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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

What is Keto Krazy?

Even if you’ve just crawled out from under a rock or awoken from a long Rumplestiltskin-like sleep, you’ve probably heard about Keto (short for Ketogenic Diet). It’s everywhere: on talk shows, morning news programs, radio, TV, social media, magazines, and books. There are many cookbooks, blogs, how-to guides, documentaries, and Facebook pages full of transformational stories. So what’s the big deal?

At Infinit Nutrition Canada, we don’t endorse any particular diets, but there are a couple of staff members who eat this way or have at least tried it (including yours truly).  Ketogenic diets (and its kissing cousin, Paleo) are not going away, so I thought you all might be interested in knowing what the hype is about.

I first became aware of a ketogenic diet about 10 years ago when a friend of mine, who happens to be a physician, gave me the lowdown on it. I was not as plant-based back then, so it was easy enough to dive in, and my husband joined in the crazy sounding quest: eat lots of fat and protein, slash the carbs, and lose fat; we both convincingly dropped body fat and overall mass in a month.  These days, I purposefully cycle in and out of Keto.

So - eat fat to lose fat?  Well, that’s certainly one of the tenants of ketogenic eating. It really flies in the face of everything we’ve heard since Duran Duran was hitting the charts (the first of many  80s references in this blog). Even Michael Jackson could have told you that fat was ‘Bad’ in those days (I’m sorry - I can’t help myself). I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, so before we dive into the Ketogenic way of life, I thought we’d have a look at some of the dietary trends that have come along over the last few decades. Stick around - this is fun! And see how many 80s songs you can find in the text along the way.  Seriously, if you were Wide Awake in America, you might remember some of these crazy diets and trends...

In the 50s, people still largely ate at home: meat, potato, veg.  No internet, not much TV, no video games, and lots of outdoor play as we grew up (I say WE, but I was not yet born, FYI). There was not a great deal of talk about diets as there was little need for them.  Those bent on ‘slimming’ cut portion sizes and counted calories. Obesity stats on this side of the pond were about 10% of the population, and that’s obesity, not just overweight. Obesity was then defined as 20% above ideal.  Compare that to today when the CDC estimates that 75% of us will be obese or overweight by 2020. Ulp! Something has gone terribly wrong. Let’s look at the next decade.

In the 1960s, Jean Nidetch founded Weight Watchers. As you well know, this organization is around today with group support and food tracking as essential parts of the program. It would be unfair to count this among the fad diets as it really is intended to be a lifetime shift in behaviour.

In the 1970s, dieting started to become a big business opportunity. Dr. Herman Tarnower addressed the problem with the infamous Scarsdale Diet: limited carbohydrates, no fruit save grapefruit, some proteins, some fats, no dairy, and was very restrictive in terms of calories. As an unfortunate aside, this poor fellow met his demise at the hand of his ex-mistress. At around that same time, folks were talking about Dr. Atkins and his revolutionary Atkins Diet.  He touted that carbohydrates were to be avoided and that protein was to be embraced (within limits). Dr. Atkins famously died of a myocardial infarction in 2007, but it was apparently not related to diet. You can read a bit about it here, if you wish. It seems as though fad diets were really having their day in the 70s because at around the same time that Atkins was getting famous, Frances Moore Lappe’s: Diet for a Small Planet  was also worming its way into the press, although it was still firmly in the ‘hippie’ realm. It was the first of its kind to encourage us to give up meat as being unsustainable for the planet, and ‘combining proteins’ became the next big thing.  While I wouldn’t describe this as a fad, the necessity of combining proteins has come into question in the scientific community, and the terms ‘complete’ and ‘incomplete’ proteins are all but obsolete.

The 80s (finally!) brought us The Cabbage Soup Diet (need you ask?), The Beverly Hills Diet (eat only fruit for the first TEN DAYS and then carbs and protein must be eaten separately after that), Jenny Craig (no need to cook - just heat and eat the pre-made meals), Richard Simmon’s Deal A Meal while people were Sweatin’ to the Oldies with him.  Alright, so the 80s was amazing for music - but for dieting, not so much.

The 90s had us eating low fat everything. Even today, this ‘trend’ continues to make its way into products. But while the fat went down, the sugar went up.  Dean Ornish, author of Eat More, Weigh Less was onto this and wanted us to cut down on refined carbs, lower fat intake, and eat more whole grains and vegetables. Friends star, Jennifer Aniston made The Zone Diet hugely popular in the mid 90s.  This was about keeping carbs, proteins, and fats in certain proportions: 40/30/30. About this time, we started to hear that sugar was bad (so companies got better at giving it different names and continued to put it in their products). Oh, and do you remember the Blood Type Diet??  Enough said about that.

Along came the new millenium and we figured it all out and lived happily ever after!  Harumph. I wish. The year 2000 brought us Jared and the Subway Diet. Seriously - cured meats, nitrates, oversized white buns (Subway’s not Jared’s)... this was the answer to the dieter’s prayers?!  So many diets, so little time... Here are the big ones: The South Beach Diet, Atkins (gets popular again), The Pink Diet, Raw Food Diet, Vegan Diet, Paleo Diet, The Mediterranean Diet, PBWF (plant-based whole food), and finally the trend that leads to this blog post: The Ketogenic Diet.  Whew! I’m almost too tired to write the rest of this post. Snack time…

Okay, some of those diets in the last paragraph could be called lifestyles rather than diets, so we needn’t quibble about it. I’m back to the beginning before I’ve come to the end.

What is Keto, Ketosis, and the Ketogenic Diet?

Let’s start with the easiest one.

Q: What is Keto?

A: It’s the short form for ‘ketogenic’. See?  Easy.

Q: Okay then, what is ketogenic?

A: A ketogenic food or diet is anything that supports the body to get into, or stay in, a state of ketosis.

Q: And the million dollar question is… what is ketosis?

A: Come on Eileen, that is a bit of a harder question. The simple answer is that ketosis describes when your body is primarily burning fats as its source of fuel, rather than carbohydrates. Now for the longer answer: carbohydrates are an easy source of fuel for your body.  They convert to glucose which the body can use immediately, or we readily store it in the form of glycogen in our muscles and liver. Glucose/glycogen is the go-to fuel because it’s so easily accessed, whereas fat tends to be stored and coveted by our body for those rainy days of potential starvation.  The only way to circumvent this is to deplete your stores of glycogen and force the body to burn those fat stores. This is no simple task because we are hard-wired to protect those ‘hard-won’ storage supplies. It’s not easy to Beat It. When these fats are finally broken down, they produce ketones - a type of fatty acid.  The release of these ketones is what leads to the condition of ketosis - basically a fat-burning state. When your body starts dumping ketones, they can be detected in the urine and the blood with a simple test. Now for some FAQs:

Q: Why do people want to get into ketosis?

A: There are a few reasons:

To burn excess body fat
To deprive the body of sugar and combat sugar-fuelled diseases
To help reduce seizures in people with epilepsy
Reduce addiction/dependence on simple carbohydrates and processed foods

Q: How do you get into ketosis?

A: Well, there are a few ways.  One way that some people kickstart a Keto diet is a 24 hour fast with only water from 6 PM to 6 PM.  Another quick way is to deplete glycogen stores through high-intensity exercise: cycling, running, weight lifting, HIIT workout. This would be coupled with a low carbohydrate intake. Ketosis is a delicate state and requires a lot of effort and monitoring to stay within this fat-burning range. A few grams of carbohydrate can bump you out and then you’re back to square one.

The most popular way, albeit slower method, is to choose foods that will put the body into a state of ketosis.  This is a Ketogenic Diet. Very, very low carbohydrates means avoiding even complex carbs like brown rice, sweet potatoes, fruits, whole grain oats, and beans.  Carbohydrates come only in the form of vegetables low in natural sugars, some nuts, seeds, and high fat dairy products. Fats and proteins are consumed in much higher amounts than traditional diets. So with this method, even if you’re Hungry Like The Wolf, you stay away from bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, sweets, milk, sugar…  F.Y.I, this diet can be done as a person who eats meat, as a person who eats a vegetarian diet, or as a person who eats a vegan diet. I fall in the middle these days, but I have cycled on keto while eating vegan - suffice it to say that I ate a lot of soy-based food: tofu, tempeh, seitan (for a while, I couldn’t even look at tofu without gagging (maybe you never could). Here is a keto calculator that you might want to try.  There are plenty out there.

If you manage to eat in this way, and use diet alone, it will take your body a full 48 hours to get into a state of ketosis. And unless you really manage it carefully with enough water and electrolytes (LINK TO KETOLECTROLYTES) and alkaline foods, you will experience the dreaded Keto Flu - a feeling of lethargy and general malaise with headaches and muscle fatigue. Most people go through this every time they fall out of ketosis and have to climb back in, which is why they work so hard to stay in it, counting macros and tracking their food intake.   There are plenty of apps that track for you. You might like this one:

Q: Is a Keto Diet for me?

A: I’d say do your own research and decide for yourself!  No one knows you better than you. You can talk to you doctor - it’s becoming pretty mainstream, and it’s been recommended for certain medical conditions for decades, so he or she will have heard of it.

Q: Where can I get more information?

A: There are lots of great blogs and info sites out there.  Here are some you might like:

Q: What kind of foods should I eat?

A: Real foods, whole foods. Many Keto folks supplement their whole food diet with protein and support products. Because I eat a mostly plant-based diet, I personally take a dose of extra protein ‘bolus’ in my morning smoothie, and then at least one more time during the day. I am the number one fan of Infinit Raw and I don’t know how I’d stay in ketosis without it. Meat eaters can generally use a bit less than I do, but most still supplement to some extent.

Q: Why did Infinit create the Keto Krazy brand?

A: We’re doing a Keto line of products because our customers have asked for this.  Many of our products are already keto-friendly, but our customers have asked us to tweak some of the other favourites to make them in line with keto. At Infinit, we feel like we have the knowledge and the products to support our customers and the keto community.

Q: Why the heck is this blog 4 pages?!

A: Sometimes I just like to Push It.

Well, dear readers, have you tried any of these diets through the decades? Have you tried keto or paleo?  Did you find the 80s references? Perhaps you prefer the 90s? What’s your story?