“My diet is great… I don’t eat any carbs!”
Yes, the title of this post is a quote verbatim from a recent nutrition consult I had. The “ketogenic diet” (KD) has become increasingly popular in my line of work as a nutrition coach and personal trainer. Many people are hopping on board with the ketogenic diet, including some of the trainers and coaches I work with, due to the growing number of success stories associated with this low carbohydrate diet and the quick results it yields.
As a nutrition student, “Keto” had always been one of those fads my peers and I rolled our eyes at; what we considered a trendy diet, often misinterpreted by the general public leading to poor nutritional quality and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. But as a fitness and nutrition professional, it is essential for me not only to research but try these fads to speak to them on a personal level with clients. Let’s dive into what the ketogenic diet (KD) is, take a look at what the science says about its effectiveness as an avenue for weight loss, and I will share my personal experience following the KD.
In the first part of this two-part blog, I am going to talk about the science behind the KD. So how does it work? The original low-carb diet was called the Atkins diet which some of you may remember from the 80’s. Atkins’ initial hypothesis was that weight loss was induced by losing energy through excretion of ketone bodies (described below), however, more recently it is thought that weight loss with KD is from one of two reasons:
a. the body sees the use of energy from protein as an “expensive process” for the body, thus causing a loss of calories or
b. Weight loss is due to an increase in satiety (feeling full) from protein as fuel.
In layman’s terms, the KD works as a method for weight loss by depriving your body of dietary carbohydrates and depleting it of its carbohydrate stores (glycogen) which will force the body to pull from body fat stores to make energy to fuel the body. It takes about 3-4 days of very low carbohydrate intake (30-50g/d) for the central nervous system to start looking for an alternative source of fuel. This turnover of fat for energy leads to the production of ketone bodies by the liver through the process of ketogenesis.
The body lacks the enzyme to break down these ketone bodies thus they are used by the tissues as a source of energy. Eventually, the body gets about 60% of its fuel from converting glycerol to glucose through this process. An individual may experience some side effects of the body transitioning into this fat burning state, in particular, nausea, physical and mental fatigue, brain fog, and hunger.
But…does the keto diet actually cause you to lose fat?
…To be continued…
Paoli A. Ketogenic diet for obesity: friend or foe? Int J of Env Research and Pub Health. 2014; 11(2):2092-2107. Web.
Keller, A. Keys to the ketogenic diet. Gluten Free Living. 2018.