The Pros & Cons of Keto
Written by Gino Escalante
A few years ago, before #keto was all the rage, I followed my taste buds into the Ketogenic Diet. I knew that the foods I loved had fat in them: bacon…heavy cream…eggs…meat. I hope this conjures images of juicy goodness. There’s lots of it in this diet. However, before you throw out all your canned pumpkin and swear-off all your applesauce, read on about the pros and cons of the Ketogenic Diet.
A few terms to clear up before we get started since sometimes the word “Keto” elicits a negative response due to confusing these two, very different, states:
Ketosis: A metabolic state where you use fat for fuel instead of glucose. This is GOOD.
Ketoacidosis: When your blood gets too acidic because of high levels of both ketones and blood sugar. Mostly present in people with Type 1 Diabetes. This is BAD.
The Cons of Keto
#1 – The diet is unforgiving.
To properly “do Keto”, it’s important to note that you need to be in ‘ketosis’. It takes a few days for your body to adjust and get to ketosis. Different websites will say different things, but generally speaking, anywhere between 20-50 grams of carbs for 2-5 days will get you into ketosis. (Just as a side note, most people eat over 100 grams of carbs per day and upwards of 200, so this alone is quite a feat.) Staying in ketosis is the tricky part. If you spike your blood sugar levels, even one time, you can get kicked out and will have to start the process all over. The concept of a cheat meal is much harder to sustain when it disrupts your diet altogether.
#2 – Low Energy.
Please read this whole point! It’s easy to scan the headline and dismiss Keto just in case you need to run that impromptu marathon. When I say low energy levels, I don’t mean that you are going to do a burpee and then lose consciousness. The lack of glucose and carbs in your diet will make longer workouts more difficult. Anything outside of 15 minutes will prove to be more grueling when your body is running low on sugars. For me, it was precisely at the 14-minute mark. One second I am a functioning adult who is exercising, the next I am a puddle of sweat getting dragged around the gym by his workout partner.
There is also a one to four week period (it varies by individual) when you first start the diet that is often referred to as the “Keto Flu” because you can feel pretty crummy when your body is adjusting to not having sugar and carbs for fuel.
#3 – It may feel restrictive.
Because of how unforgiving the Keto diet is, this may lead a dieter to believe that all you can eat is meat and bacon (if you are smiling when you read that, then keep going!). Some dieters have also noted that they find it counterintuitive to have to worry about eating too many veggies or about consuming certain types of veggies that are higher in carbs and might bump them out of ketosis. If you have concerns over the variety of foods, or if you get sick of eating the same things, then you should know that creativity will likely be required (this is especially true if you enjoy finishing your meals with a little dessert).
#4 – You have to prep/cook, track & test.
The world of restaurants hasn’t caught up with the Ketogenic Diet. Some places will have a Paleo-friendly menu or at least some Paleo desserts. However, for the most part, this doesn’t exist for Keto. Yes, you can douse your salad in blue cheese dressing, but after some time, even that can get tiring. If you do not take time on weekends to prep or cook your meals, then this may prove difficult.
Additionally, you have to make sure that you are in ketosis to make this diet effective. How do you do that? By using urine or blood-testing strips and a blood testing monitor to measure your ketone levels and these can be quite expensive. How you do make sure you stay in ketosis? By measuring and tracking your meals and macros to ensure you aren’t overeating protein (gluconeogenesis) and are consuming minimal carbs (see above). All of these can be time-consuming tasks so if you’re already struggling to meal prep and journal your food then this diet probably isn’t for you.
The Pros of Keto
#1 – It’s a crystal clear diet.
You are never going to wonder if something is on the Keto menu or not. There are very few real whole foods that will make you scratch your head as to whether or not you should include them in a ketogenic lifestyle. Is it high in fat AND low on carbs? Then it’s good to go. There is no guessing or wondering in this diet. You know exactly what is allowed and what isn’t. That type of simplicity – and the threat of being bumped out of ketosis – can make compliance with the diet very easy.
#2 – Satisfaction.
Due to the high-fat content, most of your meals will leave you satisfied in a perfect way. If done correctly, it’s easy to land on the crossroads between ‘too much and not enough.’ The fatty foods can also help with not overeating and feeling full for longer which is great for people with busy schedules or large blocks of time in their days where they don’t have time for a meal. There is a trend in the commercial airline pilot community right now with Keto for that very reason.
#3 – Everything tastes the best it’s ever going to taste.
I know we talked a lot about the bad parts of Keto, but all of that is undone by how good this diet tastes. Don’t like vegetables, throw some coconut oil and sprinkle some salt on them. Done. That is the one recipe you are ever going to need because everything, and I mean everything, tastes better on Keto. I was going to finish out that point here, but I want to make sure you understand that whatever you are eating right now…the Keto version tastes better. Much better.
#4 – Results are drastic.
It’s easy to see why people adopt a ketogenic diet to lose weight. The changes could be remarkable in just a short period. Excess water weight disappears day after day during ketosis. However, the weight loss benefits go beyond that. The concept of shedding fat (mass) while eating fat (macro) goes against the notion of conventional nutrition and can serve as a saving grace to those who feel like they have tried every low-fat diet.
There have also been a number of scientific findings that a ketogenic diet commonly improves blood markers, insulin sensitivity and heart health and has even been used by many cancer patients to literally starve the cancer cells (although the jury is still out on that one) so if you’re concerned about Type 2 Diabetes or have other health concerns in these areas, you might consider talking to your doctor about giving Keto a go.
Making Keto Work for You
So that’s it. The good and the bad sides of this “newfound” diet. If I have learned anything over the last few years of eating Keto, is that all the adages still apply. You have to be consistent, and you have to enjoy it. Otherwise, this diet may seem like too much work for temporary benefits.
So if you are ready to give the Ketogenic Diet a shot, then heat up your pans and get that coconut oil ready.
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