Happy January 1, 2017. It’s the start of a new year, and generally this is when people make new commitments (or re-commit) to finally get into shape, start exercising, stop drinking, or to lose those ten pounds for once and for all. (Maybe twenty pounds. Thirty. Okay, forty-five.) The question that used to begin my new year was: “what’s the fastest and easiest way to drop a few pounds?”
If you have ever been on a diet, eaten high carb, low carb, high protein, low fat, no fat, no meat, been a vegetarian, vegan (no eggs or dairy), raw vegan (uncooked plants), or a fruitarian (fruits only—yes, I even tried this one), then we share something in common. I have tried and failed doing all of the above. This is mostly because I did not understand that fat loss is not a calorie counting game, despite what nutrition experts might say. Cutting calories can lead to short term weight loss, but it can also leave you tired, unable to sleep, cranky, hangry (so hungry that you are angry) and inevitably back at your starting weight or weighing a few extra pounds. The moral of the story? DIETING DOES NOT WORK.
Most people in the United States eat what is known as the standard American diet (SAD). Up until the middle of the twentieth century, Americans ate three meals per day with no need for snacks, protein shakes, Big Gulp soft drinks or Starbucks coffee pick me ups to make it through the day. Changes to the SAD in the 1950s resulted in Americans eating more carbohydrates, more processed foods, and more sugar while eating less of the quality fats, proteins and unrefined foods that were a staple until that time (Grotto & Zied, 2010). The diet of many Americans today has resulted in easy access to calorie-dense, low quality foods that leave many people overfed and undernourished. This contradiction, according to Gary Taubes (Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It, 2011), explains how a person can be both obese and malnourished at the same time.
Why is this happening? One argument is that humans eat more carbohydrate foods than the body can handle. Those who support eating an ancestral diet believe that eating the foods eaten by hunter-gatherers prior to agriculture is a better choice. Paleolithic humans were in very good health. They were often tall and slender, had few cavities and minimal evidence of stress in their bones (Holt & Formicola, 2008). In addition, their muscle attachments were strong and there is minimal evidence of infection (2008). And their diets did not contain any of the “heart healthy grains,” low fat dairy, fat free cookies and even loads of sweet fruit that Americans are told are healthy for them. Hunter-gatherers obtained 65-90% of their energy needs from meat, fish, and eggs with the remaining energy coming from plant sources such as wild greens, tubers, berries and rare treats like honey (Cordain, 2010).
Most people who eat an ancestral diet, also called a paleo or primal diet, are eating a low carb diet. While the average American obtains 50-70% of calories from carbohydrates, low carbers obtain between 5-40% of calories from carbohydrates. This is a big range, but what they have in common is that carbs do not make up the majority of calories. Instead, they eat more fat and protein, just as our ancestors ate before Doritos and Coca-Cola became food groups.
The low end of the low carb spectrum is those who eat 5-10% of total calories from carbohydrates and who obtain the predominance of calories from fats (50-80%). People who obtain such low levels of carbs from their diets run on ketone bodies rather than glucose and follow what is popularly known as a ketogenic diet. Ketone bodies are comprised of fatty acids and are a clean energy source for the body and for the brain.
How were Ketogenic protocols first discovered? Starvation was utilized as early treatment for those who had epileptic seizures and other conditions because it was discovered that not eating reduced the severity of symptoms. Because people cannot starve (or fast) long term, scientists uncovered a methodology for eating foods in the same ratios that benefit the body while not eating (aka fasting).
Paul Jaminet, author of Perfect Health Diet, explains the composition of the human body, which accordingly is comprised of the following macronutrient distribution.
|Macronutrient||Human body composition (%)|
|Glycogen (created from glucose)||1.2%|
Kevin Hall’s chart below (2016) shows a similar ratio of nourishment that is converted from the body during a fasted state (see upcoming post on Ketosis and Fasting for details).
Similarly, this demonstrates that when a person stops eating food, a healthy body provides energy in what could be considered optimal ratios for the human body. This, at least, is one basis for ideal macronutrient ratios for a ketogenic diet.
But what exactly is a Ketogenic diet?
Who would want to be in ketosis?
What are the benefits?
Are there any detriments?
Answers to these questions and more will appear in next week’s post.
Interested in learning more about the benefits of a low carb Ketogenic diet? Contact Keto Sister today for your personalized nutrition coaching.