I’m not a fan of the keto diet. Never have been, and never will be. The very restrictive nature of the keto diet is reason enough to not go on it. Your diet should not be restrictive and cause stress by keeping track of carbohydrate intake, calories, or other macronutrients. If your diet is restrictive, chances are it’s not good for you.
As a certified nutritionist and someone who has studied exercise sciences, I’m here to tell you that the long-term affects of keeping your body in ketosis is not good for it, particularly your overworked liver. The risks and restrictions very much outweigh the short-term benefits of the keto diet, which are just that – short term.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve known a lot of people that had success with the keto diet. But as with any restrictive diet, results are linear. I will also add that once the people I knew that had success quit the diet, the weight they lost came back.
Nutrition should be consistent and sustainable. The keto diet is not meant to be sustainable for long-term. Unlike other low-carb diets, the keto diet focuses on “healthy fats,” which supplies 90% of your daily calories. But not all of the fats recommended for the keto diet are actually healthy. Let’s discuss how the keto diet works.
How the Keto Diet Works
As I mentioned, the keto diet is based on replacing carbs with fats. Instead of relying on glucose that comes from carbohydrates for energy, the keto diet forces your liver to provide energy (ketones) from stored fat. This process puts a lot of work on your liver that is already working hard to filter your blood. If your liver is overworked in a long-period of time, it can cause liver failure. This is one of the reasons the keto diet is not recommended for a long period of time.
Here’s the basics:
You deprive yourself of carbohydrates
The keto diet requires you to severely limit carbohydrates, fewer than 20 to 50 grams per day. The problem is that the keto diet isn’t discriminatory between simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates.
You have to limit all carbs, which includes complex carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables. Consider that one apple has 25 grams of carbs. That’s half of your daily allowance of carbohydrates. This type of eating is too restrictive and requires you to keep track of your carbohydrate, which can cause stress and anxiety as you eat throughout the day. Not to mention if you’re going out to dinner with friends of your partner. Eating healthy should not be a hassle.
It Takes Days to Reach Ketosis
Ketosis happens when your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy. Ketones are formed from fat for your body to use as fuel. Ketosis also can make you feel less hungry and keep muscle.
For your body to get into ketosis, it takes 3 to 4 days on average if you are strict with staying in the perimeters of the diet. Many factors determine how long this process takes such as your age, activity level, metabolism, and carbohydrate, fat, and protein intake. However, one thing to note is that if you eat too much protein or go over your carbohydrate limit, your body will get out of ketosis. I’ll explain this more in just a bit.
A word to the wise, any Keto supplements that promise to get you into ketosis at a faster rate don’t work and are a waste of money.
For your body to get in ketosis naturally, it must not have protein to turn into amino acids to turn into glucose or carbohydrates to turn into glucose for energy. This is what triggers your liver to produce ketones.
Also, keto supplements typically contain high amounts of sugar and sugar alcohols. For example, 1 packet of Ketones from Prüvit® contains 6 grams of carbohydrates and 4 grams of sugar alcohols. That’s 10 grams of sugar. Sugar alcohols are an artificial sweetener, which is just as bad as processed sugar. It also contains citric acid, caffeine, and artificial colors. If you really want to get your body into ketosis, do it through food.
Too Much Protein Interferes With Ketosis
Not only do you need to watch your carbohydrates on the keto diet, you also have to watch the amount of protein you eat. Too much can cause you not to burn fat. The reason for this is that if you eat more protein than your body needs, it will turn the amino acids that are used to build protein into glucose. This process is known as gluconeogenesis.
You know the saying, “work smarter, not harder?” I use that all the time and how I approach most things in my life. Your body does, too. It’s easier for your body to use glucose for energy than fats. It will always make and use glucose whenever it is possible. Even if it has to come from protein.
What You Are Eating
Think about it… if you are having to watch your carbohydrates and your protein, where are you getting your nutrients from? Fats are such a staple in the keto diet that most of your calorie intake will come from fats.
Healthy fats such as that from avocados, coconut oil, fatty fish, olive oil, and almond butter are great options. However, saturated fats from lard, butter, and cocoa butter are encouraged on the keto diet in high amounts. Too much saturated fats can increase LDL cholesterol, or bad cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease.
Fruits and vegetables are high in carbohydrates, so you are restricted to leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, cucumbers, celery, and brussels sprouts. Berries in small portions are also allowed. Leafy greens are some of the most nutrient-dense foods available, however your diet needs to have variety for it to be sustainable.
The restrictive eating isn’t even the worst part about this diet. There are risks that come along with it. I’ve mentioned high cholesterol from too many fats and liver damage, but let’s go over all the risks of the keto diet.
Risks of The Keto Diet
The benefit of the keto diet is weight loss, but it’s not a long-term solution to keep those pounds off. The risks, however, are many.
Too Much Saturated Fats
It’s worth repeating that a diet with high saturated fat intake can put you at risk for heart disease. At the top of the list is saturated fat., which is one of the staples of the the keto diet. Eat all the fat you want, just kill the carbs and protein, which your body needs just as much as healthy fats.
Kidney and Liver Problems
A serious risk of the keto diet is liver and kidney problems. Fat is metabolized in the liver while your kidneys play a role in the metabolism of proteins. The keto diet could overload these two organs, which also act as your body’s filters.
With so much fat being metabolized in the liver you could put too heavy of a work load on it and cause your liver to fail. If you have existing liver problems, the keto diet could make them worse. This level of work is fine for a short-term period, however if they have to constantly work over a longer period, it can be too much on them.
One of the more common occurrences with the keto diet is a nutrient deficiency., particularly with micronutrients such as magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin C, and selenium. Your body counts on food to provide it with micronutrients, which comes from a wide variety of whole fruits and vegetables, and grains. Since the keto diet is so restrictive, you likely won’t be getting all the key nutrients you need. This can weaken your immune system, cause gut issues, and even disordered eating.
Brain Fog and Mood Changes
Your brain relies on carbohydrates to function optimally. Without sugar from carbohydrates, you could suffer from brain fog. Symptoms of brain fog include memory problems, poor concentration, headaches, confusion, and having trouble organizing thoughts. Low-carb diets may also cause an imbalance in hormones such as dopamine and serotonin, which affect your mood.
Many people that have tried the keto diet reported that they felt socially isolated due to the diet’s very restrictive nature. They also reported they felt obsessed with food and was preoccupied with counting carbs and protein intake. Not only does it cause added stress, it can lead to disordered eating. The keto diet requires significant planning and meal preparation. It’s not worth it.
A Better Alternative
The problem with most fad diets is that they are short-term solutions that offer short-term results. The keto diet is no different. Once you stop the keto diet, your weight will come back. Similar restrictive diets result in 95% of those who tried them gaining all weight back, with 75% gaining more than they lost. The keto diet also has more long-term risks than other fad diets that simply makes it not worth the restrictions, stress, and social isolation.
Diets should not be restrictive or cut out a certain food group. You should aim for long-term weight control, not short-term weight loss. To do that you should create healthy eating habits. Focus on eating fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, fiber-rich foods, and whole grains.
The bottom line is that your diet should not be so restrictive that it consumes your life. Healthy eating is different for everyone, however the goal should be long-term sustainability, not quick results.
If you’re interested in learning how to eat healthier without all the restrictions of a fad diet, let me help. Schedule a free consultation and let me tell you how Very Well Wellness’ wellness program can put you on the path to a healthier, happier lifestyle.
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Medical disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. While I am a certified nutritionist and wellness coach, I am not providing healthcare, medical, or nutritional therapy services or attempting to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any physical, mental, or emotional issue. The information provided on this website or any materials provided by Very Well Wellness is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Always seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before undertaking a new health regimen. Do not disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical advice because of information you read on this website or any materials provided by Very Well Wellness. Do not start or stop any medications without speaking to your medical or mental health provider.
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