Why Keto and Intermittent Fasting May Not Be For You

There are a lot of different diets out there, but right now keto and intermittent fasting are by far the most popular diet trends. You can’t go anywhere online and read about nutrition or healthy eating without seeing crazy ads about ridiculously fast and easy weight loss using intermittent fasting or the ketogenic diet, along with pictures of slim toned tummies.

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So what exactly are the ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting, and how do they work?

The ketogenic diet, or keto for short, is a high fat, moderate protein, and low carb diet. The key to making this diet effective is the extreme restriction of carbs and the focus on high fat. Protein is generally moderate, although you’re warned not to get too much protein as it can be used by your body in a similar way as carbs, which would lessen the effectiveness of the diet.

The keto diet works by using your body’s stored fat as energy. This shift of using fat instead of carbs for energy causes your body to produce ketones, which is where the name ketogenic comes from. Using your body’s stored fat may sound like a no-brainer when it comes to weight loss, but this does have some drawbacks.

First, I’ll talk about the pros that are often mentioned, such as healing diabetes or autoimmune diseases such as arthritis. There have been some great results reports in these areas, as well as for diseases that affect the brain such as Alzheimer’s. It’s also reported to keep blood sugar levels more stable with the shift in using fat for fuel instead of glucose.

Now for the drawbacks of the diet. Many people will experience flu-like symptoms the first week or so while the body shifts into using fats for fuel, but this may also be a result of sugar withdrawal as well. This diet cuts out many healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables that have too much sugar or carbs to keep you in ketosis. It can also increase your cortisol, which can cause insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, and fat accumulation. Increased cortisol puts your body in a stressed state, making it extremely difficult to lose weight.

Extremely low carb diets can wreak havoc on female hormones, which can ultimately cause you to gain weight. A few other negative side effects include high cholesterol, constipation from lack of fiber, mineral deficiencies, decreased muscle mass, and ultimately a slower metabolism.

Geez, that’s a lot of “cons”, right? Some people do have success with weight loss on this diet, but in my opinion, the many cons far outweigh the potential benefits, especially for women.

Next let’s talk about intermittent fasting, or IF, which is often used in conjunction with the keto diet.

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When you eat every few hours, you’re in a “fed” state, which is when your body is busy digesting, absorbing, and assimilating the nutrients from your meals. Fat burning isn’t a priority when you’re in a fed state, which most people are in during their waking hours. When you’re in a fasted state, your body can more readily burn fat for fuel. Most people will fast for a set number of hours, and then break the fast and eat for a set number of hours. Some of the most common fasting periods are 12,14, 16, and 18 hours.

Now let’s get into the pros and cons of IF.

It’s said that IF boosts energy levels, increases stamina, and improves cognitive function. Some other benefits include sustainable weight loss for people who like this eating style, reduced inflammation, and improved insulin sensitivity. Those benefits don’t sound too bad, right?

While that may be true, it may not be for everyone — especially depending on whether you’re male or female. It seems that whether or not intermittent fasting will work for you comes down to human biology. While shorter periods of fasting are generally considered safe for most people, some of the extended fasting times associated with intermittent fasting aren’t recommended for women.

Longer periods of fasting can be disastrous for women’s hormones, causing things such as reproductive issues and early menopause — and may worsen other pre-existing health conditions. Another downside of IF is that when your body senses starvation, which it will during the fasting period, it will shut down unnecessary functions such as reproduction. It also causes your body to stress, increasing cortisol, which works against you in your weight loss efforts. Last, it can cause an increase in hunger hormones (ghrelin) and a decrease in your fullness hormones (leptin), meaning you’ll be hungry more often and find it more difficult to feel full.

Since all of your hormones are so deeply connected, just one being off balance can throw many more off as well. Once this happens, it’s like a domino effect that can negatively impact your energy production, digestion, metabolism, and blood pressure.

So what’s the best approach for a woman to lose weight and improve her health? In my personal experience and with the clients I’ve worked with, a more balanced approach works best. A macro-based diet that includes all macronutrients and food groups can help balance hormones, overcome cravings, improve energy and health, and promote weight loss. An experienced health coach can help you create a plan that will work specifically for your needs, including the correct calories and macronutrient ratios to help you reach your goals.

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Recipes

Mexican Salad

Makes 2 large salads. * Gluten free if using gluten-free spices and mustard.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp olive oil

  • 4 oz lean ground turkey

  • ½ cup chopped sweet pepper

  • ¼ cup onion, chopped

  • ½ tsp garlic, minced

  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper

  • ½ tsp cumin

  • 1 cup black beans, canned

  • ½ cup salsa

  • 4 cups romaine lettuce, shredded

  • 1 dash salt & pepper

Directions:

1. Heat oil in skillet.

2. Sauté pepper, onion, garlic & spices.

3. Add turkey & cook until brown.

4. Add black beans and cook until warm.

5. Place lettuce on two plates and add turkey, bean & pepper mixture.

6. Top with salsa. Enjoy!

Macros per serving: calories - 260, protein - 20 g, carbs - 28 g, fat - 7.5 g


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About Shannon:

I’m Shannon Labrador, a health and nutrition coach helping women take back control of their health, lose the weight, and feel great about their body.

You can reach me here to schedule your free weight loss breakthrough session. If you’re a woman trying to lose weight and improve your health, I’d love to talk to you about how a macro-based approach may be able to help you with a sustainable healthy lifestyle.