By , YMCA Registered Dietitian

The world of weight loss can be an overwhelming and confusing place. It seems like every day a new super supplement or quick fix fad diet is popping up promising to help you shed unwanted weight rapidly.

While the ideal approach to weight loss is to aim for 1-2 pounds a week using a well-balanced diet and regular exercise, the temptation to subscribe to the next popular craze can be too much to ignore.

So, for my new monthly series, we’ll examine a different diet, diving into the science behind it, the pros (if any), the cons (probably many), and let you make the decision on whether or not it’s worth it.

Keto craze

This month we’re focusing on the Ketogenic Diet. It has blown up in the last year with celebrities like the Kardashians, Gwyneth Paltrow and even Lebron James buying in.

Extremely low carb and heavy on the fat, this diet was initially created to help patients with epilepsy or seizure disorders. Someone discovered that it can also cause you to drop weight fast, and the craze took off from there.

But what is the “Keto Diet” really all about? Let’s take a closer look.

The Science

In order to really understand the diet, we need a brief lesson in biochemistry. Your brain prefers to run on carbohydrates; in fact, it’s only able to use carbs for energy, but in case of emergency, it will use ketone bodies.

Ketone bodies come about as a byproduct of breaking down fat. See, your body stores a small amount of energy from carbohydrates in the form of glycogen, but it can’t store a whole lot, because carbohydrates have lots of water and water is heavy.

Fat can store a whole lot more energy in a much more efficient way (hence our probably more-than-adequate fat stores that are most likely quite full after the Holiday season!).

So, the Ketogenic diet aims to starve your body of carbohydrates so much so that your body is forced to use ketone bodies to fuel your brain, and then needs to break down your fat stores in order to create those ketone bodies. It’s complicated, but it’s helpful to understand that the diet is based on some very real science.

The Pros

If you’re willing to give this diet a go, then you’re probably pretty motivated to make some serious lifestyle changes, which is great.

The biggest pro with Keto is that it can produce rapid results due to the loss of water weight as your body runs through glycogen stores. This has a tendency to get people motivated and feeling good.

When the thrill of the initial weight loss is over, try switching to a more well-balanced approach for long term results.

The Cons

  • This diet is incredibly restrictive, and many find it difficult to adhere to the minuscule amount of carbohydrates allotted each day.
  • Depriving your brain of its primary fuel source can lead to some really negative side effects like headaches, confusion, or complete lack of energy.
  • Because the diet is very high in fat, and it’s not always healthy unsaturated fats, you put yourself at greater risk for developing heart disease.
  • Furthermore, fat has twice as many calories per gram than a protein or carbohydrate, and therefore, it can be really easy to add up the calories without adding a whole lot of nutritious vitamins and minerals.

Takeaways

Hopefully this breakdown helps you understand some of the ins and outs of this particularly popular diet. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what approach to nutrition is right for you. Consulting with your doctor and/or a nutritionist can also help you find the healthiest, safest ways to lose weight and eat better.

Check back next month when we break down the Mediterranean Diet and see what it’s all about!

Looking for more?

Learn more about healthy weight loss with 5 Calorie Counting Questions You Need the Right Answers To and The Biggest Mistakes Dieters Make. Plus, come see us in person! The YMCA of Middle Tennessee offers Nutrition Counseling and Personal Training at many of our centers.