The ketogenic diet, usually referred to simply as keto, is a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) nutritional method which has seen a rise in prominence during recent years.
Studies show that keto may be an effective option for combating obesity, and many people have had success using it for minor weight loss as well.
But the growing prevalence of keto among casual dieters has contributed to a wave of misinformation regarding this diet.
These are the 9 biggest keto myths that you can stop believing right now.
MYTH #1: YOU CAN EAT ANY LCHF FOODS YOU WANT
Maybe the most widespread piece of misinformation that I hear among those unfamiliar with the keto diet is that it allows users to eat their fill of deep-fried foods, bacon, fast food, and other greasy delights as often as they want.
While there is a faction of keto followers who do subscribe to this “dirty keto” philosophy, most do not. In reality, foods containing unhealthy fats, especially trans fats, that don’t provide much in the way of other nutrients are definitely not staples of a healthy keto diet.
Although such LCHF guilty pleasure foods aren’t strictly forbidden for those following a keto diet, experts recommend enjoying them sparingly.
MYTH #2: YOU CAN'T BUILD MUSCLE ON KETO
Bodybuilders will tell you that a muscle building diet is one which provides an abundance of protein and carbs. As you know, the keto diet doesn’t deliver much in the way of carbs. And although there is some protein allowed, it definitely is not considered a high-protein diet.
So that must mean that you can’t build muscle on keto, right? Wrong! Despite what you may have heard, you can build muscle on keto.
The truth is, if it’s “bulking season” and your current goals include putting on a significant amount of mass, keto is not the diet for you. However, if you’re looking to add several pounds of lean muscle, studies show that doing so is definitely possible while adhering to a keto diet.
MYTH #3: KETO CAUSES KETOACIDOSIS
As you might know, ketones are produced when your body uses fat for fuel as opposed to carbs, and they can be detected in urine. The keto diet is designed to induce ketosis, which results in the production of ketones.
For those with type 1 diabetes, however, ketones in the urine can be a sign of a serious medical condition called ketoacidosis. Symptoms can become severe, and those experiencing ketoacidosis usually require immediate medical attention.
Fortunately, the names of these conditions is the biggest similarity between the two. Unlike ketoacidosis, ketosis is not considered a medical emergency, nor is hazardous to the health of an otherwise healthy individual.
MYTH #4: YOU CAN DO SHORT-TERM, “QUICK FIX” KETO
In order to see results from keto, one has to severely limit carbs for an extended period of time. A few days or even a week on the keto diet may not be long enough for your body to effectively enter ketosis.
This is why keto is not effective as a quick fix, one-week crash diet. It wasn’t designed for this purpose and anyone who tells you otherwise is misinformed.
On the same token, bouncing back and forth from LCHF to regular or moderate-carb intake will inhibit your body’s ability to enter ketosis. In order for keto to be effective, it has to be an all or nothing lifestyle during the entire time period you’ve decided to commit to.
MYTH #5: DAILY CARB NEEDS ARE ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL
A common question many people ask is “How many carbs do I need to eat every day?” The answer to this question can actually be somewhat complex and varies greatly from person to person.
You might read about the daily recommended values offered by dietitians and nutritionists, but these are approximations. While they can give you a good starting point, your body might burn through carbs at a higher or lower rate than someone else.
That’s why you might need to experiment a little bit with your daily carb intake when starting out on keto, as opposed to reading what others have done and running with that. What works for someone else may not be right for you and your body.
MYTH #6: FRUIT & VEGGIES ARE OFF-LIMITS
When adhering to a keto diet, carbohydrate intake has to be very low in order to facilitate ketosis. It’s important to realize a couple of things though: low-carb does not mean 0 carbs, and most users of keto rely on net carbs when tallying up their daily total.
Net carbs are the carbs leftover once fiber and non-caloric carbs (like sugar alcohols) have been subtracted from your daily carb count. This allows for the consumption of high-fiber vegetables and even some fruits (although these should be eaten sparingly) when you're on keto.
For optimal health and to yield the best results possible from your keto experience, it’s important to include as many plant-based foods as you can manage while staying within your carb limit.
MYTH #7 KETO IS A HIGH-PROTEIN DIET
The first low-carb diet that took America by storm was the Atkins diet, which calls for a relatively high consumption of protein.
Perhaps because of the low-carb commonality shared by the two diets, many people associate keto with high-protein as well. However, as any keto-er will tell you, this is actually not the case.
The keto diet is described as a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb diet with only about 20% (give or take) of daily calories coming from protein. Eating too much protein while on keto can actually interfere with your body’s ability to enter ketosis.
MYTH #8: KETO IS BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH
Throughout the second half of the 20th century, doctors and dietitians warned of the evils of eating fat, pointing to the negative effects it could have on heart health. As a result, fat of any kind was largely demonized and labeled as a dietary no-no.
Fast forward to today, and the reported dangers of dietary fat have been called into question, as recent research disagrees with long-held beliefs. Doubts have even been cast on the negative impact saturated fats are thought to have on heart health.
And most experts agree that the unsaturated fats, which come primarily from vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish, contribute greatly to heart health. So as long as good fats are prioritized, the high-fat nature of keto is not bad for your heart.
MYTH #9: YOU'LL HAVE NO ENERGY ON KETO
You probably learned in grade school that carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of energy. This leads many people to the logical conclusion that a lack of carbs equates to a lack of energy.
While carbs do fuel your body, fat is actually quite an effective energy source in the absence of carbs. In fact, this is the entire premise upon which the keto diet is built.
And although you may feel tired during the early goings of keto, the fatigue should subside once your body enters ketosis and begins burning fat as energy.
While these aren’t the only myths being spread about the ketogenic diet, they are some of the most prevalent.
As with any diet, it’s important to do your homework and find out for yourself what the facts are before deciding whether it would be a good fit for your lifestyle. It’s also a good idea to check with your doctor before making any major dietary changes.
To learn more about the ketogenic diet, check out our quick guide to keto!