Is Keto all that it's cracked up to be? Or are people jumping on another diet bandwagon that'll lead to undesirable heath effects in the years to come?
For some, keto is just the diet they need to reclaim their health. For others, it will be just another passing fad, helping people lose a few pounds before going back to eating hamburgers with buns, and pizza with real crust that isn't made of cheese, cauliflower, or chicken.
The following is the introduction to my new ebook, What You Need To Know About Keto.
If you haven't bought the ebook yet, I hope this moves you to do so, even if you have no interest in following the diet.
If you're a fitness professional, I recommend getting a copy. It will help you handle questions and comments from clients, which often come from the nonsense they hear from friends and coworkers, or what they read online.
From the Introduction of
What You Need To Know About Keto
It’s been over a decade since I wrote my first article on low-carb or ketogenic diets.
The article is still on the internet, but I won’t share it here. It would be like Throwback Thursday. It makes you smile and cringe at the same time. That was several hundred articles ago.
As I think back to those early days of writing, while I was the Director of Nutrition and Weight Management at Life Time, I admit I saw the world through a very narrow lens.
I was immersed in health and fitness, and was fortunate enough to connect with a number of low-carb thought leaders, including Gary Taubes, Jeff Volek, Steve Phinney, and Peter Attia.
Each of them participated in webinars I set up for Life Time’s fitness professionals, and each was gracious with answering questions and visiting on the phone or in person, outside of those webinars.
I was all all-in on low-carb and keto. I saw anything that wasn’t low-carb or keto as bad. That’s a slippery slope, because in nutrition, there’s more unknown than known.
Since resigning from Life Time and joining my wife in our health and fitness business, I’ve relaxed my stranglehold on my nutrition beliefs, and explored some alternative ideas.
My mission all along has been The Tenacious Pursuit of Optimal Health. Yet, even I get held back by own beliefs and biases from time to time.
For most of the period between 2007 and 2014, I closely followed a low-carb lifestyle. Much of that time, I used followed a ketogenic diet. I monitored my blood ketone levels, put extra butter on my steak, ate boatloads of bacon, and experimented with just about everything you come across in the low-carb community.
In July, 2014, I tore my distal bicep tendon. To support it’s recovery and minimize inflammation, I followed a rigid ketogenic diet (and used a myriad of supplements, essential oils, cryotherapy, and other bio-hacks) to quickly recover after it was surgically reattached.
Then, around January of 2015, I decided to see what would happen if I started eating carbs a couple times per week, just in the evenings.
Adding some carbs back into my diet made me feel like Popeye eating his spinach (but my carbs tasted way better than his can of spinach).
Eating the carbs made me realize how mentally and physically fatigued I’d felt.
As I introduced the carbs a couple times per week, I not only had better workouts the following day, but I felt good throughout the day, more energized.
I thought this change was strange, since ketogenic diets are supposed to be so good for your mood.
So I decided to see what would happen if I ate carbs on the nights before each of my workouts.
I was still biased toward low-carb and keto. I thought, for sure, that I’d get fatter and my blood chemistry would get worse.
But that didn’t happen. My body weight stayed the same. I felt more full and looked a bit leaner.
For the past year, I’ve eaten carbs with almost every dinner. Sometimes they’re from sandwiches with gluten-free bread, chips, and gluten-free cookies. Other times, it’s pizza (still gluten-free) and Halo Top.
I feel better than ever, and my workouts are great.
However, I told myself I’d stop it if my blood tests showed that eating these foods was negatively affecting me.
My most recent lab work was in January of 2018. To my, and my doctor’s surprise, my lab work looked better than ever, including my Hemoglobin A1c, which is the best measure of blood sugar regulation. It was measured at 4.0. The lowest it had ever been.
I share this personal story just to explain that I’ve followed ketogenic diets, low-carb diets, and many of their variations over the past decade. I’m not a diet “flip-flopper,” trying one thing for a week and then moving onto another. I stick with something to see whether it helps me or not.
My initial experience with low-carb, and then ketogenic diets was great. Over time, not so much.
I’ve also observed this in clients and other people who cut carbs long-term. Some people thrive. Others seem to flatline in results, and even experience a downward spiral in mood, digestive health (which probably go hand-in-hand), and exercise performance.
That said, I still confidently recommend ketogenic diets as a tool for those who need it, which you’ll learn as you read on. But, one thing has really changed for me:
I do not believe a ketogenic diet is ideal for long-term health for most people. Instead, I believe it is a strategy to dramatically improve one’s insulin sensitivity, accelerate fat loss, reduce inflammation, and improve blood chemistry.
Once insulin sensitivity is restored, I believe it’s best to slowly bring carbohydrates back into the diet, especially with an evening meal.
Having said that, I don’t have much to base this belief on, other than a handful of research studies, my personal experience and some observations in others.
However, there is also no solid evidence to suggest that a ketogenic diet is ideal long-term either. It will probably be another ten years before we have a perspective on that.
By then, I believe the science will show that a ketogenic diet is a great way to help someone reclaim his or her health, but to thrive physically and mentally, carbs will still play a role in the diet.
Besides the performance and mental benefits of reintroducing carbs, it’ll give people satisfaction knowing they can healthfully eat a donut now and then, and they won’t get fat, diabetic, or develop dementia.
All that said, most people do not have good insulin sensitivity, and have elevated HbA1c, triglycerides, inflammation, and a ton of extra body fat. So, keto is a great place to start.
In addition, diseases like Alzheimer’s, PCOS, and cancer are more common than ever, and there’s a strong case to be made that a ketogenic diet is the best option for people in such a state. I’m starting to get ahead of myself, though.
A Casual Tone On A Serious Subject
I’ve written this ebook with a casual tone, as though we were sitting in a coffee shop, drinking dark roast coffee with some heavy cream, discussing the benefits, drawbacks, and nuances of the ketogenic diet.
I’ve often caught myself getting too technical in my writing, and have realized that it isn’t necessary, and often deters people from learning the lesson or understanding key points.
I’ve also tried to inject a little humor. I hope you find the ebook to be entertaining, educational, and memorable. More than anything, I hope it gets you to take action.
To keep reading, order your copy of What You Need To Know About Keto.