Low Carb vs Keto – What’s the difference?
In recent times the lines have become blurred between low carb and keto. Strictly speaking here are the main differences
Keto or Ketogenic diets are very low carb 5% or fewer carbs per day and 80% plus fat. They were ‘discovered’ and used for the clinical treatment of epileptic patients mostly kids to control seizures. A clinical Ketogenic diet is very hard to have 100% compliance for obvious reasons
Low carb diets mostly brought to the fore by Robert Atkins and were primarily focused on weight loss, with a daily range of carbs of 20 -120g per day depending on how much weight loss is required.
Most people now refer to a Keto diet when referring to either a very strict diet or a traditional low carb diet interchangeably. I believe this to due to cutting carbs becoming more accepted as the norm for healthy eating and sporting performance. People don’t want the association of weight loss that has been attributed to Low Carb for so long.
It is a good idea to move between strict keto (less than 20g carbs per day) and low carb (daily keto) depending on your weight loss and or training goals at the time.
What are Triglycerides and why do they matter?
Triglycerides are one component of the fat found in the blood. It is commonly believed that Triglycerides are increased by eating too much fat, but it is in fact the opposite. Tri’s are increased from eating too many carbs or sugar and therefore increasing insulin.
When carbs are ingested, they are broken down into glucose in the digestive tract and either burned quickly in the bloodstream, transported by insulin into fat cells or transported to the liver for conversion into glycogen or triglyceride. About 60 percent of ingested glucose is transported to the liver in a healthy person. The liver converts glucose into glycogen for storage in muscle tissue and the liver. When liver glycogen stores are full, the liver then converts excess glucose into triglyceride. Triglyceride is then transported by VLDL into cells throughout the body.
Chronically elevated insulin levels prevent triglyceride from being mobilized into free fatty acids for use as energy. Instead, you are stuck in a fat storage pattern instead of a balance between energy mobilization (burning of fatty acids) and energy storage (storing ingested fats or ingested carbs converted into fats). Elevated levels of triglyceride in the bloodstream drive VLDL conversion into small, dense LDL (BAD) instead of large, fluffy LDL (GOOD)
Why Is Keto Good for Diabetics
Blood glucose control is at the very center of Diabetes management. Eating in a keto way by reducing carbs and sugars, means you maintain stable blood glucose throughout the day and during your meals.
Eating a ‘standard’ diet of high carbohydrates and simples sugars your blood glucose rockets up. As a diabetic, our body’s insulin response isn’t efficient or effective enough to return blood glucose to normal quickly enough, which is very dangerous to you and your enteral organs.
If you don’t eat glucose (carbs and sugar) your body won’t spike blood glucose and therefore you don’t need to produce insulin to normalise blood glucose levels. This means no hypo/hyper peaks and troughs making you feel ill and out of control.
Read more here…
Is a keto something I can do on and off to maintain weight?
Keto can be used as a weight maintenance tool. If you don’t have too much to lose and struggle to maintain a low carb approach year-round it can be done this way.
The downside of moving from high carb (Standard Australian Diet) to Keto is you will need to go through the fat adaption phase each time you move your energy systems.
Keto is more than just a fad diet it a way of teaching your body to use a ‘new’ energy system, fat. It may be a better idea to maintain a low carb (modern Keto) way of eating all year round, but allow your carbs to creep up to 100 or 120g per day from time to time. Then drop them down again.
This way you will have all the health and performance benefits of Keto but still enough flexibility to not feel ‘trapped’ by your way of eating.
Can I cheat and still be keto?
Having a cheat day once per week or even more might feel like a good idea but ultimately will make your adaptation process longer and push out the timeline to achieve the results you are looking for. When you switch between the high carb and high fat your body struggles to ‘understand’ what energy system you are wanting to use glucose or ketones?
It is common in ‘diets’ that are low cal or low fat to have a cheat day, this is because they are very restrictive but ultimately still rely on a high carbohydrate fueling system, just eating less total calories per day. The failure in this approach is that you don’t teach your body to burn fat as an energy source.
In the first few weeks it can take a few days to get back into keto and while you do all fat burning and the fat adaption process is halted, so one cheat day per week could mean you are only adapting to Keto 2 or 3 days per week!
It’s not all doom and gloom! As you become more fat adapted and make fat burning your default ‘setting’. You will return to Keto quicker if you push the carbs up on a particular day. You will also become more insulin sensitive so your body becomes more effective at dealing with sugar too, win-win.
Give it some time, allow your body to adapt and get the most out of your nutrition, health, training, and racing.
What is Keto Flu?
Not everyone experiences Keto flu, for those that do this refers to a set of symptoms that people may experience when they start the keto diet. These are usually minor and short term, lasting between a few days and weeks.
This is often due to a lack on salt and drinks a glass of water with half a teaspoon of salt stirred into it. This simple action may alleviate your keto flu symptoms within 15 to 30 minutes
It is recommended that you aim to get in 10g of salt per day. I easy way to know how much to use in a day when starting out is to add 10g (2 teaspoons) of salt to a small packet or container. Add salt to all your meals and in our drinking water. After a few days of this, you will have a good idea of how much to use.
In most cases this simple inclusion of salt will work. Another option is to use an exogenous salt supplement, like Keto-Fast track. This will add ketones to your daily diet and make up the energy gap while you adjust to your new way of eating and still feel great.
As a keto newby… how do I keep track of everything?
You can’t measure what you don’t track! Most people struggle with knowing what foods contain and what the macronutrient split is between Carbs, Fats and proteins in each food, nevermind a complete meal.
This can often be a daunting task and unfortunately one that you will get wrong most of the time without a bit of help.
There are some amazing Free meal trackers available that will help you track all your foods and meals. You can set alerts and set your macronutrient goals to ensure that through the day and at each meal you are hitting your macros and staying on track.
Here are 7 Keto Apps to Help You Track Carbs, Prep Meals and stay on track
- 1 Carb Manager: Keto Diet App. itunes.apple.com.
- 2 KetoDiet. itunes.apple.com.
- 3 Senza. itunes.apple.com.
- 4 Low Carb. itunes.apple.com.
- 5 Keto. itunes.app.ecom.
- 6 8Fit.
- 7 My Fitness Pal.
They all offer something a little different, so check them out and find one that works for you.
Can I go Keto if I Don’t want to lose weight?
Keto is not only about losing weight. Cutting carbs and sugars from your daily diet will improve your health and as an athlete allow you to tap into fat reserves, speed up recovery and extend endurance capacity.
Most people will lose some weight in the first few weeks either through water loss as glycogen stores are dropped and water is shed, or through body fat being consumed as fuel.
If your goal is not to lose weight Keto can still be a great option for you. While calorie counting is not generally a component of going keto there is a function of BMR (basal metabolic rate) that will mean if you eat enough calories your weight will stabilise. This can be done by increasing fat, carb or protein intake.
Another point to consider is the anabolic nature of a keto approach. When blood glucose drops through calorie restriction (missing a meal) your body will send out signals for more food, hunger pangs. If not food is presented muscle tissue will be broken down to metabolise the amino acids for energy, this is a catabolic state. There is some fat usage but as fat oxidation is not well used the process is slow and will not support the energy requirement.
As a keto adapted (fat adapted) person in the same situation of calorie restriction your body will seek out fat to convert to energy. This means blood glucose remains stable, there is no hypoglycemic state and no need to break down muscle fibre. Keto is in essence a muscle-sparing state.