I’m going to jump into the topic and highlight what it’s for, whether or not it’s any use for you, and what you should be on the look-out for!
1. It’s not going to burn fat faster than a normal diet
This is the key point that most people want from keto, but it simply doesn’t deliver. That’s why it’s the #1 spot on this list.
It’s not going to burn fat faster than a regular diet when you consider the calorie intake. It’s not possible for keto to produce significantly different metabolic math; calories are calories and you can’t magic up some extra calorie deficit.
What it can do is offer a way of eating that works for you. There’s nothing unique about this diet other than how it is experienced; you’re a person and if the only way you can control your own diet is reducing carb intake, then that’s still positive.
Keto doesn’t do anything for you; it might just be a way you like to diet, and if it works then perhaps that’s enough. It’s not keto, it’s the things you do with it – remember that your hard work is what matters here.
2. It’s typically a cutting diet
The most important thing to remember is that this diet is designed to starve the body of carbs. It’s not always a bad thing – but it does mean that you’re going to lose weight – from fat and potentially muscle and initially a lot of water weight.
It’s not an ideal diet for most for muscle gain and anyone who tells you it is falls into one of two categories:
- They’re trying to sell you something
- They don’t know what they’re talking about
In a lot of cases, it’s both. The reduction of carbs in the diet for extended periods of time is one of the easiest ways to ruin muscle gains and start cannibalising muscle for energy. Keto will eventually start glycogen-sparing, but it’s not the same as the energy availability that carbs bring.
The studies clearly show; keto inhibits mTOR, which is the key process for building muscle mass. Treating keto like anything but a cutting diet is a certain step towards disappointment.
3. It could improve your low-level endurance performance
One of the reasons this diet has become popular is for purported benefits to endurance performance. AT a metabolic level, this isn’t entirely false; there are some changes that may be useful to you.
However, it’s important to remember that even endurance sports don’t maintain the same effort all the time. You can’t produce the same energy from keto as from carbohydrate metabolism, but it seems to be useful in the 65% effort and less category.
A marathon or a triathlon won’t run at 65% the entire time, and rowing (for example) is above this. You’re going to be able to help super-low intensity exercise with keto, but we’re not sure why – it’s not a significant part of training for most people. Intensity this low simply doesn’t have much use; if you’re training here, you probably need to push yourself harder!
4. It might be a good long-term investment
One of the possible advantages of this diet is the importance of metabolic flexibility during aging. It’s well-established that metabolic demands change over time and energy deficiency in the brain can come from over-reliance on carbohydrates.
The ketogenic diet’s ability to produce metabolic flexibility is a positive change here; it can reduce the impact of this kind of deficiency over time. It’s a way of improving metabolism of fats in the long-term.
However, it’s not the only way of producing metabolic flexibility. A scientific diet that introduces significant fat use – and especially the best forms of both saturates and unsaturates – can be a great way of improving fat-use.
Equally, you can implement this kind of diet as you age, rather than relying on keto to do all the hard work right now. Other options like fasted cardio can be useful while you age, offering a way of improving fat metabolism without severe dietary change.
5. It could be a good tool for reducing your carb problems
The main benefit I would suggest for the ketogenic diet is as an instrument to control your dietary choices – especially around carbs. A few weeks or even months of carbohydrate restriction can be a great way to beat cravings and reset habits around carbs.
If you’re over-eating carbohydrates, you’re going to benefit from a diet that removes these habits. Long-term habit change is the best way to improve your performance over a lifetime and reduce problem habits like carb over-eating.
It’s a simple way of controlling your diet and calorie intake if you’re struggling to moderate. Again, the best solution is just to learn to moderate, making small individual changes in your diet and carb-intake.
You don’t have to get it perfect off the bat. For some people, moderation is harder than total exclusion, but either of these methods is plausible. A scientific diet should speed up the carb-moderation process, but using keto as a tool is the best possible implementation.
6. It’s not going to be BETTER than a scientific diet; it’s just behaviours
The key point you need to remember about keto is that it’s not a diet with pronounced biological benefits. While it’s trendy to try and sell you on the pseudo-science right now, it’s not going to stick around if the science becomes more well-known.
The diet succeeds for two simple reasons; a lot of people have horrid carbohydrate habits and benefit from cutting them out, while some find it easier to stick to this diet than a scientific, balanced diet.
A keto diet is not better than any other kind; it’s just a different tool. The only thing that makes keto work is the behaviours and habits you build around it. If you’re set on doing it, focus on those habits, but remember that the habits alone will solve the dietary/body problems by themselves!