Are you interested in doing the ketogenic diet but you heard about some of the bad things that you could happen like ketoacidosis, high cholesterol, gaining weight and things like that? Some of the things you heard may be more of a ketogenic diet myth. Like most myths there can be an element of truth in them. So in this article we will look at some myths about ketogenic diet and separate the myths from truth.
If you are interested in the truth keep reading we are going to get into the details.
First let me list out the five myths about the ketogenic diet, then we will talk about each one in a little more detail.
- The ketogenic diet will cause ketoacidosis.
- The ketogenic diet will make you gain weight.
- Eating all that fat with the ketogenic diet will make you fat or gain weight.
- The ketogenic diet will raise your cholesterol and have a negative effect on your heart.
- The ketogenic diet is healthy for everyone regardless of your blood work and other health parameters.
Ketogenic Diet Will Cause Ketoacidosis
The idea that the ketogenic diet will cause ketoacidosis is a myth for most of us but it can occur for someone with Diabetes. Specifically, it's type 1 Diabetes where this can occur. If you have Type 2 Diabetes, there are some scenarios where ketoacidosis can occur, but it is rare.
The main thing that creates ketoacidosis is when the body is not getting enough nutrients, specifically glucose, into the tissues. As a result the body will be mobilizing all stored glucose and calories to keep the glucose and energy up. At first the body can use the stored glucose called glycogen to raise the glucose. This eventually runs out since there is no insulin (with type 1 Diabetes) to cause the cells to bring in and store more glucose. Once the glycogen runs out, the body will mobilize massive amounts fat and protein. The fat is used for fuel and the protein is turned into glucose through gluconeogenesis. The glucose is used for specific organs that require some glucose like the brain, kidneys, etc. The massive amounts of fats are turned into massive amounts of ketones which create an acidic imbalance known as metabolic acidosis.
The physiology that causes this acidosis state is almost always in the presence of Type 1 Diabetes. There are some scenarios where it can happen with type 2 Diabetes as well but that's pretty rare. To be safe you want to gradually make your dietary changes from high carb to moderate carb to lower carb diet. If you make this change over weeks to months there is very little chance ketoacidosis will occur. If you have type 1 diabetes the scenario may change a bit any you need to have closer monitoring from a doctor.
If you your labs show you don't have blood sugar or diabetic state, then you don't have to worry about ketoacidosis when starting a ketogenic diet.
Ketogenic Diet Will Cause You to Gain Weight?
The second myth about the ketogenic diet is it will make you fat. This can happen if you are not following the diet the way it was intended. However, generally speaking eating fat is not going to make you fat.When you consume fats some are turned into ketones for fuel and most are stored in the body as fat. However, when you don't consume much carbohydrates or protein and you do consume lots of fats, less of the fat is stored and most is turned into ketones to be used as fuel.
So what is meant by not doing the ketogenic diet properly? This means eating a lot of carbohydrates in conjunction with the fats. Sometimes people will do "cheat days", and this can lead to a continuation of eating too many carbs on non-cheat days. This will lead to weight gain. In addition, eating too much protein can also be a problem and lead to weight gain.
The other thing is you should be looking at your calories. In some instances you can just change your macronutrient profile (carbs protein and fat percentages) to a low carb or ketogenic diet and you don't have to pay attention to your calories. However, if you do that for a long time and you are not actually losing weight you may end up gaining weight. So at some point you do have to pay attention to your calories too.
When you consume a high carbohydrate high protein diet your body will produce a lot of insulin. That insulin is making your body swell because insulin is a pro-inflammatory molecule. More significantly though, insulin signals your bodies tissue to grow. Insulin is an anabolic substance like a steroid in some ways. Unlike steroids it causes fat and other soft tissues to grow. So when you have a very high insulin your body tends to expand and gain weight. For instance, a person eating the same calories in the presence of high insulin will gain weight. Where the person with low or normal insulin will have stable weight or loose weight.
Just by changing that one hormone through diet changes, you tend to shrink. It really depends what you are doing now and what your insulin level is. So generally speaking eating more fat will not make you fat because of the insulin issue.
Ketogenic Diet Will Cause High Cholesterol?
Will the ketogenic diet raise your cholesterol? This myth about the ketogenic diet can be true but it's not for everyone. The thing is if you have high glucose, high triglycerides and high cholesterol, this pattern is often driven by a diet high in carbohydrates. By lowering the carbohydrates you will see a decline in your LDL cholesterol and LDL particle number.
Most people that I recommend doing the ketogenic diet will see a reduction in their cholesterol because they have the pattern described above. However, if you start the ketogenic diet and you have normal insulin and normal glucose, there is a chance that it will raise your LDL cholesterol (or LDL-p). If you are getting a higher LDL particle number from the ketogenic diet then it's probably not a good idea to continue it.
There are different things you can do to work around this problem. In the long run though, if you have higher LDL particle number, then you really should not continue this diet. Most of the time doing ketogenic type diet will improve your overall metabolism and cholesterol. If you get the opposite reaction, it is not a good idea. The reason this happens to some people and not others is not well understood. In some cases there may be genetic reasons and in some cases unknown reasons. Regardless you have to check the numbers and if they're getting skewed in the wrong direction stop and re-evaluate.
When it does occur, the spike in LDL-p is coming from the saturated fat in ketogenic diet. So you can still do a low carb diet and get your fats from non-saturated sources.
Ketogenic Diet Is Good For Everyone
The fourth myth is that the ketogenic diet is good for everyone. I already pointed out a few instances where the ketogenic diet might not be the best for your health. There are also some things surrounding thyroid and digestion and adrenal issues that you want to be more cautious around. In these cases potentially not do a ketogenic diet. If you are having a hormonal issue with your cortisol and thyroid you probably wouldn't want to do ketogenic diet right out the gate.
Reasons Not To DO Ketogenic Diet (coming soon)
In these cases making a gradual shift in some of your macronutrients might be more appropriate for you. So there are some scenarios where you wouldn't necessarily want to do the ketogenic diet.
Ketogenic Diet Will Never Make you Gain Weight?
The fifth myth to discuss has to do with weight again. Just like some people are convinced that everyone will gain weight on the ketogenic diet, others get the erroneous idea that you can't gain weight on this diet. That's simply not true. If you eat too many calories you will gain weight. It seems that some people no matter how much they eat have trouble gaining weight and they tend to have lower insulin levels. In the case that you have a metabolic profile and producing a lot of insulin, eating more caloires will make you gain weight rapidly.
To avoid this be sure to calculate your calories and macronutrients appropriately for you age, weight, gender etc.
Also be cognizant of the amount of protein, the amount of carbs and lastly the amount of fat. Calories carbs and protein are all important for weight loss with any diet. They are particularly important when following the ketogenic diet.
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