Keto: A Science Based Review

By: Conrad

What is the ketogenic diet? It is an extraordinarily low carb, high fat diet that, in theory, forces the body to burn fat because of the absence of carbs. Another line of reasoning that is often spouted is in a normal diet with plenty of carbs, the fats are stored because the carbs are burned.

I’ll attack the fallacies as they come up instead of letting them pile up until the end.

1) Carbs, fats, and proteins are all burned at the same time by the body for energy. The ratios are always in flux depending on what you eat, and the energy demands that you are placing on your body. So the “forcing your body to burn fats” notion is true. However, the fats being stored because of carbs being present is only about 50% true. The body is an extraordinary mechanism and is capable of awesome things. Like turning any one macro into any other given enough time/steps. ( If someone ate a diet of 100% carbs, they would still store fat because the body can turn carbs into fats/(most) proteins, fats into carbs/(most) proteins and proteins into carbs/fats. The creation and storage of fat rises from excessive intake rather than which macros were ingested (as discussed in my previous post on intermittent fasting ).

So far, the keto diet isn’t terribly dishonest. That’s great! Lets keep going, shall we?

So this diet more or less calls for a consumption of only fats and protein. This is a very interesting implication for people in a fitness forum such as this one. The brain runs on carbs (it literally cannot utilize fats for energy, and us being people who train avidly, quite often run low on carbs. So the body has to make up this deficit from somewhere and the body tends to turn to proteins and synthesizes the needed carbs through a process known as gluconeogenesis ( ). Under normal circumstances, this is usually unnecessary and the metabolism of proteins typically only happens under starvation conditions. So right away, we can see that this diet is far from optimal from anyone who trains as it is almost by definition catabolic (extremely negative nitrogen balance is often caused by keto , and the body is only capable of recovering from so much training without the body literally digesting itself.

As I just mentioned, metabolizing protein in any significant amount in a healthy diet does not happen very often. This is a very good thing because the byproducts of this process are nasty. The worst of which is ammonia. That’s right. The same thing your mom used to clean the tub with is produced when your body is forced to use proteins for energy. Of course, the ammonia is sucked out of the blood in the kidneys and turned into urea and we pee it out. But for anyone with one kidney, or any kidney problems, i could not in good conscience suggest a ketogenic diet.

Enough about proteins, let us move on to fats now.

As I mentioned earlier, the metabolism of fats, carbs, and proteins is always happening at the same time, the ratio of which is always changing. So if we restrict carbohydrate availability to only what the body can produce and keep the energy demands constant, it is obvious that the metabolism of fats and proteins will have to increase to accommodate.

Once again, the body only uses fats in significant amounts when it is starved, or restricted of carbohydrates. So the same argument applies. It is literally tricking the body into thinking it is dying so that it will burn fats. That doesn’t sound too safe to me.

So what happens in this starvation mode when the body is burning through fats as quickly as it can? Ketone bodies are produced. What is a ketone? Well two of them are acidic and the other one is acetone. Again, another cleaning product that your body is dumping into itself. Probably not the healthiest of things. This acetone can be changed into other, less hazardous materials, through a couple of pathways, but the acetone is still present in the body in larger quantities than necessary for however short a period before they are converted. The buildup of acetone can be so severe in the blood that it becomes a part of the gas exchange in the lungs and a persons breath can literally smell like acetone. All three of them are removed via the urine so once again, for anyone with one kidney, or any kidney problems, i could not in good conscience suggest a ketogenic diet.

On top of all of that, we have a ton of side effects (
-frequent urination (which makes sense given the extra substances I just outlined that have to be urinated out)
-fatigue and dizziness
-low blood sugar
-headaches (again, this one makes sense given the reduced availability of energy to the brain)
and a whole host of other things. Of course, all of these things will happen to everyone at one point or another regardless of their diet, but why would you intentionally put yourself in harms way.

I really have yet to find an upside to keto so I’ll try and make this seem as positive as possible.

Are all of these terrible side effects manageable? Absolutely. If you’re willing to put in the work. We’re talking blood work, daily urine acidity tests, medical supervision, ect. There have been numerous success stories with keto. I know several people who have seen it. But they had to work at their diet and their vitals. It is a lot of extra work when compared to a normal diet, but it can work wonders. Can you get away without doing all of this? Possibly. But it’s dangerous and excessive protein and fat metabolism can actually kill you. I don’t know anyone who has died from eating a balanced diet.

Takeaway points
-two k’s away from being racist
-keto is fake starvation mode
-keto has nasty byproducts
-barring medical conditions, keto provides no benefits I can find over a regular balanced diet
-keto is completely manageable with extreme attention to detail

I am by no means an expert and it is possible that some of this information is incorrect but I doubt that it is. I actually spent a decent amount of time researching for this post and I just realized I completely forgot to source the second half of this god dammit