There is no denying it – the ketogenic diet is THE most popular diet of 2017. I have been getting tons of questions from readers and clients about this diet so what better place to chat about it than right here!
To give you a brief overview of what a ketogenic diet is – it is a diet composed of high fat (typically 80-85% of your total calories coming from fat), moderate protein (10-15% of your total calories) and very low carbohydrate (5-10% total calories). Following a ketogenic diet will switch the major fuel source your body uses from carbohydrates (glucose) to fat (ketones). It typically takes a few days (3-5 days, sometimes longer) of adhering to the diet before this transition occurs and you can fall out of it and revert back to burning glucose quite easily, particularly in the beginning stages.
This diet has gotten a TON of hype, some people even calling it the “holy grail of diets for weight loss”. Do I believe that this diet is a no fail weight loss solution? Absolutely not. Do I think that it can be therapeutic and a good approach for certain people? Absolutely!
When I was a dietitian intern, the ketogenic diet was used mostly just for treating drug-resistant epilepsy in children. Since then it’s therapeutic uses have widened greatly – from Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological diseases, type 2 diabetes to certain types of cancer. Now it’s not all rainbows and butterflies, there is some research that suggests that following a ketogenic diet can cause high cholesterol levels and high triglycerides (although there are many variables that I would argue come down to fat quality in the diet).
In short – there are pros and cons to this diet (like many therapeutic diets) but that is not why I am writing this post today. Today I want to go through with you some of the top mistakes I see people make when they decide to try a ketogenic diet for themselves. If you’re considering giving this diet a try, I REALLY recommend working with a dietitian who is well versed in this eating style, as all of these mistakes come from clients who have started keto without the guidance of a professional and as a result, end up wasting their time, patience and money.
So let’s get into it – these are some of the TOP mistakes I see people make. This post will be broken up into part 1 and part 2, as unfortunately, there are too many mistakes for me to list all at once!
Too Much Protein
Contrary to popular belief, the ketogenic diet is NOT a high protein diet. This is probably the TOP mistake I see people make and unfortunately, this keeps them out of ketosis. Without going into too much detail, when we consume too much protein, our body can actually break down protein and convert it to glucose (and if you remember we want to keep glucose consumption very low to get into ketosis).
I believe this mistake is made for a couple of reasons: One, whenever we think about “dieting” we think about increasing protein for the added benefit (regardless of how little) of keeping us fuller, longer, increasing the thermic effect of food (the number of calories our body burns simply digesting our food) and it’s relation to maintaining lean muscle mass.
The other reason I believe this error is so common is because many of our high fat foods also contain protein (think: cheese and bacon). Often when people start a ketogenic diet they think they can just top everything with cheese and bacon and boom – ketosis. Unfortunately, this is not often the case, as both cheese and bacon contain protein and can add up significantly and put us over our “moderate protein” goals for the day.
Too Little Fat
This is critical you guys – so I want you to pay close attention to this one. I see SO many people who put together their own keto plans who are WAY too low on their total fat intake for the day. A lot of the time, people want to do a ketogenic diet, but they still have this “fat phobia” that they are not willing to admit (2-3 tbsp of fat on your vegetables at a meal!?!? What!!) … YES – you NEED to make sure your fat intake is high enough, otherwise you’re going to be trapped in this crappy place of low carb, moderate fat and moderate protein and you’re not going to see the benefits of this diet.
Now, this is what I don’t want to happen to you: you get to the end of the day, you look at your macronutrient targets for the day (protein, fat and carbohydrates) and you see that you’ve hit your protein and your carbs but you’re way too low on fat… Now what!? What foods have just fat and no protein or carbohydrates!? Oil, my friend… oil. NOW – before you get ahead of yourself, I don’t recommend that you just consume spoonfuls of oil everyday (because let’s be serious, that sounds pretty gross and unnatural in my opinion). Instead, what I recommend is that you are proactive during the day and make sure you’re getting enough oil on your vegetables at lunch and supper! This will allow you to hit your fat without having all of these leftover grams of fat at the end of the day. Play with some sample days using a meal tracker like MyFitnessPal to give yourself a ballpark of how to set up your day.
Before you start just adding any old oil you have in your pantry to your vegetables, please take a look at this post!
Not Enough Water
We’ve all heard this time and time again… we often eat when we are actually thirsty. And luckily, that is not why we are talking about water consumption today! When it comes to the ketogenic diet, water consumption is extremely important for one additional reason: when we consume carbohydrates, our body “holds on” to approximately 3-4 grams of fluid (it’s right there in the word “carbo”-“hydrate”). So what does this mean? It means that if we eliminate or severely restrict the amount of carbohydrates we consume, then our body tends to eliminate more water as well (which is why many people falsely believe this is the “holy grail” diet – because they lose a ton of water weight in the first week).
If our body is not holding onto water like it was previously, it is that much more important that we are consuming enough throughout the day to keep ourselves hydrated. A good rule of thumb is to gauge your fluid intake based on the colour of your urine – if it is a pale yellow, straw-like colour then you’re good to go! If it is darker yellow, you need more and if it is always running clear you are likely either drinking too much at one time or just drinking too much overall.
Let’s wrap it up at this point today! Next post we will go through the remaining 3 mistakes I see people making when following a ketogenic diet. For most people who are just trying to eat healthier and reduce their intake to lose weight, they may not need the guidance from a trained professional quite as much. However, if you decide that a ketogenic diet is something you think you would benefit from, PLEASE don’t try it on your own or with the guidance of some people on Instagram or a message board – there are WAY too many misconceptions out there and you don’t want to end up wasting your time, energy and money!
Until next time! Leave any questions or comments in the comment section below!
Yours in Health,