We know diet trends come and go, but there are two new weight-loss wonders that seem to have some staying power. Up first is the keto diet, a low-carb, high-fat diet approach that touts weight loss, increased energy, and better blood sugar numbers among its many benefits. You've probably also at least heard of intermittent fasting, which cuts down your daily eating window to aid in weight loss (among other health perks).
If both of these diets are really that great, could they be even better together, or could it be too much of a good thing? We turned to a couple of experts to find out if these diets can be done together safely and effectively. But first, a little refresher.
What is the keto diet?
Dr. Anthony Gustin, a functional medicine practitioner and creator of the Perfect Keto supplement line, describes keto as a "high-fat, low-carb, moderate-protein diet." When you eat this way, your body begins to burn ketones, instead of glucose, for energy. This boosts your body's ability to burn fat stores, improves symptoms of diet-related conditions like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and improves energy. Basically, you'll be eating a lot less pizza and oatmeal and a lot more eggs and avocado.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting boasts similar benefits to the keto diet, but the approach is much different. According to Dr. Josh Axe, a doctor of clinical medicine and clinical nutritionist, "Consuming solid foods within a finite window of time gives your body a chance to fully utilize the nutrients as building blocks while benefiting from focused time each day to cleanse from unwanted toxins." There are even studies that show that "fasting can increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind), while decreasing LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels."
How can keto and intermittent fasting work together?
Think you're ready to take on keto and intermittent fasting? Dr. Axe feels it's actually ideal to do these diets in tandem. Let's face it, fasting can definitely leave you feeling hungry (especially while you adjust to your new eating schedule), and "an advantage of the keto diet is that it can help to decrease hunger and cravings, making it easier to comfortably go longer periods without eating."
Dr. Gustin agrees and says, "Intermittent fasting and ketosis work wonderfully together. Intermittent fasting helps raise levels of ketones by keeping insulin levels low, allowing you to burn fat for fuel and decrease your appetite." Because these diets share a lot of the same health benefits, it makes sense that they can work together to boost your health improvement efforts.
What the heck can you eat?
Curious what a typical day of the ketogenic diet combined with intermittent fasting might look like? Here's a quick rundown from Dr. Axe:
- Morning: black coffee
- Noon-ish: a high-fat, moderate-protein lunch (we like this chicken salad with bacon and avocado)
- Afternoon: optional snack, like these fat bombs
- Dinner (no later than 8 p.m.): a meal similar to lunch, with several servings of fat, some nonstarchy veggies, and some protein
Using this schedule, all of your eating is done within an eight-hour window, but this can be tweaked to meet your needs. If you plan to do a workout, Dr. Gustin recommends you do it in the late morning or early afternoon, before you start eating your meals for the day.
How long should you follow these diets?
Dr. Gustin says, "Intermittent fasting and ketosis don't have to be short-term diets. Humans ate like this for many thousands of years, and they are completely normal ways to approach eating." Obviously, cavemen didn't have a Starbucks on every corner where they could get their morning caffeine fix with a giant blueberry scone on the side, so we totally get that humans probably weren't eating three square meals and two snacks every day. If this way of eating is working for you (i.e. your doctor says your health is good, you aren't starving all the time, and you feel great), there is no reason to stop after a set amount of time.
A few words of warning
OK, so following a keto diet while intermittent fasting may be a great idea for some people, but is there anybody who should stay away from this approach? While a safe combination for most people, Dr. Gustin advises that, "People with preexisting hormonal conditions or who have had their gallbladder removed should probably skip out on both of these nutritional therapies." Dr. Axe added to that list people who suffer from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), diabetes, or kidney disease and those with a history of eating disorders (because it could trigger symptoms).
All in all, if this way of eating appeals to you, there is no harm in giving it a try. Anyone, no matter what their level of health, should speak with a qualified health practitioner before making any dietary changes to make sure it is right for their body and lifestyle. And, of course, stock up on avocados and bulletproof coffee.