“The Diet Dilemma: Considering Keto”

“If you want people to love you, you have to give them a reason to hate you.” Well, in the world of health and wellness, the concept of “high protein” seems to be one that sparks a variety of opinions and debates. As a health and wellness coach with over 10 years of experience and being married to an IFBB Professional Body Builder, I’ve seen it all.

When someone mentions “high protein,” it’s fascinating how different people interpret it in their own unique ways. Some immediately associate it with meat, envisioning plates piled high with steaks and chicken breasts. Others define it by a specific percentage range, believing that 35-50% of their diet should be protein. Then there’s a group that calculates high protein based on a formula: consuming two times their body weight in grams of protein. And of course, let’s not forget those who argue that high protein isn’t limited to just meat and advocate for the inclusion of plant-based sources like tofu and beans. The diversity of opinions is truly mind-boggling.

Personally, I firmly believe that protein is indeed essential for a healthy body. However, the key lies in understanding how much protein we need and what sources we should be consuming. It’s not just a matter of blindly adopting a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Every individual has unique requirements, preferences, and circumstances that must be considered.

In the ever-evolving world of nutrition, it’s important to stay informed, open-minded, and adaptable. What works for one person may not work for another. So, as a health and wellness enthusiast, my mission is to provide guidance, dispel misconceptions, and help individuals find the right balance when it comes to their protein intake.

The concept of a ketogenic diet, or “keto” diet, has been around for several decades. It was initially developed and introduced as a therapeutic dietary approach for the treatment of epilepsy in the 1920s. However, the modern popularity and resurgence of the ketogenic diet can be attributed to the work of Dr. Robert Atkins.

Dr. Robert Atkins, an American cardiologist, popularized the ketogenic diet with the publication of his book “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution” in 1972. His book promoted a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet (you read that right. HIGH FAT!) as a way to lose weight and improve overall health. The Atkins diet gained significant attention and sparked a movement towards low-carbohydrate diets, including the ketogenic approach.

*I think it is important to note that Dr. Atkins himself suffered from a heart attack the year before his death and his weight was a factor for his ongoing health concerns.

Since then, the ketogenic diet has gained a substantial following and has been further researched and modified by various individuals, researchers, and healthcare professionals. While Dr. Atkins played a significant role in bringing the concept of the ketogenic diet to the mainstream, it’s important to note that the foundations of the diet are based on earlier research and clinical applications for epilepsy treatment.

So, what is a “Keto” diet and what does it mean to be in “ketosis?” 

Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the body primarily uses ketones, produced from the breakdown of fatty acids, as its main source of energy instead of glucose. This occurs when carbohydrate intake is significantly reduced or eliminated, causing the liver to break down stored fats into ketone bodies. 

Generally, popular ketogenic resources suggest an average of 70-80% fat from total daily calories, 5-10% carbohydrate, and 10-20% protein. For a 2000-calorie diet, this translates to about 165 grams fat, 40 grams carbohydrate, and 75 grams protein. Though this looks great on paper, it doesn’t mean quality doesn’t matter. 

The type of fats you consume on a ketogenic diet can make a difference in terms of overall health and the effectiveness of the diet. While the primary focus of a ketogenic diet is to restrict carbohydrates and increase fat intake, it’s important to choose the right types of fats for optimal nutrition.

Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, are generally recommended on a ketogenic diet. These fats can be found in foods like avocados, nuts and seeds (e.g., almonds, walnuts, chia seeds), olive oil, flaxseed oil, fatty fish (e.g., salmon, sardines), and certain oils like coconut oil and MCT oil (medium-chain triglycerides).

On the other hand, it’s advisable to limit or avoid unhealthy fats, such as trans fats and highly processed fats. Trans fats, often found in fried and processed foods, are known to increase the risk of heart disease and should be minimized in any diet. Additionally, processed vegetable oils high in omega-6 fatty acids, such as soybean oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil, should be limited because excessive consumption of these oils may contribute to inflammation and an imbalanced omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.

So, what are the rules for a “healthy” Keto Diet? The rules or guidelines of a ketogenic diet typically involve the following:

  1. Restrict Carbohydrate Intake: The primary rule of a ketogenic diet is to significantly reduce carbohydrate consumption. The exact amount can vary, but it generally involves limiting carbs to 20-50 grams per day or around 5-10% of total daily calories. This restriction is necessary to induce and maintain a state of ketosis.
  2. Increase Healthy Fat Intake: To compensate for the reduction in carbohydrates, the intake of healthy fats is increased. This includes sources like avocados, nuts and seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, fatty fish, and grass-fed butter. The goal is to derive a significant portion of daily calories from fat, typically around 70-75% or more.
  3. Moderate Protein Intake: Protein intake should be moderate and adjusted according to individual needs. Consuming too much protein can potentially interfere with ketosis, as excessive protein intake can be converted into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. Generally, protein intake is around 20-25% of daily calories.
  4. Focus on Whole Foods: Emphasize whole, unprocessed foods in your ketogenic diet. Choose nutrient-dense sources of fat and protein, such as grass-fed meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, non-starchy vegetables, and low-sugar fruits in moderation.
  5. Stay Hydrated: Drinking enough water is essential on a ketogenic diet. Aim for adequate hydration by consuming water throughout the day. Some people may need to increase their electrolyte intake, especially sodium, as ketosis can impact fluid balance.
  6. Monitor Ketone Levels: While not mandatory, some individuals choose to measure their ketone levels using urine strips, blood ketone meters, or breath analyzers. This helps to confirm ketosis and track progress. However, it’s important to note that being in a state of ketosis does not necessarily guarantee weight loss or other health benefits.
  7. Individualize and Adjust: The ideal macronutrient ratios and calorie intake can vary depending on factors such as age, gender, activity level, and health goals. It may require some experimentation and adjustments to find what works best for you.

The one thing I noticed when doing this research for this blog was the lack of concern for fiber at all in a keto diet. Fiber should still be a consideration on a ketogenic diet, as it plays a crucial role in overall health and digestion. However, it can be a bit more challenging to obtain adequate fiber intake on a typical ketogenic diet.

Here are some strategies to maintain fiber intake on a keto diet:

  1. Focus on Low-Carb, High-Fiber Vegetables: Incorporate non-starchy vegetables that are low in carbohydrates but rich in fiber. Examples include leafy greens (spinach, kale, lettuce), broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, and asparagus. These vegetables provide fiber while keeping carbohydrate intake relatively low.
  2. Include Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds, are not only good sources of healthy fats but also provide fiber. They can be included in the diet to help increase fiber intake.
  3. Use Low-Carb, High-Fiber Alternatives: Look for low-carb, high-fiber alternatives to traditional high-carb foods. For example, using coconut or almond flour instead of wheat flour for baking can help increase fiber content.
  4. Consider Fiber Supplements: If necessary, fiber supplements like psyllium husk or ground flaxseeds can be added to the diet to increase fiber intake. However, it’s important to choose supplements that do not significantly increase carbohydrate intake.
  5. Stay Hydrated: Drinking enough water is essential for healthy digestion, including proper bowel movements. Adequate hydration can help prevent constipation, which can be a concern when fiber intake is limited.

As time has passed the research for keto has evolve and so has its uses but we still have many unanswered questions. Here are a few: 

  • What are the long-term (one year or longer) effects of, and are there any safety issues related to, the ketogenic diet?
  • Do the diet’s health benefits extend to higher risk individuals with multiple health conditions and the elderly? For which disease conditions do the benefits of the diet outweigh the risks?
  • As fat is the primary energy source, is there a long-term impact on health from consuming different types of fats (saturated vs. unsaturated) included in a ketogenic diet?
  • Is the high fat, moderate protein intake on a ketogenic diet safe for disease conditions that interfere with normal protein and fat metabolism, such as kidney and liver diseases?
  • Is a ketogenic diet too restrictive for periods of rapid growth or requiring increased nutrients, such as during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, or during childhood/adolescent years?

These questions spark my interest because what I am seeing now as a health professional is insulin resistance and hormonal imbalances. I am seeing them daily. Women over 40 I’m here for you. Women under 40 be warned this is a true problem. This is my life. Women are coming to me beat down, upset, ready to just give up. Doctors are quick to prescribe and give little feedback on natural remedies, causes, and nutritional guidelines. (NOT all doctors. Calm down Karen.) Seriously though, people are over it. 

Is Keto really the answer? I’m not so sure about that. Other studies suggest that the Keto diet could cause low blood pressure, kidney stones, constipation, nutrient deficiencies and an increased risk of heart disease. They say strict diets like keto could also cause social isolation or disordered eating. Well I can confirm that. As a former competitor and being married to one withdrawal and binge eating are real. They create guilt and shame. They say Keto is not safe for those with any conditions involving their pancreas, liver, thyroid or gallbladder….. WAIT! WHAT???

That’s not what they have been saying. That’s not what my friends are talking about. I was diagnosed with Hashimotos and a keto diet was recommended to me but Hasimotos is a thyroid disease. So, which is it? 

The answer is we really don’t know but we ARE capable of figuring it out. We can make informed choices, evaluate how we feel and based on our own experience and outcomes adjust accordingly. You know your own body better than anyone else and don’t let anyone tell you they know best for you. So what can we do? Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Educate Yourself: Take the time to research and understand the principles, guidelines, and potential benefits and drawbacks of the diet you are considering. Learn about the foods involved, the macronutrient composition, and any potential health implications.
  2. Set Clear Goals: Define your goals and what you hope to achieve with the diet. Are you aiming for weight loss, improved health markers, increased energy, or something else? Having clear goals will help you evaluate whether the diet aligns with your objectives.
  3. Consult with a Healthcare Professional: Before starting any new diet, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, personal trainer and/or doctor. They can assess your specific health needs, medical history, and dietary requirements, and provide guidance on whether the diet is suitable for you.
  4. Consider Your Lifestyle and Preferences: Evaluate how the diet aligns with your lifestyle, daily routines, and food preferences. Does it require significant changes to your current eating habits? Can you realistically sustain it in the long term? Choose a diet that suits your lifestyle and that you can enjoy and stick to over time.
  5. Experiment with a Trial Period: Consider implementing the diet as a trial period to assess its effects on your body and overall well-being. Monitor how you feel physically and mentally, and observe any changes in your energy levels, digestion, cravings, and mood.
  6. Keep a Food Journal: During the trial period, keep a food journal to track your meals, snacks, and how you feel after eating. This can help you identify any patterns, sensitivities, or reactions to specific foods or the diet as a whole.
  7. Seek Support: Find a support system, such as joining online communities, engaging with like-minded individuals, or seeking the guidance of a dietitian or coach who specializes in the diet you’re considering. Having support can provide motivation, accountability, and valuable insights.
  8. Stay Flexible and Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s signals and adapt the diet as needed. Remember that everyone is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. If you experience negative effects or your health markers worsen, it may be a sign that the diet is not suitable for you.