The Keto Diet & Getting Fit – Questions Answered

The diet that demonised carbs, rightly or wrongly!? We will answer that in this article.The ketogenic diet rose to the giddy heights of diet culture fame in the 00s. It’s a little-known fact that the diet was created as an anti-convulsant therapy to treat people with epilepsy, but like most medical treatments aimed at the treatment of one disorder, the weight loss world quickly enveloped the medical intervention as their own * cough cough Ozempic *  

The Ketogenic diet is loosely interchanged with the phrase ‘low carbohydrate’. This is because it drastically reduces all sources of carbohydrate naturally increasing high-protein and high-fat foods in the diet. Seeing as glucose or glucose storage is the primary source of energy in the human diet, the body must find an alternative way of making glucose from other energetic stores. It, therefore, uses fat storage to break down and convert into glucose for energy. This process is called ketogenesis. This produces ketones an alternative form of energy. 

Fact File on The Keto Diet

  • The Keto diet recommends between 45-50 grams of carbohydrates per day. 
  • High-glucose carbohydrate foods are off limits, as are some dairy foods high in sugars like lactose.
  • However, fruit sugars and fructose are allowed to be eaten in moderation. 
  • Simply put Ketosis is when the body runs out of glucose, its primary energy source. For the average person consuming less than 50 grams of carbohydrates a day, ketosis can be reached in ~48 hours. 
  • In regards to blood ketone levels (a by-product of ketosis), ketosis can be measured as anywhere between 0.5 and 3 mg/dl of Ketones in the blood. This can be measured with ketone strips.

Common Questions and Misconceptions about the Intermittent Fasting

How do you reach Ketosis?

It’s possible to reach ketosis in 2-4 days. This can be achieved by  increasing and concentrating consumption of the following food groups

  • Meat
  • Seafood and Fish
  • Eggs
  • Tofu and Tempeh
  • Nuts & Seeds, and Oils
  • Soft Cheeses
  • Yoghurt
  • Butter & Ghee
  • Non Dairy, Unsweetened Milk
  • Avocado
  • Green Leafy Vegetables
  • Selected Vegetables – cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms, cucumber, radishes, broccoli, and celery
  • Selected Fruits-berries, watermelon, apples, oranges, kiwis, grapes, grapefruit and mango
  • Dark Chocolate

Thus, limiting the following food groups:

  • Bread
  • Grains
  • Beans and Legumes
  • High Starch Vegetables- peas, sweetcorn, parsnips and carrots
  • Crisps, Crackers and Breadsticks
  • Confectionary and High-Sugar Desserts
  • Alcohol

 

Can you do Keto on a Plant-based diet?

Yes, but it is much harder to eat a plant-based diet (vegan or vegetarian) and still maintain ketosis. Protein sources vary depending if you eat any animal products, but vegetarians have the option of some low-lactose dairy items, and eggs, in addition to the vegan protein sources of tofu and tempeh. Moreover, they can each consume, nuts and seeds, as well as unsweetened pastes/butters made from them. However, beans and legumes should be avoided during a keto diet, to reduce carbohydrate intake. 

 

Does the ketogenic diet help you lose weight?

In theory yes, because the body has no choice but to convert fat stores into energy stores. Therefore, the body begins to reduce fat stores, and therefore lose weight. A 2004 study, gave 83 obese patients (based on BMI) a 24-week programme which included consuming 30 grams of carbohydrates per day. This is firmly within the ketogenic numbers. Throughout the study, they were monitored at 8-week intervals. Results showed a drastic and significant decrease in weight loss. The mean weight of participants dropped from 101.03 kg (±2.33 kg) at week 0, to 86.67kg (±3.70 kg) by week 24. 

 

Does the Ketogenic Diet Improve Health?

Yes, in the same study mentioned above, they also took measurements of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, and fasting blood sugar. Results demonstrated a decrease in total cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides and blood glucose. Whereas, HDL significantly increased, thus improving many factors related to overall well-being and improving many predictors of disease status.

 

Is the  Ketogenic Diet Suitable During Your Menstrual Cycle?

No, a common symptom of a very low carbohydrate diet is irregular periods or a loss of the menstrual cycle. Therefore, if your client already experiences an irregular cycle, or is looking to improve fertility. I would not recommend this diet to them.

 

Does The Ketogenic Diet Cause Muscle Loss

It’s not yet conclusively known, and it depends on so many factors. The ketogenic diet is a large shift from a typical Western diet where we have become somewhat reliant on carbohydrates as a food source. Therefore, some people may not get the hang of the drastic increase and reliance on protein and fats. If your clients cut out carbohydrates but fail to replace them with other macronutrients such as protein they run the risk of muscle loss. However, the jury is still on whether the ketogenic diet itself can cause muscle loss.

 

What are the drawbacks of ketosis?

There are a few drawbacks to long-term ketosis:

  • Keto Breath
  • Constipation
  • Stomach Aches
  • Kidney Stones
  • Brittle Bones
  • Lack of Energy (long-term)
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Keto Flu – brain fog and headaches
  • Mood changes

If your client can live with these then, that’s up to them.. However, I would always recommend taking regular breaks from the keto diet. 

Invest time in your Understanding

  • Read around the subject
  • Try out some recipes intended for keto
  • Try to create some easy keto swaps for favourite meals
  • Follow some keto content creators

Written By Harriet Hunter 
Associate Nutritionist, ANutr

References

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