CrossFit South Rockland

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Keto. It's all the rage, right?

Keto. It's all the rage, right? 
Everywhere you turn these days, someone is talking about being on the ketogenic diet. They’re talking about how they lost weight and feel great because of it. They're eating a lot of fat, some protein, and very little carbs and they're looking GREAT!
But are they doing great in the long run? That's the real question.
Now I'm not one to throw stones at anybody's nutritional plan. Everybody has a right to eat what they see fit for their own body. But when I see a rush towards a diet, I start to poke around and see what else I can find out, not just because I'm a Paleo guy who really believes in eating whole foods, but because I am truly curious. If there's something better out there, I want to know!
So, what is a ketogenic diet? It's a nutritional plan in which you either fast or severely restrict your carbohydrate intake (less than 20-50 grams of carbs per day) in order to force your body into ketogenesis, wherein your liver starts breaking down fat into ketones so you have energy. You are, in effect, burning stored fat to survive and thrive.
Sounds great! Eat low-carb, burn stored fat, get that six-pack. Sign me up, right? 
Maybe not so fast, at least if you're looking for a long-term sustainable lifetime nutritional decision.
Why? Because like with everything you hear that seems too good to be true, there are a few complicating factors. 
  1. You still need food to survive. On the keto diet, you're replacing your carbs with a LOT of fat and some protein. Think 5% carb/15% protein/80% fat. Think of what that means for how you have to eat all day long, every day.
  2. You need to be very strict with what you eat in order to stay in ketosis. Get a little off on your nutritional ratios, and you'll throw your body out of the fat-burning state of ketosis.
But those aren't even the biggest concerns I have. If you're looking to try something different and be super-vigilant on your plan for some short-term results, go for it! Try the keto diet and see what it does for you. It might be exactly what you need to lose that last 10 pounds of bodyfat.
If you're looking to perform in the gym and/or you want a long-lasting nutritional plan you can stick with, however, keto might not be your best bet. Paleo most likely is. 
Why? Because our bodies run best on a balanced mix of good quality carbs, proteins, and fat that come from whole food sources, just like in the Paleo diet. We get better results in the gym when we eat good carbs. I wish I could tell you different but that's the plain truth. Ask the people doing keto about the "keto flu." Also, as obesity researcher Stephan Guyenet reminds us, "There's not a single historic traditionally living human population that was in chronic nutritional ketosis." 
So, if you're looking at fitness, health, and long-term nutrition as a major part of your lifestyle, I'd suggest not flirting too much with the keto diet. It's a short-term tool, not a long-term plan for performance and health. 
Get in, get out, and get back to your good carbs and your great steaks and have an avocado salad. You'll feel better, perform better in the gym, and you can easily sustain this pattern of eating for your entire lifetime.
Yours in Health and Fitness,

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