What is Keto?
The ketogenic diet is sweeping the world as the latest weight loss craze. This diet focuses on fat as your major macro food source, with some protein and very little carbohydrates. Most ketogenic diets have you eating 70–75% of your calories from fat, 20% from protein, and only 5–10% from carbs.
Flooding the body with fats without the addition of carbohydrates does some interesting things to metabolism. Insulin drops and broken-down fats, called ketones, build up in the bloodstream. This signals metabolic pathways to shift away from burning carbohydrates and dip deeper into fats.
This is a natural defense mechanism we have built-in to defend against times of low food intake, such as winter and famine. It results in weight loss, specifically targeting fat stores. Coupled with exercise, Keto can achieve impressive results as the body eats away at fat, especially since the shift in metabolism also means glycogen stores are not as easily depleted or lactic acid as easily created. Translation, you can exercise longer and harder without hitting walls or feeling as sore.
What are the Benefits?
Weight Loss – This is the big one, but be warned that, like most macro restrictive diets, weight loss usually happens quickly and then tapers off or plateaus. The body is resilient. It gets used to change and compensates.
Temporary Exercise Boost – You get a bump as the mitochondria in your muscles burn ketones. This comes with a caveat though. Your brain requires some carbohydrates, and it will tear these out of your muscles if it has to. Eating an adequate amount of protein helps, but too much will interfere with the whole process. Too much exercise or not enough calories will cause problems, too. The keto diet is a delicate balance.
Neurological – Despite the brain’s appetite for carbohydrates, it is made mostly of fats and doesn’t handle spikes of blood sugar well. It’s been established that a keto diet reduces the frequency and severity of seizures in those suffering from epilepsy. The diet may also have some beneficial effects on early Alzheimer’s, dementia, and nerve disorders, but it is still early in the research. There is also a lot of debate whether short bursts of keto are sufficient to reap these benefits versus long term.
Keto and Vegan Together
Yes, they can work in conjunction, but probably not long-term. The keto diet is very restrictive, most versions limiting the daily consumption of carbohydrates to a paltry 35 grams or fewer. Many other versions encourage dieters to drop into the teens. The vegan diet is also restrictive, cutting out all animal and animal-based products. Each on their own is very doable with determination and planning. Combining two restrictive diets adds together both the benefits and the risks of each.
A vegan keto diet would most likely result in impressive weight loss, but it makes it harder to get many key nutrients, including protein, B vitamins, and some essential fats. A short dip in the keto diet pool would be your best bet. A one to two-week vegan keto diet would offer many of the benefits you’re looking for while minimizing your risks. Appropriate supplementation would be a good idea.
Ultimately, it is your life and your lifestyle. If you want to attempt a vegan keto diet, it is totally possible if you plan your meals out well, watch your vitamins, and monitor your macros. We still recommend you consult a professional as you alter your diet in any drastic way.
What are those Risks Anyway?
Ketoacidosis – The chances of ketoacidosis on a keto diet are, thankfully, slim. Ketoacidosis is a dangerous and deadly condition that is more common in people with type 1 diabetes and those with type 2 who aren’t managing their insulin and diet. Ketosis, the formation of ketones as the body adjusts its metabolism source, is a whole different thing. It may even be beneficial for people with diabetes.
Transitional Funk – During the shift from burning carbohydrates to fat, many people experience a “keto flu” where they feel groggy, foggy, and ill. They may also experience hunger, cramps, bad breath, poor sleep, and digestive issues. These pass after the body fully shifts to ketones as its energy source. You can ease the transition by drinking plenty of water, increasing mineral and sodium intake, eating fiber, and avoiding intense exercise until you feel more energized.
Soy Overload – Most of the alternatives to animal products include soy, a lot of soy. Soy, when it is organic and GMO-free, is tolerated well by most people, but it is still a familiar allergen to some. It also contains estrogen-like compounds that can affect a small fraction of the population. Take it easy on the soy, but don’t be afraid of it unless you have an allergy.
Deficiencies – We’ve covered that restrictive diets can result in deficiencies. Eat real food whenever possible, rather than the processed soy alternatives to meats, dairy, and eggs. Supplement with vegan DHA, EPA, B vitamins (especially B-12), and D3. Eat plenty of leafy greens for your K2 and some sea vegetables for iodine. Use a protein supplement. We offer many.
Muscle Loss – The body can dip into muscles and their store of glycogen for the carbohydrates it needs to feed the brain. Eating more protein can help, but can also kick you out of the ketosis phase where you are burning fats. Ultimately, the keto diet is for weight loss, not muscle gains.
Vegan Diet – A vegan diet is very good alone at lowering body mass if you avoid vegan junk foods and focus on eating whole-food, quality plant-based meals. Intermittent Fasting – Fasting kicks the body into ketosis for short bursts. There are many ways to fast, from restricting calories just one or two days a week to cutting off eating at 5 pm.
Calorie Restriction – Cutting calorie intake by 20–30% has been linked to longevity, weight management, and improved cognitive function in other species. It has yet to be fully studied and explored in humans, but short-term calorie restriction may benefit you, just don’t cut too deep.
Low Carb Diet – Low carb diets allow more carbs than a ketogenic diet. You don’t enter ketosis, so weight loss is slower, but the diet is easier to manage.
Paleo – This is essentially a low carb diet with some modifications, cutting out grains and dairy. It is difficult to do as a vegan, but not as difficult as vegan keto.
If you decide to try a vegan, keto diet, we do have a few recipes to try out that will help you stay balanced. Whatever you decide, we wish you luck on your journey. Get healthy with our free fitness challenge where we give you a free meal plan and a free exercise regimen to follow so you can feel your best!
Claims on this site have not been evaluated by the FDA. Information on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Sunwarrior’s awesome expert writers do not replace doctors and don’t always cite studies, so do your research, as is wise. Seek the advice of a medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle or diet.