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Sports Nutrition

Are You Hopping on the Keto Bandwagon?

The beginner’s guide to the latest diet craze.

The ketogenic diet is taking over your talk space. But just because keto is the latest diet to build a buzz doesn’t mean it’s anything new. In fact, bodybuilders have been using the ketogenic diet for decades to lean out and burn body fat quickly leading up to a competition. And don’t forget about the Atkins diet staking claim on the very low-carb diet universe. Though competition gurus and Dr. Robert Atkins have brought “going keto” into the 21st century, we can’t let them take credit for this novel diet idea — it’s been used as a treatment for epilepsy since the 1920s.

The ketogenic diet is based on a very low-carb dietary approach — not NO carbs but LOW carbs — we’re talking 50 grams or less of carbohydrate intake per day. This includes carbohydrates coming from starches, fruits and vegetables. The idea is that when you restrict carbohydrate intake, your body learns to rely on your body’s fat stores as energy. You heard that right — your less-than-loved love handles will be used to help you do everything from tying your shoes to maxing out in the gym.

To be successful with the ketogenic diet, you have to achieve a state of “ketosis” for a consistent period. When in ketosis, your body is using ketones derived from your fat stores as fuel. To determine whether you’re in ketosis, you can test your urine daily using ketone sticks. Problem is, one day of cutting out carbs won’t miraculously bring you into the fun zone — it takes time to teach your body to use fat as energy over its preferred choice of carbohydrates. That’s why most people get the “keto flu” the first three to four weeks on the diet, during which you’ll experience fatigue, tiredness, moodiness and even a foggy head. Think of it as a withdrawal of sort from carbs. But if you can get past the first weeks of going keto, you’ll be rewarded with increased mood, energy and fat loss.

See Also Are Ketogenic Diets Healthy?

To follow a true keto diet, you’ll want to keep carbs to about 50 grams or less per day, protein at 1.2 to 1.5 grams/kilograms per day and 60 to 80 percent of your daily diet coming from fats. For a 132-pound relatively sedentary woman, this would equal roughly 50 grams or less of carbs, 72 to 90 grams of protein and 122 to 129 grams coming from fats per day. To determine the breakdown of your ketogenic diet, divide your bodyweight by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms. Multiply this number by 12.5 to calculate calories, then by 60 to 80 percent to determine how many calories from fat you should be getting per day, and finally multiply your weight in kilograms by 1.2 to 1.5 to get the total amount of protein in grams per day.


The Pros

Once you become fat-adapted (aka keto-adapted), your body is then efficient at burning fat as fuel. It’s at this point, about four weeks or more of being in ketosis, that you begin to reap the benefits of going keto.

The ability to lose body fat on a ketogenic diet is partly because of the diet’s hunger-suppressive effects. Funny right? Restrict carbs and eat tons of fat and protein and experience a reduced appetite. Sounds contradictory, but that’s what much of the research suggests. On top of that, once keto-adapted, increased ketones in the blood
help burn an extra 100 calories
per day.

And if you’re goal is to maintain or build muscle while losing body fat, you can stop right here. Studies suggest that if you eat enough protein while restricting carbs and calories, the protein acts in a protective manner, sparing your hard-earned muscle from being used as energy during your workouts. It’s as if you can have your keto cake and eat it, too!

The Cons

Going keto isn’t for everyone. In fact, most people will find it extremely challenging to eliminate carbs from their diets. Shocker, people love carbs! And it’s no surprise that at the first sign of a social event, many people get off the keto bus.

Not to mention, the verdict is still out on whether the ketogenic diet is superior in terms of weight loss compared to other diets that are liberal with carbohydrate intake. A recent review published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that there has, in fact, never been a study testing the effects of weight-loss diets with equal protein and fat that has shown greater fat loss with a low-carb ketogenic diet. That means as long as you are creating a caloric deficit, you may be able to lose the same amount of weight whether you eat carbs or not.

The best way to determine whether a ketogenic diet is right for you is to give it a try and see for yourself. It’s easier than you think. This one-week keto meal plan will help get you started.

Download your Sample Keto Meal Plan