Keto and the Danger of Sugar Alcohols

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I know, not a typical post for this blog, but bear with me. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a short piece called ‘not a resolution’ where I detailed my return to a ketogenic lifestyle after a few failed attempts. I started again on the 29th of December after returning home from a typical Christmas visit with family. I had attempted to start this diet again about two weeks before Christmas but discovered that it was a big inconvenience for everyone around me while on my visit that I paused the diet and tried to just be reasonable in general. I regained the water weight but the total weight gain returned me to just shy of my initial starting point, a plus by any measure.

So in the second week of this I decided to eat too many Quest bars and Quest protein cookies. Why? They’re easy to carry and I had to be out and about several times in the week, leaving me with few food options. Quest products are sweetened with sugar alcohols, Erythitol to be specific. Sugar alcohols are the latest innovation in fake diet food technology, enabling you to have fake versions of non-keto foods, like the cookies I had eaten. The trouble you run into is this: too much sugar alcohol and the ketogenic bioprocess shuts down entirely, meaning no weight loss. In fact, I retained water, leaving me fully stalled on the diet.

Imagine being otherwise good on your nutrition plan. You eat the calories and netcarbs that you’re supposed to eat, and all goes well until you step on the scale and you’ve not lost even a fraction of a pound. Ooops. That happened to me. Sugar alcohols generally work like this: they taste sweet like sugar does but your body doesn’t recognize them as sugar and can’t digest them. You pass them out, typically in your urine. At least that’s my understanding of them, expressed in an oversimplified manner.

I stepped on the scale Saturday and saw no weightloss whatsoever despite having been pretty good in the previous week. Later in that same day I noticed the telltale sign of my body being back into the ketogenic state (the weird metallic taste) and stepped on the scale the next morning. Down 2.5 pounds. Pretty good, but it would’ve been much, much better if I hadn’t been eating those Quest products in the amount that I had been over the previous several days.

I’m not saying avoid Quest products either. Far from it. They’re convenient and taste as good as something like that can. Just use them in moderation, and don’t use multiple products at a time unless you’ve lost all the weight you need to and are now in maintenance or even bulking.

My general plan is this: this week, no products with sugar alcohol in them whatsoever, just to make sure my system is cleared of them. That’ll be hard because I’ve found barbecue sauce and ketchup made with them and they’re not bad at all, in addition to those Quest products I mentioned. No matter though. In the place of those Quest products will be judiciously measured nuts of some kind, almonds or mixed nuts. Nuts are dangerous on keto because it’s easy to binge on them but I figure that I’m better of just measuring them out and taking my chances that way. I’m in the mindset to largely not snack, so it should be fine.

Have questions about keto? I’ve done it for so long (off and on) that it’s almost a second nature lifestyle for me now.

© 2019, Anthony Stine. All rights reserved. You may reuse or copy this post by giving credit and providing a link.

2 thoughts on “Keto and the Danger of Sugar Alcohols

  1. I don’t normally leave comments on your blog, but:
    It occurs to me that it would be easier to avoid sweet snacks, even “sweetend” keto-fake foods in general. I go for the “no sugar added” or “unsweetened” stuff myself. Of course, instead of Keto, I’m actively trying to maintain blood sugar and care less about weight, and that is just easier to do on a savory diet than on a sweet diet.

    1. Generally I avoid the sweet stuff too. Eating those things was a necessity born out of being stuck in my car driving around a lot for several days, with no way of heating food in the cold winter weather. Honestly, those things aren’t all that good tasting anyway.


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