Health 03 October 2018
From personal trainers to celebrity athletes, the ketogenic diet has been on the tip of everyone's lips. LeBron James credits the high-fat, low-carb lifestyle for his dramatic weight loss, Halle Barry claims it's been key to managing her diabetes, and Gwyneth Paltrow praises it for keeping her svelte.
But any diet craze—particularly one with a massive following on social media—is bound to be riddled with falsehoods. The danger with this is that those not in the know may experience frustration, disappointment—even significant health consequences.
With that in mind, here are the biggest myths about the keto diet—and the facts you should know before starting it:
Myth: The keto diet is a butter and cheese free-for-all
One of the draws of the keto diet—which originated in the 1920s to treat epilepsy—is that it eschews the low-fat, tasteless diets of earlier decades. Instead, it demands a rigorous refusal of carbohydrates (as in, less than 30 grams per day, or the amount of a sweet potato) and a strategic dependence on fats. To some keto-ers, this has meant forgoing Fritos for bowls of bacon but the type of fat you eat is of utmost importance. Why? Besides the obvious—that saturated animal fats such as ham and sausage can lead to a host of health issues—filling your plate with conventional beef and dairy products may increase your exposure to xenoestrogens, compounds that can mimic estrogen and result in hormonal havoc (and the health complications that often arrive with it). Rather, reach for unsaturated fats like almonds and flaxseeds. What protein you do eat should come from organic eggs, wild-caught fish, hormone-free, grass-fed beef, lean cuts of poultry, and plant-based foods like Brazil nuts. Which brings us to our next point…
Myth: The keto diet is super high in protein
Blame The Zone and Atkins for the misconception that the ketogenic diet is low in carbs but high in protein. In fact, the breakdown of most keto diets looks like this: 75-90% fat, 5-15% protein, and 5-10% fibrous carbohydrates. In other words, you will need to eat adequate protein, but you won't be snacking on beef jerky and bun-less sliders. Indeed, eating too much protein can shift your body out of ketosis—the aimed-for metabolic state under the keto diet that burns stored and consumed fat for fuel instead of glucose. The excess protein will convert to glucose, and these are carbohydrates that you won't be able to count.
Myth: Without carbs, I'll have zero energy
True: The body's preferred source of energy is glucose, which is produced by carbs, and asking it to start relying on a new form of fuel can be physically and mentally demanding (hence the “keto flu," a cluster of symptoms that includes brain fog and
constipation, which often occurs as the body adjusts to this fresh way of functioning). But ketosis—that aforementioned metabolic state that delivers real results—actually promotes energy. For starters, it decreases cortisol release and supports your adrenals and thyroid glands—and both are central to maintaining a healthy weight, thinking sharply, and feeling vibrant. Research also demonstrates that ketosis fosters beneficial levels of “feel-good" brain chemicals. Having an improved mood almost always translates to bolstered energy. As for those star athletes dodging tortilla chips but downing chia seeds? The keto diet can also give rise to improved stamina and performance.
Myth: You can't lose fat if you're eating fat
To some, the keto diet seems farfetched, even, well, mythical. How can you possibly shed fat if you're eating mostly fat? The keto diet's potential—to aid not only in weight loss but also in clearer, more radiant skin, enhanced energy, and superior memory—comes from radically curbing carbs, the over-consumption of which tells our bodies to store fat. Instead, the keto diet lowers insulin, decreases blood sugar swings and reduces your vulnerability to the litany of health issues that occur with insulin resistance, such as obesity and type-2 diabetes. Further, healthy fats—the sort found in walnuts and avocadoes—can reduce hunger and encourage a sense of satiety, while also providing you with essential nutrients like Omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium. Or, as Dr. Ron Rosedale of The Rosedale Diet says, “Our bodies thrive on good fat" and “our metabolism needs good fat to burn bad fat." (The emphasis here being on good).
In sum, the keto diet's wild popularity may suggest it's just a fad but, its rich history and long list of potential pluses—including more balanced hormones, a stronger libido, enhanced cellular immunity, and enriched brain power—is grounded in science. It's best to know precisely what that science is, however, so that you can avoid potential pitfalls—and, instead, reap its copious benefits.
3 Min Read
With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.
When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.
Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan
Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.
Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.
The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.
Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits
The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.
With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.
Tip 3: Start slow and strong
If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.
Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.
Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize
In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.
When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.
Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness
From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.
Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.
Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.
A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.
Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition
In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.
If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health
While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.
For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.
While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.