I’ll admit I was so skeptical when I first starting seeing people doing the ketogenic diet. My first impressions were not favorable because often what I was seeing was not really about a healthy lifestyle.
So like I always do, I start to research. Turns out, as with any eating plan, you have varying levels of misunderstanding, adherence and goals.
This set me on a multiple year journey, listening to podcasts, reading and Googling to take in all kinds of information on the ketogenic diet.
And finally this led me to start my own journey with it for a three week time frame. Now, I am exploring the option to do it for an extended time. Although, I will probably settle into a keto cycling pattern for a more long term sustainable approach. We were doing carb cycling, but not in the most optimal way.
Here are a few pictures of what we have been eating the last few weeks.
Below are some of the questions that I had and answers that I found. I hope they help you.
What are the benefits of a keto diet?
- Get beyond a weight loss plateau especially as it relates to insulin resistance and metabolic issues. The keto diet sees results where other plans often don’t when insulin resistance is an issue. The keto diet lowers sugar cravings due to hunger hormone regulation. As you get further along, sugar cravings go away while still feeling satiated. Where a traditional eating plan, they may never subside and you are constantly fighting cravings.
- If you have gut issues or digestive issues, you can see improvements. Many gut issues are aggravated by simple carb consumption.
- Sleep quality often improves.
- If done right, the keto diet is an anti-inflammatory diet. I say done right because many people are choosing low carb processed foods which typically contain ingredients that cause inflammation.
- Improved overall energy with no energy dips during the day.
- Dementia/Alzheimers/Epilepsy – there is more and more coming out about how a ketogenic diet can improve brain health issues. Shriner’s Hospital in Hawaii is exploring it for Autism and seeing great results! The science of it fascinates me! And it’s personally meaningful to me.
What we eat impacts our health, bottom line!
Read more benefits here…
What keto is NOT…
- The Atkins diet – the ketogenic diet actually has been around a lot longer than Atkins (like way longer – 1920’s) and emphasizes high quality fat consumption for around 60%-70% of your caloric intake. Give or take some depending on what your goals are. The Atkins diet had phases which included a short phase in ketosis.
- High protein diet – if you consume more protein than your body needs, it can be converted to glycogen just like carbs. So it’s best to avoid the trap of over consuming protein to make up for the decrease in carb consumption. Calories should come from fat to offset the decrease in carbs.
- License to eat whatever fats you want – the true ketogenic diet emphasis high quality fats. If you consume trans fats and other pour quality fats, you could be creating more health issues for yourself in the long run. Make sure you are consuming the recommended fats by true keto experts that actually care about your overall health and not just selling you weight loss plans or poor quality products.
- A typical low carb diet – this was news to me. I didn’t realize that traditional low carb diets usually allow 100-150 grams per day. Keto sticks to a strict range of 20-50 grams.
So what are the risks?
There is so much information out there about the keto diet, and it an be highly controversial. Of course, this is the case with almost every way of eating out there. So find trusted sources from experts that care about overall health. I personally love the risks outlined by Dr. Axe. He always sites research and shares both perspectives.
What about carbs for energy?
We need carbs for energy or at least this is what traditional nutrition will tell you! Now, this was one of my main arguments early in my research, but actually we can use ketones as fuel. Ketones are the optimal fuel for the brain. Most people on SAD (standard American diet) aren’t getting even close to what they need for optimal brain function.
Check out this research here:
The carbs are not essential argument, may surprise you. I’m not saying I don’t love carbs and won’t to cut them out of my life completely. But this argument definitely makes you rethink the place they have on the food pyramid or my plate the government proposes.
We actually way over consume carbs in the United States. This is evident in the amount of energy people are storing as fat. Obesity is not on the decline in the United States and is on the rise. I think the argument we need carbs for energy can become a justification for this over consumption. It can be a justification to not really focus on the quality of carbs in more realistic amounts.
What about athletic performance, won’t that suffer?
Many performance athletes are pursuing the keto diet in cycles to improve their athletic performance.
Check out tips here…
Keto Myths – https://themodelhealthshow.com/keto-myths/
Why is the keto diet so low carb?
- Ketosis is the initial goal – to have the body producing ketones for fuel
- The long term goal is to be fat adaptive – this is when your body becomes a fat burner of stored fat for energy versus burning sugar that is consumed in the moment.
More on being fat adaptive here….
Where do I start?
This guide is a great place to gather some great information:
Try this food list for an overview of what you can eat…
How many versions of the keto diet are there?
Be cautious of dirty keto versions! The goal is long term health and dirty keto isn’t really about nutrient dense foods.
Check out the types of keto diets at these links along with information about dirty keto…
Can I eat out on a keto diet?
Yes you can! Although, because many restaurants use poor quality fats, eating out should be the exception not the norm. Otherwise, you fall into the dirty keto trap!
If you have to eat out, here are some ideas…
Can you try keto and be vegan/vegetarian?
I haven’t done enough research on this, so I am going to provide a few articles for you to start your research.
Any other general tips?
- Focus on whole foods – high fiber vegetables
- Eat high quality meats – grass fed, antibiotic free, hormone free
- Watch your dairy consumption especially if you want to see the anti-inflammatory benefits of the keto diet. Make sure you are consuming high quality dairy in limited amounts. More here on dairy – https://themodelhealthshow.com/dangers-of-dairy/
- I love Mark Sisson’s keto reset plan because it eases you into keto in a simplistic way. Check out his book here…
There are so many recipes out there, where do I start?
I’ve got you. I love sharing resources and especially recipes. Here are some of my favorite sites for keto recipes:
- Dr Axe – https://draxe.com/nutrition/keto-recipes/
- Mark Sisson – https://www.primalkitchen.com/blogs/recipes/our-most-popular-keto-recipes
- Perfect Keto – https://perfectketo.com/keto-recipes/
- Fit Men Cook – https://fitmencook.com/recipes/workout/low-carbs/
- Make sure the ones you pick fit with the keto diet because not all low carb are keto friendly
- Paleo Running Momma – https://www.paleorunningmomma.com/?s=keto
- Check out her keto option recipes.
- Bulletproof – https://www.bulletproof.com/diet-type/keto/
Other websites that I have found some great options on…
- My PCOS Kitchen – https://www.mypcoskitchen.com/
- Wholesome Yum – https://www.wholesomeyum.com/tag/keto/
- Chocolate Covered Katie – https://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2018/03/08/keto-dessert-recipes-vegan/
I don’t want to do keto, what other options are there?
- Mediterranean diet – https://www.everydayhealth.com/mediterranean-diet/guide/#weightlosseffect
- Check out the number of servings of vegetables and fruits a day that are typical on a Mediterrean diet – NINE!
- Paleo – but watch your sugar intake. Many paleo bloggers still make recipes that are high in sugar. Even if it is a whole form of sugar or less processed, doesn’t mean that over consuming it is good for you. Sugar is not an essential nutrient to the body.
- Pegan Diet – Dr. Mark Hyman combining the best of Paleo and Vegan for a whole foods diet. https://drhyman.com/blog/2014/11/07/pegan-paleo-vegan/
- Four Pillar Plan – Dr. Rangan Chatterjee – https://www.healthyfood.co.uk/article/dr-chatterjees-five-principles-for-healthy-eating/
I could go on and on sharing resources and highlights, but I have to cut this off somewhere. So some other topics related to keto you may want to research.
- Intermittent fasting which often goes hand in hand with keto diets
- Net carbs versus total carbs
- Alternative sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit, etc
Side note on eating plans and my personal philosophy…
Just because you can lose weight on an eating plan, does not mean it is healthy for you. Eating should be about creating health in the body with nutrient dense foods and about disease prevention by avoiding low quality foods.
What about moderation or balance? These phrases “everything in moderation” or “balance” are to me not a good mental picture of what creates a thriving, healthy life. They are too subjective, and we aren’t always the best judge of what is truly moderate.
Treats/splurges/low quality foods should be an exception. It’s not about perfection, but they should be the exception if we want to create a truly healthy lifestyle.
Let’s be honest together. Often when we use these words, it can be an excuse to continue a pattern of eating that isn’t really serving us physically or emotionally. You can read more about my personal story here with emotional eating.
I hope this blog post was helpful. Reach out if you have questions. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll try to point you in the direction to find out.
XO, Liz ❤
P.S. As with any eating plan, reach out to a trusted doctor that can point you to a nutritionist or dietitian who specializes in keto diet knowledge. This is especially helpful if you have diabetes or other medical conditions that need supervised eating plans. My in-laws used an amazing nutritionist from their doctor that helped them transition to a keto diet.