Hey, it's Coach Matt!
If you’re alive and reading this, there’s high probability that you’ve probably heard of the KETOGENIC diet.
..And in your mind you probably have some inkling of what it is, don’t you? You’re likely thinking of a high fat diet that promises life-changing weight-loss results, fast!
You probably also have heard of how easy it is, haven’t you?
- add butter to your coffee
- pound cheese & bacon over your eggs in the morning
- and bath in peanut butter on the daily
- ..and voila, your dream body is sculpted in under 8 days flat (and as an added bonus, the keto diet even comes with a magic stick that you pee on to tell you that you’re doing great!)
But the hard truth is, the ketogenic diet is actually the one diet that has the ability to make you FAT (..and unhealthy!) IF you do not execute it correctly and invest the time needed into understanding & educating yourself on how being in a state of ketosis affects your body & mind.
Five (5) Core Features/Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
We’ll discuss it’s true definition & purpose, health pro’s/cons, diet structure & food selection, supplementation advice, and of course our two cents as coaches on the practicality and application of this diet approach to reach your physique or health goals.
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, ‘adequate’-protein, low-carbohydrate diet developed in the 1920’s, not for body recomposition, but to treat seizures in children. Over time the keto diet, like many diets, has become fad-esque as people begin to associate an identity with the diet, rather than see it as solely as a diet strategy.
The diet’s claim-to-fame is exploiting & enhancing the bodies’ natural fat-burning state called ‘ketosis’ - the same process that happens automatically when people starve.
When the body enters the state of ketosis, it overrides it’s primary fuel source (burning carbohydrates and sugars for fuel first) — and begins forcing itself into breaking down fatty acids for functioning.
How do we know when this process has been effectively turned on? Well, remember the 'magic stick’ from earlier? That ‘stick’ measures the level of ketones present in the urine, and once the reading measures 1.5 – 3 mmol/L, we can safely assume that our blood ketone level has reached optimal level for fat burning. The meticulous process of entering Ketosis typically takes a few days of strict adherence to achieve the 1.5 - 3 mmol/L range.
The Health Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet
No doubt the Ketogenic diet has some profound research behind it’s name. In addition to it’s original treatment for Epilepsy, the ketogenic diet has been shown to improve;
- Type 1 & Type 2 Diabetes/High Blood Sugar Levels - the high fat, low carb approach aids in blood sugar regulation and long-term ketosis can repair the metabolic cycle that includes the pancreas function of secreting insulin.
- High Blood Pressure - this benefit is assumed to be related to how a high fat low carb approach aids in relieving hypertension in the body; however, it’s a more likely scenario that the blood pressure regulation has more to do with a decrease in overall body mass (and body fat) of the individual leading to a lower blood pressure.
- Alzheimer’s disease/Parkinson’s disease - our brains primarily rely on glucose metabolism (carbs) for healthy functioning, thus over time as the body’s energy (metabolic) systems break down, the brain struggles to receive adequate fuel and the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer's/Parkinson's are at higher risk. By adapting the body to a new fuel source, ketones, the brain has a new favourite food group and begins to reverse symptoms and repair.
- Chronic Inflammation - to understand how keto affects inflammation, we must look at the our biological ‘triggers’ that elicit an inflammatory response by our immune system; one of the most dominant being high blood sugar levels. As we already touched on, being in ketosis aids in regulating and stabilizing blood sugars (which in itself may improve these conditions) but a secondary benefit is derived from 1 of 3 main ketone body types released into the body - beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHA). The release of BHA effectively blocks one of the main immune system receptors that triggers an SOS inflammatory response by the body.
- Obesity - can you guess how a ketogenic diet may now impact obese individuals positively as it relates to losing weight and bodyfat? If you guessed by improving the metabolic cycle and effectively switching the body's fuel source from carbohydrates to stored excess body fat, you are correct. But this seems too easy and simple to be completely true, and of course, there’s more to it than meets the avocado. Keep reading below.
- It’s an unfortunate truth that 99% of the world lacks adequate a nutritional foundation of knowledge, and this is in my opinion the primary root of the massive misunderstanding with not just the ketogenic diet, but all diets. First of all, let me please explain one very, very, very, very, very, very,important concept for you to remember;
“There is ZERO EVIDENCE in the modern day of science to support a dietary-approach hierarchy that illustrates improvements across all health biomarkers for all humankind.”
In other words, all ‘diets’, including the ketogenic diet, are nothing more than short or long-term structures of caloric intake, macronutrient distribution & food selection to achieve a common goal. In (more) other words, there isn’t ONE diet known to science that is the 'BEST’.
The closest diet to the BEST diet for any human on earth is a diet that;
- Prioritizes quality unprocessed nutrients filled with essential vitamins & minerals needed for our biological survival.
- Provides adequate caloric energy requirements for day-to-day living.
- Is executed consistently and accurately over time.
- Is designed to achieve an acute or chronic body composition goal OR improve, enhance or repair a failing system in the body.
Whether it’s the ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, vegan diet, paleo diet, carnivore diet, raw food diet, atkins diet, vegetarian diet, the zone diet, weight-watchers diet, south beach diet, mediterranean diet, flat belly diet, genotype diet, Jenny Craig diet…(there's actually . maybe 314 more I was going to type out but i’ll leave it at this, as you get my point) …it’s important to understand that all of these are nothing but structures of caloric intake and food selection marketed or promoted with the hopes that it works for your very specific goals and that you enjoy following it day to day as part of a healthy balanced lifestyle.
But it doesn’t mean any of them are healthier, better, cooler or more effective than the rest, there is no hierarchy.
Understanding the Keto Diet Setup - Part Two
Now that we understand that the Ketogenic diet is nothing more than a structure of food selection, macronutrient distribution and energy intake - how do we setup the diet for success so that we USE fat and not GET fat.
The ketogenic macronutrient distribution ratio: 70%-80% Fats, 5-10% Carbs, 15-20% Protein.
By definition, the ketogenic diet relies on a dietary Fat intake of 70%- 80% of the caloric needs of the individual. Carbohydrates are restricted to 20-50 grams per day, or sub 10% and the remainder will be allocated to Protein intake.
The extreme adherence to avoiding carbs is essential for maintaining ketosis; if one alters this ratio, either purposely or accidentally, the body will no longer be in a fat-burning state, and will resume burning carbohydrates again, and storing more of the fat you eat as reserves.
“The misapplication/lack of strict adherence or proper understanding of how to remain in ketosis is why the ketogenic can be the one diet that is making you fat.”
To set up the ketogenic diet correctly, we must have a basic understanding of how macronutrients (fats, proteins and carbohydrates) relate to energy in the body.
- Fats = 9 calories/gram
- Carbs = 4 calories/gram
- Protein = 4 calories/gram
Next, we must determine how many calories we require on a daily basis (which may be slightly altered if the primary goal is to create an daily energy deficit which would trigger body fat loss rather than body fat storage) and we do this by determining our TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) which is the total of our BMR (basal metabolic rate) + the estimated amount of energy to do things like wake up and brush our teeth, go to work, have sex and exercise.
Let’s use Susan as an example.
Susan is a 30 year old, 5’2 female weighing 200lbs who works as a secretary from 8am - 5pm and has never exercised before. Susan has heard that the ketogenic diet may aid in her weight-loss goals of losing 75 lbs. Susan hires Life Aesthetics for her nutrition coaching and Coach Matt calculates her BMR to be ~1600 calories per day. Next, he calculates Susan’s TDEE to be approximately 1800 calories per day based on her lifestyle and reduces her intake by 20% according to her weight-loss goals resulting in an overall energy intake required of 1440 calories daily.
Coach Matt then assigns Susan the following macronutrient targets based on the ketogenic macronutrient distribution ratio: 75% Fats, 5% Carbs, 20% Protein. Susan’s daily diet now consists of:
- 120g Fat
- 18g Carbohydrates
- 72g Protein
Coach Matt & Susan must now begin the process of taking these macronutrient targets and designing a meal plan with proper food selection to ensure the diet can be strictly adhered to consistently to reach her goals.
Ideal food sources for Susan’s diet would look like the following, it’s a very limited list and can be quite repetitive and restrictive with zero room for error;
- Healthy Fats; Hormone-Free Grass-Fed Beef & Wild Game, Organic Free-Range Eggs, Organic Avocado, Organic Nuts, Butter, Coconut Oil, Salmon
- Proteins; Free-Range Egg Whites, Organic Hormone-Free Poultry, White Fish, Full-Fat Cheese, Full Fat Yogurts
- Simple Carbohydrates; none
- Vegetables; Celery, Asparagus, Spinach
- Supplements; Keto Proteins, Whey Isolates, Keto Shake Boosters
- Alcohol; limited to specific spirits, Vodka, Gin, Rum and kept to under a few oz’s at a time.
It’s extremely important to understand the massive difficulty of Susan’s diet as it relates to a complete lifestyle shift. Without an extremely strong internal motivation such as a terminal disease or medical prognosis, incredible mental discipline and experience understanding nutrition, tracking and food selection alongside the emotional support from friends and family, there would be a very high probability that Susan may fail on this diet over time.
Dietary Supplements while on the Ketogenic Diet
Ensuring that all macronutrient targets are consumed daily can be a challenge, especially with the often very high amounts of dietary fat required by the ketogenic diet. Fortunately, there are a number of quality sports supplements that may aid in the process of reaching the ketogenic diet requirements. Caution - when choosing quality Keto Supplementation it’s very important to ensure the product;
- Has been certified as a tested manufacturer
- Carbohydrates, including Fibre, are tracked and kept within your daily allotted amount
- Do not have high amounts of sweeteners which record as 2g carbs per gram but often not labelled on the ingredient list.
The following supplements are keto-friendly, quality recommendations for a complete approach to body recomposition:
- Pre-Workout Powders - ensuring you have enough energy to exert yourself during each training session is very important for your goals. Supplementing with a stimulant and/or ‘pump’ product will aid in mental focus, strength and endurance during your training.
- Keto-Friendly Recommendations - Vandal by VNDL : there is no need to be concerned about carb count with the majority of pre-workouts on the market. Some companies may opt to now add ‘keto’ to the name of their products for marketability, however the reality is that majority are keto-safe and contain sub 1g sugar per serving.
- Multivitamins/Multiminerals - choosing a quality multivitamin should be the staple supplement with your first meal of the day to ensure you’re absorbing the broad spectrum of essential vitamins.
- Keto-Friendly Recommendations - Blue Star Vitality & Nutrabolics Vitabolic : opt for a ‘capped’ multivitamin rather than a chewy/flavored choice to ensure it’s there isn’t any unneeded sugar being added.
- Overall Health Essentials - everyone has an individual lifestyle that may vary in supplement requirements. Products like creatine for muscle growth, to recovery products like glutamine, or mental clarity products such as nootropics and sleep products are all keto-friendly and should not be overlooked when designing an overall strategy for your goals.
- Keto-Friendly Recommendations - Allmax Digestive Enzymes, Ballistic Night Ops (Deep Sleep Aid) , Allmax Omega-3, Blue Star Status (Test Booster), Allmax Creatine Monohydrate, Blue Star Blade (Fat Burner) : these would be top recommendations as a part of an active healthy lifestyle.
- Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) - consuming sufficient essential-amino-acids is key for muscle growth and BCAA’s are a great addition in any active lifestyle.
- Keto-Friendly Recommendations- Beyond Yourself AMRAP, Beyond Yourself Amino IQ, PES Science Amino IV : the majority of BCAA’s on the market are keto-friendly and typically contain less 0-1g carb per serving.
- Protein Powders - Post-exercise consumption of protein is ideal for improvements in body composition and having a quality protein supplement can aid in reaching your dietary requirements.
- Keto-Friendly Recommendations - Allmax Isoflex, Perfect Sports Diesel, PES Select Vegan, MRE LITE - While many companies have begun creating keto-specific protein powders to catch the eye of wary consumers, the reality is that the far majority of Whey Concentrate & Whey Isolate Protein powders are safe to keep the body in ketosis so long as the diet is structured correctly to do so.
- Meal Replacements - as we discussed, reaching your daily macronutrient requirements is crucial to seeing & feeling results on your ketogenic diet. Incorporating Meal Replacements may be needed for those who have difficulty planning & prepping their daily meals, or beneficial for on-the-run situations where a quick snack may be needed.
- Keto-Friendly Recommendations, Shakes - Ketosys, ANS Performance - this is an incredible meal replacement option that many may find very useful to exponentially increasing their fat intake daily. We like this product due to it’s gluten-free nature, high fibre content and quality Whey Isolate source.
- Low-Carb-Friendly Recommendations, Protein Bars - Knock The Carb Out, Grenade, MRE LITE - many of these nutritional snacks offer high fat content stemming from nuts and oils and feature low ‘net carb’ amounts often ranging between 1g - 8g’s per bar with a high prebiotic fibre source.
It must be understood that ketogenic supplements are just that, supplements. They should only supplement what one can not consume from foods and not used as a foundation for success while on the ketogenic diet. It’s very important to ensure one is in a state of ketosys prior by verifying the blood ketone level reading both prior and post consumption to any keto based supplement products.
In conclusion + Our Two (2) Cents on Keto as Lifestylsts
The state of ketosis has a number of profound health benefits backed by years of research, however the ketogenic diet is still playing catch-up in both awareness, application and execution when not being designed and overseen by a medical professional or certified nutrition coach. The diet’s shortcomings are typically the result of a broad spectrum misunderstanding of the diet structure, a lack of consistency and patience with the diet, as well as the abuse of micronutrient-absent foods.
As online coaches we have the knowledge and experience of having worked with thousands of individuals, just like you, on reaching both their body composition AND health goals. The secret to our success and what we have learned is that every single individual requires a unique diets specific to their lifestyle, goals and food preferences. The more structure and restriction a diet has to it’s success, the unlikelihood it will be adhered to consistency while promoting balance and happiness. We commend the ketogenic diet on it’s role in repairing the metabolic system and it’s unique ability to shift the body's fuel source from carbohydrates to fats. We live in a society where processed carbohydrates, specifically gluten and GMO based products dominate 80% of our supermarkets and food chain. By lowering the amount of toxic chemicals specifically from carbohydrates alone is a strategy that will produce incredible health results without the strict limits of the ketosis state.
"In conclusion, if you are considering the ketogenic diet as an approach to your personal goals, we recommend the advice of your family physician prior to the undertaking of this lifestyle shift."
If you are considering hiring a coach to work with you on designing a sustainable, goal-focused diet to reach your goals, please contact us at email@example.com and let’s chat about if this diet strategy, or perhaps another approach may be best for you.