The Lowdown on the Keto Diet
Avoid arguably one of the most abundantly available macronutrients for fear of leaving ketosis, or eat like a regular human. You'll find out more here.
We're talking ketogenic diets.
Let's take a look:
What is a Keto diet & What Does it Involve?
In theory, a keto diet is a low-carb diet … but it's a super low-carb diet.
At most, you can have 30 5o 50 grams of carbohydrate today.
The idea is that it forces your body into nutritional ketosis, whereby it stops using carbohydrate as its primary fuel source, and instead starts to burn fat for energy.
Initially used as a form of treatment for childhood epilepsy, keto diets became popular when researchers saw the potentially beneficial effect they had on keeping blood sugar levels low, meaning they were then used as a treatment for obesity, before gaining popularity in the mainstream.
While many folk in the bodybuilding world think that a keto diet just means going low-carb, this isn't the case.
A true keto diet is supposed to be around 60-80% fat, 5-10% carb, and just 10-30% protein.
That means that even if you're consuming 2,500 calories per day, protein will only be at a maximum of 187 grams – and probably even less.
What Can You Eat?
Pretty much anything that has close to a zero carb content.
We're talking any kind of meats, fish, and low-carb dairy, such as butter and full-fat cheese. (Full-fat versions of foods are usually encouraged because of the high-fat nature of the diet, as well as the lack of carbohydrates, so you need to get energy from somewhere.)
Even vegetables, nuts and seeds are limited, due to the fact they have a higher carb content.
What Might a Typical Day Look Like?
- 2 whole eggs with 2 slices of full-fat cheese, cooked in butter and a coffee with coconut oil in.
- Low-carb salad (lettuce, spinach, cabbage, cucumber) with 1 salmon fillet, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of sour cream, with a large serving of Brazil or macadamia nuts.
- 1 serving of pork belly drizzled in olive oil with cauliflower and mushrooms, with the same salad as lunchtime (minus the salmon but with an avocado added instead.)
- Whole eggs
- Slices of full-fat cheese
- Nuts such as the aforementioned Brazils and macadamias, or walnuts, almonds and pistachios.
- Full-fat cream cheese
- Coffee with coconut oil or butter
- Pork rinds
- Peanut butter
You might love this way of eating.
Hey – a typical keto breakfast is bacon and eggs cooked in butter, and who doesn't like the sound of that!?
There's some positive evidence regarding keto diets and the management of diseases like Alzheimer's, epilepsy and cancer.
Also, the research does suggest that getting into ketosis can be beneficial for body fat loss, and the consistent levels of blood sugar might help you better manage your cravings.
Just as with regular low-carb diets, the lack of carbohydrate is going to take its toll on your energy levels and performance – at least for the first few weeks as you become "fat adapted."
After that, you might feel fine, but sticking to a keto diet is seriously hard work, especially when it comes to socialising, eating out and maintaining a normal schedule.
You'll no longer be able to grab anything at a restaurant and fit it into your macros, or pick up a protein bar or piece of fruit when you're on the go. Knock yourself out of ketosis by over-consuming carbs by just a little, and it can take 48 to 72 hours for your body to get back there.
In fact, the whole process is rather gruelling.
Few people can stick solidly to a keto diet day in, day out with no ill effects, or massive cravings for carbohydrate.
That, plus the fact you don't need to be in ketosis to lose body fat mean that in reality, the drawbacks massively outweigh the benefits.
Oh – and fibre … getting enough fibre to keep you regular is seriously hard if you're a strict keto dieter.
Should You Do a Keto Diet?
Keto dieting and flexible dieting aren't mutually exclusive – if you tweak your macros to allow for minimal carbs and maximum fat, you can theoretically follow a keto diet and IIFYM at the same time.
It just isn't optimal though.
You need carbs to preserve muscle, and carbs taste good!
Unless there's a medical need for you to do so, you probably don't have a decent one.
Sure, vary your carb and fat intakes to suit personal preference, just don't take it to the extreme, or fall for the hype that carbs are "evil, because it's pretty unlikely you'll be able to avoid carbs for the rest of your life.