Great Yahoo article on Lebron James’ low carb, ketogenic diet… except for the dietician that was interviewed

Lebron KetosisIt seems like every other day there’s a new article out discussing Lebron James’ low carb, ketogenic diet.

In this Yahoo article they interviewed a gentleman named Jim White, the official spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

He had some quotes that I would like to address.

Problem is, ketones are nasty little buggars. They turn the blood acidic and cause horribly bad breath, nausea, and decreased appetite (which some people might see as a pro). Plus, if the body’s ketone levels get too high, they can prove toxic to the kidneys and liver, White says. That’s why it’s so important to complete any ketosis diet with the supervision of a doctor.

“Ketones are nasty little buggars” – He obviously isn’t familiar with the work of Dr. Perlmutter,  Dr. D’Agostino, Dr. Colin Champ, let alone Jimmy Moore or Drs. Phinney and Volek.  Ketones are not nasty and are in fact very beneficial for the body and the brain, and when metabolized do not generate advanced glycation end products or increase oxidative stress, unlike the metabolism of carbohydrates.  Ketones facilitate the health and number of mitochondria which science is showing more and more are extremely important to our health and longevity.

“They turn the blood acidic” – He is getting the state of ketosis confused with the state of ketoacidosis, which only occurs in the absence of insulin (type 1 diabetics or end-stage type 2 diabetics).  Everyone else can produce insulin.

“cause horribly bad breath” – Not in my experience, although some people report having the fruity breath that comes with acetone secretion.

“nausea” – He’s probably referring to the keto-flu, which only lasts during the ketoadaptation phase, which lasts 1-2 weeks.  After this, it goes away.  Personally, I’ve never had the keto-flu and I’ve been in and out of ketosis for months at a time for the past few years.

“decreased appetite (which some people might see as a pro).” – I agree.  My appetite has decreased… and I see this as a pro.

“Plus, if the body’s ketone levels get too high, they can prove toxic to the kidneys and liver” – Again, confusing ketosis with ketoacidosis.

“That’s why it’s so important to complete any ketosis diet with the supervision of a doctor.” – While I don’t think this is essential, of course it’d be nice to be working with a doctor who is familiar with ketogenic diets.

“I’ve run on a low-carb diet and it is really miserable,” White says. “Does it cause weight loss? Absolutely, you’re going to lose weight on this diet. Anybody can lose weight if they put themselves in starvation state. I don’t see vast improvements in performance. However, losing weight—if you have it to lose—can theoretically improve speed and agility.”

The fact that he feels miserable on the low-carb diet probably indicates that he never made it out of the ketoadaptation phase.  If you only do it for a week or two at a time, and never let yourself get properly adapted, of course you’re going to feel terrible.  If you’re someone who get’s the keto-flu and continuously allows yourself to get the keto-flu then it’s no wonder you feel miserable.  This just reveals his inexperience with ketogenic diets.

What’s more, besides fueling your muscles, ketones can fuel your brain—an organ that’s designed to get 90 percent of its food-fuel from carbs, White says. Enter, brain fog and a really crappy mood.

All the authors I’ve listed above would disagree that the brain is designed to get 90% of its fuel from carbs.  In the presence of glucose and ketones, the brain would of course prefer glucose… BUT the brain can run just fine on ketones…  just ask any baby, who comes into the world running primarily on ketones.

And last but not least, low-carb diets make dehydration—which is already a major threat to athletes—much more likely. Every gram of glycogen in your body comes with a few grams of water. So, while you will carry less water weight when you’re on a low-carb diet, it’s easier to slip into dehydration mode. And water losses totaling just one percent of your body weight can impair exercise performance, not to mention physiological function, according to research published in the Journal of Athletic Training.

I actually agree with this part.  It’s important to stay adequately hydrated when in ketosis, especially for athletes.  It’s not only water, but minerals as well.

White recommends the average gym-going guy get about 55 percent of his calories from carbs. If you’re aggressively trying to lose weight, it won’t hurt to cut that down to about 40 percent, but he doesn’t advise eating less than 125 grams of carbs a day—especially if you’re physically active.

Just make sure the vast majority (if not all) of those grams come from good-for-you sources like fruits, veggies, and whole grains. No matter how many carbs you do or don’t eat, you don’t need any of them to be from soda or candy bars, he says. But you already knew that, right?

I’m sure you can tell that I feel his carb recommendations are too high.  I believe ketosis is an excellent tool for people, and while it has its potential drawbacks, none of them are addressed by this dietician.  I also don’t think ketosis is appropriate for everyone and in every athletic situation… but again, not for the reasons elaborated in this article.

Also… I’m sure you don’t need me to talk about “whole grains.”


2 Responses to Great Yahoo article on Lebron James’ low carb, ketogenic diet… except for the dietician that was interviewed

  1. Chrissi says:

    Thanks for your article. When I read the original, I, too, was floored by the dim-witted comments of the author. (Another baffling review of LeBron’s diet is written by Ella or Elsa Zied for the Today Show website. OMG.)

    I hypothesize that the discomfort (keto-flu) experienced by people who start the low carb diet is due to inadequate fat intake. Low carb does not mean low fat. Women tend to be fat-phobic from being fed incorrect information for so long. From her name, I take it that the author is a woman. Plus, her ideas regarding nutrition are obviously misguided. Her low carb/Paleo dinner menu probably was a half head of iceberg lettuce and a dry lean chicken breast.

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