The ABCs of the Ketogenic Diet

Weight loss
keto diet and cutlery

The term "ketogenic" refers to ketones, which are produced when the body is deprived of carbohydrates. This fills this gap. In other words, when the body can no longer use carbohydrates as its main source of energy, it degrades fat to create compounds that can be transported to the brain.

In the ketogenic diet, the fat ratio compared to protein and combined carbohydrates is 4:1, i.e. 75-80% of the energy consumed must come from fat, 15-20% from protein and therefore very little space is given to energy from carbohydrates (less than 10%). For comparison, the Institute of Medicine recommends that the energy distribution should be: 45-65% of total energy intake as carbohydrates, 20-30% as fat and 10-30% as protein.

In food, what is the ketogenic diet?

More specifically, almost all fruits (berries are allowed in small quantities) and several vegetables (e.g. potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, squash, etc.), cereal products, legumes, added sugars should be excluded from the diet and only dairy products should be consumed in small quantities. Therefore, the ketogenic diet relies on fatty foods such as butter, oil, cream, coconut milk, nuts and seeds and avocado to provide more energy. It also includes a lot of meat, poultry and fish, bacon and deli meats. You will have guessed that by adopting the ketogenic diet, there is a sacrifice to be made in terms of food variety and thus we fall into the category of restrictive diets.

Is the Ketogenic diet new?

Not at all. Many popular diets of the past and present are ketogenic diets. Do you remember the Atkins diet? Or even Ideal Protein? The names change, but the formula is the same.

Weight loss and ketogenic diet?

Is it working? The ketogenic diet is running on many lips these days for its impact on weight loss. According to the current literature, as with any diet, considerable weight loss is possible in the short term, in the first three to six months. This is explained by several mechanisms of adaptation of the organism to ketone bodies.

On the one hand, there is an increase in basic metabolism (the minimum energy required by the body to maintain its vital functions) in connection with the "forced" conversion of fatty acids and triglycerides (lipids/fats) into ketones. As the body's energy expenditure is increased, it becomes easier to lose weight in the short term.

Several researchers explain that the considerable weight loss is more due to water loss (glycogen) than to an increase in basal metabolic rate.

In addition, a second mechanism has been observed: the increase in ketone bodies in the body creates a decrease in the feeling of hunger and a loss of appetite.

And in the longer term? What are the results?

Current studies indicate that weight loss would be no more than 2 kg after 12 to 24 months after the start of this diet. These results can be explained on the one hand by the low long-term take-up rate. Indeed, since this diet is very restrictive in terms of food choices, it becomes difficult to respect it. Before starting a diet, whatever it is, ask yourself first, would I like to follow this diet for the next 30 years or more?

In the end, although the ketogenic diet is used for certain pathologies, particularly in cases of epilepsy, its adoption, as mentioned above, leads to poor results in the medium term for weight loss objectives and for general health.

Our nutritionist assessment

The philosophy of returning to more natural and less sweet foods is very good. On the other hand, any extreme food intake is normally unsustainable in the long term. Nutritionists, following an exhaustive literature, advocate a varied diet for lasting success.

Want to know more about why not choose a strict and restrictive diet for your success? Also read our article: A diet? No, thank you! In 5 reasons.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist