Last week, we reviewed the costs of Keto to anticipate when making a switch from the standard american high carb & highly processed diet to a whole-food low carb / keto lifestyle. We also reviewed health and nutrition as something we should all value differently than we currently do (ie: health is worth more than most of us value it).
This week, I want to describe all of the aspects of my formerly sick, overweight life which have improved by investing in my health. The list of my 11 Unbelievable Benefits of the Keto Diet” is an accumulation of major improvements my mind and body have experienced.” items later in this post is an accumulation of major improvements my mind and body have experienced.
“The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition”– Thomas Edison
The main elements enabling these improvements are direct Benefits of the Keto Diet:
- Fat-adapted Metabolism
- Losing Excess Body Fat
- Zero Inflammation (got off the “blood sugar roller-coaster”)
- Positive Mindset Shift (seeing Results in mirror and on scale)
So Many Improvements, People Don’t believe Me!
There are so many things that have improved, this list actually sounds unbelievable. I credit change in diet and the sustained weight loss lifestyle keto brings to literally transforming my life. The results are clear, and my keto diet benefits show results beyond my wildest expectations. For my health, it’s the most significant thing I’ve done my entire life.
What many of us do not consider when calculating “costs” of an improvement in lifestyle is the long-term costs associated with becoming chronically ill.
“(Type 2 diabetes is) …breaking our bank. With 30 million Americans meeting the diagnosis and another 83 million “prediabetic,” or on the verge, over half the country either is diabetic or positioned to get there. This costs Americans $237 billion in direct charges annually… or one in every four dollars spent on health care…. “Author John Paul Scott writes of obesity and T2D
“…Nearly 340,000 Minnesotans have diabetes, ringing up $3.5 billion in direct costs each year… enough to fund the entire state transportation budget. “
It seems a ‘hidden cost’ I am saving the world by not becoming diabetic & a liability through healthcare expense more than offsets what I cost the world by being a consumer of whole unprocessed foods like beef, salmon, and eggs. And let’s not even talk about the environmental savings keeping me out of Big Pharma’s machine… the methane production from any ruminants (cattle) I’m consuming is dwarfed by what’s done by avoiding that industry (and if you believe avoiding meat will save the planet, I offer this as an alternative viewpoint).
Quick Notes on Nutrient Density
A quick preamble on caloric “return on investment”. As you know, in life and anything, you get out what you put in. If you put in garbage, you get garbage out. If you put in zero effort, you get zero results. The same goes with your body: what nutrition you put in is equivalent to the health benefits you get out.
The well-formulated ketogenic diet maximizes nutrient density. You eliminate excess energy from simple carbs, and focus on obtaining energy from fat (dietary fat, or while losing weight energy comes from body fat). Here’s an example of what your macro breakdown could look like as you lose weight thanks to Dr. Steve Phinney’s. Body fat is at first a large percentage, but as you lose body fat tramp up dietary fat.
Let’s remember just as important as energy is supplying your body adequate protein and nutrients to build / repair tissue, balance hormones, and operate as the efficient machines we evolved to be.
Two concepts are valuable here to understand the benefits of keto diet, both of which are linked to the ‘nutritional investment’ you put in to yourself with whole animal foods on the keto diet.
Protein to Energy Ratio
First is the concept of “protein to energy ratio” (Dr. Naiman explains why P:E Ratio is important)” which I first learned about from Dr. Ted Naiman. In short, your body needs sufficient protein. Our appetites drive us to eat until you achieve that protein goal. If your diet is primarily energy-dense foods (high level of fat or carbs compared to protein content) you will naturally consume more food energy.
As an example we can probably all relate to: eating as much plain chicken breast you could eat will fill you up (drive satiety) quicker than eating breaded chicken nuggets dipped in honey mustard or ketchup. When you further add to that the effect carbs have on satiety levels – basically they reset your satiety to zero – we see we can easily overeat ridiculous amounts of food, like until:
- The whole bag is gone.
- An entire pint of ice cream is eaten.
- Just a grease stain remains where a basket of French fries once was.
Basically, without focusing on protein, we can overeat until we either become so bored of eating (no new exciting flavours) or there’s nothing left. Doesn’t that seem insane and unnatural to you? OK good, it should.
Nutrient Density Leads to the Benefits of Keto Diet
I believe the second key concept of nutrient density is summarized below – nutrient density! It represents calories needed to obtain 25 g of protein of various foods. This puts in perspective the reality of what people have always claimed “you don’t need meat, you can get protein from plants!”. This is just plain fact here, animal sources of nutrition contain more protein & nutrients. In my experience, consuming to your fill of animal products makes it impossible to become obese.
When you are consuming primarily carbs, to get enough protein we must ‘overeat’ total energy. It’s simply a better strategy to stick with high protein to energy ratios of whole, animal based foods.
If the topic of nutrient density peaks your interest, I would encourage you to check out both Marty Kendall’s post over at “optimisingnutrition.com” as well as Brian Sanders’ podcast series titled “Peak Human”. Both are awesome sources of valuable info on this topic! Share it around.
Investment is Clear, On to the Benefits of Keto Diet
Now that we’ve covered the concept of putting in a “nutrient dense investment” in your health via selecting the right foods – let’s get down to brass tacks about what benefits I realized adopting this way of eating.
The below symptoms are things I (and maybe you, too) “accepted” as normal parts of growing old (they aren’t). I thought these ailments would just stay with me and chronically worsen as I age (they don’t). If only I had known a simple change in diet could fix all these (and more)… I would have changed decades ago. I hope this post resonates with you! Enjoy, and if you’re convinced but unsure how to start, we can do something with this knowledge together.
Benefits of Keto Diet
11 Unbelievable Benefits of Keto Diet – Symptoms Improved:
Now that we understand how nutrient density is the goal of a low carb / ketogenic diet, and that our focus is on ‘investing‘ as much nutrition as we can without ‘overspending’ on excess energy (read: calories).
I’m happy now to get to the ‘meat’ of the matter 🙂 Here are the things that improved when I started fueling my body appropriately, and what the return on my investment of increasing nutrient density has brought to me. I think you will agree it’s an incredible – almost unbelievable – list. It’s all real. If you have questions, want tips to try, or reach out directly, I encourage you to contact me.
- Weight & Body Composition (Fat loss, Muscle Mass)
- Mood (Pessimism / Short Fuse)
- Energy (Low & Unever)
- Cognition (Brain Fog)
- Joint Pain (Inflammation)
- Digestive Issues (Heartburn, Elimination Issues)
- Sun Sensitivity (Sunburn)
- Dental Health (Receding Gumline, Temperature Sensitivity)
- Food Addiction (Seeking Food Reward, Satiety Signalling)
- Desire for Alcohol (Routine Consumption of 3-5 drinks weekly)
- Sleep Quality & Dreams (Restless Legs, Fatigue, Dream Recollection)
- Secret Bonus (revision)
Buckle up and enjoy the ride.
1 Weight & Body Composition
This is what I noticed immediately. I dropped water weight, and had a steady loss of body fat from 205lbs down to 157 at my lightest. I have since used low carb / keep to put on muscle and am finding steady strength gains as my body repairs and builds muscle. For more, I detail this in my transformation story.
I was a much more volatile person prior to going low carb. My fuse to engaging in emotionally driven behavior was very short. Little things would set me off frequently.
In my research, I’ve found an expanation that a big reason this could have been happening was spikes and dips in my blood sugar. Being on the “carbohydrate rollercoaster” meant I would get “hangry” (hungry + angry) if I became low sugar – which required snacks or a meal available every 2-3 hours.Now my mood is more stable and in fact optimistic on most days opposed to pessimistic / cynical in the past. And sure, these guys help in that regard of course 🙂
Similar to mood, another huge benefit of keto diet has been my levels of physical and mental energy throughout my day was driven largely by intake of carbs. I used to have little energy particularly following meals and snacks.
Becoming fat adapted has allowed me to go longer without need for food (see my post of fasting). With low insulin, I now have constant access to my body fat (&ketones!) for clean, constant energy. My energy is stable all day, I am not “crashing” after lunch or dinner. Instead I choose to exercise, do chores, even find mental energy for hobbies & writing this blog!
People who have felt “ketosis” know what I’m taking about here. Mental clarity.
I didn’t know how clouded my thoughts had become. When I first experienced the euphoric brain-fog lifting sensation it was life changing. I was in a work meeting and my ideas were just coming together quickly, sharply, and my vocabulary + ability to string concepts together just amazed me. I had a near outer body experience observing how “on 🔥 fire” my brain felt. Prepare to be thinking on a cosmically new level!
This “out of this world” ability to think clearly is now commonplace since I’m Keto adapted. My brain is set free, fueled by ketones (a product of fat metabolism), and I will never go back for the cognition & clarity alone.
5 Joint Pain
I had been running before going low carb / Keto. After all, if I was going to lose weight I had to move more right? *Groan* what misleading advice.
Anyway! 5km… Eventually 10km. I would go on runs 3-4 times a week. And my knees, ankles and back were taking a beating. I stopped running, and my joints continued to ache. I figured this was just how my body was going to feel from now on.
Then I switched lifestyle, and the benefits of Keto diet combined to reduce the inflammation in my joints. Slowly my knees felt less achy, shoulder pain was gone, and and my back would not bother me at night. One day, none of my “old pains” remained. I golf, do calisthenics, lift weights and take long hikes.No joint pain for me after this game, but someone is definitely going to be hurting later!![/caption]
Funny thing was at a game of shinny hockey last year (I was one of the “old guys” at 34) all my friends were complaining and listing their aches & pains… And when it came to my turn I just did “I’ve got nothing… Feel great!” And had no joint pain the day after, while they all complained of soreness.
6 Digestive issues
This borders on TMI, but it is important as it was a significant change. My stools changed! Less frequent (\1 x every day to 1 x every other day), and have become easier to pass. This is something I never thought was scientifically classified, but… I was blown away: check out this stool chart.
Due to reduced inflammation and “real foods” being digested, my digestive issues that used to be treated with Pepto bismol and Tums by the handful are now a distant memory. Heartburn was a constant plague for me, but eliminating refined carbs fixed that issue and I haven’t taken a Tums or taken a swig of Pepto Bismol since I’ve felt the benefits of keto diet.
7 Sun Sensitivity
I used to get sunburn in 1 hour of sun exposure. Never fail. And my skin would peel a few short weeks later, and I would burn again. Since going whole food low carb / keto, this is no longer the case. I can spend an entire day out in the sun, no shirt on, and have zero sunburn. I have done this up at the cottage, on the water, and the entire family even with applying liberal amounts of sunblock inevitably get burned. Me? No sunblock, and no sunburn. Difference? I don’t consume veg oils, instead have more omega 3 to omega 6 in my diet, and eat keto. That’s the only difference between my current self and my former sunburn-prone self.
From the research I’ve done, I generally credit this more to dropping industrial seed oils with high levels of easily oxidized omega 6 fatty acids. I changed to consume foods much higher in Omega 3 like; fatty fish like salmon, sardines; stopped use of industrial seed oils like canola; and cooking with bacon fat, butter, olive oil and coconut oil. This lowered the Omega 6 fatty acids in my diet resulting in a decreased reaction to sun exposure. Still skeptical? Check out this study and the associated blog post.
8 Dental Health
My gumline was receding before I went keto. Just another thing most people think ‘happens’. That reversed, and my hygenist couldn’t reall believe her eyes. My gumline grew back.
I also have had zero cavities at my checkups since going keto. I didn’t get many, but every year or two I’d need to get a filling done here or there. The benefits of keto diet continue to surprise me and those I share it with.
I was also very sensitive to hot and cold temperatures on my teeth. Could never ‘bite’ an icey dessert, and having very hot coffee touch my teeth would also cause pain. These sensitivities are both gone, and my teeth simply feel tougher and more resilient… they haven’t chipped at all and I have no pain in my jaw ever.
As I said, these were all things I thought “were normal” to happen on occasion, but I see now that it was a result of chronic inflammation and high levels of sugar in my mouth through carbs multiple times through the day.
9 Food Addiction
Yes… This is a real thing. Particularly, sugar and carb addiction. The dopemine release of that first bite of pizza had nothing to do with its nutrition. Nor that bag of Milano S-Cookies. No, it was an addiction that I’m proud to say I’ve kicked.
Keto helped me recognize real food, and link how I felt with what I ate. Slowly after months and months, clear patterns emerged. I could tell when a certain food was something that “triggered” me to binge eat. This was the case with delicious Keto desserts like fat bombs etc. I recognized that sweetness was something I had to avoid.When I’m hungry, this is a meal I want. Pasta / bread / sugar don’t drive my hunger any more. I want “real food”.
Once the craving for sweets was replaced for fatty foods like salmon, steak, eggs and butter I knew it was real hunger and not a craving rearing its head.
Now, another benefit of keto diet is when I’m hungry I can trust that I’m actually hungry. I have rebuilt a relationship with food that used to be for entertainment and pleasure to now be focused on nutrition.
Getting the nutrition is its own reward, and I’m finding other ways of finding dopamine release (hobbies, exercise and most of all time spent with family and friends).
10 Desire for Alcohol
I was at my heaviest probably drinking 1-2 drinks a night with dinner. Mostly beer and wine. This kept me overweight and i had started to grow dependent on that release at the end of each day.
Switching to Keto meant I couldn’t afford those carbs… So I find myself drinking alcohol much less frequently. Special occasions only, or at parties.
The occasional weeknight drink stopped, and i can thank going low carb for part of that success. I can honestly say I don’t miss the alcohol, but when there is a time and place to celebrate, I happily partake. Cheers!
11 Sleep Quality & Dreams
My dreams returned on keto. I recall them on waking. I had gone years without remembering a dream, and yet now on keto I remember vividly many dreams per week.
What’s more: I feel rested and alert on waking, which was previously much more of a struggle. I used to be lethargic getting out of bed but these days I find myself waking with energy and enthusiasm.
Also, I used to have undiagnosed restless leg syndrome (my feet would rub together at night frequently). As the quality and depth of my sleep has improved, I’ve found my legs are no longer “restless” 🙂
12 Bonus – Immune System
Thanks to Keto Cyclist on Twitter (follow handle here) for reminding me that his immune system is ratcheted up to a near impenetrable level:
nice article – #12, at least for me, immune system is like a M1A1 abrams tank now…. haven’t had anything more than 1 mild sinus infection in the last 3 years, when i had 1-3 every winter, usually one bad enough to knock me on my ass for a week…
Thanks Keto Cyclist, another online evangelist who is preaching the benefits of keto diet.
With my daughter in daycare to boot, I have not had so much as the sniffles in two years. My wife, daughter and family have all caught bugs – but me? Steady and immune system kicking virus butt. Eating this way fuels your body properly, and it can take care of you better when not constantly fighting self-inflicted inflammation.
That’s Quite a List – Impossible!
Are these hard to believe all improved just by changing diet? Yes, I would say that this almost looks like I’m claiming changing my diet from standard to low carb / Keto is a panacea (
a solution or remedy for all difficulties or diseases). Well, while Keto won’t fix everything… I’ve experienced it does nothing but help set me in the right direction. When you are working with your body, it works back.
What’s amazed me most over the last few years is experiencing just how important to my overall health eating the proper fuel is. A ketogenic way of eating is without doubt my body’s most efficient way of being fueled. Cleaning up my diet of refined industrial seed oils for an improved Omega3 to Omega6 ratio likely helped as well, but the vast majority of benefits were felt just by removing the processed carbs.
That’s one heck of a return on investment, wouldn’t you say?