So the year is starting and most of us would have set new year resolutions. For a few number of us, this will include weight loss or muscle gain. The question we get asked a lot is if ketogenic diets work for long-term weight (or fat) loss. We came across some very good research and we are sharing them with you!

So first up, The Science of Fitness (Sci-Fit) did a wonderful job by compiling a summary of the five ketogenic diet articles they wrote in 2018:

  • On average, the ketogenic diet helps people feel less hungry and eat fewer calories.
  • On average, the ketogenic diet is hard to stick to in the long-term. This isn’t exclusive to keto, because people struggle adhering to all diets.
  • Ketogenic supplements are not worth your money, yet. Studies have found few benefits, yet this area of research is new and promising.
  • We did a novel, critical investigation of the ketogenic industry and scientists. Check it out if you’re interested in conflicts of interest.
  • It has long been said that you need to eat a low-to-moderate protein diet if you want to be in ketosis. However, we found that participants can be in ketosis even on high protein diets.
  • We challenge the idea that people need <50 g of carbohydrates to stay in ketosis. In fact, people have been in ketosis in the 60-82 g/d range.
  • We coined a new term: Keto Flush happens when your body loses salt, water, and glycogen during the first weeks of the ketogenic diet.

Please check the link above for some wonderful infographics!

What is the keto diet?

A keto diet – at its core – is a high fat, moderate protein, and ultra-low carbs diet. To put that in context, a 2000 kcal per day diet will allow you between a slice bread (~20g of carbohydrates) to a bowl of rice (~40g of carbohydrates) a day! In contrast, a typical person’s average carbohydrate intake will be somewhere between 225g to 325g a day.

What does Ministry of Health (Singapore) says?

Eat 5-7 serving of whole grain (or rice) a day. Based on their examples, this works out to 200g to 1260g of carbohydrates a day!

Reference: Build a Healthy Diet Meal Plan

Can I go on a keto diet if I workout and want to build muscle?

From what it seems, yes.

A 2018 study looked at how individuals responded to being on a ketogenic diet while being part of a resistance training program. It should be noted that these subjects were in a energy surplus diet (i.e. eating more than what they were burning). The intervention group (those on a keto diet) consumed less than 42g of carbs per day while protein was kept to 2g/kg of body weight/day and fat at 3.2g/kg of body weight/day.

For exercise, the study participants completed four sessions of weight training based on a hypertrophy protocol each week. Each exercise was performed to 3 sets of 6-8 reps of moderate to high load with a 3 minute rest between set. The tempo was explosive during the concentric contraction phase while 3 seconds long during the eccentric contraction phase.

Examples of the exercises: bench press, pull up, lateral raises, inclined bench press, barbell row, military press, bicep curl, tricep dip for upper body days and squat, deadlift, leg press, lying leg curl, leg extension, hip thrust, standing calf raises, machine calf raises for lower body days.

Conclusion: low reps, high load workout + calorie surplus + keto diet does allow you to lose fat mass without compromising on your muscle gains!

Reference: S Vargas, R Romance, JL Petro, DA Bonilla, I Galancho, S Espinar, RB Kreider, J Benítez-Porres. Efficacy of ketogenic diet on body composition during resistance training in trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018;15(31).

Keto diet is not all good (or easy)

Quantitative data is great for evaluating if a particular intervention or diet works. Qualitative studies, however, give us an insight to what the participants experienced. Here are the downsides of a keto diet (from a personal perspective):

#1: Irritability. Believe it or not, this is one of the more common reasons why people (I personally know) would put their keto diet on hold. Be prepared for people around you to notice you being slightly more irritable. Don’t be surprised if they bring it up!

#2: Fatigue. This is probably the second most common reason why people (I personally know) decided to stop. It is typical for keto-dieters to feel tired or to feel a lack of power during their workouts

#3 Being bored of the food choices.

Like Sci-Fit adptly points out, all diet are difficult to commit to. What is to note here is the emotional/social aspects. Your diet has more influence on you than you may think!

Reference: C Zinn, M Wood, M Williden, S Chatterton, Ed Maunder. Ketogenic diet benefits body composition and well-being but not performance in a pilot case study of New Zealand endurance athletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017;14(22).

So, will I lose fat or not?

Honestly yes, it does seem like it. If keto diet sounds like something that might work for you, go for it. Keep us updated with how you go!

Do you have a specific question? Drop us an email and we will get back to you ASAP. Remember, when in doubt, seek advice from a clinical dietician!