Is this eating plan more hype than help? Read on to learn more…
In the world of diets, low-carb and high-protein eating plans are like those bewitching sirens from Greek mythology. They lure you with perhaps two of the most click-bait worthy words in the English dictionary: Weight loss! Most of us are never really happy with our weight; there always seem to be a few extra kilos to shed. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must have heard about the Keto diet at some point in your life. Either from your friendly neighbourhood fitness geek or your gym buddy or celebrities/influencers on your IG or Facebook feeds. Here’s everything you need to know about this diet.
News flash: Despite the recent hype, the ketogenic diet is NOT something new! In medicine, it has been used for almost 100 years to treat drug-resistant epilepsy, especially in children. In other words, it was a medical diet supposed to be followed under medical supervision!
While the Paleo and Atkins are high-protein diets, Keto works on a high-fat, moderate-protein and low-carb basis. In simple terms: Fats in. Carbs out. The macronutrients are divided into 55 to 60 percent fat, 30 to 35 percent protein and 5 to 10 percent carbohydrates.
When you hear about people losing a tonne of weight over a short period of time on the latest low-carb diet craze, it sounds like a magic formula. It really isn’t. Mumbai-based certified personal trainer and sports nutritionist, Bhaskar Shetty, explains, “The diet aims to force your body into using a different type of fuel. If you eat a very low amount of carbs, you starve your brain of glucose, its main fuel source. Your body still needs fuel to function, so it taps into your reserve of ketones—the compounds the liver creates from fat when blood insulin is low. This process is known as ketosis. It’s like when your car/vehicle runs on reserve,” elucidates Shetty. “However, it takes a few days for the body to get to ketosis.”
Sure, eating bacon and cheese may sound dreamlike, but achieving ketosis isn’t easy. Too much protein and carbs can decrease ketone levels. Alcohol will take you out of ketosis too.
Keto is a decent short-term diet to lose weight, when done under expert supervision. “Keto suppresses appetite, as it is a high-fat diet, which reduces carbohydrate cravings. We Indians tend to eat more carbs in our meals, which in-turn signals our body to store that extra energy in the form of subcutaneous fat. This diet helps in reducing fat, especially the visceral fat around the stomach area—which helps in curbing the risk of heart diseases, obesity and diabetes,” adds Shetty.
One of the main problems with this diet is that it doesn’t draw the line between good fats and saturated fats or lean proteins and proteins with high saturated fats. According to a blog on Harvard Health Publishing, the diet is associated with an increase in bad LDL cholesterol (linked to heart disease) because of the high saturated fat content. In addition, if you’re not eating a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and grains, you may be at risk for deficiencies in micronutrients—including selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins B and C. The diet restricts the inclusion of fibrous foods like grains and legumes—which leads to constipation. Fibre is also absolutely essential for good bacteria, which promotes gut health.
Avinash Iyer, a 28-year-old techie, tried Keto for around 15 days during the lockdown last year. “While it’s true that I lost a significant amount of weight, my energy levels were low and constipation was a major issue. I had to switch to a normal diet because the acidity and chest burn became too difficult to handle. Plus, I was nauseous, had a nagging headache and was irritable and kept snapping at my parents and girlfriend for no reason.”
It’s quite taxing for the liver, kidney and gut. Lots of fat means a high lipid profile, which is bad for your heart. With so much fat to metabolise, the diet could also make any existing liver conditions worse. Regular consumption of protein sources high in saturated fat such as—beef, pork, and bacon tends to make your urine acidic—which puts an unwanted load on your kidneys. In extreme cases, it can even lead to kidney failure.
Keto is too restrictive a diet, and therefore, not sustainable! Most experts believe that it’s advisable for healthy individuals for a short-term after consulting a physician. It’s best to be done under expert supervision. Furthermore, when people switch back to carbohydrates, they are more likely to regain fats instead of lean mass.
Moral of the story? Diet fads come and go. Your 2021 fitness goals should be realistic: Choose a healthy lifestyle than a crash diet. “Reduce your intake of refined carbs, and stick to whole grains and lean meats like chicken. Having five small meals at regular intervals, will not only keep you satiated but also healthy and happy—that too without depriving you or your body of certain food groups,” concludes Shetty.
Disclaimer: Do not change your diet without consulting a doctor or a certified nutritionist.
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