Can I Do a ‘Semi Keto’ Diet?

In the purest sense, the answer is no, but life isn’t about being purist – that’s a recipe for failure.

Before I move on, let me expand on this.

Ketosis is a product of having elevated blood ketones in your blood, and >0.5mmols is generally the accepted level to be considered keto. For this to occur there are a set of circumstances that need to be adhered to. I’m sure you’re fairly familiar with the keto diet and so would know it involves a restriction of carbohydrates or total calories. The amount of carbohydrates is conjecture and the magic number bandied about is 20g net carbs per day. However, this is somewhat arbitrary and in fact, a percentage value of total daily calories is more accurate. It’s more accurate as it takes into account the individuals’ activity levels and insulin sensitivity. In a nutshell, the more active you are the greater the tolerance of carbohydrates without being ‘kicked out’ of ketosis. Quickly we can see that the proposed 20g across the board doesn’t apply to someone extremely active, who might be able to consume 100g, 150g or 200g carbohydrates and remain in ketosis. Applying the percentage of carbs against total calories is where the truth is. Generally, that is regarded as around 15%.

So to the answer the question we must dig a little and dissect what is the goal of the individual. If the goal is to be in ketosis for some arbitrary reason then you CAN’T do ‘semi’ keto. The moment your carbohydrates intake shifts insulin to a level that it knocks you out of ketosis …you’re out. In this respect, it’s relatively binary. Just quietly though….you will still be producing ketones just not hitting 0.5 mmols (sssshh!)

However, if your goal is to reduce inflammation, be healthy, improve insulin sensitivity, have more energy, then doing ‘semi’ keto is fine. Before we explore this there is an important caveat with the following. Before we look at the macronutrient split and the number of your calories it’s imperative for the aforementioned we address the quality of your calories. If you’re getting most of your calories from nutrient-rich natural and unprocessed foods then you are already a step in front.

So back to ‘semi’ keto – if you’re eating natural and unprocessed whilst flirting with being in ketosis, what happens? To me, it’s a net win all round. This is probably a more sustainable approach than being keto 100%, it allows for the odd non-compliant meal, day, week. So long as when there are those non-compliant moments it’s not spent eating processed foods. The odd meal won’t put a dent in things but days or weeks or months is a different thing.

On a personal note, ‘semi’ keto is where I operate and have done for 5+ years. I adhere to a natural and unprocessed diet first and follow a low carb approach. In reality, I oscillate from ketosis to low carb which seems to work well for me. I used to be militant about macros and in particular carbs but I tied myself up in knots.
I know I can sustain this approach which by definition is the best diet for me.

The best diet for you is the one you can adhere to long term, which might be pure keto or somewhere between keto, very low carb, low carb and moderate carb. The fewer parameters we place on diet and instead divert focus to the quality of our calories the better off we will all be.

Can you do semi keto? – you certainly Can!

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