The Keto Diet Works! But…
Just last year, I have been regularly hearing a lot about the Ketogenic Diet, more commonly known as Keto, being paraded by various health personalities in several foreign media outlets as a miracle weight-loss method. Numerous testimonials and endorsements have soon sprouted like wild mushrooms among people who have gained success in following this diet, while inspiring a lot of hopeful people to consider leaning on its promise. Since I was confident that my colleagues overseas will effectively do their jobs in containing the wildfire, I did not bother to deflate the method by writing about its claims even before it reaches our shores. And I reckon, I was on the same page as with a lot of Filipino dietitians as well.
Then came a local social activist, whom I really admire, broadcasting her triumph in shedding A LOT of pounds along the course of her journey with Keto. This then sparked curiosity among hordes of people who have known her as the humorous, socially aware plus-size lady that relentlessly takes to the streets to fight for our rights. Now, Keto has gained significant mileage in local media and other platforms, and is even being discussed by locals. This, I myself experienced because I accidentally eavesdropped on the conversation of the employees of the nearby company while having lunch at my favorite carinderia.
Since almost all of my contemporaries have already expressed their concerns online, I have decided to write this considerably long piece down for all the people who would like to follow the trend. In a nutshell, Keto is definitely effective to weight-loss. Nevertheless, it entails glaring buts, however’s, on-the-flip-side’s, and everything that would painfully burst your hopeful bubble on this diet.
What is Keto?
Primarily used as a medical nutrition therapy for epileptic patients, the Ketogenic diet essentially helps in reducing the frequency of their epileptic seizure episodes. The diet is comprised of a significantly high fat, moderate protein, and minimal carbohydrates ratio. And when I say high fat, putting it into a figure will comprise your meal of about 80% of the said nutrient, leaving protein with only 15%, and obviously carbohydrates with a measly 5%1.
To help you get a clearer picture of the kind of meal that this diet would require, let’s do a simple distribution of typical 2000 kcal requirement, with a lunch of about 500 calories.
Since we would need to allot at least 80% for fat, it would require us to consume about 400 calories of fat source for a 500-calorie meal. That would leave us with 75 calories for protein, and yes, 25 calories for carbohydrates.
Here’s a sample lunch of a person following the Keto proportion. Note that the quantities stated are based on PhilFCT and USDA consecutively:
>Roughly 100 grams grilled fatty cut of liempo (including oil drips)
>About half a cup of boiled broccoli
There are variations that can also be followed of course, but the point here is that a meal will, and must be overwhelming with fat, which in return, will be glaringly disproportionate to other macronutrients that you also need. Now, since you already have an idea how the Ketogenic Diet plan would look like, and together with its target population, let’s discuss how Keto is being used for weight-loss.
Keto to Lose Weight
It’s not even contestable that this diet is definitely effective for weight loss. Here are some of its mechanisms which would lead us to shedding some pounds:
- Any diet that promises weight loss would require portion reduction, in contrast to the regular amount of food consumed on a person’s typical meal, even if we disregard the macronutrient proportion that Keto requires. Remember, Keto requires that you also cut back, contrary to the popular belief that you can actually have it all.
- The use of fat as a source of energy is called ketosis. Our bodies experience this when glucose, which is our main energy source, is dwindling in supply at the moment. Ketosis is a normal occurrence in our body. However, following the Ketogenic Diet would promote even more energy expenditure through fat, since you are purposely limiting your carbohydrate consumption and storing less glucose in the body. Aside from fat loss, some studies suggest that ketosis effectively suppresses the hunger hormone called ghrelin2. Consequently, this will make you eat less than what you’re usually having before.
- In connection to number 2, rapid weight loss is also due to the expenditure of glycogen (a term for stored carbohydrates, particularly glucose). Since glycogen entails water, the more you expend glycogen, the more you will also lose water. Thus, the conspicuous thing that you lose drastically in the initial stages of Keto is not fat, but rather, water.
So, there you have it! We have already established the fact the Ketogenic Diet is undeniably effective to weight loss. Convinced now? Hold your horses first. This is the part where the banes and drawbacks come rushing in, asking for the dues required for getting the short-cut route.
- Since the nature of the diet is extremely restrictive, it’s poised to fail the sustainability test in most cases3. Now, since I believe the concern of sustainability is a personal one, failing to live up to it can make you experience a weight rebound, or re-accumulation of weight from your previous stature, up to a heavier extent4.
- Constipation can also be expected since dietary fiber is primarily found in carbohydrates. Some would argue that supplementation will do the trick, but in fact, it would compromise the ratio that the diet requires. The long term deficiency in fiber may result to higher risk in certain medical conditions such as heart diseases, diverticulitis, and cancer5.
- Since insulin is required in muscle build-up and maintenance6, focusing on a single source of macronutrient and neglecting the others would result in protein catabolism and ultimately, loss of muscle mass7.
- Unless you are willing to religiously be on supplementation all throughout, following Keto will make it impossible for you to get all the necessary nutrients that you need. The restraint in carbohydrates will also be proportionate to the lack of certain vitamins and minerals that are exclusively found in its sources8. And mind you, a lot of micronutrients are involved in the process of weight-loss, if that’s your primary concern (that should not be the case!).
- Short term effects also include, if you can bear, nausea, irritability, headaches, fatigue, and bad breath9 10.
- Degradation of bones can also be recorded after its long term application11, due to higher fat consumption especially if the source is high in protein as well. Since protein has the capacity to increase the acidity of the blood and urine, the body will naturally find a way to balance the pH level. And that includes the seeping of our bone’s negative ion through calcium.
We can exhaust more shortcomings of this diet when it comes to our nutritional wellbeing, but the point we are trying to convey stands firm already. Most of the drawbacks on the list are just observable phenomena of short term span, since its bodily effects after a longer stretch of adherence to this kind of lifestyle are not yet established or are still on-going.
I would not personally recommend this diet to anyone since it’s in my personal perspective that meal times should not lead to excruciating pain in the butt region. However, if you still stand firm on doing this, ask your doctor if you are eligible enough to take part in this craze. Hey, your body, your responsibility, right? So it would be better to seek a professional’s viewpoint and weigh properly the effects and the sacrifices that you will make.
So reader, what would I recommend? Here’s the thing, I don’t know your health profile so I can’t give a specific, in-depth analysis on what you personally need. No single diet can fit everyone. So the meal plan that you ask of us out of a whim is impossible to give right away, especially without us conducting an interview, computations, and meal plotting. It’s science, bitc—bro.
Lastly, for general overview of what we recommend—moderation, balance, variety. Sounds simple and neat, right? You know this. No throbbing hullaballoo required. Clearly, what we advise are essentially simple, healthy, and effective approaches, yet people are still having a hard time doing it. So question is, how can you be sure that you will easily slay a way more demanding program that is full of uncertainties in the first place? If you are confident that you can actually slay a way more demanding program that is full of uncertainties, then why not do a simple, healthy, yet effective approach instead?
Think about it.