My Take On the Keto Craze

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I know I may regret doing this, but here it goes.

Lets talk about “Keto.” Or, the Ketogenic Diet.

It is E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E of late and it seems you can’t have a ten minute conversation with anyone, or walk more than a city block, before it casually comes up.

It goes something like this:



“Man, this humidity is brutal.”

“I know, right? I wonder when it’s going to end?”

“I heard Wednesday. Say, have you heard of Keto?”

And that’s pretty much how it goes.

This Will Not Be a Scientific Breakdown

I know my lane as a fitness professional. My expertise orbits around helping people get stronger, more athletic, move a little better, or otherwise building a bunch of deadlifting Terminators.

My strengths aren’t in debating macros, breaking down the Kreb’s Cycle, or discussing the complicated layers and intricacies of gluconeogenesis.

There’s a reason why I rarely (if ever) write about nutrition.1

That being said, I’d be lying if I said the topic doesn’t make up a large portion of my professional (and personal) life. What kind of coach would I be if I never discussed the importance of (total) caloric intake with a client who’s goal is to fat loss?, or if I never divulged the power of protein (and the many sources to get it from) for muscle maintenance and growth?, or if I didn’t go out of my way to mention dietary fat has a ton of health benefits?2

Moreover, what kind of coach would I be if I never extolled the wonders of Tupperware and the myriad of foods one can eat out of their containers at home, at work, on the train, or while flying an Apache?

Needless to say I talk about nutrition on an almost daily basis with my clients/athletes and I always attempt to answer honestly and to the best of my ability (and within my scope of practice). In addition I’ll often go out of my way to direct them towards sources and authorities I trust and respect.

To that end, I’m not going to attempt to explain the Ketogenic Diet in a thorough fashion here. There are entire websites and books you can peruse and nerd out on if you’re looking for an entertaining Friday night.

Nor am I going to attempt to sway you one way or the other, my dear reader, as to its validity and efficacy.

NEWSFLASH: I concede: It works!

Instead all I want to do is provide a little perspective and insight on how I view/interpret things when it comes to this latest health/fitness trend.

What Is the Ketogenic Diet?

This may come as a surprise to some, but “Keto” isn’t new.

It’s been around for quite some time.

To give credit where it’s due: My introduction to the Ketogenic Diet was back in the early-mid 2000’s after reading Lyle McDonald’s apropos titled book, The Ketogenic Diet (originally published in 1998).

In short, the diet is all about minimizing carbohydrates while following a moderate protein, high-fat plan with the end goal to nudge the body into a state of “ketosis” where it’s then less likely to be using glycogen (stored sugar) as it’s main source of energy.

I.e., the body runs out of glycogen stores so it then needs to find alternative fuel source(s). When this plan is followed long (and stringently) enough, the body (liver) begins to process fat into ketones which then becomes a fuel source your body can use.

NOTE: I say “stringently” because to my knowledge, it’s really, really, really, really hard to get into TRUE ketosis (let alone stay there). Like SEAL Training is easier. Even though the diet is considered a “moderate protein” approach, it’s actually not due to the insulinogenic properties of protein. Eating “too much” protein or going a smidgeon over can push someone out of ketosis rather easily.


The idea is that once you’re in “ketosis” you’re burning a boatload of body-fat.

Surprising to some, the Ketogenic Diet was first developed to address tough-to-address cases of childhood (and adult) epilepsy, because it was shown that ketones helped to reduce their frequency.

Pretty baller. Science and research works.

But lets pause.

Someone, at some point, was like:

“Huh, I see this diet is designed for epileptics, but I also see that these people are ripped AF. I wonder if I did it….if it would give me abs?”


I’m being facetious of course.

“Keto” definitely works with regards to fat/weight loss, but it also hits the mark on some other things too.

Other “benefits” attributed to the diet include but aren’t limited to:

  • Weight Loss (weird how that happens when you pretty much omit an entire macronutrient).
  • Appetite control.
  • Mental clarity and acuity.
  • More energy.
  • Improve key markers in blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol, blood pressure.
  • Can walk through concrete walls.

But the question I have to ask is:

“Given all those benefits, is “Keto” a superior way to achieve them compared to other approaches?”

Well Is It?

To get to my answer I first have to share a story from this past weekend.

I was in dire need of some caffeine as my wife and I were walking around running errands with our 1.5 year old in tow. I meandered into my local GNC to pick up a quick energy drink and the guy behind the counter started some small talk.

First he asked about what I do? (strength coach), where I work out of? (my own place nearby), how long have I been doing it? (before smart phones existed), and he seemed genuinely interested in picking my brain as to what HE should be doing to put on some weight?

He mentioned protein powders, how he’s been trying to figure out the proper nutrient partitioning ratio, and a few other unimpressive words that really, in the end, mount to nothing other than him saying “blah, blah, blabidy, blah, blah. Insulin.”

It was fine.

Small talk.

No big deal.

He then looked at me and asked if I had ever heard of “Keto?”

(Cue Jaws theme music here).

“Sure,” I said.

“What do you think of it.”

“I know it’s popular now and that it works well for some people.”

“Do you like it?”

“Personally? No.”

“What do you like then?”

“I like whatever diet or approach allows people to best adhere to something long-term and matches their goals.”

SHORT ASIDE: I am not a fan of ad hominem remarks, and I KNOW this will come across as cliche because 50% of the time whenever anyone tells a “GNC story” the same description comes up. But I’m being 100% honest when I say the guy I was talking to was 6ft, 135 lbs soaking wet. Clearly hasn’t lifted a weight in his life.

“I like what you said there. But why are you against Keto?”

“I’m not against it. I just feel it’s not magic. And for all the work it takes someone to actually get into ketosis, I don’t feel there’s much benefit over all the other diets or approaches when matched for protein intake and calories.”

“My manager is a personal trainer and he’s a big fan of Keto. He mentioned the sugars in yogurt and that those should be avoided.”

“Yeah, I don’t think sugar is the enemy or all that bad.”

Now, imagine I hadn’t said what I just said (sugar not being bad) and instead said any of the following:

– “The world is flat.”
– “I’m not wearing any underwear.”
– “Jon Snow should have never been named King of the North.”

Imagine I had said any of those things and then I told him my best friend is an invisible dragon named “Derek.” Imagine the expression on 95% of the population’s face if they had heard something as crazy and blasphemous.

That’s the look I got back.

The dude’s eyes could not have widened enough.

“Wait, you mean you don’t feel sugar decays the body?”

“Fruit has sugar, is that decaying the body?”

Sensing a mental gymnastics quagmire I wasn’t going to get out of any time soon (and knowing five minutes of my life had just passed) I immediately responded with “My wife and kid are waiting for my outside dude.”

Which they were. As was Derek

He ringed me out and I left.

Keto = Not Magic

Notice I am NOT saying “Keto” doesn’t work. I think this is the second or third time I’m saying this to make it abundantly clear.3

It does, and I’m ecstatic for those individuals who have found something that works for them and has allowed them to stick with something long-term.

But what I find dumbfounding – and I see researchers like Alan Aragon and Layne Norton, who are way smarter than myself on this topic, fighting this fight often – is that there are a lot of people out there who think “Keto” is the end-all-be-all approach that will have everyone losing weight, reducing their risk of diabetes, and getting them accepted into Hogwarts.

But when matched for calories and protein….so does every other diet in existence.4

Side Note: And for every person who waxes poetic on how euphoric they feel following this diet, there’s another person who feels like garbage and wants nothing more than to kick you in the pancreas.

It seems even though the “science” backs up other approaches leading to the same results, when it comes to Keto, people become really adept at denying said science.

To use a real world example I had a friend of mine reach out yesterday who felt compelled to do so after I shared my GNC story on Facebook.

“I have a health and wellness friend who is very prominent on Instagram/YouTube/Facebook who is a HUGE proponent of Keto and he regularly shares blood panels with the message that Keto is the way and superior to anything out there.

Let’s just say that my nutrition is quite the opposite of Keto and my blood panels are almost identical to his…including panels we both had done in early spring. More proof to my belief (and yours) that it’s an individual thing for each of us.”

That last sentence is money.

I can’t understand why this train of thought is such an insurmountable hurdle of commonsense for some to fathom.

My suspicion (and that of my friend above) is that there are deeper psychological issues or disordered eating around food at play, and that one’s relationship with food (not to mention body image) are no doubt festering beneath the surface.

And, of course, we can’t deny a certain percentage of people have a financial incentive to stress the Ketogenic lifestyle.

That’s dandy and far be it from me to tell someone they can’t make a living (much less how to do it).

But can we please stop with the fantasy and proselytization of this diet?

It works.

As do others (when people actually follow them and are consistent).

It’s not fucking magic.

This is.


Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.
  1. Although if you do a little digging around the internet you may find some of my earlier work which is nutrition heavy. I apologize.

  2. And that Bulletproof Coffee is the stupidest, most fucking asinine dietary trend I have ever come across.

  3. Lets see how much hate mail I receive from people who don’t actually read this article and then end up “how daring” me for saying Keto doesn’t work.

  4. The only exception to the Hogwarts rule is the Blood Type Diet. Even Dumbledore thinks that shit is wack.

Comments for This Entry

  • Emiliano

    Hi Toni... I am on Keto... And I just have to comment on your Keto story... I agree with you. Lol. I really do. For me, it wasn't until I went on Keto, that I was able to lose over 30lbs. Blood markers all went from borderline bad to astonishingly very good. My workout routine was the same (weightlifting 3-& days a week complimented with 10-20 miles of running a week) There are too many companies, people, etc profiting from the diet without true care for the health of the individual. That just means it has just joined every other diet out there in the mainstream. Keto is not magic, it's science. What your article is missing is perspective. The Ketogenic diet is helping many people that have tried the previous ways unsuccessfully. Having been told that the other ways worked and that they are at fault for how they are. Here comes this "different" way to eat and... It works! It works on a large scale also changes a lives. Previous pitfalls that they had with eating don't seem to be a hinderence anymore. That right there Toni is magic. It's a perspective generally missing from people who are not or have never been in there kind of situation. In the end, it is not magic just science. People who could not get control of their health are now doing it. That's is something to be celebrated. Those whose previous diet worked before roll their eyes. But remember we are individuals and what works for one person may not work for another. But sugar is bad. Refined sugar is really bad. The poison is in the dose though. The W.H.O. 's new guideline is to reduce sugar consumption to less than 10% of your caloric intake and even reccomending less than 5%. Sugar has the strongest correlations diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

    July 23, 2018 at 1:55 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Tony Author

      Yep, it works. But it's not inherently "better" than any other diet controlled for calories and protein. That's the point. You found what works for you and that's awesome. I suspect, based on your response here, you're not insinuating that it's the ONLY way to see results. That's refreshing. Others, when given the same "science" that other approaches lead to similar results, tend to be very good at denying said science.

      July 23, 2018 at 2:28 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Sigfrida

    Amen to that. Some of my friends and my brother talk all day about the keto diet and its benefits for concentration, fatloss, muscle development... My brother's a biochemist, so he's got the science argument on his side. But I tried it for 4 weeks and I was miserable the whole time. I was angry and exhausted all the time, and it got to the point where I started having dreams about eating apples. Not cake, not fries. Friking apples. And no, it didn't go away after the first couple of days like everybody kept saying. So I don't care if its great for my skin and blood levels, I don't care if it gives me abs. I'm just sticking to a generally healthy diet, veggies, fruit, whole grains, dairy, lean protein. That's what works for me. If keto works for you and you have never felt better in your life, awesome! Enjoy it. But leave the rest of us alone.

    July 23, 2018 at 4:28 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Sean

    Great read/killer content. For real. With that being said, I definitely LOLd at the following (among other things): -The imaginary dragon named...”Derek” -The magic GIF at the end. -3 and 4’s footnotes.

    July 24, 2018 at 8:57 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Karim

    I have been following the keto diet for about two months now. I am in full ketosis and feel tired, irritable, brain foggy and lack the motivation to train. But on the plus side, my abs are looking great. :-)

    July 29, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Mike *Keto Diesel* Trinch

    Great stuff I like how you explained this all. Look, I am keto 23 yrs, no one is more pro-keto then me but I am also pro science and common sense. The BEST diet out there? is the one that you can stick too.... Well done...

    July 30, 2018 at 12:11 pm | Reply to this comment

  • J.B. Brooks

    I have found that most people need guidance on doing better diet wise, and not what to do. So I always slow roll them. Make 1-2 changes at a time, once I get compliance with those changes, I'll add 1-2 more improvements. I use training gains to keep their focus on doing cool shit rather than looking cool. Then after a month or two, they look up and they're leaner, lighter, and better off. Unless you have a solid deadline (wedding day, reunion) where they have a finish line, most people fail with radical dietary changes, and For 99% of clients the best diet is the one with the highest compliance.

    July 30, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Larry johnson

    Thanks for the read. This is one of the best reviews on Keto and diets in general that I have seen. Shared it --

    August 3, 2018 at 9:21 am | Reply to this comment

  • Angela A Stanton, PhD

    I read your post with great interest--not that I agree with it but fun to read. You write well though the facts you write are often (not always) incorrect. You are (everyone is) in ketosis after not eating for some time--such as when you fast for a blood test or a medical procedure. ketosis is the basic metabolic process. With this said and done, yes, carbohydrates is a macronutrient, only a non-essential one. If carbs fell off the planet earth tomorrow, we'd all be healthier for it. In terms of getting into ketosis: easy if you have no insulin resistance. It is very hard to diagnose insulin resistance when they only measure your blood glucose--there is no direct correlation between the two. That means that one can have high or low glucose reading and insulin may be the same for both independently. I found blood ketones (beta hydroxybutyrate) to be a way better marker of metabolic health precisely because one cannot get into ketosis with high insulin or insulin resistance at any level. However, once one is no longer insulin resistant, reaching ketosis is easy. As for long term: in my world of nutrition and medicine I deal with people who have been in ketosis for over 10 years. I personally have been for over 3. After so many years of being in ketosis. one can even have a day off--such as a birthday filled with ice cream. Nothing will happen. One gets "flexible metabolism" and comes and goes in and out of ketosis. I am at that point and it is terrific. In terms of energy and workout: I lift weights and power through kickbox at the young age of 65 with muscles I never had before and, I think I forgot to mention, all this without a single day of muscle ache. That's because in ketosis there is no lactic acid. So is the ketogenic diet a fad? No, not at all. Is it only for seizures? Not unless everyone has seizures while fasting for a lab test or medical procedure. Is it harmful? Not really: we were all born in ketosis (read Cahill). Hope you find this helpful.

    August 11, 2018 at 9:38 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Tony Author

      Thanks for chiming in Angela. I never said the Ketgenic Diet was "bad" or "harmful." The point of my "rant" wasn't to dismiss the Ketogenic Diet. Rather to point out that 1) drastic health markers aside (epilepsy) it's no more effective than other diets when controlled for total calories and protein, 2) if it works for said individual, great. Doesn't mean it's going to work for EVERYONE, and 3) it's not magic. There are many VERY ardent followers out there who say keto is the ONLY way to Rome. That's simply not the case. That's all I was insinuating. I'm elated you found something that works for you.

      August 14, 2018 at 9:50 am | Reply to this comment

      • Angela A Stanton, PhD

        Thanks Tony for your further explanation. Indeed, keto is definitely not the only way to Rome. It is definitely magic for some things--as you mentioned, such as epilepsy, and also many cancer types, Alzheimer's, can reverse type 2 diabetes, MS, just to name a few. It definitely has "some" magic to it. I know that there are very many viscous followers out there--similarly to those who follow the "calories in = calories out" (CICO) argument, which in the human body is simply not true. So in that respect, the two nutritional processes are different. In your approach, calories are counted and those wanting to lose weight must be in caloric deficit. This is great--for some length of time. The problem is with adaptation. Caloric-reduction lead to slowed metabolism. This is seldom discussed but I cannot help but watch very overweight people live on bowl of salad and gain weight even with exercise. So what I am trying to say--and I am fine with and understand if you disagree, science is confusing enough even for expert specialists to have fist fights over--is that there is a difference in terms of how the body responds to the two forms of nutritional processes. The ketogenic diet burns ketones, which is the preferred fuel (I know this is controversial in general knowledge but, in fact, in all medical text books this is clearly stated, only med students rote-learn and then forget what this means) and glucose is a fuel that is toxic in the blood in higher than desired amounts--that is 1 teaspoon of glucose in the entire ~5 liters of blood. So serious athletes (some of whom I work with either as colleagues or patients) end up with type 2 diabetes from their mid 30's onward from carbs loading and protein-powder guzzling (all of which convert to fast sugar). I know you are not advocating this but I am not sure your readership knows. The best advantage of the ketogenic diet--other than therapeutic one--is that it allows the burning of ketones (a.k.a. fat) instead of glucose so one need not eat and still not be caloric deficient in terms of metabolism, or one can eat at liberty as much as one wants, as the body can live off of stored fuel (fat) or the new fuel from eating without storage trouble as with glucose. This means that in ketosis there is no need for caloric deficit no matter how much fasting or eating is going on and thus the metabolism doesn't slow and doesn't gain. This means that long-term weight control is fully achieved, as is metabolic health. For those working out a lot with weights--like I do--ketones provide more energy, strength, and no muscle aches (no lactic acid). There are loads of benefits that are seldom talked about. I just wanted to set the record straight on that. I am a ketogenic and LCHF certified specialist, and glad to have a conversation with you about the pros and cons (yes, there are some) of the ketogenic metabolic process (note, I don't call it diet either). :) Nice chatting with you, Angela

        August 15, 2018 at 2:16 am | Reply to this comment

  • Rich

    I took my old low carb approach to weight loss, updated it with Keto friendly food list, and added a twist of avoiding eating anything sweet as much as possible and eating more bitter and sour tasting food and more high fiber vegetables instead of grains, starchy vegetables and fruit. I am down to around 230 from around 275. I still have time to go. I started mid-late September 2019 with it being middle of December. I could never lose weight trying to eat "normal" and trying to go to a gym. For me, it is targeting food I normally would binge on and avoid them. It is working for me. As far as carbs go, my belief is carb level should be based on exercise level. I can't get to a gym, so I avoid carbs.

    December 17, 2018 at 4:55 pm | Reply to this comment

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