The Pros and Cons of the Keto Lifestyle

Published: July 24, 2017

Low-carb diets have often been a quick fix people turn to when they are determined to shed a few pounds in time for a wedding or a holiday or want to lose weight in a short space of time. The reason for this mainly being that for every carb-fuelled meal we eat, we hold water with it, giving us the illusion of being bloated, which in turn leads people to think they have gained weight. By cutting these carbs loose from our diets, we no longer retain the same amount of water, therefore we weigh less and feel 'better' in ourselves - it doesn't necessarily mean we have lost weight, but that bloating and feeling of fullness might not be present. For example, a bikini athlete in the last stages of her contest prep might choose to adopt a keto way of eating in order to totally lean out for show day. Studies have shown that, contrary to popular belief, you don't necessarily need to have a carb-heavy or carb-fuelled diet to be full of energy, and this is where the popularity of the Keto diet comes into play.

Keto is short for Ketogenic which is the type of diet a person needs to follow in order to achieve Ketosis. Ketosis is basically a metabolic state that can be controlled by your diet. If you are not eating enough glucose (carbs) for energy, then your body will instead turn to burning stored fats for energy instead - thus triggering weight loss. This is why many dieters like to encourage ketosis by following the Keto (low-carb) diet.  The Keto diet works by eliminating all carbs totally from your diet and instead focussing on meats and healthy fats to nourish your body. Fish in butter sauce, steak and eggs, bacon and avocado and salad greens sauteed in coconut oil are all examples of meals that might feature on a Ketogenic diet plan.

Of course, like many new diets or lifestyle practices, there are those who are all for it and preach about the benefits, and there are those that downright disagree, speaking of the long-term damages such beliefs can have on your health. If you're a little sceptical, almost sold, or totally on the fence, you might find reading some unbiased pro's and con's a little helpful before you begin (or don't begin) your Keto journey.

The Pro’s

Weight Loss

The Ketogenic Diet forces your body into a mild state of ketosis at all times, therefore a gradual weight loss is inevitable (provided you are sticking to a meal plan). A much-disputed opinion is that the reason we as humans get 'fat' (gain weight, usually around our middle) is not due to eating foods with a high-fat content but rather due to eating excessive carbs that as a result cause our glycogen stores to 'spill over' and be stored as fat. By eliminating these carbs from our diet, Keto dieters believe there is less chance of us gaining weight.

Increased Energy

You might begin to question anything you've ever been taught about carbs being a vital energy source when you hear that the Keto diet can actually improve your energy levels. Many people are now starting to believe that carbs aren't as efficient and clean burning as many think they are and in fact a nutrient dense gram of fat can be a lot more beneficial when it comes to feeling energised. When you are putting fat into your body, your body can burn it straight away as its preferred fuel source. However, if you're putting carbs in on top, the body rarely gets to burn the 'quality' energy source because the glucose from the carbs is easier to utilise. SO basically, many people following Keto believe that you feel more energised because you are burning a better quality fat source. To put this in layman's terms, if you eat carbs, the body will burn carbs (glucose) and if you eat fats it will tackle the fats which leads to a quicker weight loss. Simple.

Alternative Treatment for Cancer?

It has been proven that cancer cells need glucose to survive and so supposedly by following a Ketogenic diet and replacing carbohydrates with protein and healthy fats (avocado, coconut oil, nuts, Chia seeds) a cancer patient will essentially be starving the cells. Of course, this is definitely up for discussion and alone will not effectively treat cancer, but perhaps following a Keto style diet could improve chances of recovery? If you follow a Ketogenic diet you could also decrease the chances of you getting cancer in the first place as the cancer cells will never get the food that they need to develop. Experts believe that cutting things out like grains, processed sugar and fruit will contribute to this effectively.

The Con’s

Just another fad?

The most obvious con of following a Ketogenic is that it is just that. A diet. According to many nutritionists and health experts, following any sort of 'diet' is not a sustainable lifestyle choice and that in order to lose weight effectively and stay in shape you must lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle (a balanced diet is inclusive of all foods). If you are following a Ketogenic diet all of the time, you are constantly restricting yourself which is not only detrimental to your overall weight loss but also to your well-being. Restriction often leads to bingeing which can destroy progress totally. Adhering to Ketosis all the time can also cause problems when eating socially  - finding appropriate meals at restaurants can be a pain!

Lack of Nutrients

If you are sensible, then you can remain in a mild ketosis and still get all of your essential nutrients and vitamins through fruit and vegetables, but some people go too far when striving to stick to a Ketogenic diet and cut things like fruit and vegetables out completely, fearing that their carb content will ruin their diet. The importance of including these micronutrients in your diet cannot be stressed enough and if you do want to be in ketosis the best thing to do is to find a ratio that includes fruit and vegetables. Good ways of doing this can be to use a food tracker to make sure you are not missing out anything important!