6 Things Nutritionists Wish You Knew About Keto Before Trying It

6 Things Nutritionists Wish You Knew About Keto Before Trying It

Thanks to its fat-burning benefits, the ketogenic diet is particularly  trendy right now.

And while keto does encourage the body to use fat (as opposed to carbohydrates) for fuel, there’s more to it than that. 

Just because you’re looking to lose weight doesn’t necessarily mean that keto is right for you. Here are a few important things to consider before giving the diet a try.

Men and Women Doing CrossFit

If you exercise intensely, keto may not be for you.

Strict diets and intense exercise programs always seem to be paired together, but what many don’t realize is that this combo isn’t always a recipe for success. This is especially true with the keto diet.

Intense exercise — like CrossFit, HIIT-style programs, and heavy resistance training — demand quite a lot from the body. In order to fuel and recover from these kinds of workouts, your body needs to produce a lot of energy. More specifically, it needs carbohydrates (in the form of glycogen or stored glucose) in order to produce that energy. 

But with keto, your body uses fat for fuel, which is an optimal fuel source for lower intensity exercise and in between workouts, but not so much during high-intensity workouts. In other words, fat simply may not be the fastest or most optimal source of energy for those participating in demanding exercise. Research has found that  inadequate carb intake by those who participate in high-intensity exercise and follow keto may negatively affect performance, recovery, muscle growth, and even energy, sleep, and hormones.  

Eating tons of bacon and butter sounds really fun, but that’s not really what keto is about.

Keto is having its moment right now, but that’s somewhat due to the way it’s been portrayed. Keto is a high fat, low carb diet, but there are healthy and unhealthy ways to go about it.

Eating tons of bacon and red meat, topping everything with butter, and eating highly processed, keto-friendly snacks and treats is the not-so-healthful way to approach this diet. While macronutrients (fat, carbs, and protein) are important pieces of the puzzle when it comes to diet, ignoring the nutrition contained within those macros is never a good idea. 

If you’re looking to try keto, be sure to choose whole, nutrient-dense foods as your foundation. You can do this — and still maintain ketosis — by focusing on colorful, low-starch veggies, quality animal proteins like grass-fed beef and pastured eggs, and healthy fats like avocado and olive oil. 

Woman Eating Salad at Desk

Research has found that the keto diet can interfere with hormone production in some women. 

Most of the research surrounding the keto diet comes from studies done with men, whose bodies are much different than those of women. In fact, lots of nutritional science is based on male-focused studies. Women have different hormones and brain chemistry than men, and that influences their nutritional needs. 

Carbohydrates are necessary for women to maintain healthy levels of important hormones, like progesterone, insulin, and serotonin. And eating too few carbs — particularly when paired with frequent, intense exercise — can cause added stress on the body, leading to a change in hormonal output. This change can lead to fatigue, resistance to weight loss (or even weight gain), poor mood, decreased recovery, and more.

One study even found that male mice on the keto diet lost weight, while female mice actually gained weight and experienced decreased insulin sensitivity. This suggests that sex hormones play a big role in the body’s response to the keto diet. While some studies have found that keto can be beneficial for women who have hormonal imbalances like PCOS, it’s unclear if the diet works for everyone or is helpful long-term.

If you want to do keto right, you have to be in ketosis.

When the body doesn’t have carbs to turn to for energy, it turns to fat instead. The by-products that result from this fat-burning process are called ketones, which are released into the bloodstream. The process itself is known as ketosis, and maintaining this process is critical when you’re on a keto diet.

There are a few methods to help make sure you’re in ketosis and to help you maintain it. Tracking your macronutrient intake (particularly carbs and fats) is critical. Depending on your body’s caloric needs and your activity level, you should be aiming to eat anywhere between 20 to 50 grams of net carbs (carbs minus fiber) per day.

You can also test your ketone levels. There are several ways to do this. You can test the ketones in your urine, in your blood, or even in your breath.

Meal Prepping Vegetables

Keto can be restrictive and requires lots of planning and prepping, which can make it a less-than-ideal choice for those who have struggled with disordered eating.

There are plenty of success stories that have come from the keto diet, but there are also plenty of people who struggle with the diet. Often, this is due to the restrictive nature of keto. Following a keto diet means avoiding high carbohydrate foods, both less-than-healthy sources, and healthy sources like certain fruits and vegetables. 

In order to maintain ketosis, you also need to monitor your diet very closely, which can become obsessive for some people. And while it’s absolutely possible to maintain a ketogenic diet and have a social life, it can be a challenge and require some extra planning, accommodating, and prioritizing. That’s why looking into a meal delivery service that offers a keto meal plan can be a good idea.

Sometimes, the diet’s benefits are worth the drawbacks. But for many individuals, this level of restriction and dietary control is stressful. It can even lead to binging and yo-yo dieting. In these cases, a more moderate and balanced approach may yield more success. 

It’s important to get the right information and consult with your doctor before trying keto.

Depending on who you talk to, keto is either the best diet or the worst. Different sources will also comment on how simple it is, while others will complain about its difficulties. In summary? It’s complicated.

This is why it’s really important to gather all of the necessary information before you start keto. Learn the nuances of the diet — what foods to include, what foods to avoid, what to choose in moderation. Learn how to measure ketones to ensure you reach ketosis. Get prepared physically and mentally to embark on this new journey. Tune in with your body and listen to its signals. 

An important part of the information gathering process is talking with your doctor to learn whether or not keto is right for you and if you should be monitored while doing it — particularly if you have a health condition.

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