Ketogenic vs Carbohydrate-Based Diet: Which Is Better For Fatigue Sufferers?

If you’re a fatigue sufferer struggling with your eating habits, you may have wondered about how diet is affecting your health. A comparison of carb-based diets with ketogenic plans can help you make sense of it all.


oats and nuts

There has been a long-running debate in the medical and nutritional communities about the relative benefits of carbohydrates in the modern diet, and how reducing or eliminating those carbs can impact your health. Given the subject matter, it is only natural that fatigue sufferers would feel as though they have a critical stake in the outcome of that debate. After all, carbohydrates can be a major concern for anyone suffering from any level of exhaustion.

During the most recent period in this debate, the ketogenic model of dieting has been receiving quite a bit of press. While low-carbohydrate diets have grown in popularity over the last several decades, the ketogenic diet plan is a completely revolutionary take on modern eating. And, like most other revolutionary concepts, it has left many people more than a little confused about how it differs from the average diet – and how that can impact human health. If you’re dealing with adrenal fatigue or any form of chronic exhaustion, these are things you definitely need to know.

Defining the Two Diets

There is some confusion about these dietary plans, but much of that comes from the general misuse of the “diet” label. All too often, various short-term weight loss schemes are advertised as diets, even though they are not meant for long-term use. That has caused many people to mistakenly associate the word “diet” with any short-term plan to shock the body into weight loss. That’s unfortunate, since it can make it difficult for the average person to differentiate between actual dietary regimens and those well-advertised, trendy plans.

Your diet is, quite simply, the sum total of your eating habits. Your dietary regimen is, therefore, a lifestyle – not a short-term scheme that tries to shock the body into submission to your will and desires. To accomplish your health goals, you need to understand this fact and use it to your advantage. All trendy “diets” eventually fail because none of them are designed to promote long-term health, and few can be sustained for more than a few months at a time.

So, when you consider the carbohydrate and ketogenic dietary models, you have to think about them within the context of an overall lifestyle. Their key characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks must all be weighed within that context if you are to understand exactly how each can help or hinder you in your quest for better health and recovery from your fatigue.

Carbohydrate-focused Dietary Plans

Carbohydrates, along with proteins and fats, are considered a macronutrient and one of the most common sources of energy for living organisms. While they are not nutritionally necessary for human beings, they tend to be common in most diets. In fact, the United States Government dietary guidelines recommend that Americans follow dietary regimens where carbohydrates make up between forty-five to sixty-five percent of all calories consumed. For anyone who eats two thousand calories a day that means that between nine hundred and thirteen hundred calories should be in the form of carbohydrates.

Low-carb diets typically reduce that amount so that the total intake of carbohydrates is no more than around six hundred calories, or one-hundred and fifty grams. Many people who use these types of plans for weight loss find it difficult to maintain for long periods of time, and thus use something called carb cycling to control their carbohydrate consumption. They raise and lower their carb intake in cycles over the course of many months.

Eat Like a Bodybuilder!

One group of health-conscious people who have seemingly mastered the art of carbohydrate management can be found in the bodybuilding community. World-class bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sergio Olivia long ago learned how the proper management of food could improve energy levels, aid in their recovery from exercise, and even help them to control body fat.

While these mountains of muscle have typically eaten diets with a healthy amount of complex carbohydrates including fibrous vegetables and fruit, they also helped to pioneer the science of carb-cutting as they would reduce their carb intake prior to contests to lose what little body fat they had. That helped them to present the leanest, most muscular image to the contest judges and spectators.

Even today, carb management – and overall nutritional awareness – is an essential part of bodybuilding success! What does that mean for you? Well, if you want a leaner, healthier body and the type of energy possessed by some of the strongest and most muscular men and women in the world, then eat like a bodybuilder!



Ketogenic Dietary Plan

The ketogenic dietary plan takes low carb regimens to the next level. The idea behind the ketogenic approach is based upon the body’s natural reaction to the absence of carbohydrates. When the body (including the brain) is suddenly faced with an absence of the carbohydrates it would normally convert to glucose, it responds by seeking an alternative fuel source. That usually involves converting protein from the muscles (something you never want to see) or relying on the ketones that are produced when the liver processes fats.

Once you restrict your carbohydrate intake to as close to zero as possible, the body goes into a state that is known as ketosis – one in which it burns the aforementioned ketones for fuel rather than glucose. This only occurs after there are no more carbohydrates entering the system, and the body utilizes whatever stored glucose is present. With that fuel gone, your system begins to use fat stores as the fuel it needs for energy.

The Benefits of Each Diet

Each dietary plan has some unique benefits that can help you to better determine which is right for you. It is worth noting, however, that none of these benefits are universally experienced, since each person’s body react differently at different levels of carb intake.



Benefits of the Carb-Based Model

The main benefit of dietary regimens that utilize carbohydrates as fuel is clear: that is how most people have been trained to eat. That makes the process of converting to a lower-carbohydrate lifestyle relatively painless for most individuals.

In addition, active individuals – athletes and others who engage in regular exercise – often find carbohydrates a necessary ingredient for success. The body can convert and utilize them as energy fairly easily, and when they are closely monitored they can be helpful in alleviating many of the energy highs and lows that fatigued individuals often experience over the course of any given day.

Benefits of Keto

The ketogenic dietary plan has the benefit of relying on fat stores as the primary source of energy for the body. That can help to encourage a more even metabolic state throughout the day. It also ensures that the body has some source of fuel even in the temporary absence of food.

At the same time, it can help to stabilize neurological functions, and lacks the negative impact on blood sugar that carbohydrates can often cause. The use of ketones for fuel helps to avoid damage to the cells, restricts the activities of harmful free radicals, and can limit inflammation.



The Disadvantages of Each Diet

There are, of course, some relative disadvantages of each type of dietary lifestyle:

  • Diets that focus on high levels of carbohydrate intake – those levels recommended by governments, for example - often lead people to eat the very kinds of foods most likely to make them fat and fatigued. They also lead to health complications from diseases such as diabetes.
  • Diets with lower carb intake can reduce those health risks, but are often difficult to maintain for long periods of time. And since carbohydrate consumption tends to be irregular, the body can become even more sensitive to the types of blood sugar spikes that occur when glucose levels rise or fall in any significant manner.
  • The ketogenic diet is often difficult for many people to master, especially in the beginning of the process. Often times, fatigue can be worsened as patients try to realign their diets to reach ketosis. Other times, the eating requirements are so strict that people cheat and never reach that state at all.

So, Which Diet is better For Fatigue?

There are two schools of thought with respect to the superiority of any one of these diets when it comes to fatigue patients. One holds that a low carb diet is superior because it can achieve many of the same effects as the ketogenic approach – and, in fact, some dieters do reach a state similar to ketosis as they cycle in and out of their low carb mode. It is also considered by many to be a superior option for ensuring adequate energy supplies on a consistent basis.

The other school of thought believes that ketosis is the natural state of man, and that our own biological imperatives mandate such a dietary approach. The advocates of ketogenic eating argue that the body eventually adjusts to any short-term deprivation of energy and that energy levels can actually be higher and more consistent once that adjustment process is complete.

The truth is that both schools of thought have merit. In fact, many fatigue patients have adopted a strategy that incorporates both models in one overall dietary regiment. They cycle their carb intake and ketosis together, ensuring that they receive the benefits of both models while also reducing the negative effects each often presents.




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Sources and References: 
  1. Staying in Ketosis vs. Carb Cycling. http://www.livestrong.com/article/553742-staying-in-ketosis-vs-carb-cycling/
  2. 8 Low-Carb Conundrums. http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/8-low-carb-conundrums.html
  3. High-Protein, Low-Carb Diets Explained. http://www.webmd.com/diet/high-protein-low-carbohydrate-diets
  4. Carbohydrates. http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/html/chapter7.htm
  5. Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/83/5/1055.ful

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