You walk around the grocery store and spend a lot of time reading through the labels and scrutinizing the nutritional facts on items labeled as “organic”, skipping a meal or two only to find yourself devouring a tub of ice cream after a stressful day at work. The scenario seems familiar, right?
You might be one of those who have tried different fad diets which only led to multiple bouts of disappointments and made you relapse into stress-eating habits and other unhealthy lifestyle patterns. You are not alone. In fact, it is not uncommon for some people who are trying to suppress their body weight through restrictive dietary patterns to experience episodes of overeating and guilt 1. For some, the guilt they feel after “losing control” of their dietary inhibition led to compensatory behaviors such as excessive exercising, fasting and induced vomiting. This cycle between binge eating and guilt has led to poor outcomes on the long-term health of those who attempt to lose weight 2.
Furthermore, science has proven that up to 80% of those who lost weight through dieting will regain their weight within one year 3. What’s worse is that oftentimes the weight they gain is more than what they originally lost3. Moreover, a comparative study has revealed that dieting is, in fact, a predictor of future weight gain 4 due to the reason that weight loss though an improper method of reducing calorie intake can ultimately lead to a decrease in metabolism, which in turn can lead to a weight gain.
What ketogenic diet is not
There are multiple reasons why people, who attempt to follow a ketogenic diet 5, fail at their efforts of losing weight. Most of the time, they fail because of their misconceptions that make their bodies unable to achieve (or maintain) a ketosis state 6. Ketogenic diet works by persistently decreasing the amount of your carbohydrate intake 5, while forcing your body to default into breaking down (and depleting) your glycogen (a stored form of unused glucose) 7.Ultimately, you will reach a state when your stored body fats are converted into ketones, a rich source of energy (the process is called ketosis) 8.
Achieving weight loss and manifesting the positive effects of a ketogenic diet would mean that you follow the dietary guidelines properly and avoid falling into misconceptions that prevent you from losing weight, or worse, gain more unnecessary weight in the process.
Below are some myths that you need to consider:
1. You can go on keto intermittently.
Some people believe that following a ketogenic diet does not require consistency. Thus, they go on a high-fat-low-carb diet one day and go on carbohydrate eating spree the next day. This is a common misconception that led people to improperly reach a conclusion that ketogenic diet is simply a scam, and it will never work for them. The key to a successful ketogenic diet is consistency9. Keeping your blood consistently low in glucose allows your body to get used to burning your stored fats for energy. On the contrary, binging on a high-carb diet from time to time will make your body prepare for your next starvation by converting the current excess glucose into glycogen and fats (through a process called lipogenesis 10. This means that deciding to follow a ketogenic diet requires commitment and consistency to make sure that your body will not unhealthily go back-and-forth between fat-burning and fat-building.
2. You will eat bacon all the way to fitness.
Although it is true that a ketogenic diet will require you to bulk up on foods high in fat (as a substitute to carbohydrates), it does not necessarily mean that all kinds of fatty foods are good for you. It is important to understand that some fatty dishes are considered “clean” while others are “dirty”. To achieve your fitness goals, you must consciously choose those keto-friendly foods that are considered “clean” as they are processed in their natural state and contain less additives or added sugars 11. This includes fresh seafood (they contain high amounts of Omega 3 and other trace minerals), olives, avocados, and certain low-carb nuts (i.e., macadamia, pili nuts, pecans, and pistachios). On the contrary, processed food and preserved meat must be avoided (or shall be consumed minimally) as they contain high amounts of nitrates and sugar.
3. You need to avoid fruits and vegetables.
While it is true that fruits and vegetables contain carbohydrates, these important sources of dietary fibers are not to be avoided. In fact, a ketogenic diet does not forbid anyone from including a little amount of carbohydrates in the daily dietary intake 12. Even without cheating your way in this diet, you can still consume up to 40 grams of carbohydrates per day 13. Thus, it is highly recommended that you allocate this tiny allowance for carbs on high quality foods that contain less starch and are high in fiber. This includes asparagus, celery, tomato, spinach, lettuce, mushrooms, cucumber, and zucchini among others. Moreover, since constipation is a common side effect of ketogenic diet 14, it is important to include a certain amount of roughage in your daily meal plan 15.
4. Protein is a substitute for carbohydrates.
It is a common myth among beginners that they must increase their protein intake, as a substitute for carbohydrates, in order to maintain or increase their muscle mass. However, it is important to understand that too much protein in your diet can prevent you from achieving the state of ketosis 16, since the amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) are convertible to glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis 17. Since an excessive intake of dietary protein can lead your body back to utilizing glucose as a source of energy, it is recommended to keep your daily dietary intake of protein between 10-20% of your daily calorie intake (approximately 75 grams).
5. A ketogenic diet is impossible to maintain.
Most people, who never really understand the processes involved in a ketogenic diet, will definitely insist that a ketogenic diet does more harm to their health than good. This might be true for some since a keto diet is not suitable for certain people. However, while it is established that some people who are new to ketogenic diet may undergo some level of difficulty as they experience short-term symptoms known as the “keto flu” (a combination of nausea, headache, vomiting and fatigue) 18, this is just temporary and may only last for a few days. Once the cells in your body get used to a low carbohydrate environment, you will notice that you don’t easily get hungry, nor crave for foods that are high in sugar and starch. This simply means that the longer you stick to a ketogenic diet, the easier it will be for you to sustain this lifestyle.
After reading about the most common misconceptions on ketogenic diets, surely it will become a lot easier for you to work with different strategies in order to achieve the health benefits of a ketogenic lifestyle. Staying informed by reading more online materials about hacking your way to ketogenic fitness, while sipping a bottle of cold keto friendly low carb beer is a sure healthy way to go.
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2- Tylka, Tracy L., et al. “The weight-inclusive versus weight-normative approach to health: Evaluating the evidence for prioritizing well-being over weight loss.” Journal of obesity 2014 (2014).
3- Craven, Michael P., and Erin M. Fekete. “Weight-related shame and guilt, intuitive eating, and binge eating in female college students.” Eating behaviors 33 (2019): 44-48.
4- Spreckley, Marie, Jaap Seidell, and Jutka Halberstadt. “Perspectives into the experience of successful, substantial long-term weight-loss maintenance: a systematic review.” International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being 16.1 (2021): 1862481.
5- Lowe, M. R., Doshi, S. D., Katterman, S. N., & Feig, E. H. (2013). Dieting and restrained eating as prospective predictors of weight gain. Frontiers in psychology, 4, 577.
6- Dhamija, R., Eckert, S., & Wirrell, E. (2013). Ketogenic diet. Canadian journal of neurological sciences, 40(2), 158-167.
7- Kanungo, Shibani, et al. “Glycogen metabolism and glycogen storage disorders.” Annals of translational medicine 6.24 (2018).
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9- Kennedy, Adam R., et al. “A high-fat, ketogenic diet induces a unique metabolic state in mice.” American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism (2007).
10-Hellerstein, M. K. “De novo lipogenesis in humans: metabolic and regulatory aspects.” European journal of clinical nutrition 53.1 (1999): s53-
11- Pilař, Ladislav, et al. “Healthy food on Instagram social network: vegan, homemade and clean eating.” Nutrients 13.6 (2021): 1991.
12-Yancy, William S., et al. “A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet to treat type 2 diabetes.” Nutrition & metabolism 2.1 (2005): 1-7.
13- Di Rosa, Claudia, et al. “Very low calorie ketogenic diets in overweight and obesity treatment: Effects on anthropometric parameters, body composition, satiety, lipid profile and microbiota.” Obesity Research & Clinical Practice 14.6 (2020): 491-503.
14- Neal, Elizabeth G., et al. “The ketogenic diet for the treatment of childhood epilepsy: a randomised controlled trial.” The Lancet Neurology 7.6 (2008): 500-506.
15- Dahl, Wendy J., Elaine J. Niebergall, and Russell J. Owen. “Implications of fiber inadequacy in the ketogenic diet: a case study.” ICAN: Infant, Child, & Adolescent Nutrition 3.5 (2011): 288-290.
16- Mobbs, Charles V., et al. “Treatment of diabetes and diabetic complications with a ketogenic diet.” Journal of child neurology 28.8 (2013): 1009-1014.
17- Silva, S. V., and J. R. Mercer. “Effect of protein intake on amino acid catabolism and gluconeogenesis by isolated hepatocytes from the cat (Felis domestica).” Comparative Biochemistry and physiology. B, Comparative Biochemistry 80.3 (1985): 603-607.
18- Sáenz de Pipaón, Miguel, et al. “Commentary: Consumer Reports of “Keto Flu” Associated With the Ketogenic Diet.” Frontiers in Nutrition 7 (2020): 113.
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