I am frequently overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information and opinions from all sides on every issue, diets included.
One of the latest diet trends currently is the Ketogenic Diet or just Keto. I admit I was not keen to jump on the bandwagon. But I had friends and relatives, several in healthcare, who were doing the diet and so I did a bit of research. Like many I heard low carb and immediately jumped to the conclusion it was an Atkins reboot. So my research started with what the detractors were saying which was “ it’s basically Atkins and it will kill you.”
I like to go down rabbit holes occasionally and instead of just researching Keto, I thought what do I not know about Atkins? And how bad was Atkins anyway?
The Atkins diet was devised by Cardiologist, Dr. Robert Atkins, in the late 70s. Most people know the Atkins diet as a low carb, no sugar, high protein diet. It was attractive because it appeared easy to follow and did not cut out some of the favorite foods and it yielded quick results.
After a little while it fell out of favor as it encouraged high fat foods which are still on the no-no in most of the medical community as the current (albeit changing) understanding is that high fat = heart attack. Ironically this belief was further solidified as Dr. Atkins actually suffered a heart attack, but the old maxim correlation does not mean causation still applies but it certainly did not do his brand much good. The biggest criticism seems to be that it was not effective as a long term weight loss solution. Essentially people were not sticking to it and overall weight trends were about the same as the rest of the population.
It appears that a good portion of the problem was people were focusing on protein and fat regardless of the source with little attention to the other nutrition elements. For example, ordering a pizza and just eating the toppings. Or buying all the atkins style processed packaged foods that were not so good for you.
So what exactly is Atkins?
Essentially the Atkins diet proscribes limiting carbohydrates to 30-50 grams through most phases of the diet except at the beginning in which carbohydrates are limited to about 20-25 grams per day. Pretty Simple actually.
What is Keto?
The Ketogenic Diet was developed at John Hopkins Medical Center in the 1920s. It was devised as a treatment for Epilepsy patients and still is for that matter. The original findings were that fasting resulted in a decrease in seizures in Epilepsy patients. Obviously constant fasting is hardly a feasible option.
Essentially what the ketogenic diet does is tricks the body into acting as if its fasting.
How does it work?
Our bodies primarily run on glucose and we only have about a 24 hour supply in our bodies. By eating 20 grams of carbohydrates that store is eliminated and when we are not consuming food that converts into glucose we then start breaking down our fat stores to burn ketones thus the name Ketogenic diet.
How is this different than Atkins?
Proportions. Atkins focuses primarily on carbohydrate restriction. Keto on the other hand is very specific on percentages.
Strict Keto breaks down calorie intake this way
- 75% of calories come from fat
- 20% of calories come from protein
- 5% of calories come from carbohydrates
As you can see this is not a high protein diet and it is not a low veggie diet either. You are going to get most of your carbohydrates from low carb high fiber vegetables.
The lower protein aspect is actually more important than you might think. When you eat more protein you body will actually break it down and convert it into glucose which can then take you out of ketosis plus its a bit hard on your kidneys.
My Keto Experiment.
My wife and I actually had a fairly balanced diet prior to starting keto. We ate several servings of fresh veggies and fruit a day,no sweetened beverages and limited foods. We limited deserts and ate the recommended servings of protein.
Before we were married I managed a gym and worked as a personal trainer and had bulked up. Thanks to the increased muscle my weight did not change much over the next 6 years while I worked a desk job, however, my body composition changed considerably.
Even with an ok diet the lack of regular muscle building activities and high stress resulted in fat gain.
I estimate it was at least 20 lbs but it was probably more, as muscle is denser than fat and it was hard to gauge. Remember, my weight on the scale had not really changed that much
Last year I started working from home but took on a part time manual labor job for benefits and the hard labor 4 hours or so a day helped me to lose about 5 lbs of fat.
Within 2 months of starting Keto I lost 35 lbs.
I estimate that probably 10 lbs was water weight as carbohydrates help us to retain water in the cells. The weight loss was great but one thing that struck me even more was the mental clarity I had while in ketosis. I had significantly more energy. Prior to starting the diet I would go to the part time job at 3 am come home at 8-9 am and then crash for an hour or 2. I would then work from home with a bedtime of about 10 pm and I was generally exhausted. I started Keto while we were selling our home and I was still up at 3 and down by 10-11 pm. Remodeling is heavy work and I was not taking any naps but amazingly I still had some juice in the tank.
So Far the Research indicates these are the Potential Benefits of the Keto Diet
- Decreased body fat
- Type 2 Diabetes Prevention/Support
- Fights Heart Disease
- Protects against cancer
- Improves Neurological Function
While I cycle the diet I have been very happy with the results and have even been able to add intermittent fasting to my routine. If you have tried Keto let me know your thoughts or if you try it let me know how you are doing!
Here are some of the links where I found my information