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Keto Diet Fail - The Science

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  • Keto Diet Fail - The Science



    The ketogenic diet is one of the hottest diet trends at the moment. Not fat-adapted yet? Not putting sticks of butter in your coffee? Welp, you can't sit with us! (A sarcastic reference to Mean Girls, in case you missed it.)

    I don't know what's more disturbing Ė putting sticks of butter in coffee or the fact that I memorized a line from Mean Girls.

    Jokes aside, the keto diet isn't anything new. In fact, it's been around for almost a century and it's commonly used in the treatment of epilepsy (1). Classified as a very-low-carbohydrate, ultra-high-fat diet, it involves the manipulation of macronutrients to induce a metabolic state called ketosis, a consequence of the lack of carbs.

    The generic macronutrient makeup of the keto diet is about 60-80% of total energy intake (calories) derived from fat, about 20% from protein, and about 10% from carbohydrate (usually less than 50 grams per day) (2).

    Recently, keto fans have peddled it as a superior method for improving body composition, purporting that the unique metabolic state Ė ketosis Ė outperforms any other diet. Let's see what science says about that.

    Why It's Not Superior for Fat Loss

    Let's first address the ketogenic diet's role on weight loss compared to other diets.

    A 2006 landmark study by Johnstone et al, compared weight loss and the metabolic effects of a ketogenic low carbohydrate diet (KLC) and a non-ketogenic low carbohydrate diet (NLC) (3).

    Twenty participants were randomly assigned to the KLC (60% of calories as fat, beginning with approximately 5% of calories as carbohydrate) or NLC (30% of calories as fat, approximately 40% of calories as carbohydrate) group. Protein intake was comparable (30% of calories) between the two diets, with the KLC group having a slightly higher intake (33%) than the NLC group (31%) (Table 1).

    During the 6-week trial, participants were physically inactive, all food and beverages were provided, and caloric intake was strictly controlled.

    Following the 6-week trial, the researchers found no significant difference in terms of total weight loss between both groups. Although not considered statistically significant, the NLC group actually lost more weight (and fat mass) than the KLC group. Fat-free mass didn't significantly change in both groups.

    Moreover, there were no differences in resting energy expenditure or respiratory quotient between groups. The authors concluded, "In the current study, the KLC diet did not offer any significant metabolic advantage over the NLC diet, but, because blood ketones were directly related to LDL-cholesterol concentrations and because inflammatory risk was elevated with adherence to KLC diet, severe restrictions in dietary carbohydrate are not warranted."

    An interesting find about this study is that an in-depth look at the nutrient makeup of both diets revealed that the NLC diet had more than 67% of the recommended dietary intakes for micronutrients; while the KLC diet was less nutrient dense: fiber, vitamin E, folate, iron, magnesium, and potassium were less than 67% of recommended dietary intakes.

    Moreover, a more recent meta-analysis (a study of studies) by Aragon et al, scrutinized the ketogenic diet's influence on body composition and found that as long as protein and calorie intake was matched between ketogenic and non-ketogenic diets, there was no disparity between them for fat loss (2).

    Aragon and colleagues said, "To date, no controlled, inpatient isocaloric diet comparison where protein is matched between groups has reported a clinically meaningful fat loss or thermic advantage to the lower-carbohydrate or ketogenic diet."

    Why It's Not Optimal for Hypertrophy

    So the ketogenic diet failed to outperform any other diet at promoting fat loss, but what about for building muscle?

    To build muscle, a few criteria must be met. First, subjects must be in a caloric surplus Ė ingesting more calories than they're expending. Next, the subjects should be consuming adequate protein to build and repair skeletal muscle tissue. This usually amounts to 0.7g to 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight (1.6 - 2.2g/kg) (3).

    Lastly, and most importantly, the subjects must be resistance training. A keto dieter should easily be able to meet the aforementioned criteria, right?

    Not so fast! During a recent 8-week study by Vargas et al, 24 resistance training subjects were randomly assigned to a ketogenic diet group (KD), a non-ketogenic diet group (NKD), and a control group (4). A hyper-caloric state of 39 calories per kilogram of bodyweight was targeted in all subjects. Protein intake was matched at 2g/kg in both the keto diet and the non-keto diet group.

    After eight weeks of a supervised resistance training program and diet intervention, lean body mass increased significantly in the NKD group and decreased in the KD group, albeit not statistically significant.

    Although a caloric surplus was target in all groups, the KD group failed to reach it. Why? Well, we can only assume by the decrease in fat mass observed in the KD group that the satiating effects of the keto diet proved to be all too powerful, as referenced by several studies (5).

    In another study by Greene et al, researchers followed intermediate and elite weightlifters and powerlifters on an ad libitum (unrestricted) conventional diet or ad libitum ketogenic diet over the course of three months (6). Like the results of the previous study, those following a ketogenic diet lost total body mass as well as lean body mass.

    Long-Term Leanness and Gains

    Sure, once you reach ketosis and become fat adapted you'll start using fat as fuel; however, it won't circumvent the laws of thermodynamics Ė calories in/calories out.

    And since calories are central for both weight loss and weight gain, you're better off choosing a dietary approach that's sustainable. Those looking to gain lean body mass are probably better off sticking to a non-ketogenic diet.

  • #2
    Alan Aragon is a highly respected nutrition and exercise expert. I have a very high level of respect for what he says.

    Ketogenic or carb-restricted diets do have their place in carb cycling protocols. Few things are as effective at fat loss and body recomposition as a well-thought out carb cycling protocol.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Scrumhalf View Post
      Alan Aragon is a highly respected nutrition and exercise expert. I have a very high level of respect for what he says.



      Ketogenic or carb-restricted diets do have their place in carb cycling protocols. Few things are as effective at fat loss and body recomposition as a well-thought out carb cycling protocol.
      There is a better way. You just need to be dedicated long term. I'm convinced a high protein, low fat, medium healthy carb diet over a long period will preserve more muscle and help you maintain a full healthy look vs keto. It may take longer to burn the fat but the end result is the same amount of fat loss but more preserved muscle and strength.

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      • #4
        Keto is no good for hypertrophy but it definitely works well, and fast for weight loss.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by redback View Post
          Keto is no good for hypertrophy but it definitely works well, and fast for weight loss.
          Yep, fat loss is what one should use keto for.

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          • #6
            So you found one study of 20 people years ago and are saying that Keto is a diet fail?

            Some of these studies seem biased in terms of just trying to prove that the diet doesnít work. I suspect some of these articles on here are accurate to an extent but having done keto myself and having had impressive results no study from 15 years ago can convince me there is a better way to preserve muscle and cut fat better than Keto ever has or will.

            The people that say keto doesnít work are the same people stuffing bacon and drinking butter coffee, of course youíre not going to lose weight if you donít know how to do it. I digress entirely so much bro science being refuted as fact when millions of people losing weight effectively with keto will say otherwise.


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            • #7
              Keto is extremely effective for quick fat loss. I've seen guys with already low BF% be ripped to the bone on a Keto diet in two weeks. Like any diet though, I don't think you should stay on it forever. For a long term diet I like high protein, moderate good fats and moderate carb intake. Something like 40/30/30

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              • #8
                PALUMBO..GODFATHER OF KETO

                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwGBB2_DMOY

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Ashop View Post
                  Keto is extremely effective for quick fat loss. I've seen guys with already low BF% be ripped to the bone on a Keto diet in two weeks. Like any diet though, I don't think you should stay on it forever. For a long term diet I like high protein, moderate good fats and moderate carb intake. Something like 40/30/30
                  agree. it's good for quick fat loss. but long term it's inferior for growth and strength gain. i prefer slow fat loss with full muscle bellies and great pumps. carbs for me all day.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Ashop View Post
                    Keto is extremely effective for quick fat loss. I've seen guys with already low BF% be ripped to the bone on a Keto diet in two weeks. Like any diet though, I don't think you should stay on it forever. For a long term diet I like high protein, moderate good fats and moderate carb intake. Something like 40/30/30


                    Exactly keto isnít a ďlifestyleĒ like bodybuilding itís THE avenue to lose fat and spare muscle. In my personal experience and Iíve lost as much as 25 pounds in a single month using keto some of that being water however none of it was muscle, keto needs to be cycled.

                    If youíre severely over weight already it will take vast amount of time to lose 100+ pounds but if youíre already walking around @ 8-13% body fat year around you can shred in 6 weeks, do a cycle add 30+ pounds of weight and shred again in another 6 weeks.

                    Also if youíre losing muscle on keto then youíre not eating enough protein simple as that. Of course a low carb diet is bad for adding size donít try to reinvent the wheel no one is relevant is advocating keto to bulk itís a fat burning diet not a muscle building diet.




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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by DragonNRG View Post
                      Exactly keto isnít a ďlifestyleĒ like bodybuilding itís THE avenue to lose fat and spare muscle. In my personal experience and Iíve lost as much as 25 pounds in a single month using keto some of that being water however none of it was muscle, keto needs to be cycled.

                      If youíre severely over weight already it will take vast amount of time to lose 100+ pounds but if youíre already walking around @ 8-13% body fat year around you can shred in 6 weeks, do a cycle add 30+ pounds of weight and shred again in another 6 weeks.

                      Also if youíre losing muscle on keto then youíre not eating enough protein simple as that. Of course a low carb diet is bad for adding size donít try to reinvent the wheel no one is relevant is advocating keto to bulk itís a fat burning diet not a muscle building diet.




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                      very well said, i'm not disagreeing with that at all, very reasonable.

                      my argument is more for the die hards who come on here talking about how it IS a lifestyle and how it's the best for everything and how they are actually stronger on keto. lol. there are a ton of these type of people. my argument isn't with you at all brother.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Bouncer View Post
                        very well said, i'm not disagreeing with that at all, very reasonable.



                        my argument is more for the die hards who come on here talking about how it IS a lifestyle and how it's the best for everything and how they are actually stronger on keto. lol. there are a ton of these type of people. my argument isn't with you at all brother.


                        I agree keto definitely isnít for bulking and is better suited for weight loss.

                        What I donít agree with
                        ďMoreover, a more recent meta-analysis (a study of studies) by Aragon et al, scrutinized the ketogenic diet's influence on body composition and found that as long as protein and calorie intake was matched between ketogenic and non-ketogenic diets, there was no disparity between them for fat loss (2).Ē

                        This statement makes no sense at all, totally disregarding carbs altogether. The way to reach ketosis is by regulating carb and sugar intake. Saying that there is No difference between them for fat loss? I promise this is false, this would make the science of ketosis in the body a fairy tale if that were true. Your body uses ketones for fuel and utilizes body fat through lipolysis for your source of energy.

                        Iím not aiming this at you op, I hate to see forums flooded with misinformation even still today.


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                        • #13
                          my personal experience (I've been very low sub 6 bf%) is that my body looked better and i stayed fuller eating high protein, high carbs, very low fat. i'm sure the actual bodyfat loss process could have been done quicker if i had done it with keto. but i don't think i would have looked as good. my personal opinion is that if you are not in a rush and you are willing to take your time you can get just as low bf% but you will look better during that process with carbs.

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