- Certain facets of the ketogenic diet are frequently misunderstood, according to author Jennifer Still.
- Here, Still lists five common misconceptions about the keto diet that she’s encountered since she started doing the diet in 2014.
If you’ve heard of the ketogenic diet, you may or may not know that it consists of eating foods that are high in fat, moderate in protein, and extremely low in carbohydrates (generally 20 grams of net carbs per day). I started the diet back in 2014 and, to date, it’s helped me lose more than 130 pounds and counting.
One of the more frustrating things about following this way of eating — and I refer to it as such because eating keto is not a quick fix or a temporary measure for myself or many of those who follow it; it truly is a long-term approach to health and wellness — is the misconceptions people have about it when they find out I eat keto.
Here are just a few of those misconceptions and the truth behind them.
1. All you eat is bacon and cheese.
If I had a dollar for every colleague, “concerned” friend, and internet troll I’ve heard repeat this ridiculous theory, I’d be a millionaire. While technically, yes, bacon and cheese are welcome parts of a ketogenic diet since they’re both high in fat and contain moderate levels of protein, they don’t make up all or even a substantial portion of the ketogenic diet for most of us (and if they do, we’re missing the point).
There are plenty of healthy fats and lean proteins that feature prominently in the ketogenic diet, from coconut, olive, and avocado oils to chicken breast (though thighs are preferable) and even tofu. Not only that, but those who eat a keto diet also enjoy vegetables in large quantities, especially leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli. Eating starchier vegetables like corn and potatoes is obviously discouraged, but if it fits your macros, it’s allowed.
2. It’s terrible for your health.
Because many assume that people who follow keto are eating bacon rubbed in butter and 24-ounce steaks at every meal, they assume that our cholesterol levels must be through the roof and that we’re likely to keel over from a heart attack at any moment. That’s bogus, outdated information and very far from the truth.
In reality, it’s refined carbohydrates that are increasing heart-related illnesses and deaths, with sugar finally being outed as more of a poison than fat ever was, despite the food industry’s demonization of it back in the 1970s. Sure, there’s such a thing as too much of anything, healthy or otherwise, but given that most keto followers are eating a varied and nutritionally sound diet, as mentioned above, this is a nonissue.
3. You’re constantly hungry.
Sure, carbohydrates can make you feel satiated … for a little while. Refined carbs don’t promote a feeling of fullness, and they raise your blood-sugar levels, leading to the dreaded sugar crash. While “slow carbs” like sweet potatoes and whole grains raise insulin levels less dramatically and contain fiber to help delay absorption, the idea that an extremely low carbohydrate diet would leave you starving constantly is just untrue.
Conversely, studies have shown that fat actually keeps you fuller longer and makes you feel more satiated. I know I personally feel way fuller now when I eat a meal of eggs, sausage, and a big pile of veggies than I ever did when I ate a diet full of carbohydrates.
4. You have no energy for intense workouts because you don’t eat carbs.
Yes, ingesting carbohydrates before an intense workout can help you power through and perform well, but that doesn’t mean that those of us whose diets don’t include carbs aren’t capable of taking part in athletic events, even at the professional level.
While there is a small decrease in performance reported in anaerobic exercise for those on a ketogenic diet, there are plenty of elite athletes who swear by the diet. The fact is that it truly depends on what activity you’re performing and how your unique physiology responds to a LCHF (low carb, high fat) diet that determines how you’ll fare. For me, I power through hour-long or more workouts daily on keto, and I’ve never struggled to perform.
5. It’s not sustainable.
The theory behind this seems to be the belief that keto is restrictive in some way or that it requires deprivation, and that’s simply not true. While it’s certainly not for everyone — and that can be said for any and every diet since no way of eating is one-size-fits-all — those of us who follow it and have for years find it not only to be sustainable but to be something we can’t imagine leaving behind.
Sure, it’s not sustainable for everyone, but neither is veganism or a low-fat diet or any of the other approaches to nutrition. It’s important to find what’s right for you and go with it — just don’t knock something just because it’s not for you.