Dr Emil's ketogenic experiment!

Diet

How will switching to a ketogenic diet affect our very own bodybuilding doctor Emil?


Emily Condon
BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences

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New diets are constantly being thrown into the limelight with many people searching for the secret formula to shifting a few pounds. The Mediterranean and flexitarian diets have been very popular at the beginning of the year but recently there has been a huge wave of interest surrounding the ketogenic diet.

The ketogenic diet is a low carbohydrate, moderate protein and high-fat diet which puts the body into a metabolic state known as ketosis where the liver produces ketones which become the main energy source for the body. As the body doesn't have enough carbohydrate to burn for energy, it starts to burn fat instead. This is based around the premise that your body was designed to run more efficiently as a fat burner than a sugar burner and if the body turns to fat as a fuel source, weight loss should, in theory, occur. Meat, seafood, high-fat dairy products, non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, mushrooms and broccoli as well as nuts and berries are all foods that can be eaten when following a ketogenic diet.

Our doctor Emil Hodzovic is not only a qualified doctor and a trained nutritionist but also a competitive bodybuilder and is always up for a challenge. Emil has decided to follow a ketogenic diet for a month to see how this way of eating will affect his life and if it will impact his performance in the gym. We chatted with Emil to get his views on the ketogenic diet and the reasons why he is undertaking this challenge. 

Why have you decided to try the ketogenic diet and how long for?

"Although there are many claims surrounding the ketogenic diet they are often conflicting and the evidence is far from perfect. Despite this, I see many intelligent and successful people who I respect following this type of eating plan and they are reporting remarkable benefit. This alone is enough for me to pursue it in a bid to discover more about the possible pros and cons of the ketogenic lifestyle. 
 
I will be doing it for at least 4 weeks but likely longer. I have set myself this minimal goal as it is SO restrictive that it may be tough to maintain for any longer, especially if I respond badly to it. That said, if I do get into the groove, start to feel amazing and can do it in a healthy manner then I have no objection to continuing for longer!"

Why do you think more and more people are trying the ketogenic diet – what are the benefits?

"There is a lot of media attention related to the ketogenic diet and this inevitably gets people interested. For a lot of people weight loss is the primary focus and although there are some benefits to this kind of diet for weight loss (namely reduced hunger), the level of restriction can make it difficult to maintain in the long term. As far as I can see from the evidence - there is no metabolic benefit to ketogenic dieting and the reason people lose weight on it is due to the calorie deficit caused by both restricted food choices and the suppressed hunger.

Actual ketogenic dieting is unique in that it is strict enough and low enough in carbs that it induces ketosis - that is the production of ketones in the blood, which we then use for fuel. A lot of people who think they are doing keto are not and although they may lose body fat through being in a calorie deficit, it has little to do with the ketones (if they are present at all)."

Potential benefits include:

  • Increased longevity and reduced inflammation
  • Suppressed hunger and increased ability to fast
  • Increased endurance performance.

Potential negatives include:

  • Highly restrictive therefore possibly difficult to stick to or maintain.
  • Impaired thyroid function.
  • Worsening of blood lipids or omega ratio due to increased consumption of fat.
  • Feeling awful (keto flu) both in the short and longer term.

What blood tests will you be having done before you start the experiment and what would you expect to have changed by the end of the experiment?

"I will be monitoring my blood ketones to ensure that I actually reach ketosis which is fundamental to this type of diet. Generally speaking, my blood tests were healthy prior to starting as I follow a healthy lifestyle and I will be looking for changes in the following tests: 

  • Cholesterol -  "My cholesterol and triglycerides were normal and healthy on my 'before' blood tests and it will be interesting to see if it becomes deranged by a high fat and high saturated fat diet over 4-6 weeks. "
  • Testosterone - "My testosterone levels were normal before I started and I will be looking for this reported increase over the 4-6 weeks."
  • Vitamins and minerals - "As I am limited in the amount of carbohydrate I can consume, there is a possibility that I will be eating fewer fruits and vegetables and this may cause a drop in levels of vitamins and minerals."
  • Thyroid function -  "This was normal to begin with and there is some evidence to say that it could worsen with a ketogenic diet."
  • Omega 3/6 ratio - "As this is altered by my fat intake it will be interesting to see how a much higher fat diet causes this to change. Any changes will be down to alterations in the types of fat that I am consuming."
  • HbA1c - "This is a measure of my diabetes control and although mine was normal, it was right at the top end which is really interesting. This might well start to come down, though it usually takes 3 months before a difference is seen."

Look out for Dr Emil’s ‘after’ results in a few weeks time to see how he got on! 


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