While the keto diet has exploded in popularity, there has also been an abundance of myths and misnomers about what it means to be keto. Overblown exaggerations, unfounded claims about keto being dangerous – it’s important to separate fact from fiction. In this article we will cover 11 of the biggest misconceptions about the ketogenic diet, and what the truth actually is. To cover the basics, keto is a low carb diet that is high in fat, and moderate in protein. Generally keto dieters find success with around 20 grams of carbohydrates per day, though some are able to stay in ketosis while consuming up to 50 grams of carbs daily. So what exactly are the biggest misconceptions about the keto diet?
1. Keto is Bad for Your Health
This is perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about keto in general. There are images of bacon, butter, and lots of other fatty foods – as if that is the ideal menu for the keto diet. The kernel of truth in this misnomer is derived from the Atkins diet – as that approach typically emphasizes foods like bacon. In reality though, a keto diet should have lots of vegetables, plenty of organic proteins, and a large amount of healthy fats (like extra virgin olive oil). In fact, the scientific data for keto dieters shows an improvement in heart health, as well as cholesterol levels. The facts could not be further from the popular misconception, in this case.
2. You’ll Have No Energy for Intense Workouts
This misnomer has a kernel of truth to it, as when performing elite anaerobic activity, there is a small decrease in performance levels. This is, of course, when compared to athletes who take in huge amounts of carbohydrates. However, for 99% of the population, your workouts are very unlikely to be impacted by keto. In fact, there are even some high-level athletes who have adopted the ketogenic diet – without any impact to their performance at all. The key is to allow for a keto adaptation period to take place. Once adapted to the keto diet, the general consensus is an improved feeling of well-being, not a decrease in performance.
3. Keto Is Not Sustainable
This claim is perhaps the most anecdotal of all, as not much scientific data backs up this statement. A ketogenic diet is very sustainable, in fact it may be the best approach for long-term weight loss, since it shifts your hormones and blood sugar into better balance. Interestingly, there is some data showing that any long-term weight loss can be difficult, but this should not come as news to those who have ever tried to lose weight. It could potentially be said that a poorly implemented keto diet is not sustainable – but no reputable source has ever recommended eating just bacon and butter. The key to a healthy keto diet is balance, so your healthy fats should be heart healthy, and your protein intake should be organic. And don’t forget non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli. Once you have established a well-rounded keto diet, it’s actually very enjoyable – and very sustainable.
4. Keto Consists Mainly of Bacon and Butter
This rumor is one of the most notorious, and again a kernel of truth leads to a statement that is wildly blown out of proportion. While you could technically eat a large amount of bacon and butter, it would not be advisable for any diet. Non-starchy veggies, well-sourced proteins, and healthy fats are the backbone of a good ketogenic diet. Bacon and butter are barely consumed, at least for most proponents of the diet.
5. You’ll Always Be Hungry on Keto
This is an interesting misnomer, as the scientific data actually shows the opposite is true. Those who consume large amounts of carbohydrates have been seen to be hungrier, less satiated, and they typically over-consume sugary foods. Lower carb dieters on the other hand, report back with higher satiety levels, less over-consumption, and more weight loss. This may be a case of just a simple viral message, as there is very little truth behind this factually challenged statement. In fact, craving some refined carbs after only a few hours of eating a muffin or donut is far more common than being hungry on keto.
6. Keto Is Bad for Your Gut
High sugar, high carb diets are closely linked with a variety of gut disorders. In fact, low carb diets are usually used in scientific studies as a way to help ease the pain of GERD, IBS, and other conditions. However, it should be noted that the gut is a very complex thing, and what’s most important is the overall microbiota population which resides in each of our individual stomachs. Taking a high-quality probiotic is still one of the best ways to repopulate your gut with good bacteria – no matter which diet you choose to follow.
7. Keto Doesn’t Work for Athletes
While the adjustment period for any athlete shifting from high carb to a ketogenic approach may slow performance down a bit, many scientific studies have shown that established keto diets actually help with fat loss, performance, recovery, inflammation, and overall body composition. While athletes can be successful on many different types of diets, multiple studies have shown lower body fat levels, increased power, and better overall performance in athletes who follow a ketogenic diet.
8. Keto Can’t Help Diabetes
Most scientific research shows that a low carbohydrate diet can be an effective remedy for type II diabetes. In fact, one study showed that more than half of patients reversed their diagnosis of diabetes, after just 12 months on a ketogenic diet. Nearly 100% of the participants reduced or eliminated their need for medication in the study, as well. In truth, keto diets routinely outperform diets that are specifically designed to help those with diabetes.
9. Keto Makes You Feel Like You Have the Flu
This is another misconception that has a kernel of truth to it. The brief period of switching over from 200-300 grams of carbs a day, to 20 grams of carbs for keto – may cause some slight flu-like symptoms. However, not everyone experiences this, and these minor symptoms quickly pass in 3-4 days. If you do experience these symptoms, usually dehydration and/or electrolyte imbalances are to blame. So drink plenty of water, and try supplementing with electrolytes. Any ill effects should be gone almost immediately, and you’ll be well on your way to better health.
10. Keto Is Terrible For Your Heart And Cholesterol
This is another popular myth. Keto diets are high in fat – but they are healthy fats. Of course, the obvious misconception is that a keto diet is high in bad fats – therefore it must be terrible for your cholesterol and heart. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, keto diets help to lower bad cholesterol levels, and raise the good cholesterol in your bloodstream. Heart disease research also reflects favorably upon the keto diet. In fact, inflammation (which is the root cause of many different diseases) is usually caused by elevated blood sugar. This inflammation actually comes from a high-carb diet, not a ketogenic one. If you consume a keto diet focused around avocados, nuts and other healthy fats – you may experience even greater benefits to your health.
11. Keto Will Make You Break Out
This claim could not be further from the truth. In fact, high sugar diets are one of the biggest culprits of acne breakouts – not low carb diets. A keto diet may actually lessen acne, as it helps to reduce inflammation, lowers IGF-1, and reduces insulin levels. Acne is closely linked with poor diet and lifestyle choices (as well as genetic factors). Besides high sugar diets, another common culprit for acne is dairy consumption. Since dairy is hugely inflammatory, as well as insulinogenic, this makes sense. Healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, avocados, and clean proteins all aid with skin care.
The Best Way to Measure Your Ketones
Now that you know the keto approach is actually hugely beneficial, and has little-to-no downsides, it’s time to start tracking your progress. Until now, there has not been a convenient and reliable way to check your ketones. That’s why we invented the first and only clinically backed ketone breath monitor, the first device accurate enough to replace blood measurements.. By simply breathing into our device, you will have a reliable measurement of your current ketone levels – in just seconds. No more urine strips, no more pricking your finger – just a fast, easy and reliable breath test. You can bring our device with you to the office, take it to the gym – you can truly check your ketones anywhere. Unlike previous devices, which were often poorly made, unreliable, and not backed by clinical research – our ketone breath monitor is patent pending with deep lung sampling. This means no other device is legally allowed to use our exclusive technology. Whether you are brand new to keto and want a convenient and reliable way to check your ketone levels, or you’re an elite level biohacker – Biosense is the perfect way to measure your ketones.
You don’t need to worry about continually buying strips, or pricking your finger on a daily basis – we have all you need, in just one device. One of our favorite features is the personalized insights you get with the device. Every time you measure your ketones, your results are graphed and stored, so you can easily track your progress. Until now, there has not been an easy and convenient way to check your ketone levels – which has made many people give up on the keto diet entirely. But that outcome is no longer necessary, as we’ve made a device that does all the work for you. Just simply take one breath into the device, and within seconds you’ll know your ketone level. Whether your goal is to burn fat, lose weight, or improve your blood sugar – we have the answer.
Pilkington TR, Rosenoer VM, Gainsborough H, Carey M. Diet and weight-reduction in the obese. Lancet. 1960;i:856–8.
Howard BV, Wylie-Rosett J. Sugar and cardiovascular disease: A statement for healthcare professionals from the Committee on Nutrition of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism of the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2002;106:523–7. Erratum in 2003;107:2166.
Franceschi S, Favero A, Decarli A, et al. Intake of macronutrients and risk of breast cancer. Lancet. 1996;347:1351–6.
Liu S, Manson JE, Stantpfer MJ, et al. Dietary glycemic load assessed by food-frequency questionnaire in relation to plasma high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol and fasting plasma triacylglycerols in postmenopausal women. Am J Clin. 2001;73:560–6.
Gaziano JM, Hennekens CH, O’Donnell CJ, Breslow JL, Buring JE. Fasting triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein and risk of myocardial infarction. Circulation. 1997;96:2520–5.
Kreitzman SN. Factors influencing body composition during very-low-caloric diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992;56(l Suppl):217S–23S.
Mitchell GA, Kassovska-Bratinova S, Boukaftane Y, et al. Medical aspects of ketone body metabolism. Clin Invest Med. 1995;18:193–216.
Koeslag JH. Post-exercise ketosis and the hormone response to exercise: A review. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1982;14:327–34.
Winder WW, Baldwin KM, Holloszy JO. Exercise-induced increase in the capacity of rat skeletal muscle to oxidize ketones. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 1975;53:86–91.
Cervenka M.C., Henry B.J., Felton E.A., Patton K., Kossoff E.H. Establishing an Adult Epilepsy Diet Center: Experience, efficacy and challenges. Epilepsy Behav. 2016;58:61–68. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2016.02.038.
Williams T., Cervenka M.C. The role for ketogenic diets in epilepsy and status epilepticus in adults. Clin. Neurophysiol. Pract. 2017;2:154–160. doi: 10.1016/j.cnp.2017.06.001.
Liu H., Yang Y., Wang Y., Tang H., Zhang F., Zhang Y., Zhao Y. Ketogenic diet for treatment of intractable epilepsy in adults: A meta-analysis of observational studies. Epilepsia Open. 2018;3:9–17. doi: 10.1002/epi4.12098. [PMC free article]
Kverneland M., Selmer K.K., Nakken K.O., Iversen P.O., Taubøll E. A prospective study of the modified Atkins diet for adults with idiopathic generalized epilepsy. Epilepsy Behav. 2015;53:197–201. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2015.10.021.
Klein P., Janousek J., Barber A., Weissberger R. Ketogenic diet treatment in adults with refractory epilepsy. Epilepsy Behav. 2010;19:575–579. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2010.09.016.
Zare M., Okhovat A.A., Esmaillzadeh A., Mehvari J., Najafi M.R., Saadatnia M. Modified atkins diet in adult patients with refractory epilepsy: A controlled randomized clinical trial. Iran. J. Neurol. 2017;16:72–77. doi: 10.1111/epi.13241. [PMC free article]
Kverneland M., Molteberg E., Iversen P.O., Veierød M.B., Taubøll E., Selmer K.K., Nakken K.O. Effect of modified Atkins diet in adults with drug-resistant focal epilepsy: A randomized clinical trial. Epilepsia. 2018:1–10. doi: 10.1111/epi.14457.
Bodenant M., Moreau C., Sejourné C., Auvin S., Delval A., Cuisset J.M., Derambure P., Destée A., Defebvre L. Interest of the ketogenic diet in a refractory status epilepticus in adults. Rev. Neurol. 2008;164:194–199. doi: 10.1016/j.neurol.2007.08.009.
Wusthoff C.J., Kranick S.M., Morley J.F., Bergqvist A.G.C. The ketogenic diet in treatment of two adults with prolonged nonconvulsive status epilepticus. Epilepsia. 2010;51:1083–1085. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2009.02388.x.
Martikainen M.H., Paivarinta M., Jaaskelainen S., Majamaa K. Successful treatment of POLG-related mitochondrial epilepsy. Epileptic Disord. 2012;14:438–441.
Nam S.H., Lee B.L., Lee C.G., Yu H.J., Joo E.Y., Lee J., Lee M. The role of ketogenic diet in the treatment of refractory status epilepticus. Epilepsia. 2011;52:e181–e184. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2011.03289.x.
Strzelczyk A., Reif P.S., Bauer S., Belke M., Oertel W.H., Knake S., Rosenow F. Intravenous initiation and maintenance of ketogenic diet: Proof of concept in super-refractory status epilepticus. Seizure. 2013;22:581–583. doi: 10.1016/j.seizure.2013.03.007.
Thakur K.T., Probasco J.C., Hocker S.E., Roehl K., Henry B., Kossoff E.H., Kaplan P.W., Geocadin R.G., Hartman A.L., Venkatesan A., et al. Ketogenic diet for adults in super-refractory status epilepticus. Neurology. 2014;82:665–670. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000151. [PMC free article]
Cervenka M.C., Hocker S.E., Koenig M., Bar B., Henry-Barron B., Kossoff E.H., Hartman A.L., Probasco J.C., Benavides D.R., Venkatesan A., et al. Phase I/II multicenter ketogenic diet study for adult superrefractory status epilepticus. Neurology. 2017;88:938–943. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000003690. [PMC free article]
Shorvon S., Ferlisi M. The outcome of therapies in refractory and super-refractory convulsive status epilepticus and recommendations for therapy. Brain. 2012;135:2314–2328. doi: 10.1093/brain/aws091.
Wen P., Kesari S. Malignant Gliomas in Adults. N. Engl. J. Med. 2008;359:492–507. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra0708126.
Carlsson S.K., Brothers S.P., Wahlestedt C. Emerging treatment strategies for glioblastoma multiforme. EMBO Mol. Med. 2014;6:1359–1370. doi: 10.15252/emmm.201302627. [PMC free article]
Winter S.F., Loebel F., Dietrich J. Role of ketogenic metabolic therapy in malignant glioma: A systematic review. Crit. Rev. Oncol. Hematol. 2017;112:41–58. doi: 10.1016/j.critrevonc.2017.02.016.
Warburg O. On the origin of cancer cells. Science. 1956;123:309–314. doi: 10.1126/science.123.3191.309.
Seyfried T.N., Flores R.E., Poff A.M., D’Agostino D.P. Cancer as a metabolic disease: Implications for novel therapeutics. Carcinogenesis. 2014;35:515–527. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgt480. [PMC free article]
Branco A.F., Ferreira A., Simões R.F., Magalhães-Novais S., Zehowski C., Cope E., Silva A.M., Pereira D., Sardão V.A., Cunha-Oliveira T. Ketogenic diets: From cancer to mitochondrial diseases and beyond. Eur. J. Clin. Invest. 2016;46:285–298. doi: 10.1111/eci.12591.
Cullingford TE, Eagles DA, Sato H. The ketogenic diet upregulates expression of the gene encoding the key ketogenic enzyme mitochondrial 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA synthase in rat brain. Epilepsy Res. 2002;49:99–107.
Prentice AM. Manipulation of dietary fat and energy density and subsequent effects on substrate flux and food intake. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998;67(3 Suppl):535S–41S.
Foster GD, Wyatt HR, Hill JO, et al. A randomized trial of a low-carbohydrate diet for obesity. N Engl J Med. 2003;348:2082–90.
He K, Merchant A, Rimm EB, et al. Dietary fat intake and risk of stroke in male US healthcare professionals: 14 year prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2003;327:777–82.
Westman EC, Mavropoulos J, Yancy WS, Volek JS. A review of low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2003;5:476–83.
Petersen KF, Befroy D, Dufour S, et al. Mitochondrial dysfunction in the elderly: Possible role in insulin resistance. Science. 2003;300:1140–2.
Foster-Powell K, Holt SH, Brand-Miller JC. International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76:5–56.
Leeds AR. Glycemic index and heart disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76:286S–9S.
Yehuda S, Rabinovitz S, Mostofsky DI. Essential fatty acids are mediators of brain biochemistry and cognitive functions. J Neurosci Res. 1999;56:565–70.
Amiel SA. Organ fuel selection: Brain. Proc Nutr Soc. 1995;54:151–5.
Singhi PD. Newer antiepileptic drugs and non surgical approaches in epilepsy. Indian J Pediatr. 2000;67:S92–8.
Janigro D. Blood-brain barrier, ion homeostatis and epilepsy: Possible implications towards the understanding of ketogenic diet mechanisms. Epilepsy Res. 1999;37:223–32.
Kossoff EH, Pyzik PL, McGrogan JR, Vining EP, Freeman JM. Efficacy of the ketogenic diet for infantile spasms. Pediatrics. 2002;109:780–3.
El-Mallakh RS, Paskitti ME. The ketogenic diet may have mood-stabilizing properties. Med Hypotheses. 2001;57:724–6.
Ziegler DR, Araujo E, Rotta LN, Perry ML, Goncalves CA. A ketogenic diet increases protein phosphorylation in brain slices of rats. J Nutr. 2002;132:483–7.
Chen YD, Hollenbeck CB, Reaven GM, Coulston AM, Zhou MY. Why do low-fat high-carbohydrate diets accentuate postprandial lipemia in patients with NIDDM? Diabetes Care. 1995;18:10–6.
Gardner CD, Kraemer HC. Monosaturated versus polyunsaturated dietary fat and serum lipids and lipoproteins. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 1995;15:1917–25.
Jeppesen J, Schaaf P, Jones C, Zhoue MY, Chen YD, Reaven GM. Effects of low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets on risk factors for ischemic heart disease in post-menopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997;65:1027–33.
Mensink RP, Katan MN. Effect of dietary fatty acids on serum lipids and lipoproteins. Arterioscler Thromb. 1992;12:911–9.
Groot PH, Van Stiphout WA, Krauss XH, et al. Postprandial lipoprotein metabolism in normolipidemic men with and without coronary artery disease. Arterioscler Thromb. 1991;11:653–62.
Patsch JR, Miesenbock G, Hopferweiser T, et al. Relation of triglyceride metabolism and coronary artery disease studies in the postprandial state. Arterioscler Thromb. 1992;12:1336–45.
Abbasi F, McLaughlin T, Lamendola C, et al. High carbohydrate diets, triglyceride-rich lipoproteins and coronary heart disease risk. Am J Cardiol. 2000;85:45–8.
Liu S, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, et al. A prospective study of dietary glycaemic load, carbohydrate intake, and risk of coronary heart disease in US women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;71:1455–61.
Sims EA, Danford E, Jr, Horton ES, Bray GA, Glennon JA, Salans LB. Endocrine and metabolic effects of experimental obesity in man. Recent Prog Horm Res. 1973;29:457–96.
Golay A, DeFronzo RA, Ferrannini E, et al. Oxidative and non-oxidative glucose metabolism in non-obese type 2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetic patients. Diabetologia. 1988;31:585–91.
Defronzo RA, Simonson D, Ferrannini E. Hepatic and peripheral insulin resistance: A common feature of type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) and type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus. Diabetologia. 1982;23:313–9.
Defronzo RA, Diebert D, Hendler R, Felig P. Insulin sensitivity and insulin binding in maturity onset diabetes. J Clin Invest. 1979;63:939–46.
Hollenbeck B, Y-Di Chen, Reaven GM. A comparison of the relative effects of obesity and non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus on in vivo insulin-stimulated glucose utilization. Diabetes. 1984;33:622–6.
Kolterman OG, Gray RS, Griffin J, et al. Receptor and postreceptor defects contribute to the insulin resistance in noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. J Clin Invest. 1981;68:957–69.
Gresl TA, Colman RJ, Roecker EB, et al. Dietary restriction and glucose regulation in aging rhesus monkeys: A follow-up report at 8.5 yr. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2001;281:E757–65.
Hansen BC, Bodkin NL. Primary prevention of diabetes mellitus by prevention of obesity in monkeys. Diabetes. 1993;42:1809–14.
Coulston AM, Liu GC, Reaven GM. Plasma glucose, insulin and lipid responses to high-carbohydrate low-fat diets in normal humans. Metabolism. 1983;32:52–6.
Chen YDI, Swami S, Skowronski R, Coulston AM, Reaven GM. Effects of variations in dietary fat and carbohydrate intake on postprandial lipemia in patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1993;76:347–51.[/showhide]