If you have been trying to lose weight, you may have been tempted by books and articles about the Keto or ketogenic diet. You may be wondering if the Keto diet is the best way to lose weight and if it is even safe for you to use.
First off, a bit of a disclaimer. I don’t like diets in general and I don’t feel they are the best way to lose weight. If you want to understand the reasons why I don’t like dieting, read this article. But lets get into specifics about the ketogenic diet, what it is, how it works, downsides of this diet and will you keep the weight off.
What is the ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet was originally designed as a cure for epilepsy in children. It is designed to get you into ketosis. Ketosis is a state where more ketones than normal are produced. Ketones are used for energy in the ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet is a low carb, high fat diet. On the ketogenic diet you eat approximately 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbohydrates. You avoid grains, sugar, fruit and high carbohydrate vegetables.
How does it work for weight loss?
Ketosis is a state the body goes into when very few calories are consumed. The ketogenic diet allows you to get into ketosis without severely limiting your calories. When in ketosis the liver converts fat into ketone which the body will use for energy.
Initially there is a significant loss of weight because you lose the stored carbohydrates and water. After that proponents of this diet say that you are losing weight because you are burning fat, other experts believe that weight loss is simply due to the fact that you are consuming fewer calories. Eliminating sugar and processed carbohydrates can help greatly with weight loss.
One advantage is that fat and protein both keep you feeling satisfied longer, so you are likely to eat less on a ketogenic diet.
Despite having some advantages when it comes to weight loss, there are several reasons why I don’t feel that the ketogenic diet is the best way to lose weight:
- The ketogenic diet is very restrictive. This is likely a diet that is very far from what you are currently eating meaning you will have to make very big changes to what you eat and to your lifestyle. You are more likely to give up and even go for an all out carb binge. It restrictiveness makes it difficult to eat out, or even plan family meals.
- It may actually promote muscle loss. Insulin levels are lower on a ketogenic diet, but insulin is actually used to build muscle. Carbohydrates are also necessary to prevent muscle from being used for energy. There may also not be enough protein for muscle building and repair.
- You may not get enough of some vitamins (especially vitamin C) because of the absence of fruit and the low vegetable intake.
- Many people measure their state of ketosis with Ketostix. This may not be an accurate measure of the state of ketosis.
- The use of some artificial sweeteners is promoted. One of my biggest issues with this diet is that artificial sweeteners are allowed, but fruit and starchy vegetables are not.
- The ketogenic diet reduces thyroid hormones. This will cause a slowing of your metabolism and if you have hypothyroidism this reduction in hormones can make matters worse.
- It may effect other hormones as well. Cortisol levels tend to go up and menstrual cycles are affected. For women in peri/ menopause we have enough issues with hormones without adding to it. Little research has been done on menopausal women so it is not clear how safe this diet is for menopausal women.
- Other side effects of ketosis are body odour, bad breath, fatigue and poor athletic performance.
Can you keep the weight off?
Because this diet is so restrictive, it is difficult for many people to maintain it long term. Many people go back to old eating habits and the weight quickly comes back on. If you do manage to maintain it long term, there are potential long term effects such as hormone issues and vitamin deficiencies to deal with.
Should you try the keto diet?
Many women do have success with the keto diet in the short term. If you are looking for a short term fix, then the keto diet may be worth trying. Keep in mind some of the downsides that I mention and keep in mind that not everyone has success wtih the keto diet.
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