The Ketogenic Diet is something which has become popular over the past year – however it may still be a confusing or strange concept to some. Therefore I wanted to take the opportunity to explain the Ketogenic Diet, the benefits of the diet and how you might go about changing towards a Ketogenic Diet.
A common misconception is that a “low carb” diet which has become even more popular over recent years is the same as a Ketogenic Diet. It is very important to note that Ketogenic Diets and Low Carbohydrate (low carb) diets are different… So to begin with:
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
A Ketogenic Diet is a High Fat, Moderate Protein, Low Carbohydrate diet. Looking at this in terms of macronutrient split is as follow:
This might be a very strange concept to many people, particularly those in the fitness industry who may have been told their entire life that a low fat, higher carbohydrate diet is healthy. Switching towards a high fat diet can be very difficult to get accustomed to… looking for fats in food as opposed to avoiding them can be hard to get your head round. However once you fully commit to a Ketogenic Diet, you can take advantage of a range of benefits which you may have never been aware of.
The Ketogenic Diet can help to:
- Boosts in natural hormone levels
- Reduces body fat
- Supports the maintenance/growth of muscle mass
- Improves insulin sensitivity
How does the Ketogenic Diet work?
The Ketogenic Diet aims to reduce the impact of insulin on the body’s energy storage mechanisms. Insulin itself is responsible for reducing any increase in blood sugar levels as a result of eating, but moving energy for storage either in muscle tissue or within the liver where it may be converted to a suitable energy source for storage as fat. Insulin also has an impact directly on fat, a constant fluctuation in insulin levels makes it more likely for you to retain any excess energy as fat, and it also prevents the release of fat from fat cells for use as energy – keeping it in storage (reducing fat loss).
By consuming a high fat diet which are low in carbohydrates, you reduce the impact of food on insulin response and therefore reduce the risk of energy being directed to storage. You also allow any fat that is currently stored within fat cells to be released and used as energy (if in a calorie deficit).
When you reduce your carbohydrate consumption so significantly, your body begins to look for alternative sources of energy (carbohydrate is typically the most sought after energy source for the body). As a result of there being no carbohydrates present in the diet and carbohydrate stores used up, your body uses an alternative source of energy known as Ketones – hence the name the ketogenic diet.
Whilst the above does sound great and the benefits are fantastic, the diet does come with some draw backs.
- “Keto Flu” – when your body is “adjusting” from carbohydrate as an energy source to Ketones, you can experience Flu like symptoms: Lethargy and Brain Fog being the most common. For most, this lasts about 2 weeks before subsiding, and then some say energy levels are better than ever.
- Consistency – this diet is dependent upon a consistent high fat, ultra-low carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates are in a lot of foods and can often be difficult to avoid, unless you prepare the vast majority of your meals from scratch. This can be very time consuming and not necessarily fit around everyone’s daily routine. This can lead to the diet being very difficult to sustain over long periods of time, and therefore might be better used as a tool to push through plateaus or to change things up a bit.
- Food choices – whilst this diet does offer an array of foods which you wouldn’t have previously thought were ideal choices (under other diets), the food choices may not necessarily suit all. Those who are lactose intolerant, vegan, vegetarian, may find this particularly challenging, with a more limited range of foods on offer.
To conclude, the Ketogenic Diet can be a great tool for pushing through weight loss plateaus or for those who struggle with insulin sensitivity. Whilst the diet does have a great deal of positives, it does however, take huge commitment and time in order to obtain these benefits – with a few weeks buffer before you begin to see the effects. The diet can be recommended for those who struggle to lose body fat on a “conventional” calorie restricted diet, or those who have poor insulin sensitivity.
About the Author
Rowan (BSc Hons Sport and Exercise Science) works within the BULK POWDERS™ Product Team. His role includes being responsible for Product Quality as well as contributing to Product Development.