Energy can’t be created or destroyed. Just ask someone trying to lose weight. As much as we may want to destroy stored energy (body fat), the truth is, this energy needs to be converted.
In order to convert energy stored as body fat to something else, an energy shift has to take place. This shift can be initiated through diet or exercise or both.
Energy in the form of bodyfat is a lot like money. Stored fat is like cash locked up in a steel safe.
In order to use money to buy something you want, you’ll need to unlock the safe and remove the cash in order to make an exchange. This exchange can be viewed much like losing weight. Energy has to be made available in order to spend it. Unlocking the “safe” through diet or exercise or a combination of the two allows fat to be used to power the demands of the body.
Using fat as fuel is called Ketosis.
The goal of a Ketogenic diet is to unlock stored fat and use it for energy without replacing energy through the regular pathway of glycolysis. Basically, fat is the “currency” of choice in a ketogenic diet.
Ketosis from a mitochondrial perspective, means a shift in “energy currency”. Mitochondria, the body’s energy factories, prefer glucose, or carbohydrates as a main energy source, converting glucose molecules quickly and effectively to ATP, or useable human energy.
Interestingly, a ketogenic diet increases the number of mitochondria in brain cells. A recent study found enhanced expression of genes encoding for mitochondrial enzymes and energy metabolism in the hippocampus, a part of the brain important for learning and memory.
Brain cells often degenerate in age-related brain diseases, leading to cognitive dysfunction and memory loss. With increased energy reserve, neurons may be able to ward off disease stressors that would usually exhaust and kill the cell.
Ketogenic means dropping the carbs to a very low total daily intake. Most people have to drop carb intake to between 20 and 50 grams per day. That’s the equivalent of a slice of toast in some cases.
Shifting dietary intake from carbs to fat and protein can be difficult and hard to maintain long term. Coaching and meal plans are critical to success on a ketogenic plan.
South Beach, on the other hand, is a low calorie diet that includes more carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables, emphasizing high fiber, low glycemic carbohydrates like brown rice or whole wheat bread permitted in phase 2 of the diet.
South Beach is considered a low calorie mixed diet that requires mitochondria to undergo adaptive increases or decreases in response to changes in energy demand and caloric intake.
These mitochondrial changes seem to be tissue specific, meaning there may be an upregulation of mitochondrial biogenesis in some parts of the body but not others. Translation: Decreasing calorie intake below energy expenditure triggers mitochondrial changes in order to adapt to lower available energy.
The goal of South Beach is weight loss. Taking in fewer calories than the body expends, resulting in weight loss. But part of this weight loss can be attributed to muscle and water loss. Muscle is heavy and so is water. A pint weighs a pound. So losing a small amount of water can defininitley show up on the scale in a short period of time.
So which is better? Ketogenic or South Beach? Depends on your goal. If it’s weight loss, either diet can show results on the scale. If it’s mitochondrial health, then ketogenic is probably a more interesting approach. As the body shifts into using fat as fuel, some interesting, and health promoting effects seem to take place.
Just be sure to get a coach. And a plan.