As far as Keto(genic) Diets are concerned, this is the run-down we explain.
Why Keto Diets Work:
1. Cutting out a complete Macronutrient is the quickest way to drop your daily caloric intake. If I eat an apple, a chicken breast, and almonds every day, and stop eating the apple altogether, I have just cut my caloric intake by 1/3.
2. American convenience foods are very carbohydrate heavy. Sodas, chips, crackers, snack cakes—all carbohydrate dense. If this means carbohydrates are 60% of your caloric intake, that means you are almost immediately cutting your calories by 60%. That’s huge. Insane, really. If I asked a client to “Just make their dinner plate, and now remove 60%” of it, and eat that, they’d probably find another trainer.
3. People are very successful this way due to the “all-or-none” principle. They have committed to not eating these things because they’ve been given rules. The rule of “eat 30% less each meal” or “eat these foods as opposed to these foods, in these portions” is not nearly as easy or “sexy” as “these things are the devil and just throw that shit away.”
More Detailed Information Regarding What “Ketogenic” Even Means:
A ketogenic diet is one that causes Ketosis, in which a person restricts carbohydrate consumption to almost non-existent levels (think sub-20 grams per day), which promotes gluconeogenesis, or the production of glycogen from not having available glucose to break down for energy. Then, because of this glucose deprivation, the body has to release Ketones to signal the consumption of fat as energy. While diminishing the entire carbohydrate macronutrient, it is also implied to replace calories, preferably from fat, to promote more of this process. It’s a successful way to regulate circulating blood sugar and also keep insulin responses to a minimum.
Most people who say they are in Ketosis are not truly in it unless they can confirm via blood tests for ketone levels. The average “keto” dieter is most likely just doing an aggressive low-carb diet.
TL:DR—true ketosis is very difficult to achieve and maintain. Cutting out an entire category of food groups leads to significant caloric restriction, which leads to dramatic weight loss.
What I Help Clients Understand
1. If this is the principle that will help you lose weight, it’s not magic, it’s just another form of discipline and I’d rather you follow this than be overweight and struggle with finding a solution.
2. This is no better or worse than anything else, and living in absolutes makes you a Sith, and we are only Jedi here.
3. If this is not the solution for you, we can find another one. We prefer “balance,” but everybody is different and they need to understand their own behaviors before establishing a plan. If Keto is the way to do it, have at it. We’ll monitor things.
Keto is not the magic pill, nor is there a magic pill. In very overweight people, it’s a dramatic measure that works, just like medically supervised in-hospital weight-management plans work. There are those who’ve (healthily) lost loads of weight just taking water and multivitamins until their body uses enough fat as energy. There are others who follow protein/fat only diets. Those who do high-carbohydrate/fat diets (vegans). Those who weigh their foods, avoid alcohol, what have you.
At the end of the day, Keto is successful because of a) behavior change in the individual, and b) a dramatic caloric restriction.
Adherence is most successful, and changing who we are is also most successful, but if following Keto is the short-term “change what I do” and works for you, amen. Make it happen and kick ass.
Joel is a personal trainer/strength coach and owner of Freedom Fit Gym. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org