Here’s something annoying about one of my favorite reality tv shows that I noticed upon watching the premiere of Season 5 of Extreme Weight Loss:
Chris Powell doesn’t understand Keto.
Keto is short for ketosis, a process where your body stops burning carbohydrates as fuel and switches to the burning of ketones, a by-product of fat-burning. This will occur when you bring your carbohydrate levels to around 50 grams per day or lower.
Many keto activists teach that number should be 30 grams of carbohydrates and advise 20 grams per day to kickstart you into ketosis over a number of weeks–you’d be surprised how many greens and low-glycemic vegetables can add up to 20 grams. However, most individuals can still maintain ketosis while consuming 50 grams which allows for a for a much greater increase in the consumption of vegetables and more leeway with flavorings that may contain extra grams of carbohydrates. Abel James, of fatburningman.com and of the new hit show: My Diet Is Better Than Yours, believes you can eventually jump to 80 grams of carbs per day as long as your fat consumption remains high.
I really like Chris Powell, the host and trainer, of Extreme Weight Loss. This is the show that chronicles the weight loss journeys of extremely obese clients over the course of a year. They typically need to lose 150 – 200 pounds. Chris has changed the lives of so many clients on the show who do indeed lose the weight by the end of one year.
Episode 1 of Season 5 featured identical twins. 50 days in one of the twins developed a serious case of plantar fasciitis and needed to be sedentary for 2 weeks so Chris decided it was a perfect time to conduct an experiment pitting a High Carb diet against a Low Carb diet.
Chris Powell, who usually uses carb cycling as his diet choice (which may indicate a bias going into this experiment) this time started with one twin on a high carb low fat diet and the other twin on a ketogenic low carb diet. The ketogenic twin was also severely limited in exercise due to the plantar fasciitis.
But get this?
The diet trial was for two weeks only! The ketogenic twin complained throughout of loss of energy and not being able to exercise both due to diet and the injury.
But, at the two week weigh-in the ketogenic twin with the lack of exercise lost 14 pounds to his twin’s 13 pounds.
And what did Chris conclude? That low carb diets work for sedentary people but most weight loss plans include exercise and therefore require all the higher carb macros be included. What Chris failed to understand is that the twin on Keto wasn’t adapted to fat-burning yet and that is the reason he felt low on energy. His body–like a bratty child–refused to consume the fat and wanted glucose from carbs. The sugar dependent body doesn’t burn fat easily and thinks it’s starving if you deprive it of simple carbs. That’s it in a nutshell.
Chris Powell’s experiment was woefully inadequate as the period of 2 weeks wasn’t enough to allow him to discover 5 much-touted benefits of Ketosis or even well-executed low carbing:
1. There is greater long term weight loss when eating a ketogenic diet;
2. The weight lost stays off when eating low carb for life;
3. Ketogenic diets are the only way of reversing insulin resistance;
4. Following the adaption period energy returns with greater weight loss and muscle retention than high carb diets;
5. Metabolism doesn’t drop when losing weight low-carb as it does on a high-carb low fat diet.
In conclusion it may take more than two weeks to become adapted to the ketogenic lifestyle. A couple of months or more for some depending on how long and how aggressively the former diet relied on simple carbs. Even the brain can switch to burning ketones, the by-product of fat burning, and actually perform better than on glucose. Athletes who make the switch praise the boost ketosis gives to their performance without the need for carb loading.
But even though the low carbing twin wasn’t actually fat-burning adapted he still lost more weight with next to nil exercise. If he had been adapted, he wouldn’t have suffered low energy–his energy would have increased–as thousands of ketogenically-adapted people can attest.
Chris Powell may have tried to do his level best to prop-up low fat dogma because he doesn’t fully understand the ketogenic diet but he unwittingly gave many a reason to conduct some further research into this concept: ‘More Weight loss, but less exercise on Low Carb/Higher Fat!’
The show, and Chris Powell, are still inspirations, and I will continue to enjoy watching the journeys of men and women changing their dire health outcomes. But it was disappointing.