What is the Ketogenic Diet and is it any good for you?

What is the Ketogenic Diet and is it any good for you?

By Michael Jarosky 7 November 2018, Fairfax Media

Last month I spent a week as a vegetarian. I enjoyed it. I recommend it. I'd never push the full veggie lifestyle, but be it more veggies on the plate or a committed vegetarian day every week – going green is good. But by the end it was back to steak and salmon that my body and mind were craving.

This past week, I did a 180 and committed to 2018's diet-du-jour - The Ketogenic Diet. Heard of it? Of course you have. Keen to try it? First understand what it is, and what you're doing to your body.

What is it?

The Ketogenic Diet is an eating strategy where carbohydrates are limited and fat is increased so the body enters "ketosis". When the body does not have enough glucose (which comes from carbs) for energy, it burns stored fat resulting in a build up of acid called ketones. These ketones are used for the brain and body's fuel.

Counts macros, not calories

After entering my height, weight, and exercise regime (along with weight maintenance as my goal) into the Total Keto Diet app, I find that my daily macro intake recommendation is: fat (282g), protein (120g), and net carbs (25g). That's a load of fat, and that's shockingly few carbohydrates. A Mars bar has 35g of carbs, a medium banana contains 27g, a mango 50g, two beers have 36g of carbs.

Keto is basically this – if it has sugar in it, it's out or it's extremely limited.

The effects

I enjoyed the healthy and tasty meals, but the planning, carb restriction, and entering contents into an app to count daily macros became arduous. Eating a dinner of crispy skin salmon with avocado with a side of buttered asparagus, spinach, and mushrooms was easy. But bypassing my beloved quinoa, Aussie mangos, and hummus (all non-keto friendly) was silly.

On day three, the common "Keto Flu" hit as a result of my body adapting to depleted carbs in my system. I was lethargic, and my run was heavy with a bit of dizziness. That passed, but other Keto Flu symptoms people report are nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, cramps and weakness, stomach pain, and sleeping dramas.

Opinions differ

I bumped into a nutritionist friend, and her quick reply was: "After I tell my clients Keto is silly – it's no more than Atkins v 2.0 - they then ask 'Oh, any pills around where I can lose a quick five kilos?'"

Yet an email hit my inbox with a new cookbook (The Keto Reset Diet Cookbook), authored by Mark Sisson (MarksDailyApple.com). He believes: "Keto's life-altering benefits of fat loss and disease prevention are within reach of everyone, with the correct approach." I see the appeal, as recipes like  Lamb Roast with Mint Chimichurri and Bigass Breakfast Salad with Bacon Dressing are tasty and full of nutrients.

Dirty Keto

A kilogram of bacon for breakfast followed by a Keto burger for lunch, then steak and pork sausages for dinner (bang your chest after consuming, you caveman) might meet macro requirements, but you're not healthy - your Keto is dirty. That's why The Mediterranean Diet still ranks as the best diet in the world, and Keto ranked dead last by experts in the USA due to "wiping out entire food groups", a "fad diet", "unsafe", and "unhealthy".

Consider the science

There are studies galore to support a low-carb diet for short-term weight loss, and Keto is definitely an option (it's been successfully used to treat drug resistant epilepsy for almost 100 years).

However, if you're thinking about a Keto lifestyle, know a study released in late August 2018 on 25,000 Americans concluded low-carb consumers have higher death rates from heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

Stop demonising carbs

There are three sources of energy (the macros) – carbohydrates, protein, and fat. The average punter doesn't even know the body's preferred source of energy is carbohydrates. A handful of cookies has carbohydrates, as does a handful of baby carrots. A healthy lifestyle is about increasing complex carbs (fruit and veggies) while lowering / eliminating simple carbs (processed junk). It's your body – do the research, don't just join the next fad.

By day seven, I was over Keto. In planning and charting my last meal of the week, I clicked on the app just to the right – Uber Eats. I ordered a carb-loaded pizza, paired it with a salad with a rainbow of veggies, and I downed it with a bulging glass of red wine. I couldn't wait to eat an orange after my morning jog.

Paleo Apostles have shifted, and as they brag of their 2018 Ketorgasms my face turns expressionless and numb - I simply don't care. I care about less processed food. Healthy, tasty meals that are easy to cook. Portion control. Exercise. Less booze, and less "elimination" for more "balance and variation" of healthy carbs.

Passion for lifestyle change is the cornerstone for everything Michael Jarosky does. A Sydney-based personal trainer, he cajoled thousands of Executive Style readers to undertake his "Cut The BS" diet, and champions a charity weight-loss event, Droptober.

Follow Michael on Twitter

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