Is Keto For Everyone? Pros & Cons of the Keto Diet
Hi there, I'm Sara Alam, an Anthropologist, Sports Nutritionist and Low Carb Enthusiast. I founded Keto Supplements in 2017, initially sourcing supplements to alleviate a loved one’s epilepsy.
I am passionate about fusing the best of ancestral wisdom with modern day medicine to optimise health.
Today, I've been asked to explain what a ketogenic diet is, how it could benefit you and when it might not be a good idea to go keto.
What is Ketosis?
In a nutshell, ketosis is when you use fat for energy, called ketones, instead of using carbohydrates for energy, which is glucose. You start using ketones as fuel when you restrict your carbohydrate intake. A ketogenic diet is a high fat, very low carb diet with moderate protein.
It probably seems extremely strange because we have been told to avoid fats for years. If you think about our palaeolithic ancestors—they could not just go into a shop and buy bread, fruit and granola all year around. In fact, they had had to hunt and forage for their food and what they ate depended on what was available seasonally and geographically. During the winter months, their only source of food could have just been animal meat and fats.
It is a restrictive diet but it has a very natural origin, particularly when cycled according to the season.
What are the benefits of going keto?
A Keto Diet can provide a stable source of energy
Glucose from carbohydrates is a quick burning, short lasting fuel for your body, whereas ketones from fats are long lasting energy sources. Carbohydrates destabilise your blood sugar levels which can cause you to feel hangry, moody and low energy.
Carbohydrates do this by spiking blood sugar levels, which in turn causes an insulin secretion that shuttles excess sugar around the body into muscle tissue and fat cells. After this, blood sugar levels significantly. Fluctuating blood sugar levels can impact how you feel, physically and mentally.
When you eat fat and protein without carbohydrates your blood sugar levels remain more stable, giving you long lasting energy that can improve your cognitive focus, physical endurance and your mood.
Ketosis can help you concentrate
The Ketogenic diet was actually originally invented as a cure of paediatric epilepsy in the 1920s— due to it's positive impact on neurological function.
Ketones are the preferred fuel source for brain cells, they cause less inflammation than sugar in the brain as excess sugar causes oxidation. Ketones are a cleaner burning fuel, giving your brain a more stable energy source.
A Ketogenic Diet Can Fortifies Your Immunity
Eating lots of healthy saturated fat, such as lauric acid (from coconuts) and conjugated lauric acid (from butter) strengthens your immune system and improves cell communication. (Dr Mark Hyman, Eat Fat Get Thin, 2016, p.76)
Eating Less Sugar Can Reduce Inflammation & Joint Pain
Excess sugar causes inflammation and swelling around your joints, so the more you eliminate sugar, the more you reduce inflammation. (Karen W. Della Corte et al. 2018)
Ketosis supports Healthy hormone production
You need saturated fats for healthy hormone production, esp. testosterone & oestrogen. It IS critical for nerves and a healthy nervous system function (Hamalanen E, Adlercreutz H, Pua P, Pietnen P. 1984)
The Keto Diet is renowned for Fat LossWhen you have used up all the glycogen stores from sugar and carbohydrates, your body goes into ketosis which is the metabolic ‘fat burning mode’ in which you convert fat cells into energy. It is the quickest and healthiest way to burn fat, whilst preserving lean muscle tissue. (Anssi H Manninen, 2006)
Ketosis & Anti-Ageing
Excess sugar causes the release of Advanced Glycation Enzymes. These ‘AGEs’ break down the collagen in your skin—which is what wrinkles are. Simply by eliminating sugar and eating more healthy fats you will have younger looking skin. (Claudia Luevano-Contreras & Karen Chapman-Novakofski, 2010)
Increased Physical Energy & Endurance
For those endurance athletes out there. We can only store up to 2000 calories in our glycogen stores (in our muscles) and when these run out you need to replenish with more glucose or you simply ‘bonk’ or ‘hit the wall.’
If you have transitioned into ketosis, you will be using your own body fat for energy. Depending on your body mass you can store a lot of calories. If you weigh 70 kilos, you probably carry about 130,000 calories of energy on you. In ketosis, you can tap into that and keep going for longer. (Mariette Boon & Liesbeth van Rossum, 2020)
What are the negatives of following a ketogenic diet?
If you Keto Too Long
Extended periods of strict ketosis can out stress on the adrenals and disturb your sleep. This is become ketosis is a survival mechanism and if your extend the period too long, your hormones can be disrupted.
It is generally ideal to dip in and out of ketosis and alternate between carbohydrates and fats for energy otherwise you signal to your body that there is an shortage of food.
Who shouldn't do Keto?
It is not ideal to follow a ketogenic diet just before your period as you actually need more carbohydrates for progesterone production. Therefore, when you feel the carb cravings, it is best to give in to them as your body needs them.
It's not for Children
Children need more healthy carbohydrates to help them grow. This is because carbohydrates and sugar trigger insulin and insulin is the growth hormone
My recommendation? That you experiment with a ketogenic diet to see if it works for you.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next post in which I will explain more about the ketogenic diet.