Like many, exercise physiologist Drew Harrisberg was drawn to the ketogenic diet for all of its touted health benefits such as gaining lean muscle, feeling more satiated between meals, and improved insulin resistance. Harrisberg is a Type 1 diabetic and an advocate for diabetes education who said via Instagram that he relied on a low-carb diet to manage his insulin for years before going full-on keto.
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However, Harrisberg quickly realized the exciting short-term gains he found through the keto diet were massively outweighed by the diet’s potential long-term effects—one of them being carbohydrate intolerance. Harrisberg said while he looked lean on the outside, he felt obese on the inside, and was worried the high levels of fat he was consuming would lead to other chronic diseases. The keto diet had also begun wrecking the progress he’d been making towards reducing insulin requirements and achieving stable blood-glucose control.
“I was quick to demonize carbs as the culprit for triggering a spike in my blood sugar levels, but in fact, I believe it was the huge amounts of saturated fat that was causing the carb intolerance and insulin resistance in the first place,” Harrisberg said in an Instagram post addressing his disdain for the diet.
Harrisberg noted in this post that diets high in saturated fat can lead to a buildup of fat inside muscle cells called intramyocellular lipids, which can cause insulin resistance and lead to the development of chronic diseases. As someone who has to monitor his blood sugar daily, his health gains from keto began to deteriorate, causing him to ditch the diet completely.
“Most people don’t know [this information] because they don’t need to monitor their blood sugar levels or inject insulin on a daily basis, but I do,” Harrisberg said. “As someone living with Type 1 diabetes, I get objective insights every single day. I see firsthand the effects of different lifestyle variables on my insulin and blood sugar control.”
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Harrisberg is now being candid about what he once thought was a “miracle diet,” because he is concerned that more people are turning to it as a supposed “cure-all” for their health issues when it could actually do the opposite. He said between trading fibrous, nutrient-rich foods for fatty, high-calorie options, eating too many calories, and living a sedentary life (which most Americans are), keto adherents could unknowingly be at risk for prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes. This, he said, is not worth the lean muscle or svelte figure that may come with going keto.
“If I had stopped doing the ketogenic diet at the two-month mark, I would be a massive proponent of the diet,” Harrisberg said in an Instagram TV video. “Thankfully, I reached the four-month mark and realized the keto diet is a short-term, Band-Aid solution. And the thing about a Band-Aid solution is that eventually, it falls off, and I was left in a place where I had to make a change.”
Harrisberg said once he began incorporating unrefined carbs and plant-based foods in his body, he noticed positive effects in as little as 48 hours—but he knew he needed more time to test their powers like he did with keto. He is currently finishing up an experiment on a whole foods, plant-based diet, posting pictures of acai bowls with fresh berries and seeds and tempeh scrambles with potatoes instead of plates of eggs with bacon or massive steaks.
Based on his Instagram posts, Harrisberg seems to be enjoying his morning smoothies, snacking on summer rolls, and experimenting with plant-based proteins, but he will share his final thoughts on being a diabetic and an athlete on a vegan diet next week. We will keep you updated with his findings.
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