The Ketogenic diet is one that severely restrict carbohydrates, meaning that the majority of daily calories come from fats and proteins. The diet encourages foods such as cheese, yogurts, chicken, steak, and eggs. These foods are very high in saturated fats, cholesterol, hormones, and components that trigger inflammation in the body. Diets high in dairy and animal products have been linked to cardiovascular disease and cancers. High amounts of these foods everyday will not make you a better athlete.
The keto diet is devoid of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. These nutrients are found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. You need all of these nutrients not only for basic health but also for top athletic performance. When you restrict carbohydrates, you are restricting energy.
While clinical trials have shown that patients do lose body weight, that weight is not body fat as much as it is muscle, water, and bone loss. It is incredibly dangerous to lose muscle and bone for obvious reasons, and very damaging to the body to be dehydrated for so long.
This is not a weight loss diet that is recommended for long term health or optimal athletic performance.
For soldiers and athletes who are going to eat a keto diet anyway, although again this is never recommended, there are five things that can help to lessen the harm to health.
1. Stay hydrated. The general rule is your body weight in pounds divided by two is about how many ounces of water you may need in a day. Ex: 180 lbs / 2 = 90 ounces water. A hydrated body is a happy body, and you will find that the better hydrated you are than the easier is it to maintain a healthy body weight.
2. Choose unsaturated fat sources, such as nuts and avocados, instead of saturated fat sources, such as cheese, milk, and all meats. Unsaturated fats help to reduced extra inflammation and help to maintain a healthy body weight.
3. Do not limit total carbohydrates to only 20-30 grams per day. Instead, count your net carbohydrates. This is your total carbs minus you fiber intake. Ex: 100 grams of carbs – 70 grams of fiber = 30 net carbs. Counting carbohydrates this way will allow you to eat much more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and get sufficient daily fiber. Fiber is in plant based foods and helps to rid the body of excess cholesterol, helps us feel full, and helps to maintain a healthy body weight.
4. Do not consume any processed keto products, such as protein powders or snack bars. These food products are loaded with garbage that will not help you run faster or lift heavier.
5. Most important – please work with a Registered Dietitian if you are interested in following such an absurdly restrictive diet. A version of this diet can be followed in a healthy way if it is monitored by a nutrition expert.
The goal for every Dietitian is to educate their patients, athletes, or soldiers how to create sustainable and healthful eating habits, not prescribe strict diet plans.