What if we told you that you could lose up to 10 pounds in a week, all by amping up the fat intake in your diet by consuming normally non-diet friendly foods like butter, red meat, and whole eggs? And, what if we told you celebs like Kim Kardashian, Megan Fox, or Gwyneth Paltrow were supposedly followers of this diet? (Mick Jagger is also reportedly a fan, but we left him out for reasons we think obvious.)
Welcome to the ketogenic, or keto, diet, where you eat meals high in fat, moderate in protein, and low in those forever-evil (or at least much maligned) carbs. This diet forces the body to enter a state of ketosis, burning fat instead of carbohydrates, which allegedly results in rapid weight loss, alleviated allergies, and chronic aches and pains melting away.
Keto has also been shown to lower blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity in diabetics, and there is some evidence to suggest the diet benefits those who suffer from certain neurological conditions, like epilepsy. Research is also being done to explore its effects on people who suffer from cancer and Alzheimer's.
Sounds great, right? But as if often the case, there’s always a catch…
Whatever. Tell me what’s good about the keto diet.
“You’ll lose a great deal of water weight — 10 pounds in a week isn’t unheard of,” says P.J. Streit, transformation coach and director of operations at Lean Bodies Consulting.
And shockingly, that weight loss comes from consuming fat. “Our bodies do need fat to function properly,” says Hope Pedraza, a certified personal trainer, nutrition coach, and the founder of fitness and wellness studio inBalance in San Antonio, Texas. “Eating fat helps provide energy, actually helps burn fat, and aids in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.” So if you’re looking for success stories, they’re out there.
Keto sounds a lot like paleo.
It’s true the diets are similar, but there are some key differences. For starters, paleo is high in protein, while the intake on keto is moderate. Also, “the ketogenic diet is definitely low-carb, as it needs to be in order to burn fat for energy, create ketones, and keep insulin levels low,” says Caitlin Weeks, personal trainer, certified nutrition consultant, and blogger behind Grass Fed Girl. “The paleo diet isn’t necessarily so (carb levels vary from low to medium) but usually way less than the standard American diet.” There are plenty more differences too, which Weeks goes into in great detail on her blog.
OK, so what’s the catch?
Like most diets, it comes down to sustainability. “You have to ask yourself, ‘Do I plan to — or can I — eat this way for the rest of my life?’” says Streit. “If the answer is no, then why waste time? Do you really think you are never going to have a piece of bread, some rice or potatoes, or a cookie for the rest of your life?”
Adds Pedraza, “too much of anything is typically not good. Eating too much fat and too much protein means you are leaving out other things with important nutrients. Many people following a keto diet are so focused getting the fats and protein in that they kind of see veggies and fruit as an afterthought, and get deficient in many vitamins and minerals that can only be found in plants.”
And let’s not forget, your body needs carbs to function. “Carbs — the right ones! — are brain food and energy, so people who drop carbohydrates this low can experience extreme fatigue, brain fog, and nausea for weeks and even longer,” says Pedraza.
The bottom line on the keto diet?
If you’re looking to lose weight, both experts say old fashioned calorie-counting — not necessarily keto — is the way to go. “It’s a surplus of calories — not a specific macronutrient — that causes fat and weight gain,” says Streit. “All macros do something good for you and none — unless there is a legitimate medical reason — need to be avoided.”
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