Ketogenic diets have grown in popularity because of the overwhelming belief that they are a superior way to burn fat — but is that actually true?
In this episode of That’s Healthy, Right? host Adam Bornstein breaks down what you can really expect from the ketogenic diet. Does it help you burn more fat? How does it work with exercise? Does it fight disease or improve longevity? And what are the common mistakes that people make?
Bornstein reviews what the science says, and provides simple takeaways to help you determine who might benefit most from going on the ketogenic diet.
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Ketogenic Low-Carbohydrate Diets Have No Metabolic Advantage Over Nonketogenic Low-Carbohydrate Diets — American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Do Ketogenic Diets Really Suppress Appetite? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis — Obesity Review
NuSci Hall Study: No Ketogenic Advantage — YouTube
Ketone Bodies and Exercise Performance: The Next Magic Bullet or Merely Hype? — Sports Nutrition
The Keto Moment — Vox
Keto and Low-Carb Kills Performance — James Fell
Should you try the keto diet? – Harvard Medical School
What Is the Keto Diet? (and Should I Try It?) – Born Fitness
Adam Bornstein: If your goal is fat loss, is a ketogenic diet your best bet?
Now, if you’ve picked up a magazine or have typed it into Google, the simple answer would appear, yes. Ketogenic diets have been around for a long time and are extremely popular for weight loss.
But if you look at it from a scientific standpoint, you’ll find that ketogenic diets are not more effective than other diets at burning fat. And here’s what happens and where all of the misunderstandings come from.
When you go on a ketogenic diet, you are primarily removing all carbohydrates and proteins from your diet. What most people don’t realize is that a ketogenic diet is actually very low in protein as well, and you are functioning on fat.
When that happens, fat oxidation increases. And this is simply just how much fat your body is burning. But that is the fat that your body is burning as fuel from the calories you are eating, not the body fat that is currently on you, that you are trying to remove if you are trying to lose weight.
So just view it as you were shifting the way that energy is used in your body so it might appear that you are burning more body fat, but you’re not. You’re just burning the fat that you are now primarily eating as part of your diet.
When researchers have compared different types of diets, high-fat say, to high carb, if calories are equal and protein is equal, there is no difference in weight loss. One is not superior to the other.
Why do so many people believe that keto might be more effective? There are two reasons, and one is “smoke and mirrors,” and one might actually be effective for you if you choose a keto diet.
The smoke and mirrors is that when you first go on a ketogenic diet and remove carbohydrates, you’re going to lose some weight rapidly on the scale because you’re going to lose a lot of water weight, carbohydrates hold water, in a good way.
But if you drop them, the scale is definitely going to shift temporarily.
The second reason, and it can be a reason why keto can work for people, is that a ketogenic diet might increase satiety, or that is your level of fullness. And if it does this for you and eating this way leads to more fullness, you might find yourself eating fewer calories.
And that is the end game when it comes to weight loss.
The biggest issue for most people was that the sustainability of the ketogenic diet – of not having carbohydrates or not have protein – is very difficult for most people. And it can also be prohibitively expensive.
If you choose it, go for it, but just know that there is no superiority or a reason that you would need to follow a ketogenic diet if you want to lose weight.