The Ketogenic Diet, or “Keto,” is the diet du jour of today. With a fancy name, it is irresistible to those who don’t know any better. But what does it really mean, and how is it different to other diets that came before it??
Basically, a Keto diet is a diet that is not only ultra-low in carbohydrates, but also low in protein, leaving the bulk of the calories to come from fat. Percentage-wise, we are speaking 90% Fat, 8% Protein, and 2% Carbs. The premise for those chasing fat-loss, is that people following a keto diet are attempting to mimic the fasted state that the body falls into while we are sleeping, when the body releases ketones into the body, which suppress hunger and support the use of body-fat as fuel. There have been multiple studies that have shown the ketogenic diet to be useful for epilepsy, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, improved mental cognition, and weight loss.
A less extreme Keto diet, is the typical Low-Carb diet. Percentage-wise, a Low-Carb diet consists of approximately 65% Protein, 25% Fat, and 10% Carbs. The Low-Carb diet is not new, and thankfully became more popular than the previous Low-Fat craze of the 80’s and 90’s, once people realized that the only way to make anything low-fat taste decent was to dump tons of sugar into it!
The Ketogenic Diet is not new, and has undergone various names over time. It started off as the Banting Diet, named after William Banting, then Lorenzo’s Oil, Atkins, The Ultimate Dieting Handbook, and most recently the Anabolic Diet. Keto-adaptation is described as the “coordinated set of metabolic adaptations that ensures proper inter-organ fuel supply in the face of low carbohydrate availability” – Steve Finney.
So how does it work??? Well, fat has a high caloric count, and is highly satiable, meaning that when eaten, you aren’t as hungry, and you don’t eat as often. So, basically it supports operating in a caloric deficiency, which results in weight loss. I recently saw an infographic that, in a humorous way, showed how basically every diet works, as long as you are consuming fewer calories that you take in. At the hormonal level, a ketogenic diet does support testosterone production, which makes it popular among strength athletes. There can be digestive issues associated with it, due to the high fat content, so it is important that you consume carbohydrates that are high in fiber.
What about exogenous ketones?? What am I talking about? The ketone powder that you can buy from various companies, including a very popular MLM company. So, here’s how these work: Exogenous ketones were developed by a university for the military, as a way for soldiers to keep their minds sharp and their belly’s full during fire-fights lasting up to a few days at a time. They suppress the appetite, and assist in the transfer of fat as fuel, which the brain likes to use. BUT, they are ridiculously high in sodium, and are not ideal for long-term consumption.
I myself experimented with them, and definitely found that I was able to work out for hours on end without getting hungry, which resulted in weight loss, but not necessarily fat loss. Because of the caloric deficit due to the satiability, I didn’t eat as much, but because my protein intake was so low, my body cannibalized its own muscle, and so I lost a larger percentage of muscle than I would have preferred in the process. My take-away from the exogenous ketones was that they were a good supplement for endurance events, but not good personally for long-term weight loss.
So, this brings up who would best operate on a ketogenic diet? It’s time to look at somatotypes here. Ironically, its actually the last type you would think, the Mesomorph. The individual who maintains muscle easily, and doesn’t naturally pack on fat. This individual doesn’t cannibalize muscle easily, and metabolizes fat well. The Ectomorph needs more protein, and can handle higher carbs, but struggles to build muscle. The Endomorph does best on a typical Low-Carb diet high in proteins, vegetables, and whole grains, as they are able to build muscle easily, but also easily pack on fat.
Talking about diets, and specifically diet trends, can get people pretty fired up. Gluten-free, low-carb, high-fat, high-protein, whole-grain, organic, fair-trade, etc., the list of buzz-words goes on and on. But at their core, it comes down to finding the diet that you are able to stick to consistently to meet your goals. No one can argue against eating fresh, unprocessed foods that you can ideally prepare yourself. It doesn’t matter if you eat meat or prefer to adhere to a meat-free diet, or if you choose fruits over veggies, as long as you can operate in a caloric deficit for fat-loss, and a caloric balance for maintenance. Eat like an “adult,” I’ve heard it explained, and don’t get too sucked into trends looking to sell books and supplements!
Now I’m hungry, it’s time to eat!!
Tim Peterson, Chief FitRanX® Instructor