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What is the Ketogenic Diet, and is it right for me?

18 December 18

Think everyone’s gone coconut crazy? Find out more about this lifestyle change that experts claim is key for better health, wellness and athletic performance.

What’s all the fuss about high fat nutrition?

Everyone from athletes to entrepreneurs herald major improvements in their overall health and wellbeing, all thanks to switching out carbs for healthy fats. But with low carb diets at the centre of controversy for decades, it’s easy to dismiss our recent obsessions with high fat meals as yet another passing food fad.

But is a high fat diet really a food fad, or a proven and effective way to enjoy a range of health benefits? The short answer? Yes. The long answer? Yes, but a focus on the right fats is key to achieving your health goals. And more importantly, always consult a health professional before you make a major lifestyle change.

As advocates for delicious, healthy and satiating fats, we’ve debunked a few misconceptions to help everyone make the right choices for a healthy and happy life.

What is low carb high fat?

Known as LCHF or a ketogenic diet (keto) by advocates, the general goal is to consume more fats than proteins and carbs. That’s right, more avocados, coconuts and nut butters! A very general guide is a total intake of 15-20% carbohydrates, 20% protein, and 60-65% healthy fats per day, depending on your goals and body composition.

Nutritionist Steph Lowe of The Natural Nutritionist points out that LCHF and keto aren’t actually diets, but should be pursued as an ongoing lifestyle. “I strongly believe that as long it is personalised, LCHF should be a way of life for everyone,” explains Steph. “We refer to this as JERF – Just Eat Real Food – with macronutrient adjustments based on the individual’s genetics, metabolism, goals and training load and intensity.”

Are keto and LCHF the same?

Sort of. Fans of the keto diet eat high to get their bodies into a state of ketogenesis, a state where the liver uses ketones for energy. Put simple, ketones are molecules made from fatty acids, and your body produces them when there’s no more glucose left to tap into.
All keto meals are high fat, but not all LCHF meals are keto.Still confused? Steph explains: “LCHF can be as low as 20-25 grams of carbohydrates/day to treat metabolic dysfunction or disease, and this would be keto in nature. LCHF can also be as high as 150 grams of carbohydrates a day, for those who are happy with their body composition and training regularly.”

What are the benefits of a high fat diet?

There have been over 20 studies examining the effects of a high fat diet, and one of these is a decreased appetite. We’re all aware of the mid-afternoon hunger pangs that send us rushing for the biscuit jar, often resulting in stalled weight loss goals. But what if you instead reached for the right kind of fat?
Studies have shown that saturated fats, particularly those known as medium-chain triacylglycerols (MCTs), are more satiating than carbohydrates. In fact, studies have shown that a breakfast high in MCTs, such as coconut yoghurt, can result in lower energy intake than your usual cereal. But a decreased appetite isn’t the only cause of fat loss. When eating the right fats, studies have found that high fat diets get rid of excess water retention. Because they lower insulin levels, your kidneys start shedding excess sodium, leading to rapid weight loss in the first two weeks. But that’s not the only benefit of controlled insulin levels.

“When insulin is low the body selects fat for fuel – the perfect way to burn excess body fat,” says Steph.On top of these amazing benefits, those who pursue a high fat lifestyle could also enjoy reduced blood sugar, reduced blood pressure, and improved mental performance.

Is LCHF or a keto lifestyle right for me?

As with any lifestyle change, health experts always recommend consulting them before you make the change.
“If properly prescribed, there are no risks with LCHF. However I do believe it’s important to work with a skilled Nutritionist to ensure your version of LCHF is right for you,” says Steph.

However, there might be cases where LCHF can hinder health and fitness goals, such as with athletes who need carbohydrates to support high levels of intensity. “Athletes who perform extremely glycolytic activities (such as Power Lifting) may find they need to periodise their intake relative to their training and competition demands, but real food should be every athlete’s number one priority. A drop in performance or strength is a big clue that you aren’t eating enough carbohydrates.”

Where to start?

Steph recommends incorporating more saturated fats onto your plate, such as olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, MCT oil, coconut yoghurt, coconut cream, avocados, grass fed animal protein and free range eggs. Eliminating refined carbohydrates and eating more non-starchy vegetables will increase fibre intake, and make you feel fuller for much longer.

“The main thing to remember is to stick with real food,” says Steph. “When you focus on food that comes out of the ground, off a tree or from an animal, you not only reduce your carbohydrate intake, but optimize your nutrient density! This is the answer to controlling your health and performance not only today, but into the future.”

You can work with Steph and her team directly at The Natural Nutritionist in Brighton, Melbourne.
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Information Resources:

1. McLernon, F. J., & Atkins, R. C. (2007). The effects of a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet and a low-fat diet on mood, hunger, and other self-reported symptoms. Obesity, 15(1), 182-187. Retrieved October 19, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17228046.

2. Samra, R. A. (2010). Fats and Satiety. In Fat Detection: Taste, Texture, and Post Ingestive Effects.Florida: Boca Raton.

3. Volek, J. S., & Westman, E. C. (n.d.). Very-low-carbohydrate weight-loss diets revisited. Cleve Clin J Med, 69(11), 853-856. Retrieved October 19, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12430970.

4. Westman, E. C., & Vernon, M. C. (2005). A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet to treat type 2 diabetes. Nutrition and Metabolism, 2(34). Retrieved October 19, 2017, from https://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1743-7075-2-34.

5. Daly, M. E., Paisey, R., & Williams, K. (2006). Short-term effects of severe dietary carbohydrate-restriction advice in Type 2 diabetes–a randomized controlled trial. Diabetic Medicine, 23(1), 15-20. Retrieved October 19, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16409560.

6. Bronwen, M., & Maudsley, S. (2011). The effects of the ketogenic diet on behavior and cognition. Epilepsy Research, 100(3), 304-309. Retrieved October 19, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4112040/.

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