Have you heard about the awesomeness that is a ketogenic diet yet?
The therapeutic applications range from diabetes, to PCOS, to cancer and cardiovascular disease... and of course... are a *key* recommendation for weight loss.
Let's take a look at what they entail and some resources to help you learn more if you want to.
A ketogenic diet is "characterized by a reduction in carbohydrates (usually to less than 50g per day) and a relative increase in the proportions of protein and fat." (Paoli, 2013)
Where the relative proportion of carbohydrates comes down to almost nothing and the amount of fat and protein come up to compensate. For weight loss, the "Atkins Diet" is the most widely recognized format of a ketogenic diet, but there are others.
The effect of eating a very low amount of carbohydrates on the body is to create a state of physiologic ketosis, in which the body burns fat instead of carbohydrates as fuel. In order for this to happen, the body must first burn through the short term carbohydrate stores in the body, which usually takes about 3-4 days. After which, the body is forced to use an alternative fuel source (i.e. fat). When the body burns fat for fuel it generates molecules called "ketone bodies", hence the term ketogenic. In effect, it creates a fasting-like state, without total absence of food.
Everyone's body is a little unique is how low carbohydrate intake must be to achieve ketosis.
** Note that physiological ketosis is different from diabetic ketoacidosis. This is often a point of confusion.
Research on ketogenic diets has strong evidence for:
We also have emerging evidence for:
Basically, the gist of it is you reduce carbohydrate intake to anywhere between 50-150g per day, and bump up healthy protein and fat instead. For reference, 50g of carbohydrate is roughly:
Surprisingly, in my scanning of the research, best results seem to favour eating more fat than protein! (Those of you who are my patients know I'm a huge fan of eating protein. The protein levels in these diets do correspond with my general recommendations. So, if you're hitting my recommended targets for you, keep that steady.) This requires your protein and fat sources are healthier ones, of course. There is a big difference between pork rinds and olive oil when it comes to the healthful quality of your fat choices.
The main thing to get the results though, is the strict and significant carbohydrate reduction. How low carb you have to go depends on your unique body and metabolism. Evidence of the body's switch into fat burning can be tracked by assessing presence of ketone bodies in your urine using a simple dipstick. (See these ones you can order from Amazon)
It usually takes 3-4 days of very low carbohydrates to get into ketosis (called keto-adaptation) but once you are there your body will stay there, burning fat, unless you go back to eating carbs. That said, staying in ketosis is a bit tricky... as too many carbohydrates will bump you out of ketosis and back to burning carbs instead of fat. Many patients find it restrictive... but when the pounds start melting off they see the value.
First, know that while some ketogenic diets (ahem, Atkins) have come under scrutiny and criticism for what I see to be very valid reasons, the criticisms do not apply to all ketogenic diets. A well formulated ketogenic diet can be quite health promoting as the research seems to be uncovering. The differences hinge on the relative proportion of fats to protein, with most results pointing to a healthful amount of protein at 0.7-0.9g of protein per pound of lean body mass per day. The rest of the calories then come from fat.
Second, if you are trying to lose weight, you still have to achieve an overall caloric deficit to get results. Yes... this doesn't mean you can stuff yourself to the gills and not exercise. The diet must be less calories than your output or the math just doesn't work.
Third, I'd like to point out that if you are considering a ketogenic diet for weight loss or other reasons, consult your medical or naturopathic doctor first. Ketogenic diets are not for everyone - particularly those with kidney or liver conditions. Moreover, you should never just cut out a whole food group for any reason without doing your research and consulting your physician first about the effect it will have on your body. I've compiled some resources for you below should you wish to explore ketogenic diets further.
If you are considering keto/want to learn more, check these out. They are by far the best science-back resources I've found.
I hope you found this blog post helpful and that it serves you. If you have any questions or would like to work with me to see if a ketogenic diet is right for you, then please get in touch! If you have any questions, comments, or resources you'd like to share about this topic, leave it in the comments below.
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