Have you heard of the keto diet? I’m betting you have since just like intermittent fasting, it’s a hot topic in the health and dieting industries. For many who are interested in trying it or are in the beginning stages of making this lifestyle change, the amount of information and misinformation can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be.
The ketogenic diet is a very-low-carb and high-fat diet. It can result in significant reductions in blood sugar levels and improvements in glycemic control. We’ve all been told glucose and carbohydrate is where we get fuel from and that’s true – blood glucose is important for fuel – but there’s an alternative fuel source called KETONES.
And the brain actually prefers it!
Ketones are an incredible source of energy from fat!
I’ve followed the keto lifestyle for a little over 20 years now and I am not exaggerating when I say that it completely changed my life. I stumbled onto keto after getting extremely sick with Epstein-Barr, battling chronic fatigue syndrome, brain fog, depression, and fibromyalgia. Through my research, I read that a keto diet could help with autoimmune issues and inflammation—at least according to a few trailblazers on the message boards. It sounded like my autoimmune issues didn’t have to hinder me my entire life. They didn’t have to be a death sentence, and there might be some hope. The more I researched the ketogenic diet, nutritional ketosis, and ketone bodies, the more convinced I became that this was the solution to my health woes. After a few weeks following the keto diet, I started noticing an improvement in how I was feeling, and it was becoming noticeable by those around me as well. To say I was thrilled is a huge understatement.
The keto diet can be beneficial to many people for an assortment of reasons, and it can be customized to fit your bio-individuality. There are three main factors that led me to sticking to the keto diet: it cuts out all nutrient-deficient foods, it helps me to feel full and satisfied and it has cognitive-enhancing effects and there is the weight maintenance effect as well.
In a review of 23 weight-loss trials published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers from Tulane University found that both low-carb and low-fat diets led to weight loss, reduced waist circumference and improved metabolic risk factors with no significant differences between diets. They concluded: “These findings suggest that low-carbohydrate diets are at least as effective as low-fat diets in reducing weight and improving metabolic risk factors. Low-carbohydrate diets could be recommended to obese persons with abnormal metabolic risk factors for the purpose of weight loss.”¹
One of the best and most reliable examples is the A TO Z Weight Loss Study, a randomized trial conducted by a group of Stanford researchers led by Dr. Christopher Gardner. In the trial, the researchers compared four popular weight-loss diets—Atkins (low-carb and high-fat), LEARN (low-fat), Ornish (low-fat) and Zone (technically considered lower carb)—and they found that women following the Atkins diet lost more weight and experienced more favorable metabolic effects after 12 months compared to the other diets.²
In another recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association—the DIETFITS clinical trial, which randomized 609 overweight or obese adults to a healthy low-fat or a healthy low-carb diet for 12 months—both diets led to similar weight loss and metabolic health improvement (e.g., reduced fasting glucose and insulin). Notably, the low-carb diet led to more favorable improvements in HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.³
One of my favorite aspects of the DIETFITS trial was the emphasis on diet quality. The lead physician Dr. Gardner and his team put a tremendous emphasis on high dietary quality for both groups, which is important because traditional low-fat diets often lead to reduced diet quality due to the low-nutrient density of heavily processed, convenient, pre-packaged low-fat foods (e.g., refined grains, added sugar).
I love sharing my story and experience with keto. There are two important items I want to mention regarding the keto diet or any change to your diet. The first is that you are making a lifestyle change. You have to find what works for your life and your body. Keto worked phenomenally well for me and my lifestyle and while I know it can work for many others, it won’t be a fit for everyone. We have to keep in mind bio-individuality. All of us are different. Our bodies need different things, our lifestyles require different things. Experimentation is one of the most important things to keep in mind. You’ll never find what works for you without it. Experiment with the keto diet to see if it works for you, try carb-cycling, try the Mediterranean diet or the Paleo diet. Find what works for you and don’t get discouraged if something doesn’t—just make adjustments.
The second is that when making a lifestyle change, you must grant yourself grace. I know that it’s great to imagine your life on keto—to feel the renewed energy of eating clean whole foods and being free of sugar addiction—but I also know that imagining the keto life and adopting it can be two vastly different things.
I am a firm believer that nothing needs to be done perfectly. Even I can get thrown off my diet when life gets crazy, or I get too busy, or I find myself in an airport with only 40 minutes between flights. So, when life gets crazy, and you grab a cookie or two don’t despair and throw all of your hard work out the window. Just get back on track with your next meal.
If you follow me on social media, you’ll notice that I frequently share posts about my favorite keto products, keto foods to choose from when you’re making meals and snacks, and how I order when I go out to eat. These are some great ideas for anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by all of the information out there. And if you’re still struggling with how to implement this into your life, I recommend not overcomplicating it. Start slowly by focusing on the types of whole foods I list in my 7 Keto Foods to Boost Energy post.
Make sure you also follow The ENERGY Formula Facebook Group as we share our favorite keto recipes.
“low-carbohydrate diets are at least as effective as low-fat diets” Hu, T., Mills, K. T., Yao, L., Demanelis, K., Eloustaz, M., Yancy Jr, W. S., … & Bazzano, L. A. (2012). Effects of low-carbohydrate diets versus low-fat diets on metabolic risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. American journal of epidemiology, 176(suppl_7), S44-S54.
A TO Z Weight Loss Study” Gardner, C. D., Kiazand, A., Alhassan, S., Kim, S., Stafford, R. S., Balise, R. R., … & King, A. C. (2007). Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN diets for change in weight and related risk factors among overweight premenopausal women: the A TO Z Weight Loss Study: a randomized trial. Jama, 297(9), 969-977.
^the DIETFITS clinical trial” Gardner, C. D., Trepanowski, J. F., Del Gobbo, L. C., Hauser, M. E., Rigdon, J., Ioannidis, J. P., … & King, A. C. (2018). Effect of low-fat vs low-carbohydrate diet on 12-month weight loss in overweight adults and the association with genotype pattern or insulin secretion: the DIETFITS randomized clinical trial. Jama, 319(7), 667-679.