real food” over processed food and finding ones that you enjoy and will eat consistently is fundamental to your success, regardless if you’re keto, low-fat, or anything in between.
Changing your diet is ultimately changing a fundamental behaviour.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Think long-term and pace yourself so you can stay compliant and keep up the same momentum by year end. If you can do this, and avoid the “quick fix” traps online, you’ll be amazed at how a small effort can yield significant results.
Enjoy the journey.
Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, MS(c), CISSN, CSCS
P.S. Are you keto? Tell us about your experience, your favorite recipe or any struggles you’ve had along the way.