Over the last couple of years, trendsetters, famous actors, and popular food and nutrition blogs have all highlighted different types of low-carb/high-fat diets, including Paleo, South Beach, and Atkins, but no diet has caught fire quite like the keto diet.
The ketogenic (keto) diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet, but unlike the other aforementioned low-carb/high-fat diets, it focuses on fat as its fuel source instead of protein. The diet lowers blood sugar and insulin levels, and shifts the body’s metabolism away from carbs and towards fats and ketones. By reducing your carbs, you put your body into ketosis.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic state where fat provides most of the fuel for your body. It occurs when your body has limited access to glucose, which is the preferred fuel source for many of your cells.
To enter ketosis, you must deprive yourself of carbohydrates, bringing these down to less than 5% of your daily caloric intake, meaning you get approximately 20-50 grams of carbs per day. So, instead of relying on sugar (glucose) that come from carbohydrates, the keto diet relies on ketone bodies that the liver produces from fat. However, it is worth noting that if you eat too much protein, you can spike your insulin levels and lower ketones.
Can the Keto Diet Help You Lose Weight?
One of the most common questions we hear from Members asking about the keto diet is “will it help me lose weight?” While results from diets vary from person to person, the keto diet has been shown to be an effective way to lose weight.
Some of the reasons for this is because while on the keto diet, people often reduce their daily caloric intake to approximately 1,500 calories because the healthy fats and proteins that you’re eating make you feel fuller sooner (and for a longer period of time). Also, it takes more energy to process and burn fat and protein than it does to process carbs, so you’re burning more calories than you did before; over time, leading to weight loss.
What Foods Can You Eat on the Keto Diet?
As we mentioned, on the keto diet, your food will centre around fats and proteins, while your carb intake is greatly reduced, meaning fruits and veggies can only be eaten in small amounts because they are high in carbohydrates. Here are a few of the keto diet approved foods:
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
- Healthy oils: primarily extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil
- Avocados: whole avocados or freshly made guacamole
- Low-carb veggies: most leafy green veggies (kale, swiss chard, spinach), tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
- Meat: red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken, and turkey
- Fatty fish: salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel
- Eggs: pasturized or omega-3 whole eggs
- Butter and cream: when possible, try to eat grass-fed
- Cheese: unprocessed cheeses (i.e. cheddar, goat, cream, blue, or mozzarella)
- Condiments: you can use salt, pepper, and various healthy herbs and spices
Health Benefits of Keto Diet
Some keto devotees swear by the diet and claim there are multiple health benefits which range from curing acne to improving heart disease risk factors. However, this diet has only been studied in the short-term with mixed results; this means that we do not know if there are any long-term health risks associated with the keto diet.
In saying that, if you are interested in learning more about this diet, we encourage you to contact Michael Bellissimo (at the Toronto Athletic Club) or Rosie Moore (at the Adelaide Club).
Michael Bellissimo, Personal Trainer & Precision Nutrition Coach, Toronto Athletic Club