The Ketogenic Diet - I know you've heard about it. Maybe you've seen “keto-friendly” snacks in the grocery store, scrolled through the keto docs on Netflix, or watched our country’s beloved “Keto Guido,” aka Vinny, on the Jersey Shore. Yep, Keto is a household name. And as with any household name, there is a growing divide between those who swear by keto and those who detest it. So who’s right? Is keto the way of the future or just another fad?
I had the awesome opportunity to go the extra mile in my research and sit down with one of my favorite professors, Dr. Jennifer Guerra, assistant professor in residence at UNLV. Dr. Guerra has earned a BS in Chemistry and Mathematics as well as her Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry. She’s also a weight loss surgery patient and someone who’s greatly familiar with the ketogenic diet, both in study as well as practical knowledge. She’s done it, and continues to do it, herself.
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
First things first. The ketogenic diet is rooted in the principle that once your muscles are void of carbohydrates for energy, the body will turn to fat stores as a fuel source (a process called ketosis). As a result, you’ll achieve a healthy weight in an efficient and safe manner. To achieve ketosis, you’ll need to follow a low carb/protein and high fat diet. Exact ratios of these macronutrients depend on how “hard in keto” you want to go. But true ketosis is usually obtained through as low as 30 to 20g of carbs a day. And THAT IS LOW. According to NutritionData.Self.com, a macronutrient calculator that pulls its nutrient data from the USDA, a large banana (roughly 100g) is 23g of carbs. And just like that you've just hit your daily keto needs.
So what the heck do you eat? Here’s a brief overview.
Fish & Shellfish
Oils, Butter & Cream
Herbs and Spices
Ok so instead of the Caesar salad, I’m going to go for the bacon wrapped cheeseburger and whole milk chocolate milkshake. #KetoLife
It doesn't matter if you're vegan, paleo, or keto - if you use your speciality diet as a convoluted excuse to never eat healthy... you're missing the point. Garbage in means garbage out! The best results I've seen from the ketogenic diet came from people who not only followed their proper macronutrient ratios, but did so using nutrient dense foods. There's nothing wrong with enjoying yourself once in a while, but the keto protocol is not about eating the fattiest fast foods you can find.
- Low glycemic veggies (broccoli, cauliflower rice, zucchini, etc.) are crucial to the diet. They give your body important vitamins and minerals needed for proper bodily function - all at a low carb cost. If you constantly choose bacon over veggies, you'll be undernourishing and therefore won't see the full benefits of the diet.
- It's important to stay wary of hidden carbs. At first glance, that bacon wrapped cheese burger seems like a keto friendly choice. But don't forget about it's bun and side of fries, which are loaded with carbs - way more than the Caesar salad.
Let's see how many cookie butter jars I can consume in a day.
One reason so many people have fantastic weight loss results while on keto is because of the reduced caloric intake that usually accompanies more mindful food choices. When you have to stop and think about what you eat, food quality tends to increase while food quantity decreases. However - not everyone can put on the brakes, if you catch my drift. And that's when the keto diet can go sideways on you. If you decide to gorge on fat all day long (which is the most energy dense of macronutrients at 9cal/g), you can quickly put yourself into a positive energy balance (more calories in than calories out) - and gain unhealthy weight. Not what we want.
- The keto diet goes great with busy work schedules, when you have few opportunities to eat throughout the day. A high fat diet will keep hunger satisfied with less physical food intake. That's great! Not the case if all you do is sit around, eat and disregard satiety cues.
Carbs = satan.
I believe an excess of carbs is problematic. I believe an excess of processed carbs are problematic. But eliminating carbs altogether? I believe there's clinical reasons for that, but I hesitate to recommend it to the average person. So many important vitamins, mineral, antioxidants, etc. come from fruits and veggies. And at the end of day, most people will find it near impossible to eliminate carbs from their diet until further notice. Sure you'll last for a few months, but eventually people struggle.
Conclusion: Fact or Fad?
The keto diet has changed lives.
For more information on this diet and if going keto is right for you:
Just a couple interesting studies I found on the subject of macronutrient ratios and health effects. If you're serious about this, I encourage you to continuously do your research. As you can see with the two studies I shared below, findings are often contradictory and it's up to us as readers to form our own opinions (through critical reasoning) on what lifestyle is best for us: [Study 1] vs [Study 2]
In regards to keto's role in clinical settings, Dr. Dominic D'Agostino of Keto Nutrition put together a great collection of studies on the effects of keto in treating metabolic disorders, cancer and ALS: Keto Nutrition - Science
Till next time,