The truth about “low-carb” and “ketogenic” diets; how to switch to fat for fuel

fat into fuel

Personally I hate using the word diet. I do not believe in diets or calorie restriction, I do not recommend it and I do not think it is effective both short term or long term. Here is a Nutritionist/Dietitian/Exercise Scientists perspective on low-carb and ketogenic diets and how to do it the right way if any way at all.

“Cutting carbs” has been fad which has been floating around for almost a decade now. The reason this diet makes me furious is that people who use this or have used this diet (I don’t blame you if you have also fallen into this trap, I was also one of these people years ago), is that this diet really does the opposite to what it is actually said to do. The fact is, cutting carbs or the keto diet or anything that significantly reduces calories in general or carbohydrates and uses up the bodies stored carbohydrates which are mainly held in the muscle and liver and some possibly still in the blood stream, really does cause a dramatic loss of weight over the first few days. However, this weight is not fat or muscle or any form of tissue- it is simply just fluid.

Carbohydrates hold on to water within the body (this includes sugars, carbs in vegetables, fruits, rice, bread, pasta it is all the same thing). As carbohydrates are stored as glycogen, for every 1 gram of glycogen held within your body, there are typically 3 grams of water stored with it (this ratio can increase and slightly decrease depending on the person), but this means for every 1 gram of glycogen you store, there are 3 grams of water holding onto it which means 1 gram of glycogen actually weights 4 grams.

The stored carbohydrates in the liver and muscle are very important for the body and act as a safety mechanism incase the body goes through a stage of danger in which your body needs a quick source of fuel accompanied by adrenaline, or you are undergoing exercise which is another stress requiring a quick fuel source. There are many reasons your body has these safety pockets of fuel and to empty them without replenishing them can cause many problems. One of these problems is stress. When you deplete these stores of glycogen and restrict your calories it causes the body to stress because it no longer has this safety net of extra fuel incase it needs to act quickly, it starts to think that the body is under starvation mode and there is not enough food around to support the normal human bodily processes.

For example, many girls find when they restrict their calories, they can completely lose their mensural cycle and period all together as the body assumes you are in a period of starvation with no food available, therefore it puts its primary focus on storing energy for survival and cannot afford to undergo any extra processes that require extra energy. This can happen no matter what the starting weight is.

In addition, it can disrupt hormone production, cause loss of sleep, thin and brittle hair and nails, no energy and just anything that the body feels is secondary to essential survival mechanisms like a beating heart and functioning body as a consequence of not receiving enough energy and essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients to sustain all the processes that go on within the body. Another consequence to the low carb dieting is the quick loss of water weight.

As you go on a low carb diet, the carbohydrates your body is storing for quick sources of energy deplete from your liver and muscle which takes with it all the water retained within each gram of glycogen. If this is not being replenished (ie. on a low carb diet), it can mean a quick and significant amount of weight loss which is essentially just water weight along with the approximately ~600g of stored carbohydrates (this can really vary between individual depending on liver and muscle size and amount). The more muscle mass, obviously the more glycogen stored and thus the more water weight held.

This low carb mechanism can also back fire if sustained for long enough as the body sees this as “starvation”, any food taken in during this starvation mode will be rapidly absorbed and stored as fat for energy which means when coming back off this low carb diet and eating as normal once again, you will have a higher percentage of stored fat plus the extra stored glycogen and water back on which may actually look like weight gain which can throw you off. HOWEVER, this can be avoided if you undergo this process in guidance with a professional like myself which will help to train the body to slowly adapt and utilise fat as a more preferred fuel source whilst keeping a healthy energy level, mensural cycle and functioning body. This way, done properly you can intake a higher percentage of good quality fats (which personally works better for myself) and a lower percentage of carbohydrates in your every day life with greater energy levels, better sleep, healthier hair, skin and nails.

A ketogenic diet starts off acting in the same way as a low-carb quick fix diet with the rapid weight loss due to the depleted carbs, however if done correctly the calories remain the same but are just higher in fat rather than carbohydrates which can actually work for some people. I don’t see the harm in this if done correctly, by slowly reducing the carbohydrate load weekly and increasing the fat load to the same amount of calories weekly which can cause the body to adapt to the fuel source and become more efficient at burning fat for energy, because a lot of healthy fats are so good for the body- as long as the vegetable and fruit intake is still significant and they still meet all the daily vitamin and mineral intakes that are required. Please consult a professional to do this though- I do not recommend trying to do this on your own.

If you are reading this and would like me to send you a detailed plan or compose a blog post on the proper way to switch through to a higher fat, lower carb diet and train your body to adapt to burning more fat as fuel rather than the preferred source of fuel: carbohydrates. You can do this without putting on that extra added weight gain and symptoms which occur with doing it quickly and incorrectly, please send me an email or comment below and I can arrange this for you- I would love to help.

I hope you guys got something useful out of this post today, as always let me know what you took away from this post or if I helped you in any way, I would love to hear your thoughts!

E xx

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