The Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD) has some good aspects, some bad aspects, and some ugly aspects.
There are different modifications of SKD that will resolve some of these problems (like the modification we recommend that we call, “The Daily Cyclical Keto Diet“), but in this article, I’ll focus specifically on SKD.
Perfect people will tell you that you can do SKD “the right way” where these disadvantages don’t happen. Well … the only perfect eaters I know are professional athletes, models, and actors. For the rest of us … we are not perfect and are unlikely to ever be perfect eaters. You might be able to do perfect eating for a month as a challenge, but that’s not a good long term strategy.
The Good: Advantages of the Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)
1. Weight Loss
There are many theories that exist on how the Ketogenic Diet can help with weight loss. We’ll cover a couple reasons that we feel are supported with scientific evidence.
Please note: There is only 1 way to lose weight – consume fewer calories than you burn. Going on a Keto Diet, consuming 4,000 fat calories a day will have you gaining weight, not losing weight. The #1 reason why the Ketogenic Diet can help you lose weight is due to appetite suppression, which should lead to consuming fewer calories.
- In order to turn fat into energy, there is a much longer metabolic process and digestion process involved than if you were to get your calories from simple carbohydrate sources like sugar. Try consuming 240 calories from a 20 oz coke vs. 240 calories from 3/4 of an avocado. The avocado is going to keep you full much longer.
- When you are eating, your body produces a hormone called CCK that helps make you feel full. When you lose weight, your body produces less of this as your body’s way to try to get you to keep eating to bring your body back to pre-weight loss levels. This is a problem. However, studies have shown that in a ketogenic diet, CCK was sustained at the same levels as before weight loss. 
- When you lose weight, the “hunger hormone” Ghrelin increases – which makes you hungry. But studies have shown that under a Ketogenic Diet, that is not the case and Ghrelin can actually decrease.  
2. Neurodegenerative Disease (Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Huntington's, etc.)
Neurodegenerative diseases primarily affect neurons in the brain. Various studies have linked benefits of the ketogeneic diet to neurodegenerative diseases. 
- Alzheimer’s: Research has shown a positive correlation between memory improvement and ketone levels 
- Parkinson’s: In one uncontrolled study, Parkinson’s disease patients experienced a 43% average reduction in Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale scores after a 28-day exposure to the Ketogenic Diet. 
- Mild Cognitive Impairment: Studies have shown that ketone levels are positively correlated with memory performance. 
3. Mental Clarity, Focus, and Cognition
The prior section on Neurodegenerative Disease discussed benefits related to people with actual cognitive issues.
But if you are completely healthy, can increased ketones help improve your mental clarity, focus, and/or cognition?
Anecdotal evidence (personal accounts) certainly seem to support this. But scientific evidence to support this doesn’t really exist. That’s likely because it’s hard to measure.
How do you scientifically measure better focus, mental clarity, etc.?
4. Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is a disease where you have problems producing or using the hormone insulin (Type 2 Diabetes), or when your body doesn’t produce insulin at all (Type 1 Diabetes).
Insulin is the hormone that is produced to help your body absorb glucose, store glucose as glycogen, or store glucose as fat. The more glucose you consume, the more insulin your body will produce.
The exact causes of Type 2 Diabetes are unknown, but we do understand the primary risk factors to be weight, fat distribution, inactivity, family history, race, age, prediabetes, gestational diabetes, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. 
There have been a few studies on how the ketogenic diet impacts people with Type 2 Diabetes:
1.) In 2005, a study at Duke looked at 28 overweight people with type 2 diabetes. After 16 weeks of going on the Ketogenic Diet, receiving nutritional counseling, and reducing medictions – they found an average of 19 lbs lost, decreased blood glucose levels by 17%, and decreased triglyceride (fat) levels by 42%. 
2.) Another study compared results of Type 2 Diabetes between a low calorie diet and a Ketogenic Diet. Here is a table of the results: 
3.) Another study compared people without diabetes to determine how these diets might impact the risk of getting Type 2 Diabetes.  They put people into 3 different diet groups:
Here are some key results of this study:
- All diets produced similar body fat and weight loss.
- VLCARB was more effective in improving tracylglycerols, HDL cholesterol, fasting and post-meal glucose and insulin concentrations. More specifically, triacylglycerols decreased by 39.9% in VLCARB subjects, 4.0% in VLF subjects, and 9.6% in HUF subjects.
- Insulin levels decreased by 33.6% in VLCARB subjects, decreased by 18.7% in HUF subjects, and increased by 15.1% in VLF subjects.
5. Lower Production of Free Radicals
Free radicals are associated with aging and various diseases. They are produced naturally in our body, found in food that we eat, air we breathe, etc. They are everywhere. You may have also heard of “oxidative stress” which is referring to damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants are what removes free radicals from our body – which is why we want to consume antioxidants.
Research in animals has shown that when using energy from fatty acids instead of glucose, fewer free radicals are produced.  Human studies have also shown that the ketogenic diet elevates blood antioxidative capacity and does not induce oxidative stress. 
The Bad: Disadvantages of the Standard Ketogeneic Diet (SKD)
1. Carcinogens - Avoid Processed Meats
Too many people who go on keto consume way too much processed meats. You need to watch your intake of processed meat.
Processed meat is a carcinogen. It refers to hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausage, and some deli meats. “Processed meat” refers to meat that has been treated in some way to preserve or flavor it. Processes include salting, curing, fermenting, and smoking.
From the World Health Organization, twenty-two experts from 10 countries reviewed more than 800 studies to reach their conclusions that processed meat is a carcinogen.
An easy way to implement the ketogenic diet is to just eat a bunch of processed meats that are full of fat. But that is the wrong way to do it. You need to succeed without adding a bunch of processed meats to your diet.
2. "Keto Flu" / Adaptation Period
People can experience flu-like symptoms when starting the keto diet. Symptoms can include headaches, nausea, irritability, etc.
A lot of people raise theories to why this can happen, but here are some of the most common:
- It takes time for your body to get used to using fats and ketones as energy – your body is not efficient at it and it takes a while to adjust to it. Some people will talk about your body being “fat adapted”. This is when your body is used to using fats for energy. If your body is not “fat adapted” and you go into ketosis, then your body struggles to get energy until it’s efficient at this process.
- Sugar withdraw. Your body is so used to being fueled by glucose, that your body will start to have withdraw symptoms. After all, research has shown very similar properties between your brains response to sugar as your brains reponse to drugs like heroin, cocaine, and morphine.
- You will lose water weight the first few days. Glycogen is stored with water and your glycogen levels get depleted, so does your retained water.
The adaption phase is only for a limited time (some say they’ve experienced up to two weeks) and there are some things you can do to help avoid it or lessen its impacts:
- Drink lots of water.
- Don’t cut calories immediately. Your body will be able to more easily covert fat from food for energy than it will be able to convert stored fat for energy.
- Eat nutrient dense foods. We recommended adding a lot of superfoods to your diet as a way to do this. You might also consider high quality vitamins. Also consider Vitamin B12 and Magnesium to help combat headaches and muscle cramping.
Many people complain of being bloated to the point where they can see their stomach sticking out when they walk by a mirror. The other common complaint with the ketogenic diet is being constipated.
A build-up of endotoxins starts the problems …
The naturally occurring bacteria in your gut release these endotoxins. If these endotoxins penetrate your body, they cause inflammation; which can result in many things ranging from depression to pain and insulin resistance and of course, bloating.
If you have inflammation in your gut (stomach and intestines), you will have a problem with the detoxification process in the bile pathway. This causes you to reabsorb toxins rather than eliminate them. This breakdown of the detoxification process becomes one of the main problems with ketogenic diet.
Eating a meal that is high in saturated fat causes these endotoxins to enter the body. So if you eat a ketogenic diet, the endotoxins are entering your body at a high rate…. so how do you stop it?
The way to combat this is to base your diet around eating more fruits, more superfoods, more fiber, and more vegetables. Essentially, follow our Daily Cyclical Ketogenic Diet.
The Ugly: Major Disadvantages of the Standard Ketogeneic Diet (SKD)
1. Micronutrients - Deficiencies in Vitamins, Minerals, and Antioxidants
In our opinion, this is the #1 disadvantage of the Keto Diet. The Ketogenic Diet focuses entirely on Macronutrients with no focus on Micronutrients.
Not only that, but your micros are likely to suffer pretty badly by following the Keto Diet, because most micronutrients are not found in high-fat foods. They are found in fruits and vegetables – which are typically high carbohydrate foods.
Because of that, most people on the Keto Diet take high quality vitamins and supplements to help compensate from the lack of micronutrients in their diet. However, we also all know that food is the best source of micronutrients and our bodies are better able to use the micronutrients we get from food vs. supplements. So while taking vitamins is a good idea for people following the Keto Diet, it is still a major disadvantage of the Keto Diet.
We do have a solution and recommendation surrounding this issue:
- Add as many superfoods to your diet as possible. If you drink Keto Coffee, add superfoods like cacao, cinnamon, maca, and more.
- Eat nutrient dense foods as much as possible.
- Do a Daily Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (DCKD). This ketogenic plan has you in a ketogenic state for ~20 hours per day, but not all day every day. The ~4 hours per day that you are not in a ketogenic state, you are consuming nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.
2. pH Balance
Remember the concept of pH balance from high school chemistry class? Here’s a quick refresher …
pH is a is measured on a scale from 0 to 14. A neutral pH equals 7, an acidic pH is less than 7 and an alkaline pH is greater than 7.
Our bodies / blood has a pH level that is impacted by the foods we consume. Most health practitioners recommend a slightly alkaline pH balance for optimal health. In fact – you may have heard of Alkaline Diets?
Here’s the problem, most people are too acidic because the foods they eat are acidic – and that can create major problems.
Why are most people acidic? Well … I think the below chart will explain why:
The foods that cause us to be acidic are alcohol, sugar, meat, dairy, etc.
The foods that cause us to be alkaline: fruits, vegetables, superfoods.
Are you seeing the problem that the Standard Ketogenic Diet creates as it relates to pH balance? Meat and Dairy are acidic and these are the foods most commonly eaten when on Keto. To balance it out, we need alkaline foods that come from fruits and vegetables.
3. SKD Is Hard to Follow Long Term
The Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD) is a restrictive diet.
Anytime you restrict foods from people, it creates a bit of a challenge. How long are you going to not eat things link pizza, pasta, cookies, pastries, grains, milk, fruit, legumes, starchy vegetables, etc.? 1 month? 6 months?
How bored are you going to get eating under the restrictions of SKD?
It’s just not reasonable to think that this is a long-term strategy for most people.
We propose a modification to the SKD that we call “The Daily Cyclical Keto Diet” (DCKD). DCKD takes the best of Keto and turns it into a strategy that you can actually succeed at following long-term.
Weight Loss and Anti-Aging Meal Plan Strategy
Are you trying to lose weight? Read this article and pick 1 of 3 weight loss options that we provide. Click on any of the images below to read the article.
Ketogenic Diet Articles:
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Video: How to Make Coffee with Superfoods + How to Make Superfood Keto Coffee
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