The ketogenic diet was originally developed as a treatment for Epilepsy and in some forms of Epilepsy it is very effective at reducing the frequency and severity of seizures. In more recent times this diet has been popular amongst some body builders now is also gaining traction amongst the everyday person looking for a fast weight loss strategy.
How the diet works
There are a few forms of this diet, the medically prescribed versions are more strict, with what is known as the ‘classic’ version providing 4g of fat for every 1g of carbohydrate and protein combined. These are medically prescribed for conditions including Epilepsy and MUST be undertaken only following medical recommendation, guidance and supervision. More commonly when the Ketogenic diet is used in the general population it still focuses on getting the majority of calories from fat and restriction of carbohydrates to less than 50g per day with moderate amounts of protein. Whichever version of the Ketogenic diet, the underlying mechanism is that the body coverts fat into ketones to use for energy instead of the body’s preferred source – carbohydrate.
50g of carbs per day may sound achievable, but when you consider that 1 slice of bread has approximately 15g of carbohydrate and that most foods including non-starchy veg and dairy contain some carbs, 50g can quickly add up.
Factors to consider
While there is some evidence that this diet can result in weight loss, people need to think seriously about whether this is a good option for you because there are some definite drawbacks:
- People often report fatigue, headaches, bad breath and nausea on this diet.
- Unless you like your coffee made with butter instead of milk, the diet can very unpalatable.
- It is difficult to increase your fat intake to the required level without significantly increasing saturated fats which may negatively affect cholesterol levels and heart health.
- Constipation and poor gut health can result as you eliminate many fibre rich foods.
- You’re at higher risk of renal stones and altered renal function.
- You may struggle to have enough energy to train. Carbohydrate is the preferred energy source for our muscles and our bodies have to work a lot harder to use fat as the primary energy source which may result in poorer energy levels and strength capacity.
- The sustainability of this diet long term is highly unlikely and the main factor for long term weight loss success is consistency.
While there is some evidence that this diet can result in weight loss for the above reasons this is not a diet I would recommend routinely for weight loss. Certainly do not embark on a diet like this without speaking to your Doctor and a Dietitian.