The ketogenic diet is a tool in the toolbox. I don’t think anyone should spend all year-round in a ketogenic state, just as I don’t think everyone should spend all year-round in a carbohydrate burning state. What we’re trying to train the body for here is metabolic flexibility – the ability to effortlessly switch between glucose for fuel and fat for fuel without having any adverse symptoms.
If you’re coming from the SAD, regardless of whether you’re overweight or not, I highly recommend doing a period of 1-2 months in a ketogenic state to train up your metabolic flexibility.
Even quite lean individuals can have carbohydrate dependency/rusty fat burning machinery if they’ve been eating that way all their life. I’d still recommend a period of ketosis, or low carbohydrate at the very least, to train up metabolic flexibility.
From there, it depends on how you’re feeling. If you feel the absolute best you’ve ever felt in your life and your blood/biomarkers are looking beautiful, then by all means, continue.
Most people, however, find that the limited food choices of a ketogenic diet aren’t sustainable. And that’s perfectly fine! Great, even. As long as you keep processed carbohydrate/food lower in general, exercise regularly, eat lots of vegetables and well-sourced proteins, you’ll be good to go. This strategy will also reduce hyperpalatable foods that trigger us to overeat.
If you suffer from debilitating cravings that keep you eating, going into a ketogenic diet for a period of time can help reset the brain’s reward system; as long as hyperpalatable foods are highly limited after you come off the diet.
Another good application of the ketogenic diet would be in obesity and severe insulin resistance/metabolic syndrome. Most studies show that, calories equal (both groups eating in the same calorie deficit), a high carbohydrate, low fat and low carbohydrate, high fat approach have roughly the same fat loss.
However, in cases of severe insulin resistance, studies show that people tend to fare better on a low carbohydrate, even ketogenic approach. So, if you know you’re severely insulin resistant through high fasting blood glucose measurements, a borderline OGTT, and perhaps a pre-diabetic A1C value, then you will probably fare better on a ketogenic or low carb approach for weight loss purposes.
But the bottom line is, beyond the applications of severe insulin resistance, training up your metabolic flexibility, and treatment-resistant epilepsy, a ketogenic approach is just as good as any. You need to find the right eating strategy that you can maintain in a healthy fashion for the rest of your life.
If you go through your ketogenic period and decide that you don’t ever want to do it again, you can still maintain the metabolic flexibility you’ve built through intermittent fasting. Whether it be 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of feeding, alternate day fasting, or any other protocol. You can eat your carbohydrates during your feeding window, and then if you have a bit of an extended fast, your body has a chance to liberate and use its stored fatty acids for fuel.
To conclude this part, the main message is that keto is a tool. I don’t believe it should be a permanent lifestyle (for a few it seems to work), but it does wonders for the applications I’ve laid out above.
In part 2 I’ll address the in’s and out’s of successfully embarking on a ketogenic diet. Stay tuned.