Why your Keto diet is doomed
February 23, 2020
Seems pretty weird right?
Keto diets suck.
I've done it. Ben has done it.
Confirmed - it sucks.
We've been the people who take a tupperware of salmon and spinach to your friends 21st birthday where there is a hog roast and buffet.
We've been the people who politely decline the cake at your best mates wedding, while a little piece of you quietly dying inside.
We've been the people who wander over to the catering staff at a work function to ask "Do you know if there is over 10g of carbs in this dressing?" Only to be met with the combined vacant stare and shrug of the shoulders.
I'm picking on Keto diets here as an example but replace the word Keto with "low-carb", "slimming world", "weight watchers", "grapefruit", "deetox-tea" etc etc...
Despite it's notoriety over the previous years, I believe the Keto diet is one of the most extreme and non-functional ways to lose weight (and most importantly) and keep it off.
In this article I'll discuss why your Keto diet is failing you, and what you can do about it.
Before we dive into the detail, let's ensure that we are all on the same page....
What is a keto diet?
The below video explains it quite nicely...
"What drives me absolutely insane are the keto Jedis who have turned the diet into a religion."Layne Norton
So in summary, the Keto diet:
- recommends you all but banish carbs from your diet, eating 5% of your calories from carbs
- the goal is a state of ketosis, where the body is utilising fat for fuel
- to get into this you need to eat less than 20g of carbs for about 2 weeks
Whilst it has to be acknowledged that Keto diet may have benefits for some groups of the worlds population e.g. for supporting epilepsy sufferers (1), for the vast majority of the world, there is an easier way.
Why it doesn't work
There are 5 main reasons why your Keto diet isn't working
1. You're probably losing more water than fat
2. It's a diet
By very definition, a diet is a period of restricted eating. You only have to look at the success of wider society to see how successful restricting things is e.g. Prohibition in America in the early 1900s, the War on drugs and the black market.
Restricting something only makes you want it more!
3. It's exclusive, not an inclusive
Because it focusses on limiting you to a certain type or number of food groups you can develop adverse eating behaviours. From personal experience I had 1 cheat day a week which was essentially rationalised binging where I would eat all the foods I "wasn't allowed" to on one day and then get back to the Keto regime the next day.
Not a healthy behaviour to adopt or enforce at all. It's much better to include a wide variety of foods in your overall nutritional playbook.
Just because something is extreme, doesn't mean it is better.
We live in a culture of instant gratification where we want instant results.
My friend, the reasons why that is not applicable to health and fitness are vast. The key take away here is that because something is extreme (e.g. eating 1000 k/cals a day, 2 hours of cardio a day, training to failure on every set) does not make it better.
Layne Norton has a host of great articles on this
4. It's unlikely to be sustainable
Ask yourself this question.
"Can I see myself structuring my diet in the same way I do now, in 2 years time?"
If the answer is no, then you probably need to change.
Long term adherence is going to be the key for sustained weight loss.
5. You might be eating more calories than your body requires to lose weight
Have you ever worked out how many calories you are having on your keto diet? I trawled through my food diary to search for the days where I was eating Keto.
I was eating just over 3000 calories a day trying to lose weight. That is right around my matintenance calories.
Was I losing weight... No!
But I would tell myself "It's because you had 25g of carbs and not 15g carbs on Thursday and you pushed yourself out of Ketosis!"
And so the feedback loop went for a long time before I saw the light.
OK, so what should I do?
Glad you asked.
A lot (and I mean a lot) of studies show that the greatest determinant of sustained weight loss is adherence, combined with being in a moderate calorie deficit. (2).
Here are six steps you can take today to help you ditch the Keto blues.
1. Work out your required calorie intake is per day using our macro calculator
2. Use the macro calculator to work out how much protein, fat and carbohydrates (YEP, YOU CAN EAT CARBS!) are required depending on whether you want to lose or gain weight
James Smith has gained notoriety highlighting why a calorie deficit is the most important thing - take his advice!
3. Gradually introduce carbohydrates back into your diet, and don't be afraid to see a little spike in weight
Because carbs tend to make us hold onto a little more water don't be afraid to see the scale go up a few notches when you introduce them.
Depending on how long you've gone with Keto, your body isn't going to be used to bagels straight away.
4. Stop seeing foods as healthy vs unhealthy, or Keto vs Non-Keto
The key to a successful diet is adherence. You can generally adhere to things that you like. So, eat foods you like with the caveat that they should also move you towards your goal. For example...
I like cheesecake. I eat that a lot. But not when it means I will go over my calorie targets or fat targets for the day.
5. Focus on the bigger picture
Calorie deficit will determine weight loss. Calorie surplus will determine weight gain. Simples. Don't overcomplicate it.
6. Follow the science
Rather than listening to that person in the office or gym who claims to have lost 14 kg in a week on Keto, follow the science on what actually works. People like Alan Aragorn and Layne Norton are evidence based researchers and lifters who take this seriously.
1. Rezaei, S., Abdurahman, A.A., Saghazadeh, A., Badv, R.S. and Mahmoudi, M., 2019. Short-term and long-term efficacy of classical ketogenic diet and modified Atkins diet in children and adolescents with epilepsy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutritional neuroscience, 22(5), pp.317-334.
2. Varkevisser, R.D.M., van Stralen, M.M., Kroeze, W., Ket, J.C.F. and Steenhuis, I.H.M., 2019. Determinants of weight loss maintenance: a systematic review. Obesity reviews, 20(2), pp.171-211.
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