Dieting. It’s giving up stuff you literally LOVE eating, because you overheard the super fit chick at work talking about how few carbs she eats. And then something about keto. Keto. Maybe that’s the secret…
But will it make me hate my life? The super fit chick at work also low-key hates her life. Though she smiles, she misses her pizza, deeply. (seriously doesn’t the chick in this picture look like she’s So it better be worth it. In this article I’ll save you the 4 hour google-ing period and serve up the basics of Keto, and a few pros and cons.
The keto diet is certainly the trendiest these days, and is based on the premise that by shifting your body’s primary fuel source from carbs-derived and protein-derived sources to fat-derived sources, you’ll end up looking and feeling better.
Taking a step back- understand this: the human body has 3 main sources of energy. Carbs, protein and fat. Each one of these macronutrients are broken down in the body to fuel our daily lives and workouts. We use carbohydrates as the main source of fuel, fats next, and protein as a last option. There are different scenarios that alter that hierarchy based on WHAT exactly you’re doing, and how Intensely you do it. (Speaking of Intense go buy our new watermelon wave ATHENA Intense).
But back to fuel sources and the body. This is the basic relationship between the 3 macronutrients (we ignore the fourth, which is alcohol since it’s not Thursday yet).
Carbs are broken down into glucose for energy. What cannot be used right away is stored in the muscles as glycogen for a later time.
Fats are broken down into fatty acids. Excess fatty acids are stored in the fat stores to be used when glucose and glycogen are depleted.
Protein is broken down into amino acids and the body would rather use this source to repair the body than to use it for energy. But when it has to, the body get hangry and “eats up” your muscles. No bueno for your gains.
But what about when you flip the switch and us fat as your main source of fuel and drastically restrict your carbs? Welcome to the world of the keto diet.
This is the Keto Diet.
The keto diet was developed in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic The keto diet was developed in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic to provide an alternative to non-mainstream fasting, which had demonstrated success as an epilepsy therapy.
The keto diet is a high fat, moderate protein and extremely low carb way of eating. Typically, a person will consume 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs each day. The theory behind the keto diet is that when your body is depleted of carbs, glucose and glycogen, you enter what is called ketosis. Ketosis is the process in which your body burns ketone bodies (chemicals that the body creates when it breaks down fat to use for energy) to avoid draining the protein stores in your muscles and instead uses energy from fat stores. So, you eat fat to burn fat.
This whole high fat diet sound wonderful, right? I mean… I love pizza, cake, ice cream, and donuts! You’re saying I can eat all these fatty foods and still be doing the keto diet?
Not so fast. Those are all high fat foods that are ALSO high carb. No bueno.
Depending on the type of keto diet you are on, you may still be able to eat all (or at least some) of those lovely things.
See, there are several different types of the ketogenic diet:
- Standard Keto Diet (SKG): Participant follows a 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carb diet
- High Protein Keto Diet: Simialar to SKG, but includes more protein with a ratio of 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.
- Cyclical Keto Diet (CKD): This diet includes periods of higher carb re-feeds 2 days a week after you have depleted your glycogen stores with a killer workout. Keto dieters with a “cheat” tooth like this version.
- Targeted Keto diet (TKD): Popular with athletes and bodybuilders as this diet allows you to add carbs around workouts
To find your correct ratio for your body and activity level please visit to check out the keto calculator.
Now that you’ve picked a style of Keto, let’s take a quick look at the most common foods that have the right macronutrient make-up that make them compatible with Keto.
What Do I Eat on the Keto Diet?
- Full fat meats and fish
- Full fat cheese
- Nuts and seeds
- Healthy oils
- Low carb veggies
- Small portions of berries
What You Should Avoid on the Keto Diet:
- Beans and legumes
- Starch veggies like potatoes, carrots, other root veggies
- Unhealthy fats like mayo and oils
- Sugary foods, drinks, condiments and candies
- Sugar free foods that contain sugar alcohols
Counting carbs on this diet can be trickier than figuring out what exactly Bran in seeing on those damn flashbacks if you aren’t careful. In the keto diet you count NET carbs, not just carbs. Okkayyy….so what are net carbs?
“Net carbs are the number of carbs AFTER you have subtracted the grams of fiber.”Net carbs are the number of carbs AFTER you have subtracted the grams of fiber.
So for example- in one cup of chopped broccoli, there are 6 g carbs and 2.4 g of fiber
6 – 2.4 = 3.6 g of net carbs
Since the lynchpin of the keto diet is dramatically limiting your carbs, it’s essential to count even trace carbs that come from veggies, nuts and some dairy products.
Sound extreme? It is. But the thing about keto is that it’s very very difficult to deplete your carb stores to the level where the body is entering the state of ketosis. Even small amounts of carbs can compromise even a dramatic keto effort. The takeaway here is that if you’re going to try keto, you can’t just, ‘kind of’ do it. You’ll never reap the real benefits of ketosis. In order for Keto to be truly effective, you’ve GOT to go ALL IN or you’ll just end up spinning your wheels. In that sense keto IS one of the more difficult diets to follow. Which brings us to the pros and cons of ‘going Keto’.
Pros of the Keto Diet:
- Gains and Losses: Keto diets may improve body composition by decreasing body fat and an increases in lean body mass . Even greater improvements can be made when a lifting program has been implemented.
- Heart Health: An increase of healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, olives, and nuts can decrease triglyceride levels and an increase healthy HDL levels.
- Stable Blood Sugar Levels: Since carbs are the nutrient with the largest impact on blood sugar and the keto diet is very low carb, insulin production is decreased.
Cons of the Keto Diet:
- The Keto Flu: As your body adapts to buring fat as fuel, you may go through a time period where you feel sluggish, irritable, headachy and dehydrated.
- Bad Breath: One of the down fall of your body using fat for fuel is bad breath caused by the ketone acetone that is excreted by the ketogenic process. It, however, will not last long.
- Adherence: Because of the strict nature of this diet, many find it hard to stick with it for long periods of time.
- Health Effects: Many high-fat foods that are moderate in protein and low in carbs, such as butter and egg yolks, are high in saturated fat, which can increase your risk of heart disease. Additionally, high-fat diets may cause injury to brain cells that help control your body weight.
- Lost Gains: As your body adjusts to the new way of eating, you may be too sluggish to “kill it in the gym”. And if you are the type of athlete who enjoys high energy sports or sprinting (which require moderate to high carb intake), you may find it very difficult to keep up on this diet.
To keto or not to keto? That is the question.
As one of the most popular diets today, it’s a good one to explore. Similar to the paleo diet, and most diets that have ever ‘caught on’, it’s based on the premise of restricting carbs.
If you’re super super active, consider that your body might actually WANT those carbs for energy during workouts. The keto crew will argue that through ketosis, your stores of fat will eventually become an equally as valuable and efficient energy source. But I think I love my carbs too much to find out.
As always, before starting any diet, check with your doctor to make sure it is right for you.