I have recently gotten some questions about LCHF and a keto diet which i thought i would answer.
So let’s start off with, what is a keto diet?
Well basically it is a low carb diet, but a little stricter because the aim of the keto diet is to end up in ketosis which means the body breaks down fat to turn into ketones for energy in the body.
Glucose is the bodies preferred form of energy and is what the brain relies on for constant energy – hence why we even have a storage of glucose (glycogen) in our liver and muscles for when we are low in glucose so that hormones (glucagon) can break down the stored glyocgen to produce energy for our organs. And also insulin and glucagon work together to keep blood sugar stable in our body.
However, as our body is so smart it has a back up system for times of starvation, and that is to break down protein (muscle and organs) in the body as well as stored fat which gets broken down and converted into ketones in the liver which can then be used by the brain for energy. I.e ketosis is our bodies back up system to keep us alive. It is not a very efficient form of energy as it actually requires energy for this process to create energy.
When the body ends up in ketosis – which happens if you eat less than 50g (some people have to eat less than 20g) of carbs per day over a period of time – your body begins breaking down fats (or using the fats you eat) to produce ketones. When your body is in ketosis it can make your breath, sweat and urine smell of aceton as that is a byproduct of fat metabolism in your body. (I.e think of nailpolish remover as that is acetone).
First off, ketosis is not the same as ketoacidosis which is a critical and life threatening condition that can happen in the body when someone has uncontrolled diabetes. Ketoacidosis is when there is a very high amount of glucose in the blood – which isn’t taken into the cells because there isn’t enough insulin – and this can turn the blood acidic andyou can end up in a coma if it is not treated. HOWEVER, if ketosis goes too far you can end up in ketoacidosis which as mentioned… is life threatening if untreateed.
Second, running on ketones is not recommended as the body and brain works much better when using glucose as energy instead of having to resort to the process of fats and proteins being broken down and converted into ketones in the body.
It also takes a while for a person to end up in ketosis and means eating extremely little carbs (i.e less than 2 bananas a day would be MAX amount of carbs) and mostly fats or proteins, which can be both restrictive in food and make you restrictive in your social life.
When you are eating a keto diet you cut out almost all carbs which also includes alot of vegetables and fruit as well as whole grains and fiber rich foods. This means that you can end up not getting enough vitamins, minerals, antioxidants or fiber in your diet which cand lead to deficiencies but also slow moving bowel movements as there isn’t enough fiber to help with bowel movements.
What do you eat if you are following a keto diet?
Red meat, white meat, fish, eggs, full fat milk and cream, butter, cheese, nuts, seeds, oils, avocado and certain low carb veggies and fruit like salad, onion, berries, spinach etc
Anything with sugar or carbs is cut out and it is recommended to eat more fats rather than proteins as protein can spike insulin and be converted to glucose in the body.
There are different forms of a keto diet. Some just eat very little carbs, some eat carbs before or after their workout to help with energy and glucose to the muscles, some do a form of carb cycling where somedays they eat extremely little or no carbs and other days more high carb, and others eat a more high protein keto diet.
So who is recommended to eat a keto diet and why would you eat this way?
This form of eating has been proven to be beneficial to people who are extremely overweight or people with type 2 diabetes because you cut out processed food and carbohydrate rich food which requires insulin. So it has been seen to regulate blood sugar and cause weightloss which then improves blood cholesterol and blood fat levels. It has also been seen to have some benefits for people with epilipesy (source).
The reason why so many diets work, whether it is LCHF, keto, HCLF, atkins or even a plantbased diet is because it often restricts processed food and restricts the amount of foods and calories you eat which then leads to weightloss and improved blood levels. Often it is not so much what the person eats, but the fact that they eat less calories and lose weight/fat.
Many say a low carb/keto diet is the best for fat burning because your body becomes a “fat burning” machine. However, this is not necessarily true… when you are in ketosis, it does mean that the body is burning fats… but it is burning the fats you eat and not necessarily the fat you have on your body. You can eat carbohydrates and a balanced diet and still burn fat on your body/ body fat.
It is about the amount of calories you eat i.e calories in vs calories out. And not so much whether your body is running on lipids/ketones or glucose.
This form of eating is definitely not a long term diet as it is so restrictive. It is also not a diet that is recommended for someone who workouts alot, someone who is underweight or has disordered eating/an eating disorder and not recommended for someone who has diabetes type 1. Not even for someone who is a regular weight with healthy eating habits.
The only two groups where this form of diet could be beneficial for a short term is people with diabetes type 2 and extremely overweight people, but then it would be recommended that they also recieve other forms of treatment for their health and their eating so that they can develop and maintain healthy eating habits and lifestyles after the short period of a keto diet. However, it would be better recommended for them to try to find healthy habits and eating patterns right from the beginning, or to begin with a low carb diet and not directly a ketosis diet.
As mentioned earlier, it also takes a while for the body to use up its glucose stores and end up in ketosis and many can find that they are very tired, have brain fog, get sleeping problems, are hungry and aren’t satisfied after eating. There is a thing called “keto flu” which people can end up in.
Some people who eat a keto diet can feel that they become very energetic when they are in ketosis – and that is because the body is running off of ketones which are infact a potent fuel for the brain – even if they are not the preferred form of fuel. This is also one of the reasons why many who restrict themselves or are in starvation mode can find that they are very energetic despite eating extremely low calorie.
Also many say they feel very full (but not satisfied) and that is because fats give a quick fullness feeling and protein can give you a longer feeling of fullness.
And of course when you first begin cutting out carbs from your diet you will begin losing water weight and less bloating, as carbs also retain water (as well as muscles and the stored glycogen also store water. 1g of carbs holds 4g of water in the body.) So people can see quick “results” even if it it just water weight. However note… if you workout alot you can feel less energetic and not get as much of a “Pump” because you won’t have enough salt or water or carbs in your body to help you with that “muscle pump”.
Side effects/negatives of ketosis?
- Lack of vitamins, minerals, fiber. A high intake of redmeat which is linked to cancer in the stomach as well as colon cancer. Also a high intake of animal products which is not only negative for health in too high amounts, also for the environment and animals. An increased intake of cholesterol which can be negative for heart health. Also a high intake of saturated fats if you are eating alot of animal products, egg yolk, butter, cream etc
- Because of the lack of carbohydrates you can feel very tired, have brain fog, sleeping problems as well as get cramps in your body as the body won’t hold onto so much water and can cause an electrolyte imbalance.
- Can cause blockage/slow bowel movements as not enough fiber in the diet.
- Long term, a high protein diet and high fat diet can lead to kidney stones.
Can you be vegan and eat a keto diet?
As you can see from the list of foods that are “Ok” to eat on a keto diet, it is extremely hard to be vegan and eat a keto diet. It is possible to eat low carb and vegan, but that is not optimal and you would most likely have to rely on supplemenation to make sure you are getting enough and would not be a long term way of eating.
A very long, nutrition post… but i hope you get some information from reading this 🙂 And if you have any questions let me know, or if you want me to write about any other form of diet or some other nutrition post!! I love being able to use my knowledge to help 🙂