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The Truth about the Keto Diet

Updated: Jul 8, 2019

Everyone thinks of ketogenic or “keto” diets as quick weight loss with “feel great” and “look great” results. These diets trend right along with the Paleo, Atkins, and South Beach diets. They are high protein, low carb weight-loss diets. While people do tend to lose weight quickly, although not long term on these plans, research does NOT support the fact that individuals on these plans are losing FAT. So let’s dig deeper:

A true ketogenic diet is slightly different than those mentioned above as it focuses on fat instead of protein as the counter to carbs. It is supposed to force your body to switch its fuel source from glucose, that we get from carbs, to ketone bodies that our liver produces from stored fat. Remember, that’s STORED fat, not consumed fat. Individuals on this plan have to eat enough fat to put it in their storage cells in order to give your liver access to that fat and produce ketones. That means you are putting the fat in your fat cells first, not eating it and burning it. For the average 2,000 calorie diet, this kicks up your fat intake to 165 grams. That equates to 74.25% of your daily calories. That’s a lot. Typical healthy nutrition plans only suggest 20-30%. Keto triples that.

In order for this to work individuals also need to cut their carb intake drastically. Normal healthy nutrition plans suggest that your carb intake should make up 50% of your daily food intake. This sounds like a lot, but it’s healthy carbs - grains, fruits, and vegetables, not doughnuts. Keto, on the other hand, requires your net carb intake to be 20 grams of carbs or less. Net carbs are important here. Net carbs are your total carb intake minus your fiber intake, so the higher your fiber the more wiggle room you have. However, 20 net grams of carbs is nothing at all. It’s one half of a burger bun, a half cup of rice, even just a medium sized banana. After that, no fruit, no starchy vegetables, no salad dressing. So, true keto followers kick all complex carbs and stick to berries, tons and tons of green, leafy vegetables, and meticulously track the carbs they consume through condiments and dressings.

Most keto followers can actually do this. They cut all carbs and stock up on fat and protein. However, too much protein can also interfere with the goal of ketosis. For that 2,000 calorie diet, it is suggested to only eat 75 grams of protein. On average, there is about 7 grams per one ounce of protein. That means keto followers should stop eating meat after 10.5 ounces. Think about that. The average small filet mignon is served as an 8-ounce steak – and all the men I know go for the 10 or 12 ounce steak. That puts them over their limit. Without knowing this, however, keto followers eat meat ALL DAY. Eggs and steak for breakfast, meat and veggies for lunch, more steak or chicken for dinner, with cheese and bacon and fat throughout the day. This actually prevents your body from hitting ketosis. And when we really sit down and think about it, does eating meat all day with heavy fats and cheeses, and cutting out most vegetables and pretty much all fruit sound healthy? What happened to the apple a day keeping the doctor away?

Perfect keto, with the right vegetables, the right fruit, healthy portions of meat, and healthy lean fats like avocados and nuts see true keto results. They kick into ketosis after several PERFECT days of their diet and remain in ketosis by eating PERFECTLY. When you cheat, you’re out of ketosis, for days. Even on this healthier system, however, doctors and research prove that keto followers still have a significant nutrient deficiency. They also overload their liver which increases the risk of liver damage and failure. Their kidneys are also overworked and at risk because it is our kidneys that do most of the work breaking down protein. So, kidney failure rates also go up. The lack of carbohydrates leads to decreased brain functioning. DECREASED BRAIN FUNCTIONING. You may be thinner but you’re not as smart as you were. And to top it off, you can’t poop. The lack of fiber, since fibrous foods are also often high in carbs, makes your body think it’s going to hibernate. Enjoy that.

But the weight loss. What about the weight loss? Most people will see immediate weight loss. If anyone cuts carbs from their diet their body will immediately start pulling carbs from their storage units, which are their fat cells, and lose inches. BUT, when we run out, or run too low, we don’t burn our fat. What do we burn? Our muscles. It is easier for our bodies to synthesize a carb-like molecule out of a protein (muscle) molecule than it is to shift into ketosis. So, for days, we cannibalize our muscles instead. This is the major difference between “weight” loss on keto and “fat” loss on keto. You may drop ten pounds or more, but if you test it, most people lose a ton of muscle on keto diets. The scale still drops, they definitely lost weight, but it is not fat that they are losing. Then we get to a point where we are “skinny fat”. You are smaller, for sure, but not a lean, toned, fit body. You are soft, squishy, and can’t lift a fifteen-pound dumbbell because you consumed all of your muscle while starving your body of it’s natural fuel – carbs.

Do I shun keto? No. But think twice before jumping into the trend. Most people never figure it out and put their body in worse physical condition. Those individuals that do follow it perfectly can see amazing results on the outside, but their internal organs are at high risk and limited functioning that only gets worse with time. Might they feel better? Of course. Wouldn’t you feel better if you cut out crappy refined sugars and complex carbs? Anyone would. That does not mean that keto is the trick though, maybe it’s cutting the crappy carbs.

Anyway, I have seen better results, by far, when increasing calories and increasing carb intake with the right carbs, than I’ve ever seen with clients who stubbornly decide to follow keto. Eventually, they have all come off of it and go on a carb-friendly route.

Food for thought: it was originally created to help children with epilepsy; which it does. It was NOT designed for weight loss.

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