Ketogenic eating might just be the most popular idea in the unconventional health and fitness movement right now. I get dozens of emails a week from people asking for Keto tips and tricks.
I’m not convinced that most of these people should be Keto though. It’s been billed as a great way to lose weight, which has attracted a lot of attention, but it’s not all roses, unicorns, and fairy dust.
Here’s three reasons why you might want to reconsider your plan to go Keto…
1. Ketogenic eating is obsessive.
Ketosis is notoriously difficult to get into, verify, and sustain without bringing back some of the old, obsessive Dieting strategies that we’ve been working hard to get away from.
Tracking macros, monitoring blood glucose, and testing ketone levels are all required steps in the process for most people.
This kind of protocol attracts people with disordered eating habits. It’s the perfect blend of effective, obsessive, and new.
If you’re trying to get into ketosis for medical reasons, then you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. If you want to get into ketosis because you heard it’s great for weight loss or for some other non-medical reason, it’s too obsessive for my taste.
2. Ketogenic eating probably doesn’t fit your lifestyle.
You know me—I’m not a huge fan of cardio or long workouts. I’m bearish on exercise as a modern concept, but I’m bullish on functional fitness and DWYLT.
In order to actually enjoy those things and feel strong and healthy when doing them, you’ll need adequate glycogen. That’s something that’s quickly depleted through ketogenic eating.
I know the body can replenish glycogen stores through gluconeogenesis, but damn, why go through all the trouble?
Seriously, performing well on a ketogenic diet (I know this from experience) requires a long adaptation period and still results in the loss of explosiveness.
Endurance may be maintained or improved after adaptation, but good luck with those sprints, feeling strong popping up on a surfboard over and over again, covering your friend in a game of flag football, or lifting that sandbag many times.
And I still haven’t talked about the actual eating side of things: if you think it’s tough to get comfortable with social eating on a real-food based lifestyle, good luck with that keto plan. In the real world, most of the people I meet want less obsessiveness and more enjoyment, not vice versa.
Between the obsessiveness, performance issues, and social neediness, I’m getting further and further away from liking keto as a strategy.
3. Ketogenic eating may have negative consequences.
There are a lot of little side effects considered to be “negative” on ketogenic diets. There are some small positives as well (such as increased mental clarity). I’m not going to hash out all the little things here. I want to hit on two of the top negative consequences.
Ketosis requires very low carbohydrate consumption. In my article, The Practical Truth About Carbohydrates, I noted that one of the potential downsides of this is a reduction in your metabolic rate.
The mechanism for this is chronic calorie restriction, which can easily happen on ketogenic protocols due to the satiating nature of fat and protein. In other words, it’s common for people on ketogenic diets to accidentally under-eat because ketosis does such a great job of turning off hunger.
This paradigm is especially destructive when sleep, stress, nutrient density, and inflammatory exercise are not considered. Doing ketosis properly requires having ALL of your ducks in a row.
Another consequence of ketosis is a potentially negative change in gut flora. The mechanism for this is a lack of fermentable substrate—the stuff your gut bugs feed on—as well as a change in the pH of the gut. You can read more about this, if you’re interested, at The Human Food Project.
The study of the gut biome is a relatively new science and is highly complicated. I’m not taking any hard-line stances on this right now, but you should note that if the science continues to trend in the direction it’s moving, it spells potential disaster for long-term, very low carbohydrate or ketogenic protocols (and those following ketogenic diets for medical reasons will need to look at strategic supplementation of fermentable fibers).
What’s the key takeaway?
I wrote this article because I’m noticing a trend in the popularity of ketogenic eating…
This is a bit troubling, because I feel that the vast majority of people don’t need to be worried about getting into and staying-in ketosis.
Many people who come to my community ask me questions about ketosis as if they believe it’s now the only path to weight loss. That’s even scarier.
As I’ve said before, I’m all for experimentation. Unless you’re prone to disordered eating and Diet-jumping, try it out and see what your results are. But know that ketosis is not required and it could potentially be destructive.
Also know that it requires obsession, which dramatically reduces the amount of pleasure and increases the expression of disordered eating habits. That’s antithetical to the message I want to spread.