To Keto or Not to Keto?

It’s a new year, which means everyone is setting new goals, especially when it comes to fitness. I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, because I think people use it as an excuse to continue living their unhealthy lifestyle until a certain date when they can actually start going to the gym and eating better. Fitness is not a yearly thing – it’s a lifelong commitment. But I do believe now is a great time to re-evaluate goals and set new ones.

Along with setting goals to hit the gym X number of times per week, people decide to try different diets. Usually, these diets are fad diets. I want to talk about one huge fad diet right now: the ketogenic diet, or keto diet, for short.

The ketogenic diet, summed up, is eating an extremely low amount of carbs, moderate protein, and high fat. Your body begins to produce and utilize ketones as an energy source (the metabolic state of ketosis), as opposed to your body mainly using carbohydrates as a fuel source.

The keto diet is different than a low-carb diet.  When your body is in a state of ketosis, it’s actually using the ketones for fuel. Ketones are a byproduct of the body breaking down fat for energy. So you have to have the right ratio of carbs to fat to protein in order for the ketogenic diet to work, whereas a low-carb diet is just eating fewer carbs than normal.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you the keto diet is bad, because it isn’t. It actually can have amazing health benefits. But people try it for the wrong reasons. Let me explain….

You see one of your favorite Instagram “fitspos” and they say they got super shredded with the keto diet. They get tons of followers because of looking good on this diet. Then, other people start doing the diet because they want to look good, too (especially around the new year). So, this diet inevitably becomes a fad diet.

Now, let me be clear that the ketogenic diet is not a fad diet; it’s actually a scientifically proven diet that can be beneficial, depending on the individual. But the idea of the keto diet has become a fad because people see it as a get-shredded-quick scheme.

For the average person, it doesn’t matter what kind of diet you follow. You have to be burning more calories than you’re taking in – plain and simple. You could literally do any diet in the world and still lose weight as long as you’re burning more calories than you’re taking in. Now, it isn’t all as simple as calories in vs. calories out, but for the average person eating a decent number of calories to maintain their weight, it sure is one of the more important factors to consider.

However, the ketogenic diet has been researched and proven to have many health benefits. The most notable studies are those that focus on treating epilepsy. The seizure prevention mechanism in relation to the keto diet is still unclear, but it’s believed to have something to do with the stability of neurons in the brain because the use of fat as fuel has been correlated (yes, I know correlation does not equal causation!) to more brain focus (in other words, more “brain control”).

Going along with this, people doing the ketogenic diet have reported that it does give them more energy. This is due to the lack of those “carb crashes” compared to eating a more standard diet. It also helps those with diabetes because it regulates insulin and blood sugar. However, this is something that the average healthy person does NOT need to worry about, despite all the bro science out there.

The ketogenic diet has also been shown to have benefits related to other diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.

But for the average person, the ketogenic diet is not a sustainable diet. Switching over to the keto diet puts you at risk for what they call the “keto” flu. This can happen when you switch your body from using glucose as energy to fat. These are basically withdrawal symptoms. That said, this usually only lasts a week at the most.

The keto diet is also not sustainable because it’s not a social diet. You have to be picky about everything you consume, so it makes it hard to go out to eat with friends. If you’re a drinker, you really can’t drink much on a keto diet. Your choice is really only vodka-waters ☹. You can’t enjoy any of your favorite treats anymore if you choose to follow this diet as a lifestyle – unless your favorite foods are butter and cheese. You also can’t have any fruit (maybe a few berries here and there), and you also have to be picky about your vegetables.

If you’re overweight and can’t seem to control your binging on foods like cakes, cookies, donuts, etc., then yes, the ketogenic diet can absolutely be for you. But you still have to make sure your calories are controlled, or you won’t lose weight!

The ketogenic diet is not a magic diet. Just because you lower your carbs to almost nothing doesn’t mean you’re going to get shredded. Sure, you may lose weight at first (guess what – it’s mostly water weight!), but you’ll plateau. So what do you do ten? You lower your macros, which is lowering your calories. See the pattern? You can do this with any diet. Why not eat a balanced diet of carbs, fats, and protein?

As I said, I’m not here to tell you the keto diet is bad. It actually has some awesome health benefits. But you can still be healthy without doing it. You just have to be smart. So choose your diet wisely, and don’t fall victim to diet fads! 😊

Meet JYM Girl Katie Kollath, MS