A huge concern with the keto diet is the maintenance and potential loss of muscle mass. Many people will just think: hey, dummy, then just eat more protein. However, some research has shown that even if your protein intake remains constant, a low carb diet may promote muscle loss. A study from the Netherlands confirmed these findings. In the study, participants were given three diets (high carb, moderate carb, low carb) and moderate protein. The study found that those following a low carb diet experienced increased muscle breakdown. This is because when we eat carbohydrates, we produce insulin which promotes muscle growth. This is why athletes depend on carbohydrates (along with protein) to fuel their performance. When we eat carbs, the insulin release “unlocks” our muscles to let the protein in so it can do its job at building our muscles. So, when we skip the carbs all together, muscle glycogen stores get depleted, we lose out on those muscle building opportunities. Forget about high intensity training. A depleted glycogen store also means our workouts will suffer because we just don’t have enough oil left in the tank. This was a again suggested in the recent review looking at many ketogenic studies. The studies found that there was greater lean body mass loss in the ketogenic groups compared to the other diets being studied.
Traditionally, in the sports nutrition field, we talk about the importance of timing carbohydrate and fluid intake on improving sports performance. For some time now, research has been looking at the role of very low carbohydrate diets on sports performance. Trailblazers in keto and sports performance research like Dr. Stephen Phinney have been conducting studies in this area since the 80s. In one of his studies, the glycogen stores of cyclists on a keto diet were not completely depleted and lipid oxidation was increased. Researchers concluded that the body was able to adapt to the lack of carbohydrates and preserve what was needed to use the fat as fuel. However, based on the VO2 max breath test, since the body was attempting to preserve the carbohydrate during the exercise, it appears that the intensity of the exercise was limited. In a more recent study, off-road cyclists following a keto diet experienced small improvements, but still not significant enough to make strong conclusions.
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Hi Danielle, it’s all about learning to read labels and the nutrition label before purchasing something! I also double heck the ingredients before I buy packaged products. I also have an ongoing list of approved veggies that I keep in my phone so that I know what I can buy and the variety I can buy so I don’t get in a food funk! Definitely let me know how I can help further! Like posting a label guide? Complete veggie list? Let me know!
Such an in-depth post (and I applaud you for remaining so professional throughout some of these comments)! I’ve heard a lot about the keto diet and am glad that it does seem to work for some, but am definitely more on board with a more balanced diet. Kudos to the people it does work for though (I’ve had several patients with epilepsy who follow a ketogenic diet and it does seem to be helpful for them)!
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Anyways, I am feeling so much better without the weight, my sleep apnea is gone, my blood glucose is lower and the edema in my legs is gone. But I do have concerns about the saturated fat, my HDL/LDL and I do not like the “nail polish breath”. Once I reach my goal, I plan to transition to more of a Mediterranean style diet but still with logging and I hope to be able to keep the weight off.
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Having said that, there are also studies suggesting that long term carbohydrate restriction diets (aka. the keto diet) may result in fast short term weight loss but people gain it all back in the long term. An RCT put 63 individuals on a low-fat diet or a low carb diet, and the study found the low carb dieters lost more weight compared to the low fat group by month 3 and 6, but that the weight loss evened out by month 12. This was confirmed by a Meta-analysis which found that while low-carbers lost more weight than low-fat dieters but the differences disappeared by the one year mark.
So for all the dangers you listed on this, my dietician prescribes this diet to everyone who comes into his office looking for weightloss, he has a stack of packets with standardized information regarding the specific diet. For what it’s worth, most of the side effects you listed, I did go through, although the sugar withdrawal was the worst, but after a couple weeks, that passed too. Now I’m on the same 1200 calorie, <20g carb, 0 sugar diet, and it feels VERY sustainable. The only thing I really miss is pizza, and even then, there are keto friendly chicken based crusts that really hit the spot. I guess one thing that sticks out to me is my doctor told me that the human body doesn't need any sugar to survive, and while he makes the distinction between simple and complex carbs, still cuts them out in a normal keto diet style (no potatoes, corn, most beans in larger quantities, etc). Should I be concerned about my doctor? He came as a referral and has a large track record of long term success with his patients.
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My biggest beef with this diet is that it focuses on how much and what you can eat and less about the quality of the food you eat. A recent 2018 study found that people who focused on eating plenty of vegetables and whole foods and less on counting calories and limiting food groups, lost a significant amount of weight over the course of a year. This continues to echo the notion that the key to successful weight loss is diet QUALITY and not QUANTITY. And now, there’s research that actually supports that!
Hi. I have been on the keto diet for 6 weeks and have not lost any weight but even more concerning, my gerd is much worse. I’m taking ppi’s just to stay on the diet. Constipation which has always been an issue for me is now much worse, hello laxatives! For these reasons, I have decided to go back to a more balanced diet leaning towards vegetarian. Keto works for some, I’m not one of them. I appreciate your info.
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Once the medical community acknowledged the keto diet’s effectiveness in reducing seizure episodes, they decided to look further and study its impact on neurological diseases in general. Neurological diseases share a common problem – a deficiency in energy production. Ketones provide that energy for normal brain cell metabolism, and may even be a more efficient when the body is in starvation mode. When patients were put on the keto diet, the number of mitochondria (energy powerhouse) in brain cells increased. Ketones may also act as an antioxidant by inhibiting the formation of reactive oxidant species, which is why they may have promising effects in the treatment of certain cancers in conjunction with chemotherapy.