Over the past I have developed some experience with putting my clients on a ketogenic diet. Before I started anyone on the diet, I had some rules I decided on, which I’ve stuck to and continue to believe in. The first is that it isn’t a diet that everyone should jump into willy nilly. It is such a specialized diet that I’d rather use it as a tool for weight loss, or some other health related goal, than see it as a lifestyle or belief change like vegetarianism or veganism. Which brings me to my next rule: ketogenic diets are not necessarily to be used long term, although I’m not saying they can’t be used long-term in some cases. Because it takes such an effort to continue to be nutritionally sound while on the diet, it is important to make sure you’re getting not only the proper macro nutrients, but the proper micro nutrients as well if you plan on continuing long term. The risk isn’t in the carbohydrate and fat ratios; it’s in the micro nutrients (vitamins+minerals) that you may be accidentally avoiding. If you’re not willing to be quite strict long term then it may open up health risks eventually.
Before I get to the evidence and effects of this diet, I need to stress that the quality of the food you eat on this diet is extremely important. It is key to remember that you need to use all of the varieties of foods available to you in the ketogenic diet. You’re already so limited and you may feel trapped but it gives you a chance to explore new food ideas because you’re not going to get anywhere eating bacon and cheese all day.
After starting the process, I was pleasantly surprised by the initial weight loss as people seem to have quite a good start with the weigh scale. I’m sure the initial weight loss includes some fat loss but it also has to do with releasing water retention in the body as carbohydrates hold water quite well. It’s nice to see and exciting to experience nonetheless. After the initial exciting weeks, the weight seems to continue to drop consistently provided the client sticks to their diet and watches their intake. One struggle people have is with the period right before your body switches into ketosis. They seem to get quite irritable (hangry) as their body struggles to convert carbs into energy with such a lack of carbs in their system. The great thing is that the change into ketosis is very apparent and once you’re over the hump, everything seems to get easier as you continue to lose weight while it helps regulate your heart rate and blood pressure. I think it’s quite attainable to continue to lose weight at a good pace (2-2.5lbs/week) as long as you stick to it and combine your diet with good healthy cardiovascular exercise and strengthening exercises.
Because a ketogenic diet is such a drastic change for most people, they tend to notice their bodies reacting in some significant ways. I find that some people tend to become more relaxed emotionally. I’ve had people claim that they have more steady energy levels and don’t seem to get “hangry” when they miss a meal. Another benefit a client told me is that it completely got rid of his heart burn which he had struggled with in the past. I believe the health benefits stem from the fact that the ketogenic diets indirectly make people avoid foods they may be sensitive to and don’t know it. The healthiest part of the ketogenic diet is that it removes sugary and highly processed dairy products as well as removing processed sugars in general. It also removes wheat products and therefore gluten from the body and seems to welcome healthy fats and good protein quite nicely.
I will continue to experiment with and study the ketogenic diet as I find it quite interesting and beneficial especially as a tool short term (up to two years). My opinion so far on the ketogenic diet seems to be quite positive as a tool for someone struggling to lose weight through conventional methods and it is great for obese, pre-diabetic or diabetic people in search of improving their health.