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3 Reasons Why You May Need To Try A Ketogenic Diet

Updated on November 13, 2013

You may have heard the term "Keto", "Keto Diet", "Ketogenic" in various social media or periodical outlets. Many associate this diet with a severely restricted (some might say dangerous) eating plan that fitness enthusiasts use to lower body fat while maintaining muscle mass. I first heard about "going Keto" about 3 years ago from fellow bodybuilders who were "prepping" for a show. Studying a little about the diet showed that it may in fact be great for bodybuilding, but is this diet really that sustainable? What are the associated risks of this lifestyle? Is it even a "lifestyle" or merely a short termed weight loss, fat burning diet designed for extreme athletes. The fact of the matter is there is a significant amount of evidence to support a ketogenic lifestyle.

To understand the ketogenic diet, you really have to understand the root word, that being "keto". Its nomenclature is derived from the words ketosis or ketones. This references the body using ketones for energy, and therefore is in a state of ketosis. To put it in simple terms, your body will go into a state of ketosis when there is not enough carbohydrates for the body to process. This will typically occur after we restrict dietary carbohydrates, thus depleting all carbohydrate stores in the system. At that point, the body will be forced to convert fats and proteins into energy and it takes approximately 12-24 hours of carbohydrate depletion until the body will start using ketones for energy

If you understand this, it's easy to see why a ketogenic diet would be such a viable weight management approach. And we've seen a similar approach before. In the mid to late 90's a widely popular "Atkins" diet used the body's ketogenic energy system to reduce body fat, reduce inflammation, decrease bad cholesterol, and improve quality of life.

The difference that I see in the two diets is that Atkins allows you to slowly re-introduce carbohydrates into your diet after reaching a ketogenic state. Keto will not re-introduce carbohydrates at any point in most cases. An exception to the rule is the Cyclic Keto Diet (CKD). This diet utilizes a "cycling" of carbohydrates. For example, an avid bodybuilder will strip carbs for 5 days, then spend 1 or even 2 days "carb loading" to repeat the process again. The benefit to this approach is to fuel fat metabolism and spare muscle, allowing a more favorable environment for muscle growth and fat burning.

3 Benefits To A Keto Diet

Let's get down to it and explore why this diet may be beneficial.

The first reason (we discussed briefly) is for weight loss, however it's not as simple as you think. Your macros for a ketogenic diet should be roughly 75-85% fat 10-20% protein and less than 5% carbohydrates. Adjusting your macronutrients is not the only thing to consider. You have to consider counting calories on as well for optimal results. Do this consciously, but not obsessively. For people that have been successful and not trying to lose additional weight, this concept won't apply to you. One study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition cited in November 2013 suggests that calorie reduction is an integral factor. A recent study on ketogenic diets demonstrated the weight loss results of a restricted calorie keto diet vs a well balanced restricted traditional diet. The ketogenic group lost more weight and reported significantly less hunger than the traditional group. The reason for this is that fat inherently contains more energy (@ 9 kcal/g) vs protein & carbs (@ 4 kcal/g). Because fat contains more energy per gram, it is reasonable to assume that it would take longer for your body to consume fat for energy, therefore keeping your hunger levels in check. Similarly, keto restricts carbohydrates. Restriction in carbohydrates allows for less dramatic spikes in blood sugar, again lowering the "waves" of hunger that strike throughout the day or evening. This may demonstrate a further understanding that "calories are not calories" and your body's biochemistry is remarkably efficient in a ketogenic state.

Secondly, what is known today as the ketogenic diet was the number one treatment for epilepsy until pharmaceutical companies arrived with its dangerous cocktails of anti-epileptic drugs. It took several decades before we heard again about this diet, thanks in part to a parent who demanded it for his 20-month-old boy with severe seizures. The boy's father had to find out about the ketogenic diet in a library as it was never mentioned as an option by his neurologist. After only 4 days on the diet, his seizures stopped and never returned. The Charlie Foundation was born after the child's name and his successful recovery. Today, the ketogenic diet is available to the entire world and it's spreading by word of mouth thanks to its brain and nervous system healing effects.

Lastly, we have been on a ketogenic diet for nearly three million years and it has made us human! It was the lifestyle in which our brains got nurtured and evolved. Nowadays the human brain is not only shrinking, but brain atrophy is the norm as we age and get plagued with diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, senile dementia and so forth. Keto diet has been used to treat these disease and a plethora of others as well.

My Thoughts in Summary

With this introduction to Keto Diet in mind, you may be on to researching more information on this lifestyle after reading this article. I do not personally advocate any one lifestyle over another. This diet is not for just anyone, but it may just be for everyone. Your personal lifestyle, dietary strengths and weaknesses, and physical activity levels largely dictate the fuel you put in your engine. In fact, I have looked at the possibility of using carbohydrates at night for a better mind, body and spirit (See my previous article "Why You Need Carbohyrdates at Night" Ultimately it depends on you.

Is this particular lifestyle safe long term? My answer to that is that it definitively seems to be very safe! The only individual that this diet is not suited for is an ill-treated Type 1 Diabetic.

Ketones are much more stable than glucose for energy production. They are less damaging to our body's cells, thus reducing inflammation, stress, and stress induced hormones. Ketones have also been shown to starve cancer cells, and increase overall immune response.

Is today's normal diet really that normal or does societal, pharmaceutical, and agricultural agenda manipulate our metabolisms into the "new norm"? Going back before our modern day diet became the norm, we would find that ketosis was the stable metabolic status for humans. This may be one of the reasons why Paleo and Gluten Free lifestyles are so successful, popular and downright healthy for the body and mind. It may be time for some of us to make a change and get back to our metabolic roots.

Matt earned his BS in Exercise Physiology & has 10 years of experience in the health and dietary supplement industry. A dedicated, professional wellness coach, Matt is passionate contributer to the supplement, health, and wellness community
Matt earned his BS in Exercise Physiology & has 10 years of experience in the health and dietary supplement industry. A dedicated, professional wellness coach, Matt is passionate contributer to the supplement, health, and wellness community


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