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We live in a remarkable time. Anyone with an internet connection or a smartphone can access an incredible amount of information in a matter of moments.
Although most of the time spent on the Internet is devoted to watching videos of cats on YouTube (my favorite), many people use this wealth of knowledge to take control of their health education. They are exploring many nutrition and lifestyle options, including the Paleo diet and one of the most sought-after diets in 2016, the ketogenic diet.
Over the past 20 years, I have explored the variations of these two dietary approaches. I found them remarkably effective in meeting a variety of needs, from fat loss to inflammation reduction to improved athletic performance.
Paleo diet vs keto diet
Based on questions I've had, there's clearly a lot of confusion about what constitutes a paleo vs. keto diet.
This article should help you put both approaches in the proper context and help you decide which option would be best for you.
The paleo diet
Unlike most dietary approaches, the Paleo diet was not "imagined" by a given person (although researchers have certainly advocated this approach).
The concept of Paleo diet was born from the observations of dozens, even hundreds of anthropologists and medical explorers. They realized that hunter-gatherer groups were largely free of modern degenerative diseases.
Yes, these people were remarkably healthy despite the almost total lack of modern medical procedures.
While these groups suffered from high rates of infectious diseases, injuries, and complications related to childbirth (all areas where modern medicine excels), even those who lived in old age were largely free from the disease. obesity, type 2 diabetes, autoimmunity, heart disease and neurodegeneration. (This may be a bit more history than what you were looking for, but I think it's useful to understand that this dietary approach was to observe remarkably healthy human populations living as hunter-gatherers.)
Modern researchers and health professionals who discovered the paleo approach asked a simple question:
"What if the characteristics of our modern world were at odds with our ancient genetics?"
If so, perhaps eating in a way that better reflects our ancestors could save us a host of modern degenerative diseases.
So, what are you eating at Paleo?
Ok, apart from the story, what is a paleo diet in practice? I look at it in two ways:
- Which foods are generally excluded?
- Which foods are included?
By exclusion, the paleo diet suggests to minimize or generally avoid: cereals, legumes and dairy products.
Why? Because these foods are "evolutionarily innovative," it means that they are relatively new to our species and can be a problem for some people.
This makes sense if you think of the most common allergens, they usually fall into the category of cereals and dairy products. For example, I do not do well with most cereals, especially those containing gluten, such as wheat.
All this is very individualbut many people find that they eliminate at least some of these foods.
One limitation of this perspective is that there has been a genetic adaptation to the consumption of some of these foods in various populations. In addition, there are examples of extremely healthy populations that consume all or part of these foods.
Consistency may be that general health begins to decline when highly processed foods (sugar, refined grains, seed oils) replace traditional diets.
By inclusion this means that the diet includes lean meats, seafood, fruits, vegetables, roots, sprouts, tubers, nuts and seeds.
The scientific literature on the paleo diet is impressive, but honestly, the cultural evolution of the "paleo diet" has been a little painful for me. As useful as this model has been to help combat modern diseases, the personal survey of the Paleo diet has largely consisted of asking the following question: "Is this food / activity paleo?
This has created an almost religious process for many people instead of a critical process of self-discovery.
A paleo diet can mean a lot of things for the percentages of protein, fat and carbohydrates.
It has been proven that crops such as Inuit have a diet high in fats and carbohydrates (about 90% of calories from animal products), while kitavans consume at least 70% of carbohydrates. Both populations are in good health, at least until they replace their traditional diet with modern refined foods.
I firmly believe that a paleo diet should be focused on food quality and should not generally be agnostic to macronutrients.
In other words: focus on nutrient-rich foods (while avoiding or minimizing immunogenic foods that cause allergies and intolerances) and "tinker" to find the levels of protein, fat and carbohydrates that you are best suited.
In addition, it should be clear that these needs will likely change over time depending on the level of activity, stress and many factors. Ideally, you do not define the diet as frozen, but rather as a flexible way to continue to optimize your health through nutrition.
The ketogenic diet
If you're interested in an exhausting story of the ketogenic diet, check out this 3-part series of Travis Christopherson.
The long version is that researchers in the early 1900s noticed that patients with severe epilepsy had significantly fewer seizures when they were fasting.
What? Why? How? 'Or' What? When we fast, we deplete liver glycogen (a stored carbohydrate) and the body tends to switch to a ketosis state. In this state, ketone bodies (produced from fat) are used in place of glucose for most energy needs, but especially the brain.
Your brain can transform near its normal glucose-dependent metabolism into a metabolism fueled by ketones, which constitute a much more stable energy source.
So, although fasting has turned out to be a remarkably effective tool against epilepsy (at a time when there was no pharmaceutical optics), fasting could only last a long time.
Generally, what people ate made them out of the ketogenic state, which triggered a new outbreak of seizures. So, how do you solve this situation "hungry without crises" vs. "fed crises"? A diet that mimics many features of fasting.
By drastically reducing carbohydrates, increasing fats and keeping proteins at moderate levels, one could enter a state of "nutritional ketosis" that could be adhered to in the long term.
Although the ketogenic diet was born out of the need to fight epilepsy, many people have observed that low carb diets were exceptionally effective against fat loss. Names like Banting, Atkins and others have sprung up over the years, offering both effective weight loss strategies and controversies.
A diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat has generally contradicted the recommendations of many health authorities and government agencies.
In addition to all this, the ketogenic diet has recently been studied as a treatment for conditions ranging from type 2 diabetes to cancer, and improving the performance of endurance athletes.
So, what are you eating in Keto?
The most basic part of the ketogenic diet is focused on carbohydrate restriction – we're talking about 20 to 30 grams of effective carbohydrates a day (ideally low-glycemic, nutrient-rich vegetables). One then makes sure to get the proper proteins and then add fat according to the needs and goals.
If your goal is to lose body fat, your M.O. is "fat for flavor" but not too much, because you can actually eat too much fat with this diet.
In contrast to the keto diet, if you are a keto-trained athlete who trains for several hours a week, you can consume 70-80% of your calories from fat.
To take away
Well, it was a lot in a little text. So, what does all this mean? Keep these things in mind as you continue to explore or embark on a new way of eating:
- Regardless of the dietary approach (paleo, keto, vegan, etc.), your priority is to eat whole foods unprocessed by ensuring nutritional density.
- You could easily eat a paleo diet with ketogenic ratios – and many people do it! It helps you to eat with optimal nutritional density.
- As powerful as the paleo and keto regimes are, they are tools and as such are best used to meet specific needs. No need to try to turn them into unique solutions.
- Although I am closely associated with the concept of paleo regime, I found that the general message was as problematic as it was useful. I have opted for the following process:
- Evaluate an individual's carbohydrate tolerance and set daily carbohydrate intake to support this situation.
- Recommend elimination of generally immunogenic foods (usually cereals, legumes and dairy products). People remove these foods for 30 days, reintroduce them and evaluate aspects such as mental clarity, physical performance, sleep quality, and the ability to spend long periods between meals without experiencing cognitive impairment or performance problems. .
I hope this will help you better understand what are paleo and ketogenic diets (and not) and how they can work together (or not).
Although it is a fairly long article, it is really about scratching the surface of what is a ketogenic diet.
Keto can be as effective a tool to lose weight in fat, have more energy and more mental clarity, or even just as a good "reset" every few months.
I believe so much in the benefits of the keto diet that I wanted to help others get ketosis – the right way.
Although there is a ton of information on keto (and so contradictory …), I wanted you to be able to do it easily, without stress and without wasting time in the confusing bunny holes online. I have therefore created the Keto Masterclass.
Keto Masterclass is a 45-day program that walks you through everything you need to get started and get results with keto.
You do not know if you should go to the keto? Answer this quiz and find out if the keto diet is right for you.
Is Keto right for me?