Oh man, this is going to be a good one.
For those not aware, the keto diet refers to putting the body into a state of ketosis. This is done by eating fewer than 50 g of carbs or net 30 g of carbs in a day. When this happens, the body stops using glycogen (glucose) to produce energy and instead produces and burns ketones.
The keto diet has been touted as the newest nutrition plan for weight loss, and proponents have even gone as far as to say it can reverse diabetes.
So does it work?
First off, I want to say that I do not think keto is good for any person doing high-intensity workouts, e.g., CrossFit, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting or HIIT. During these workouts, we push our muscles to the breaking point. Our muscles work off glycogen—so no glycogen, no power production for fast, explosive movements.
For everyone else: It CAN work, but I still don’t recommend it.
To begin, let’s talk about how much 50 g of carbs is. It’s an apple. An APPLE. In one day; that’s it.
Here’s the thing: Most thing you eat on a daily basis contain carbs. Even milk contains carbs. Pasta, don’t even look at it. Pizza? Only in your dreams. Bread, nope. Fruit, ha—don’t make me laugh. Eating only 50 g of carbs in a day is super restrictive.
Ketones also have this interesting effect: They change the pH level of your blood, making it acidic. Ever heard of keto breath? The high pH levels create an almost copper taste in your mouth and can produce an unpleasant smell that most people won’t want to get close to.
The high pH also leeches calcium from your system. This can cause brittle bones and weakened muscles. Don’t even get me started on the keto flu. It’s real and it’s real bad. Think the Walking Dead.
But here’s what I warn against the most: You can’t go in and out of keto. Cheat days don’t exist.
When your body no longer utilizes glucose, your pancreas stops producing insulin. Now you have a massive influx of glucose into your system, and you know what happens? Your pancreas freaks out and produces a TON of insulin to bring your blood-sugar levels back to normal. Do this enough times and you’ll fry your pancreas—and that leads to diabetes.
Keto doesn’t jive with athletes, it’s not sustainable and it’s potentially dangerous. I do not recommend the keto diet for most people.
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Inspiration provided by Andrew Boimila at CrossFitTradewinds.com.