Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Bro, Do You Even Keto?

By: Andrew Jagim

Low-Carb, high protein, carb-backloading, carb cycling, keto. These are just a few of the many terms used to describe dietary strategies that revolve around the manipulation of various macronutrient intakes and ratios which often include adjusting your carbohydrate intake some how.  Most of these dieting strategies focus on the manipulation of body composition with the end goal if increasing lean muscle mass while losing body fat which is the ultimate goal of bros everywhere or as I like to call it having your cake and eating it too (but unfortunately cake isn't a part of the meal plan).  With all of these dieting strategies comes a lot of confusion and sometimes the misuse of the strategy itself. For the sake of this article we are going to focus solely on ketogenic dieting and it's role in optimizing body composition.

People often confuse a ketogenic diet with a low-carb diet when in reality they are not one in the same. In a sense, ketogenic diets are low in carbohydrates but a typically "low-carb" diet is usually one that consists of 30-40% of total daily calories coming from carbohydrates whereas a ketogenic diet only consists of about 5% carbohydrates. The purpose of a ketogenic diet is to put your body in a state of nutritional ketosis (not to be confused with diabetic ketosis) to optimize fuel utilization.  This occurs when ketone levels within the blood reach 1-5 mmols.

Another misconception of ketogenic diets is that a higher protein intake is needed to make up for the lack of carbohydrates in the diet to help maximize increases in lean mass. Again this really isn't the case as the ultimate purpose of a ketogenic diet is to force your body to produce ketones for fuel rather than relying on carbohydrates.  In order for this adaptation to occur carbohydrate and protein levels need to be low (or really low in the case of carbohydrates) as even protein can have spike insulin levels and knock someone out of "ketosis."  This isn't to say that a high-protein diet isn't beneficial and/or carbohydrates aren't important, it's just that a true ketogenic diet is low in carbs and protein.  Some people may struggle to adhere to such a restrictive diet and may cycle back and forth between temporary periods of ketogenic dieting and low or moderate carb & protein intakes however this is NOT something that is recommended and may actually do more harm than good when it comes to body composition.  In order for someone to be truly keto-adapted it actually takes several weeks if not months for this process to occur and to benefit from all of its advantages.  So, by bouncing back and forth between keto dieting and low/mod or high carb levels, one will essentially knock themselves out of ketosis and research has shown that this may actually promote muscle loss and body fat gain.

So are Ketogenic Diets the answer for you? Maybe....Research has shown that it is an effective way to lose weight, particularly body fat and may even spare lean muscle tissue in the process. However, it does all but eliminate carbohydrates from the diet and may be difficult for some. Moral of the story, just make sure you are doing it right or it will backfire!

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