Ketogenic Adventure Part 1: How Keto Differs from the Pack
In early January, I received the results of a Resting Metabolic Assessment (RMA) I had completed as a part of my initiation into Life Time Fitness. (I found a decent explanation of the RMA test, for those interested, here.)
The Resting Metabolic Assessment revealed that I am totally off-track with my body’s use of fat for energy. While my body should optimally look for 80% of my energy from fat at rest, my body is actually looking primarily toward carbohydrates for a source of energy.
The metabolic specialist told me that the next step would be to meet with a dietitian and that I likely would be pointed to the ketogenic diet is a good starting point. While I had not ever heard of any such diet, I decided to talk to a physician about my metabolic testing results just to see if the guidance was helpful.
I immediately turned to a good friend and physician and shared that my metabolism testing had revealed I was not burning carbs at a normal rate at rest and asked for her thoughts. She immediately stated that it was highly likely that a physician specializing in metabolism may encourage me to start a ketogenic diet. While she was not an expert, she said that meeting with a dietitian was a solid next step.
So this is where my ketogenic adventure began 3 months ago.
Since around the first week of January, I have learned so much about the meaning of ketogenic dieting and how drastically it differs from other diets.
Why Is Ketogenic Dieting Different Than The Others?
Keto Is a Lifestyle, Not a Diet
If you watch any number of physician specialists discuss ketogenic topics, you will quickly find that there is a common theme that ‘keto’ is a lifestyle and should be seen as an option for a permanent heath-focused change.
After all I have learned, I believe the reason for this is quite simple: If you are going to eat x calories per day and you discover that an entire class of foods is bad for your health, then you only have the remaining classes of food as options for your nutritional intake. Specifically, all foods fall into a breakdown of Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat. By definition, keto diets mostly eliminate carbohydrates from your daily nutritional intake. So you are left only with protein and fat to supplement your daily needs. Given that dietary protein is also converted into glucose like other dietary carbohydrates, albeit through a different mechanism, Protein is then ruled out as a dietary option on any permanent basis. So you are left only with a high-fat diet as an option; there is simply no other option to turn to that would not take a person back to a dominant carb-burning pattern again, a cycle that would make no sense to re-enter.
In summary, I learned that keto is a lifestyle and not a diet, because there is no way to stop doing keto without starting the glucose-fueled patterns of energy metabolism again.
Ketosis Is a Medical Intervention for Disease
Unlike other diets focused on weight loss, physicians are increasingly embracing the ketogenic diet as a part of a treatment plan for Type 2 Diabetes and Fatty Liver. Like most medical interventions, it is always a good idea to have a physician you trust that is aware of your decision to try the ketogenic lifestyle and has the knowledge and motivation to help you on your keto journey. Ketosis is complicated, and your body will likely go through some worrisome changes as you make this keto transition. Generally healthy people should not have major health concerns with starting keto, but people with complex health conditions really should get their physician onboard with keto before trying it, because there are numerous baseline assessments that may be healthy for your physician to assist with.
Ketogenic Concepts Are Fueling a Medical Revolution, If Not Full Rebellion!
I promise you that you will find yourself fascinated by the undercurrent happening right now in our medical community. We have physicians putting their professional names behind the big bet they are making to transform their practices into ‘keto practices’. Their big bets are notably preceding the deep beds of evidence-based studies that typically exist before the medical community buys into much of anything. Their risk-adverse natures center around their ethics codes, and it is nothing short of fascinating to see these physicians taking these leaps into the world of nutrition-based interventions that are allegedly yielding big results in helping with obesity and type 2 diabetes.
And the American Health Association and US Department of Agriculture are responding, very quietly and without much ado. What has happened is that the medical community and nutrition community have removed the veil over the old dietary guidelines that drove our food industry and pharma industry to billions in profitability at the expense of our national health. It is now public knowledge, although no billboards are showing us yet, that there was absolutely zero medical evidence to back most of the dietary guidelines that have been guiding our food choices since the 70s.
The medical community cannot pretend this is not the case. They are bound to ‘do no harm’ to their patients, so responsible ethical doctors must pay attention to the new science that is coming out, and it is coming in droves. Physicians can no longer pretend that low-fat, high grain diets are either helpful or based on scientific facts – they are in a corner, and progressive physicians are doing exactly what they must do – following where the science is leading them.
In 2020, stay tuned for the new dietary guidelines that will reflect the revolution that has been quietly fought by scientists, nutritionists, and physicians worldwide the past 3 decades.
Most Other Diets Only Differ By Packaging/Marketing
Take Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Medifast, and a list of many others; most all of the packaged food diets or medically supervised ‘canned’ diets all revolve around caloric restriction as the primary means of triggering weight loss. The food packets or liquid diets differ in quality and nutrient value; however, they are mostly all 100% focused on helping you lose weight by dropping your daily calories below your body’s metabolic burn so that your body will presumably have no choice but to burn fat.
The exception I am aware of is Atkins, which is indeed based on the body moving into a state of ketosis as at least one vehicle of enabling the fat burning processes. Here is Atkins official response on this topic.
There are likely more accurate assessments on this, but my understanding is that the ketogenic diet depends on less protein intake and a sustained higher fat intake than the Atkins diet, making the Atkins diet a low-carb diet and the ketogenic diet a low-carb, moderate protein, high fat diet.
The closest diet to the ketogenic diet is Atkins, and a good overall comparison does a good job of comparing them here.
Keto Is Mostly Fat Supplementation
Once you make the leap of getting your daily carbohydrate intake down to between 10g and 50g, depending on some factors specific to your body, the rest of the diet regimen for keto is simply the deliberate supplementation of your meals with added fat. Like your other diets, you will be eating sparingly in the carb and protein areas, leaving you with a gap that you just fill in with fat. I put butter and heavy cream in my coffee daily. I reach liberally for olive oil when making healthy meals such as soup or sautéed kale. I buy the fattier meats, and I supplement with Omega-3 Fish Oils.
That is what makes the keto diet easy. Our body relies on fat, so eating more of it feels healthy once you get over the mindset that fats are bad. Fats are good, and this is the only diet out there where you can fall in love with rich, satiating foods again that have been mostly shunned since the 70s.