There is a lot of skepticism around the ketogenic diet. We’d like to summarize the general pros and cons of this increasingly popular way of eating.
You may have heard stories about people who have lost drastic amounts of weight by following the ketogenic diet. This diet program puts the body in a state of ketosis, which is radically different than the way your body normally metabolizes food.
Over the last decade, more and more people around the globe have started following this program. Is it right for you? Consider the pros and cons of this diet before you make your decision.
What Is The Ketogenic Diet?
Before diving into the pros and cons of this diet program, you should understand what the ketogenic diet is. It is a program that is strictly low carb, relying on protein and plenty of fats for energy instead. The calories on a strict Keto diet come from 5% carbs, 20% protein, and 75% fats.
Usually, cells in the body use sugars found in carbs as the first source of energy. This diet switches that up so that the cells are forced to use protein and fat instead. This state is called ketosis (not to be confused with ketoacidosis, which is a dangerous medical condition).
Pros of the Ketogenic Diet
Because of the way the diet regimen is restricting carbs, the body experiences several significant benefits.
The energy that we consume is either used immediately or stored so that the body can use it later. Fat cells provide the body with an efficient way to store fat because there is a lot of bonds between atoms in a fat molecule.
Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
Certain parts of our cells are little powerhouses, taking in fuel and spitting out energy. These powerhouses can use two types of fuel: glucose and ketones. When you eat carbs, the body breaks the carbs down to glucose, which is also called “blood sugar.”
The body releases insulin as blood sugar levels rise, and the insulin helps the blood sugar enter the cell, to be used as fuel. When the cells are using ketones for fuel, as they do on the Keto diet, blood sugar levels are low, yet the cells still get energy.
Swinging blood sugar levels can cause problems like energy crashes and slumps, headaches, and increased risk of diabetes. When blood sugar levels stay consistently at a healthy level, these problems are eliminated.
Increased Brain Function
Glycogen, a simple sugar found in carbs, is used by the brain as fuel. What happens when you drastically reduce your carb intake? The brain will find other ways to get glucose, such as making it from stored body fat.
Some people on the Keto diet report increased the ability to focus and improved memory functioning once they make the switch. This is because the brain is presented with a high concentration of fatty-acids, which help the brain function optimally.
A Focus On Health
When you work with the Ketogenic diet, you must become very tuned into your body and your eating habits. You break many habits and establish new ones. You will likely work with a registered dietician, doctor, or nutritionist as you start your program.
All of this results in an intense focus on the health of your body. Focusing on health can be very beneficial to all other aspects of your life. Because of this focus you might start talking to new people and engaging in new, positive activities. In addition, you will be paying attention to your health rather than aspects of life that tend to stress you out or cause problems.
Less Mindless Eating
Because you are paying attention to the foods you eat, you will likely cut down on or stop any mindless eating behaviors. Because of the high fat and protein content of meals, appetite swings are controlled and people experience less cravings.
You will need to keep track of what you eat, and take note of every morsel that enters your mouth. This increased mindfulness takes away the risk of unconscious binge eating, and also gives you more pleasure as you eat.
Cons of the Ketogenic Diet
The benefits of the ketogenic diet may seem enticing, but consider these cons before jumping on board!
Steep Learning Curve
To practice the ketogenic diet, you must first do adequate research so that you thoroughly understand the diet; you should know what you are doing as you switch over into metabolizing primarily ketones instead of glucose.
If Not Done Correctly It Can Cause Harmful Effects
People who want to try the ketogenic diet should consult a registered dietician, and will most likely want to continue working with a specialist as they progress with the diet. If this program is not done correctly, it can lead to bone loss, micronutrient deficiencies, and muscle loss.
Requires Time For Adaptation
Some people on the ketogenic diet report that when their bodies switch over to ketosis, they start to have bad breath. This isn’t such a big deal if you have breath mints (sugar-free!) on hand, but it is a con to consider.
People following the ketogenic diet cut out bread, rice, pasta, sweets, fruit, and starchy vegetables. This is crucial to the diet plan because these foods are high in carbs and the diet requires a severe carbohydrate restriction. For many people, this is emotionally and physically challenging.
Switching over to a ketogenic diet will require a significant lifestyle change if you are used to eating the typical American diet. The excitement of starting out on a promising new program might tempt you to dismiss this, but it should not be dismissed so lightly. Food and our social lives and relationships are closely related.
The Keto diet will require you to say “no” to many menu items that others are digging into in social situations. It may also affect the way you dine out and share meals with others. You’ll also have to plan your meals and weigh your food.
Deciding to start in on a ketogenic diet is a major one. It requires thought and research. Ultimately, the decision will be up to you and will come from the weight that you give to each of these pros and cons. Does the benefit of losing fat far outweigh the risk of getting headaches and fatigue as you transition? What is finding the right diet program worth to you?
Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. Many times the content is not written by a single author, instead it is usually a team effort.