While the ketogenic diet is very popular right now, it’s not new and not the first time it has been trendy and applauded for weight loss.
The ketogenic diet involves a very low amount of carbohydrates and primarily relies on nutritional fat sources for energy. The diet is comprised of a daily intake of 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrate.
I’ll start with this: you can find just about anything to support your beliefs on the internet – whether it’s “research” (by whom? studying what? with whom?) or journal articles. It’s important to do your research, stay knowledgeable, but also remember that what may work for one person at one point in time will have a different impact on someone else or on that same person at a different point in time.
As far as if something will work for you – the simple answer to anything will typically be, “it depends.” Can keto help with weight loss? Possibly. Is it ideal for weight maintenance and health? Probably not. Many people do keto for a period of time and then go back to how they were previously eating or have difficulty moderating the return of carbs so it causes a rebound of weight gain. Add in that carbs are “heavy” to store and increase water storage and you will see the scale spike a little bit when you introduce them back in. This release of the stored glycogen and water is also what contributes to the quick weight loss that people experience in the beginning of keto and get excited about.
Some people find that they like the rules of keto because they’re pretty simple – eat this, not that. However, that means they’re very restrictive and this can be a struggle to adhere to and stay consistent. Research has found that diets/nutrition plans with carbs are usually more effective, possibly because they are easier to adhere to. In order to lose weight, research continuously supports that you need to consume less calories than you use for daily activity/exercise/staying alive. All foods (and alcohol) contain calories – there are foods that are more calorie dense and contain low nutrients (think junk food, treats, etc) which typically take up less space in your stomach. There are foods that have lower calories and higher nutrients (think vegetables, whole grains, lean meats) that usually take up more space. Fats are the most calorie dense of the macronutrients (fat, carbs, protein). Fats are not “bad” – they have nutrients and are essential to our diet, but they take up less space in the stomach than carbs and protein, meaning overall less food. Compare 100 calories of nuts ~12 almonds to 100 calories of rice ~1/2 cup cooked to 100 calories of broccoli ~2+ cups – you can see how these sizes are different. This can mean that to accomplish a calorie deficit when 75% of your food comes from fat sources – your plate might look a little empty. For further reading, you can click here.
So – what’s my recommendation?
For weight loss, I recommend looking at what you’re currently eating and make improvements to 1) get more vegetables (raw or cooked with minimal fat/oil/butter), 2) get protein throughout the day – yogurt, chicken, beef, eggs, protein shakes, 3) begin to decrease sugar intake by swapping sugary items for healthier alternatives or decreasing consumption altogether – being aware of nutrition labels is important here, but you can also go with the a simple rule of “eat less things that come in a box” to help reduce sugar, 4) look at where your other fat and carb sources are coming from and begin shifting their portion sizes – cupped handful size of carbs and a thumb sized portion of fat at each meal, paired with protein and vegetables. Establish a way to tell if you’re making progress and continue to stay consistent with building these habits – ask yourself if you’re feeling better, ask yourself how your clothes are fitting, ask yourself if you’re feeling proud of the way you’re eating, and lastly, you can use a scale to weigh and see if the pounds are going down. If you’re responding positively to the questions above, keep going because you’re on the right track.