Yes. Yes, the keto diet is bad for you. In its current form, keto = bad. We turned a good thing into a bad thing and are hitting stalls and remaining unhealthy like we’re on the SAD. The Standard American Diet is called the SAD. Isn’t that SAD? We’re making a good thing turn bad. No, not bad, SAD.
Is the keto diet bad for you? Hear me out. We have a saying in Jamaica, you get an inch and you take a yard. Another way to say the same thing: Mi give you horse and you want the saddle. It means that the keto diet was really easy and healthy and life-changing for so many people but we found a way to fudge it up.
How did the keto diet go from eating nutrient-dense high-quality animal protein, fats, and the occasional dairy with lots of cruciferous vegetables and fresh leafy greens to cheap burger patties swimming in bacon grease piled high with store-bought shredded cheese?
If you can’t tell by now, things are about to get a bit ranty. But my rant is from a place of love. I want better for us and I’m starting with the man in the mirror. Did I just age myself?
Are You Hitting a Keto Stall?
The keto diet is one of the healthiest ways of eating I’ve ever followed. It has helped me to shed weight the easiest way ever. I never felt deprived, never felt like I was starving, ate the best foods, and watched the weight drop off. I found a way of eating that allowed me to have bacon and burgers and still lose weight. I found a diet that told me it was ok to add heavy whipping cream in my coffee and eat keto cheesecakes for dessert.
That last part there is the problem.
Let’s look at what the keto diet is and remind ourselves of the macros we aim to hit each day on this diet. The keto diet is all about eating high-quality fats, moderate animal proteins, and minimal carbohydrates, to be consumed mainly from our nuts and vegetable intake. The exact ratio looks like this:
Fat 70%, Protein 25%, Carbs 5%
That 70% of fat throws a lot of us off. A LOT. It feels and sounds like a lot of fat and we think we have free reign to eat all the fat in the world.
What does this actually look like on your plate? Well, there are a bunch of keto macro calculators online to help you with this for your body and lifestyle. At a pretty sedentary 178lbs, one calculator says I should be eating 1518 calories broken down like:
- 123g of fat
- 77g of protein
- 25g of net carbs
These figures are for each day. I am not the best at counting calories and macros so I have no idea how I’m doing, but that figure of 123g of fat looks like a lot, doesn’t it? Let’s take a look at what that really means in terms of a daily diet.
A Typical Day of Keto Eating
One egg has 75 calories with 7 grams of high-quality protein and 5 grams of fat. One ounce (28 grams) of whole-milk cheddar contains 115 calories, 7 grams protein and 9 grams of fat. One tablespoon of butter has 100 calories and 11g of fat. Three slices of bacon has 161 calories, 12g of fat and 12g of protein.
So my typical breakfast with three eggs cooked in butter with bacon and cheese rounds out at 601 calories, 40g protein, 47g of fat. I’m left with 76g of fat and 917 calories to go. As someone who practices intermittent fasting, this means I have one more meal to get in these macros and maybe a snack or dessert. If I were to have 4 of my meatloaf muffins and some salad, I could indulge in two of my Coconut Lime cupcakes and round out my day quite filled, sweet-tooth satisfied.
Two meals and I was even able to have not one but two cupcakes and still come in under my macros. Now, I would usually only have one cupcake as two is overkill and I also would probably only have three meatloaf muffins. So I’m coming in well under my macros but I am completely satisfied. Note that I did not list any drinks as I only drink coffee, tea, and water, saving me tons of calories. Now compare this to what a typical day of eating looks like for you.
One of the most alluring things about the keto diet is that you don’t have to go low fat. Fat is flavorful, so consumers love to be able to eat marbled meat, like a steak, without having to feel guilty. When bacon and cheese are encouraged on a diet plan, it makes many dieters’ mouths water, so you often see people starting their keto diet with a heavy amount of meats and cheese.
But that doesn’t eliminate the fact that the real focus of the ketogenic diet is low carb, high fat – so it’s very important that as you wean yourself off carbs and sugar, you begin looking at which fats will keep you satisfied in lieu of larger portions. Healthy fats are things like avocados, olives or olive oil, nuts, and seeds. That doesn’t mean you can’t have other fats, but you really want to make the switch from processed cheese, loads of heavy cream, butter, and coconut flour to the ones listed above.
Keep in mind that as you stay on the diet longer, your taste buds will probably change. After going without sodas and using fake sweeteners for weeks, if you were to cheat and have a Coke or Dr. Pepper, it would probably taste way too sweet for you.
Is the Keto Diet Bad For You?
The keto diet can be unhealthy if you eat too much processed foods, practice dirty keto, lazy keto or eat too much fat from unhealthy sources.
All fat isn’t good fat.
Firstly, it’s important to note that you do not need to meet your fat macro every day. Remember, you’re training your body to use fat for energy instead of its usual source, glucose. You might need to eat more fat as you’re transitioning to ketosis, which is what this process of using fat for fuel is called. Once you’re in ketosis and you’re well fat-adapted, you can eat till you’re filled and stop, even if you’re below your fat macro. This allows your body to use some of the fat you have stored, instead of the fat you’re eating.
If you meet your daily requirements for fat each day, your body has no real reason to dip into your fat stores. That might be why you aren’t losing weight on the keto diet.
Secondly, it’s important to pay attention to your sources of fat. The keto diet, like any diet, can become unhealthy when you’re eating too much processed food. If you can, reach for sources of fat from grass-fed, pasture-raised animals, cold-pressed oils and organic seeds and nuts.
When you start a keto diet, it’s easy to get caught up in replacing all your favorite foods with keto versions. Fat bombs and bulletproof coffee become your new go-tos. But fat doesn’t burn fat, contrary to popular opinion. You don’t need to eat lots of fat to burn fat. In fact, the fat you eat will be burned before the fat you have stored so you really only want to be eating enough fat to feel full, then stop and allow your body to get the rest it needs from the fat cells stored in your belly and your thighs.
Other Keto Diet Side Effects You May Have Heard Of
So in researching the keto diet you may have heard that it really is bad for you because it causes bad breath, stinky nether regions and all sorts of other health issues. Let’s discuss some of these.
Keto Nutritional Deficiencies
Carbohydrates are the only macronutrient that we can completely do without. You’ll die eventually without protein or fat but you could completely skip carbs and be fine. Of course, you don’t want to go that extreme.
A problem can arise if you cut out too many of the ‘good carbs’ such as fruits and vegetables. These foods contain other important nutrients your body needs for healthy body functioning. In your quest to go low on carbohydrates, do not be afraid of your veggies. The carb count in dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables are absolutely worth the tradeoff for the other nutrients these vegetables provide.
Low carb fruits such as berries and citrus are great for your health too. Keep these in your diet to get in your vitamins and minerals daily.
You may have heard of the dreaded keto flu. Some people get a little weak and irritable when they first go on the keto diet. Others have reported some episodes of vomiting and nausea, which are all part of the side effects of this ‘flu’. Your body is adapting to new processes, such as burning fat instead of sugar, to become energized. This can make you feel weak as your mind and body deal with the transition.
Your body will also have to get rid of the waste products of the ketones, which are produced using your stored fat, so you can expect to relieve your bladder more often. Make sure you keep your fluids up during this diet and are increasing your intake of salt and electrolytes. Get more info on how to manage or avoid the keto flu altogether.
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Changes in Libido
Going on a keto diet can make you lose weight, but along with it, some people lose their libido. The loss of libido occurs while in the state of ketosis due to hormonal changes. This will happen if you’re on a dirty keto diet. Those who stick to a clean, nutrient-dense ketogenic diet actually report the opposite. You will most likely experience an increase in libido when you have adapted to your new lifestyle and are eating foods that are not over-processed.
Frequent urination may put your kidneys at risk. It’s not the continual urinating that causes problems, it is due to your body losing some of the most important electrolytes, including potassium, magnesium, and sodium. These are important for the efficient functioning of your kidneys.
Increased consumption of meat, especially processed meat, can lead to your body becoming too acidic, which can lead to increased levels of uric acid, which puts you at risk of gout.
Diarrhea and Constipation
These two side effects may not appear serious, so they may not concern you, however, a lack of fiber and electrolytes in your diet can lead to keto constipation, which can become uncomfortable, and is not good for your bowel health. If you include vegetables full of fiber in your diet it will help overcome this side effect.
The keto diet is one of the most effective weight-loss diets. However, health experts are sounding the alarm to warn people about these possible side effects. Your body works well when it is being treated right, and that includes a balanced diet, containing necessary vitamins and minerals. Stick to a clean low carb diet filled with veggies, grass fed organic meat and good sources of fat and you will be just fine.
On the flip side, I now have a question for you. What diet is healthier? One that is low on carbs and high on healthy fats and proteins, or a diet high in convenience foods, processed grains, processed meats, with little or no nutritional content at all? It should be an easy question to answer.