Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Going Ketogenic (Atkins, TKD, CKD, And More!)

Maybe you've heard of them, or maybe you haven't.  But they're out there: low carb diets which promise to lose you pounds off your waistline and keep tasty foods in your meals.  And if you can stave off the craving for breads, fruits, and sweets, these diets might be ones to try out if you're really looking to lose some serious fat.  They have been proven to be quite successful in most overweight individuals, and have a huge following in both the fitness world and the general public.  But there's a lot of information out there, and quite a few different types of low carb diets, so things can get pretty confusing quite quickly.  Let's explore the differences between different low carb or "ketogenic" diets and see if one or the other might be right for you.

First though, I'd like to post a disclaimer.  Low carb diets AREN'T for everyone, and they're NOT THE ONLY WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT.  Many people can lose pounds of fat while keeping large percentages of carbs in their diet.  So don't go cutting the bread, pasta and rice without really knowing what you're getting into.

Okay, so what exactly is a "ketogenic" diet?  It's a pretty interesting idea actually.  The train of thought is that when you eliminate most of the carbs from your diet, and replace them with high amounts of fat and moderate amounts of protein, your body, which normally gets its energy from converting carbohydrates to glucose, is forced to instead find another energy source.  It does this by freeing up stored fat molecules, converting them into a substance called "ketone bodies," and using that special substance to fuel your body.  Amazingly, ketone bodies have a lot of energy potential, so after an initial energy low upon starting a ketogenic diet, dieters often report a large increase in energy due to the new energy source.  This state of running off fat is called "ketosis."  Pretty neat huh?

There are several types of ketogenic diets, one of the most common being the Atkins diet.  This diet is mainly focused toward the general public, and has some pretty strict guidelines as to carb consumption.  Normally, for the first few weeks, dieters aren't allowed to consume more than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day, and instead are encouraged to take in their calories through mainly protein based sources.  There are four phases to the Atkins diet, each with different rules and permitted foods.  These phases are:

The Induction Phase (20 g net carbs per day)
Ongoing Weight Loss (Increase of 5 g net carbs per week until within 10 lbs of target body weight)
Pre-maintenance (Increase of 10 g net carbs per week until weight loss ceases, then reduction of 10 g)
Lifetime maintenance (Carbs remain at the "tipping point" established in the pre-maintenance phase)

If you'd like to read more about the phases of the Atkins diet, here's a link to my favorite site:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atkins_diet#The_four_phases

It's your favorite site too, right? =]

The Aftkins diet is strict in the sense that carbohydrate amounts start low and stay low for the duration of the diet.  You're always going to be carbohydrate deprived in order to maintain ketosis, and therefore are always going to have to watch your weight, plan ahead in terms of your diet, and make sure you don't go over the magic number of carbs.  You're also going to need to eat a LOT of protein, which to many keto dieters has been found to be a non-ideal solution to replacing carbohydrates.  Many keto dieters who don't follow the Atkins diet say that it's far better to replace carbs with healthy fats than it is to replace with large quantities of protein.  Also, the Atkins diet doesn't employ any caloric restrictions, which can be confusing and misleading to certain dieters.  Many who aren't successful on the Atkins diet fail because they consume too many calories from non-carb sources that are very calorie dense, like certain cheeses and peanut butter.

The Atkins diet does have a very large following though, and quite a few remarkable success stories, so it remains a popular staple in the ketogenic diet category.

But what about other sorts of ketogenic diets?  Well, the Atkins diet is geared more toward the general public, and non-gym rats.  The fitness crowd tends to employ its own version of the ketogenic diet, and probably the area of greatest success in terms of the ketogenic diet craze is in bodybuilding.  Bodybuilders usually cycle between bulking phases (attempting to put on muscle through calculated increases in calorie and macro-nutrient intake), and cutting phases (eliminated the inevitable fat gain on top of the muscle gain due to bulking) before competition.  One of the greatest cutting tools in the bodybuilding world today is in fact a ketogenic diet.  However the Atkins diet isn't optimal for high intensity gym visits because according to some, it really can decrease strength levels to an intolerable level.  To combat this, bodybuilders (and other fitness enthusiasts alike) use three different types of ketogenic diets:

Cyclical Ketogenic Diet- This diet takes the fat burning benefits of ketosis and mixes them with the power of carbohydrates.  You may wonder how this is possible, due to ketosis requiring an extremely low carbohydrate environment to really work.  You see, on ketogenic diets, some people experience extreme strength losses at the gym, despite the increased fat burning.  This will require them to do what's called a "carb-up" once, or even twice a week.  This carb up involves eating large amounts of carbohydrates on a certain day, then cutting carbs to between 30 and 60 grams on every other day to reinstate ketosis and increased fat burning.  This process should cause a carryover from the carb-up day to allow energy levels to stay managable at the gym, and will keep the dieter from fainting with exhaustion.  This diet is EXTREMELY popular in the bodybuilding world, and has shown to be very successful across the board.

Targeted Ketogenic Diet- This version of the ketogenic diet is similar to the cyclical diet in terms of increased carb intake at certain key points, but instead of on a certain day, the targeted ketogenic diet allows you to ingest large amounts of carbohydrates around workout time, to really give you that boost of strength in the gym, and give your body much needed carbohydrates for recovery.  Usually around 40-80 grams of carbohydrates are consumed pre and post workout, though that number can be adjusted based on carb sensitivity and fat loss goals.  Again, this type of dieting has been shown to be very successful in the fitness world.

Standard Ketogenic Diet- This one I don't need to talk about too much, as it resembles the Atkins diet quite closely.  It has no carb-up days, and requires the dieter to maintain net carbohydrates levels under about 30 grams per day.

Here's a more in depth article about CKD and TKD keto diets from bodybuilding.com:http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/sclark91.htm

Also, ketogenic diets other than the Atkins suggest a larger ratio of fat to protein, which I personally like considering too much protein can cause all sorts of little digestive issues.  Some good starting macros for a ketogenic diet would probably be 60% calories from fat, 35% from protein, and 5% from carbs.  Look around a little though, because many people have tweaked these macros and are still making great progress.

So you may be wondering, is a ketogenic type diet right for you?  Well, if you've got a few extra pounds to lose, a ketogenic diet can really work wonders.  I personally would suggest trying out either a cyclical of targeted ketogenic diet first, especially if you go to the gym on a regular basis (WHICH YOU SHOULD.)  Don't take this article as your only research on the subject, look around the internet for people who have had success, read their stories, and make sure you know your plan BEFORE you embark on the keto journey.  You can get GREAT results, you just need to make sure you know every little nuance of your diet.

Keep things precise, burn that fat, and as always, GOOD LUCK!


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