The Keto Headache

One of the most popular diets on the market right now is the ketogenic diet, or ‘keto’ for short. For those who have never heard of the Keto diet, it’s a diet that is comprised of 75 percent fats, 20 percent proteins, and five percent or less of carbohydrates. In other words…no carbs. That’s right, no bread, no pasta, no cereal nor granola of any kind. Well if it’s not such a fun diet to follow, then why is everyone and their mother trying it? The truth of the matter is, though it’s not the most fun and exciting trend to follow, the keto diet has been proven to be what is perhaps the fastest way to cut fat while preserving muscle tissue, resulting in a rather lean and shredded physique. How can this be? KETO is short for ketosis, which is the state one puts their body into when following this diet. In layman’s terms: while in ketosis, the body turns to stored fat for energy because it no longer is being supplied with carbohydrates throughout the day to keep the engine running.

While very effective in burning fat, headaches due to a lack of Cinnamon Toast Crunch aren’t the only downside to this diet. Many people experience a plateau, or even weight gain while following this diet. Why is that?

One of the biggest fallacies of the ketogenic diet is that a person can eat whatever he wants, as much as he wants, as long as the foods do not contain any carbohydrates. However, this is a recipe for disaster. Regardless of the kinds of macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) being put into the body, the basic rules of caloric intake cannot be shoved on the back burner with this diet. For maintenance, CALORIES IN STILL MUST EQUAL CALORIES OUT. When cutting, a person still needs to be in a caloric deficit day by day in order to lose weight. Those who are following the keto diet often overeat and indulge in excessive amounts of protein and fat, thinking they are burning fat as long as they do not eat carbs. However, these people are usually eating triple the amount of calories than they were before and not burning three times the amount of calories to burn them off, resulting in no weight loss or even see an increase in the number on the scale. When a person consumes too much protein, the body has no use for it, so it is stored as fat.

In addition to counting calories, it is very important that the product labels are not ignored. There are countless items on the shelves in grocery stores that are mind-blowing with the amount of sugar and carbs that are in them. It is very easy for a person following this diet to be taking in sugar and not even realize it. For example, a bag of baby carrots or frozen vegetables oftentimes will have a lot of added sugar to it so that the consumer thinks they are eating healthy, but will choose one particular brand over the other because for some reason it “tastes” better. Gee, I wonder why. With this being the case, make sure no label is left unread. Better yet, try to opt for the organic, unpackaged vegetables in grocery stores when possible.

I was out eating at a restaurant just a few days ago when I overheard the table beside me tell the waitress, “My wife and I are following the keto diet, so we will be ordering wings with vegetables, and we will need extra vegetables and lots of extra wing sauce and ranch on the side.” Protein and vegetables, what could be wrong with that order? The sauces. This is one of the biggest reasons people kick themselves out of ketosis: not realizing that the sauces used on food items, such as a wing sauce, are full of sugar and carbs. Why do you think those wings taste so good and leave you wanting more? In addition to the macronutrient content, the calories of commonly used sauces are through the roof. Two tablespoons of the original Hidden Valley ranch dressing has 140 calories and one tablespoon of Terry Ho’s Yum Yum sauce has a whopping 170 calories. Ask yourself…when was the last time you measured out two tablespoons? Or better yet, do you know what it would take to burn off 170 calories at the gym? It is all too easy for a person to have double or even triple the serving sizes, resulting in a much higher caloric intake than anticipated. One of the best ways to make sure a person stays in ketosis is simply to read the labels and be aware of portion sizes, look for sugar-free sauce options, or just opt out of the sauces altogether. In other words, don’t get lost in the sauces.

Most importantly, the key to optimizing success in anything, whether it be diet, a new job or even a workout is to do your own research. Not only do some packaged vegetables have secret sugars in them, but there are a lot of vegetables that contain a much higher carbohydrate content naturally and should be avoided at all costs, even if they do not have any sauces on them. As I have stated in several previous blog posts, knowledge is power. A person should keep themselves informed on foods and that are going into their body before consuming them, especially if they are trying to follow as strict of a diet plan as the this one.

To optimize fat loss on the ketogenic diet, a person must make sure they are eating the right balance of macronutrients and pay close attention to product labels. If the number on the scale is not budging, it is likely due to the fact that they are taking in too many calories and not realizing it, or consuming sugar and carbs from things one would never expect. While the ketogenic diet is a wonderful tool to have in the toolbox of fat loss, it is only effective when done the right way, where calories are still counted for and nutrition labels are seriously taken into consideration. Best of luck to those on going keto; hopefully this eliminates some of the headache associated with this diet.