Is the keto diet and ketosis safe? This is a frequent question that many people may ask. However, from studies, successful weight loss results, and the improvement of diseases, many believe it is indeed safe, but remember, we're not doctors. Whenever in doubt check with a physician or derive your own conclusions by doing extensive research.
If you're new, the keto diet is a low fat, low carb diet that can do wonders for you, that much is true. For an excellent source on the keto diet, the Body Reboot book provides incredible insight into the low carb diet and what to expect.
Even though there are many myths out there concerning keto, some of them (if not many of them,) are false. Keep reading to learn about some of the myths followed by content from various sources which debunk them.
In case you've heard that the ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate protein diet, that's not the case. You don't want to overeat protein because it may result in your body converting it over to glucose and you don't want that to happen. Dr. Axe explains how much protein you need while on the keto diet.
Unlike other low-carb diets, such as the Atkin’s Diet, the keto diet is not particularly high in protein. In fact, protein intake actually must be “moderate” while on the keto diet because this allows you to transition into ketosis and stay there. Too much protein in your diet will actually result in some of the protein being converted to glucose (or sugar) once consumed — and obviously this is counterproductive when it comes to keeping glucose levels very low.
So how much protein do you need? A standard recommendation for following the ketogenic diet is to get about 75 percent of daily calories from sources of fat (such as oils or fattier cuts of meat), 5 percent from carbohydrates, and 20 percent from protein (give or take a little depending on the individual). In contrast, high-protein, low-carb diets might entail getting 30–35 percent (or more) of daily calories from protein.
If you've also heard the myth that exercising while on a keto diet is not a good idea, you should think otherwise. Initially, while your body is getting adapted, it may be challenging to exercise just because you're exerting a lot of energy, but that doesn't mean you can't stay active. Dr. Axe debunks this myth below:
Exercise is something that’s beneficial for just about everybody, including those on the keto diet. Initially you might feel less energized during your workouts, but this should dissipate as your body adjusts. Even in the midst of high-intensity workouts, the ketogenic diet doesn’t seem to cause any decline in performance.
In order to support your workouts, make sure you consume enough calories in general and plenty of fat. Also give yourself ample time for recovery between tougher workouts.
If you’re really struggling with being active and recovering while on the diet then consider upping your carbs a bit and trying more of a “modified ketogenic diet” that is more flexible. If you plan on fasting while following the keto diet, then save your tough, high-intensity workouts for days/times of the day when you’re more fueled.
Perhaps you're afraid of going on the keto diet because you think it's dangerous, which, if you don't know a lot about the diet may be a valid concern. However, you can put your mind at ease knowing if you take care of yourself and your body, going on the keto diet may be an excellent way for you to improve your health in more ways than one. Insider debunks this myth below.
Just like with anything there are downsides, but the ketogenic diet isn't inherently dangerous.
Everyday Health lists the potential downsides , including: kidney stones, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, decreased bone mineral density, gastrointestinal distress, and an increased risk of higher cholesterol and heart disease.
Staying hydrated , easing into fasting if you choose to do so, and ensuring you know and hit your daily macros are essential to avoiding these potential downsides.
Similar to thinking that a keto diet may be dangerous, some people may believe that kidneys can sustain damage from the high protein consumption. The Ketogenic Diet Resource argues that isn't valid:
Whenever someone says this, I know they have never read any of the low carb, ketogenic diet books available. They are just parroting what they've heard from someone else. Low carb diets, and especially ketogenic diets, are NOT high protein diets. They are HIGH FAT diets, with moderate protein consumption. And there is plenty of evidence in the research literature which shows that in healthy people with no prior kidney disease, eating extra protein is perfectly safe, and will NOT harm your kidneys.
Are you thinking all of those fatty foods will lead to heart disease and high cholesterol? Think again. The Ketogenic Diet Resouce once again has valid arguments about why this isn't true.
This, I think is the biggest myth associated with low carb, ketogenic diets. It's based on the lie that saturated fat and cholesterol cause arteriosclerosis and heart disease. There has never been any scientific study published or unpublished which links cholesterol and saturated fat to heart disease. Shocking but true. In fact, this 2010 meta-analysis distinctly destroys any link between heart disease and saturated fat.
And this study showed that low carb diets actually improve heart disease markers over other types of diets.
And here's another study which looks directly at how a ketogenic diet favorably affects blood test results for heart disease.
And one more recent study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine confirms that a higher fat, low carb diet is not detrimental to vascular health AND results in faster weight loss. The authors confirmed that the dieters in the low carb group dropped more weight over a shorter period of time than the higher carb group, and the low carb group had no harmful changes in vascular health.
In contrast, there are tons of studies showing that a high carbohydrate diet and elevated blood sugar and insulin are highly associated with inflammatory heart disease. For instance, consider a blood test called the Hemoglobin A1C (i.e., the HbA1c). It's basically a measure of your average blood sugars for the 3 months preceding the test.
In the EPIC study, the authors looked at the relationship between the Hemoglobin A1c test results and the risk of heart attack. The results were very clear: the higher a person's HbA1c levels, (i.e., the higher the average blood sugars) the higher the risk of heart attack.
Even though it's best to aim for fatty foods with unsaturated fats, it's easy to let saturated fats creep into a diet. Try to stick with the good stuff such as olive oil, nuts, and fatty fishes for the majority of your fats. Furthermore, What's Good by V (also known as The Vitamin Shop) also has a perfect explanation for why they believe there's no need to worry about heart disease, even though it's still best to keep in touch with your doctor concerning your health.
The illusion that keto is high-protein diet loaded with saturated fat-containing burgers and bacon also leads to the fallacy that it isn’t optimal for health, since a disproportionately high intake of saturated fat is linked to an increased heart disease risk, says Mancinelli. (A higher intake of unsaturated fats reduces this risk.)
A healthy keto diet contains a variety of fats: monounsaturated fats from olive oil, avocado, and nuts; polyunsaturated fats from fatty fish; and saturated fats from meat, eggs, and coconut oil. “Remember: a ketogenic diet is one in which you consume mostly fat from a variety of plant and animal sources, not mostly meat,” Mancinelli says.
It’s also important to keep in mind that heart disease develops over time due to many factors, including smoking, weight, family history, and more, says Sarah Jadin, M.S., R.D., C.S.P., C.D., C.N.S.C, of Keto Diet Consulting. “To draw a direct (and short) line from eating a high fat diet to having a heart attack is oversimplified and cartoonish at best,” she says.
If you've also heard the claim that ketosis can cause dangerous levels of dehydration and electrolyte deficiency that's not true, as long as you stay hydrated. Keto Krate has more thoughts on this keto myth:
Sort of true–although I would argue the use of the word ‘dangerous’ here. It is true that ketosis promotes water and electrolyte loss but this can easily be mitigated by ensuring adequate water consumption while making sure to consume foods rich in the key electrolytes: sodium, potassium and magnesium.
By switching to a ketogenic low-carb diet, you are essentially transitioning yourself from a water-retaining diet, to a water-flushing diet. There are a variety of reasons for this, including reduction of inflammation (water tends to be bound up in inflammation) and the depletion of glycogen stores (glycogen retains water) in your liver and muscles.
Because you are not eating a diet that causes you to retain water, you’re going to find yourself urinating quite frequently (maybe even once per hour or more when you start!). As a consequence of this, you’re going to lose electrolytes. You’ll want to replenish them.
Keto Krate also discusses another common myth, which is that the keto diet lacks fiber and can lead to constipation. However, when followed correctly a Keto diet can be very high in fiber.
Sure, if you’re just gonna eat hot dogs, cheese and margarine then sure, bring on constipation and a host of other ill effects. There’s no diet in which you can eat poor, low quality food and expect perfect health.
Many Keto’ers claim to consume much more vegetables and fiber than they did on a standard American diet. After the effects of sugar overload wear off, your taste buds become reborn. Suddenly tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers actually taste sweet. Vegetables become your source of carbohydrate satisfaction (to the tune of about 20-50g/day).
Let’s also get one thing cleared up, there’s a difference between not pooping and constipation. Constipation is obvious blockage and discomfort–there’s something there but it ain’t movin’. Not pooping is well, not pooping. There’s nothing there to come out. When you produce less waste, you poop less often–and on Keto, you’re going to poop less often. The body is very efficient at extracting nutrients from meats and fatty foods. The result is less waste. So don’t mistake fewer bowel movements with constipation.
If you’re currently on Keto and having problems with constipation here are the top 3 reasons:
You’re not eating enough fibrous vegetables.
You’re not eating enough fat. Load on the coconut oil. For a real constipation weapon put a tablespoon of coconut oil into your morning coffee.
You’re not consuming enough water and electrolytes. Dehydration can lead to constipation.
It makes sense that it's important to stay hydrated on the keto diet, especially since a lot of glycogen stores as your body gets keto-adapted. Make sure you're drinking a lot of water and using electrolyte supplements to replenish the water you're losing.
So there you have it. There are many, many myths about the keto diet floating around cyberspace, but it's best not to believe everything you read. If you're uncertain about anything keto related read up on the topic from a variety of valid sources and base your conclusions off that. It's best not to believe everything you read before doing research first. And in case you haven't noticed, the keto diet is an excellent way to get and stay healthy. It's a lifestyle change that may make a world of difference to your physical, mental, and overall health.
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