The keto diet is constantly being touted as the regime for weight loss.
But it’s also no surprise that not everyone is a massive fan of the zero-carb plan.
Keto may be effective at burning fat but it’s very restrictive and can be unrealistic for people who actually like eating carbs and who struggle to get enough fibre.
That’s why experts have come up with a compromise – switching between keto and a low-carb.
But wait a minute…isn’t keto low-carb itself? What’s the difference? And why might going between the two diets be the best weight loss plan?
According to Patrick Holford and Jerome Burne, authors of The Hybrid Diet: Your Body Thrives On Two Fuels, there’s growing evidence to support the idea of switching between keto and low-carb might be the ideal weight loss.
Keto is no carb
Keto involves eating no more than 30g of carbs a day plus a high amount of good fats.
If done correctly, it should be full of green, leafy veg and unprocessed foods.
While cutting out carbs, on keto you increase how much meat, dairy, avocado, nuts and oil you eat.
It works by persuading the body to start burning its own fat supplies – putting the body into a state called ketosis – rather than burn the carbs in your diet.
But low-carb is about the type of carbs you eat
A low-carb diet, on the other hand, involves having a much greater range of carbohydrate foods but without the generous portion of fats that you get with keto.
Patrick and Jerome claim: “Both diets come with health benefits, including weight loss and an improvement of diabetic markers.
“But switching between them may boost these results – and make them more sustainable.”
Their Hybrid Diet works by switching from an intense week of the keto diet, to three weeks of the less-restrictive low-carb diet – and they say, that’s what makes it more sustainable.
Switching between the two diets means that you can eat both carbs and fats – both of which we need for fuel.
Not all carbs are created equal
While for three weeks a month you are allowed to eat 150g or more carbs, you can’t just eat any old carbs.
Writing in the Mail, Jerome explained there are good carbs and bad carbs, when it comes to weight loss.
In this case, the low-carb diet is designed around the glycaemic load (GL) rating.
Glycaemic load measures the total amount of carbs in a food.
It is similar to the better-known glycaemic index (GI), which focuses solely on how much sugar is in a food.
Both GL and GI rate foods on how fast they are broken down by the body, and how they affect blood sugar levels.
Foods are classified as high, medium pr low GL/GI – with foods rated low, being better for weight loss.
Lower GL or GI foods, like lentils and veg, break down more slowly in the body, and so release sugar into the blood stream at a more stable rate – leaving you feeling fuller for longer.
High GL or GI foods, like white bread and pasta, cause sudden spikes in sugar levels.
The problem with the glycaemic index is lots of fruit is considered high GI because of the sugar content – yet they are an important part of a healthy diet.
“On the GL diet, you can have 150 or more grams of carbs but it still keeps blood sugar level healthy,” Jermone said.
“This is because not all carbs are created equal. Those rated low GL slowly release sugar into the blood, keeping it stable so you can safely eat more.
“For example, half a small serving of cornflakes has a high GL rating — the same as two bowls of porridge.”
What foods have a low GI and low GL rating?
GL gives you a more accurate picture of a food’s real-life impact on your blood sugar. Watermelon, for example, has a high glycaemic index of 80. But because the fruit contains very little carbohydrate, its glycaemic load is only 5.
Food with high GL and GI
- White bread
- Bran flakes
- Overcooked pasta
- Sticky white race
- White potatoes and mashed potato
Food with low GL and GI
- Whole oat porridge (low GL)
- Baby new potatoes (low GL)
- Sourdough (low GL)
- Egg-based pasta (low GL)
- Lentils (low GL and low GI)
- Citrus fruit (low GL and low GI)
- Peas (low GL and low GI)
A diet that ‘actually makes sense’
Nutritionist Resource Member Sonal Shah told The Sun that the Hybrid Diet “actually makes sense and the health benefits look impressive”.
She said focusing on carbs that are low-GL rather than low-GI, “makes a big difference”.
“This is a more accurate way to eat carbs,” she said. “The GI only provides half the information, which is how fast a carb is broken down.
“The key is to prevent fluctuating blood sugar highs and lows, and improve how insulin works.
“Insulin is the hormone that’s responsible for weight gain and type 2 diabetes.”
Sonal said she agrees with the new book, and the idea that switching between keto and a low-GL diet can help reverse type 2 diabetes, boost weight loss and tackle inflammation and energy levels.
She added: “It is also easy for those avoiding meat or dairy products to follow with substitutes and tips provided so no one goes hungry and it does not feel like a restrictive diet as it leaves you feeling full and satisfied.”
‘One diet is hard enough – let alone switching between two’
Not everyone is convinced by the idea of the Hybrid Diet.
Elspeth Waters is another nutritionist and Nutritionist Resource expert, and she’s not a fan of keto in any form.
She told The Sun that the idea of switching between two diets is “overly complex” and hard for most people to stick to.
And she said while keto might help you lose weight at first, there’s not enough research on the long-term effects of eating that much fat, especially animal fat, and protein.
“Simply calculating how many calories people are consuming from fat, protein and carbohydrates gives no consideration to what people are actually eating,” she said.
She warned focusing on high fat and protein foods means many people on keto miss out on fibre and key antioxidants.
“That is hugely concerning, as these two components are essential for health and vitality,” Elspeth said.
Moreover, she said our bodies need glucose from carbs to function properly.
“Yes, some cells can use ketones (fat) for fuel but doing so – i.e. being in a state of ketosis – is an emergency state, also known as starvation,” she said.
“This state is hugely taxing for the body as a whole, especially the adrenal glands, which produce our stress hormones and are already over-taxed because of the increasing number of stresses and strains we live with currently.
“Ketosis also makes the body significantly more acidic than it should be – a state which promotes disease.”
She said that any weight loss from plans like keto tends to be short-lived and that for long-term health and wellbeing, we need to make sure that we are eating lots of good quality carbs from fruit and veg.
In fact, fruit and veg contain fat and protein and Elspeth claims that that’s all we need.
She said: “When you fuel the body with a low-fat, plant-based diet, the liver is able to let go of the fat and toxins it has been holding onto and we are able to shed weight from all over the body – particularly the fat around the belly.”
If you do want to give keto a go, this hybrid approach is probably an easier option.
There are definite benefits to eating carbs and you may be better off filling up on fruit, veg and whole grains rather than swerving off carbs altogether.
Apart from anything else, it’ll help you avoid the so-called “keto crotch” that comes from going carb-free.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and is republished here with permission.