Nowadays, many new trends are occurring in the fitness industry, supposedly aiming to guide individuals towards better or more rapid results. However, instead of fulfilling their duty to help people, they are rather doing the opposite. One of these new trends is the Ketogenic (Keto) diet that became quite popular in the last few years.
Before we go into more depth, a definition of what the ketogenic diet is will be needed.
The biological process that occurs after one decides to follow this particular diet is called “Ketosis”. Ketosis is a result of insufficient carbohydrates intake from one’s diet (evidently, carbohydrates are the primary source of energy in humans), hence resulting in the body having to adapt using fats as the primary source of energy (Masood and Uppaluri, 2019).
This process usually occurs after a few days of consuming less than ~50g of carbohydrates per day (individual differences will be present). Evidently, the individual will feel a lack of energy even ill, due to the lack of carbohydrates to fuel the body for the first few days. Once the body is in the ketosis state, it will start using fats as the primary fuel source. Therefore, one will once again start feeling as normal (Swink, Vining and Freeman, 1997). Furthermore, it is worth mentioning the fact that if one exceeds the carbohydrate consumption at any point, the body will once again relapse into its normal state, therefore meaning that another few days will be required to get back into the ketosis state.
One of the main reasons behind the ketogenic diet popularity is the hypothesis that carbohydrates are the main factor contributing to fat gain. In a way, that hypothesis is correct, however, it is essential to briefly explain how fat and carbohydrates contribute to fat gain.
Dietary fat contributes to fat storage directly and any that is not burned for energy will be stored in fat cells, hence resulting in fat gain. In contrast, carbohydrates contribute towards fat gain indirectly by affecting how much fat is burned overall. When more carbs are consumed, they will be burned for energy. This means that there will be less fat being burned (McDonald, 2018).
The above statement would suggest that neither fats nor carbs will result in greater fat gain. Evidently, they have the ability to equally result in fat gain. The main factor that will affect fat gain is the energy intake (calories consumed) and energy expenditure (calories burned) in the long-term. It is worth highlighting long-term because fat loss or gain is not an acute process, but rather can only occur in the long-term.
Evidently, excluding carbs from one’s diet will not result in any significant differences in results to fat loss or gain if calorie intake and expenditure do not meet one’s goals. To give an example, if one’s total calorie expenditure for a week is 25k calories but the calorie intake is 27k calories, fat loss will not occur whatsoever, regardless of the type of diet (Hall et al., 2011). Nevertheless, birth control or menopause could affect the body in terms of muscle loss along with fat gain, regardless of the current energy balance and overall diet (McDonald, 2018).
Ketogenic diets and fat-loss
Having the above statements into consideration, let us dive into a bit of the literature regarding the ketogenic diet and what it suggests. Hussein M Dashti (2004) conducted a study that examined the effects of a ketogenic diet on fat-loss in obese patients. At the end of the 24-week intervention, the patients showed a significant decrease in weight loss and BMI (Body-Mass Index). However, it is worth noting that no data was present regarding the participants’ diet prior to the start of the study. The main reason for their fat loss may just be the result of decreasing the overall calorie intake, rather than simply the keto diet being magical in a sense.
Moving on, another study conducted by Rhonda Ting (2018) examined the effects of the ketogenic diet for weight loss, in comparison to a normal high-carb diet. Their results showed a slight advantage for the keto diet, however, not statistically significant. They also highlight that ketogenic diets are harder to adhere to. The main reason behind this would be that nowadays most of the food that is available and/or more tempting to have (e.g. chocolate, fast food, even fruit due to the fructose content). Therefore, most individuals would find it very hard to resist consuming such foods.
As mentioned above, if one decides to go for a higher carb meal, this would result in the body relapsing back to its initial state which uses carbohydrates as fuel rather than fats. Once again, a few days would be required to get back into the ketosis state. However, the same so-called “keto illness” will be present.
Evidently, keto diet can help most individuals in regard to weight loss. Nevertheless, it is not as magical as most people would describe it to be. Energy expenditure and intake would be the main variables that will affect fat loss/gain regardless of the current diet. Furthermore, this then suggests that as long as calories are equal, any diet is most likely to have the same results. Being able to enjoy any kind of food, without having to exclude anything from the diet such as carbs, is most likely to contribute to adherence and consistency. This usually tends to be the main reason behind one’s success in the gym regardless of their goals.
Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that a ketogenic diet would significantly help in regard to some medical conditions such as epilepsy. However, you can make your own research on this, as the aim of this article is not to cover such topics.
Ultimately, some of the readers may think that this article is purely advising individuals against the ketogenic diet. That is not the main aim. Everyone knows what is best for them, hence choosing whatever diet would be based on their food preferences. If one is certain that can adhere to such a diet as keto, there is nothing negative about that decision whatsoever. For a better understanding of this topic, I definitely advise readers’ own research on it.
McDonald, L. (2018). The Women Book: Volume 1.
Hussein M Dashti, N. (2004). Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/ [Accessed 2 Oct. 2019].
Rhonda Ting, A. (2018). Ketogenic diet for weight loss. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6371871/ [Accessed 6 Oct. 2019].