Once the exclusive purview of epileptics (to control seizures) and madman bodybuilders, the keto diet is now the "it" diet of the masses, having completely trounced Weight Watchers.
It's easy to see how it happened. The keto diet lets people eat all the fat they want and they can practically see themselves shrinking, day-by-day. But the keto diet isn't all sunshine and deep-fried daisies. It has some drawbacks, some of which are serious, and it's really not the best diet for lifters.
Here are some of the problems with the keto diet that make me get a little itchy.
1 – Malnutrition
Keto dieters jettison entire food groups. Is it hard to believe that deficiencies like vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and essential fatty acids are likely? Keto dieters can take care of a lot of those problems by taking multivitamins, but that's a poor and uncertain replacement for the nutrients in real food.
Beyond that, missing out on dozens or even hundreds of the polyphenols found in grains, fruits, wine, and even beer is like playing Super Mario Bros. and not bothering to pick up all the super mushroom power-ups.
2 – Bad for Strength Athletes
There's some evidence that keto diets might work well for endurance runners and Alaskan sled dogs, but if you're neither one of those, and particularly if you're a weight lifter who relies on short bursts of power, forget it.
3 – Gravelly Kidneys
A lot of medicos think the keto diet is hard on your kidneys and can lead to kidney stones. As such, they advise monitoring kidney function while keto dieting. Unfortunately, I've never heard of anyone actually following through on that. It'd be interesting to see some epidemiological studies to see how strong the link really is.
4 – Killer Constipation
Ditching carbs means ditching fiber. Any long-term reductions in actual body weight may be offset by the weight of the steadily accruing reservoir of impacted feces in your intestines.
Keto dieters should be wary of ending up like constipation-plagued Elvis Presley, whose post-mortem colon was 5-6 inches in diameter and weighed 45 pounds. (All that hip gyrating might just have been a desperate effort to get his bowels working again.)
5 – Keto Crotch
Despite the alliterative name, keto crotch is not the newest member of the Marvel Universe (Peter Parker, Matt Murdoch, Jessica Jones, etc., etc.). If it were, I doubt her super power would be of any use in fighting crime, except maybe in some highly unusual and really specific circumstances.
Anyhow, I'm not absolutely certain that keto crotch is a real thing, but there are enough people talking about it on the Internets to at least mention it. Apparently, all the meat-eatin' you do on the diet changes vaginal pH and the lower acidity creates a welcoming environment to undesirable bacteria, leading to possible infections and an unpleasant odor.
6 – Bad Blood
The dangers of high cholesterol appear to be overrated, but that doesn't mean they don't matter at all, and high cholesterol is what you get when you eat fat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
7 – Actual Ketosis is Really Rare
Most regular people on the keto diet aren't really on the keto diet; they slipped out of it when they had that morsel of matzo in their meatloaf or that spoonful of hidden sugar in their dark chocolate keto fudge. It's likely to be more of a problem with athletes who, in an effort to avoid muscle loss, eat a lot more protein than a traditional keto diet would recommend.
These athletes fail to realize that the body, when it isn't getting enough carbs from other sources, breaks down the amino acids in dietary protein to make glucose and wham, Neo exits the keto Matrix.
So let's call these diets what they really are: traditional low-carb diets. (Queue sound of universe laughing.)
8 – Unrealistic Expectations
As any bodybuilder knows, most of the initial weight loss from the keto diet (or any low-carb diet) is from water. When you cut out carbs, you start to lose your glycogen reserves, and for every gram of glycogen you lose, you lose between 2 and 4 grams of water, depending on what source you believe.
In any event, the first couple of weeks of the keto diet result in a loss of a lot of water weight, often up to 10 pounds or so, which is enough to get any dieter all happy and to start making delusional slim-person plans to visit a nude beach or something.
Admittedly, this is a minor flaw, but it does give some people unrealistic expectations of the long-term effects of the diet.