Is keto the key to performance?

APR 24, 2019

Optimising yourself requires a diet that is bespoke and personalised - the future of dieting in our DNA.

The diet of the future will be highly personalised, using DNA testing to find the right balance that will optimise our physical and mental performance. To find out more, we spoke to Katia Kutcher, a dietician whose clients include some of Hong Kong’s top-performing sportspeople, from athletes to bodybuilders, not to mention high-flying professionals who are looking to get the most out of their bodies and minds. She is the ideal person to ask when it comes to optimising our own everyday performance.

We met Kutcher over a coffee, and began by asking her for the truth behind the ketogenic, or keto, diet. The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that is intended to put the body into ketosis - a metabolic state where the body becomes reliant on fat rather than sugar for its energy supply. Keto is said to aid weight loss, and leads to an increase in physical energy and mental focus, making it hugely popular with overachievers, and with those who are always seeking a bigger challenge.


Kutcher knows what she’s talking about when it comes to keto, “I’ve had quite a few clients on keto diets, men and women, I’ve read the research and I’ve also experienced it directly in my work.” She cites the example of one client, an ultramarathon runner who has competed in races of up to 800 km in distance and has experimented with the keto diet. For this individual, the keto approach was successful in getting to the finish line. But for others, particularly those with a competitive streak, a more sugar-fuelled approach works far better. Kutcher explains that for those who want to take part in more high-impact, fast paced activities, “It’s all glycogen; your body needs carbs and that’s all there is to it.” In other words, the ideal diet for personal optimisation depends on your goals and lifestyle.


In fact, Kutcher cautions that diets such as keto should be approached with care, “For me, I’m not into anything very restrictive unless you have specific health issues to fix. I’m in favour of something you can sustain for a lifetime and enjoy, and feel healthy.” Kutcher warns that the keto diet is far from being sustainable. “People who have been on the keto diet, for the first two months they see great results, because It’s something different. Especially for people that are addicted to processed sugar; your body and brain gets very activated. But then, the opposite thing happens; the metabolism slows down a bit and plateaus and you start having health issues; a lot of times there are vitamin and mineral deficiencies, for women it can cause hormonal imbalances, plus high cholesterol in both men and women.”


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Kutcher points out that following dieting trends without proper guidance is risky, “It scares me, I’m so tired of all the alternative facts, some diets are getting so extreme. And the reason for these trends is social media; we see pictures of people looking great after two months of keto. But we all have different body types; some people, their bodies are happier with carbs, others with healthy fats.” A diet that is highly personalised will always achieve the best results, Kutcher advises. “So see what your body likes, and if you’re into keto, we can re-adjust it. So, people that have become sick because of following keto should cut out the bacon, and cut out the fatty cheese - you can still have it once in a while, but don’t have it daily. Then we add some carbs, add some healthy foods, not processed foods, but just increase your carbohydrates a little bit. You just need to balance it.”

Burrata Cheese, available at Dot Cod Seafood Restaurant and Oyster Bar.


Choosing a diet that will optimise your performance requires more than just research into what works for other people, it requires the ability to listen to your body. That’s why personalisation is essential. “For instance, if you’re not having issues with gluten, why cut it out?” asks Kutcher. “Same with dairy, people who are OK with dairy should have it because then you get the calcium, you get the vitamin D, you get a little bit of protein…”


Listening to your body is the key to achieving great performance, suggests Kutcher. “That’s what people don’t realise, and with my work that’s what I do, my clients’ diet programmes are always according to their body.”


To ensure that her clients’ programmes are optimised, Kutcher often recommends DNA testing, “You just have to do it once in your life and you receive a whole nutrition programme according to the results. It tells you about everything; how your body handles carbohydrates, proteins, sodium, coffee, alcohol. It shows how to balance your diet to optimise for endurance, strength, speed, recovery…”


Optimising yourself through perfecting your diet is one area of life where quick-fixes should be regarded with caution. Nevertheless, DNA testing promises to deliver insights that can give a head start to anyone willing to pay the price. The future of dieting then, is not to be found on social media, it’s far more personal. In fact, it’s in our genes.