The ketogenic diet has been all the rage in the recent months as it is the new kid on the block of the high-fat, low-carb diet types. This fancy new diet is so promising that it claims it can let you eat as much fat as you want, stop feeling hunger, or increase your sport performance.
In this Ketogenic Diet 101 Guide we are going to dissect the keto diet in the utter possible depth. We are going to dig deep into the scientific evidence, and hopefully you will be able to figure out how this incredible weight loss program might be adapted for your needs and help you loose weight fast.
Table of Contents
So What Exactly Is the Ketogenic Diet?
What we commonly call carbs, or carbohydrates, are the primary source of energy of our body. Fats are a secondary source of energy for our body to use as well. The principle of the ketogenic diet consists in reducing drastically the intake of carbohydrates in order for the body to switch to fat as its main source of energy. This results in your body burning fat to fuel its energy.
When you eat foods that are made from carbs your body transform them into a sugar called glucose that can be used as a source of energy by the body. It turns out that glucose is what’s called a simple sugar. That means this type of sugar can not be broken into an even simpler sugar. And since glucose is a raw form of energy for your body, it’s the easiest way for your body to consume energy. That means that as long as your body has access to a supply of glucose to source its energy, your body will not burn fat stored in fatty tissued to source its energy.
A simple way to describe it is that you need to reduce drastically your intake of carbohydrates in order to trigger your body to use fat to source its energy instead. That’s the core principle on which relies the keto diet.
Your liver is in charge of breaking down the fat in your body. While doing so if produces what’s called ketones, which are really a simpler form of broken fats in your body. And when you suppressed the presence of glucose in your body, it is then free to uses the ketones as its main source of energy.
Best Way to Follow a Keto Diet
As stated above you need to drastically reduce your intake of carbohydrates to reach what’s called the state of ketosis. And in doing so you will be doing the ketogenic diet. The best way to reach ketosis is to follow these traditional guidelines of the keto diet:
- Eat 80-90 percent of your daily calories from fats.
- Eat 5-15 percent of your daily calories from proteins.
- Eat 5-10 percent of your daily calories from carbs.
This is a severe contrast with average American diet. Overall Americans east around half of their daily calories from carbs. More precisely men aged 20 and older eat around 46 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates, while women aged 20 and older eat around 48 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates.
This traditional guidelines for the keto diet can be adapted to increase the amount of proteins you consume on a daily basis. You can consume up to 20-30 percent of your daily calories as proteins. But you need to maintain the 5-10 percent as carbs.
That gives 60-75 percent for fats which is still consequential. In this modified version of the keto diet with higher proteins intake you might experience better weight loss and even better sport performance. It is a good idea to start with the traditional recommendation above and if you wish to experience for at least 2 weeks with the modified version to discover how your body reacts.
So What Is Ketosis Exactly?
Maximizing weight loss while reaching the state of ketosis is the core principle on which is based the ketogenic diet. Once the quantity of glucose is sufficiently reduced in your body so that the body can not use enough of it to source its energy, your body triggers the natural metabolic process which is called ketosis.
Indeed when your body does not have sufficient glucose as its main source of energy, it can instead make use of the fats that are stored in the fatty tissues and burn them for sourcing its energy rather than burning simple sugars such as glucose. The ketosis metabolic process generates ketones in your body. These ketones act as a substitute for your body to source its energy.
While it’s usually unnecessary because you can feel it, there’s another practical way to check whether you are in ketosis. Your urines can be analyzed to find traces of ketones using dedicated strips which can be purchased at your nearest pharmacy. If the strip test indicates that your urines contain enough ketones that means that your are currently in ketosis.
What Are The Benefits of The Keto Diet For Your Health?
So here we are, the most interesting part we are looking for to obtain for our body and ourselves, the health benefits we might experience while following the ketogenic diet.
Benefit 1: You Could Burn Fat and Loose Weight Fast
For loosing weight fast the keto diet is awesome because it helps suppress your appetite, so you are far less tempted to indulge in sweets or candies for example. It’s still unclear how the keto diet helps suppress your appetite though but multiple scientific studies concluded in this way. And this might allow to loose weight fast because most people indulge themselves all along their day with snacks and sweets. These little indulgences while little if taken separately add up while taken as a whole throughout the day. Cutting on these sugary indulgences quickly is a major benefit of the keto diet.
Indeed low carb diets like the keto diet may help lower the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood which is what’s needed to have a better blood pressure. Another side effect is to reduce your Body Mass Index (BMI) which is an index that gives a single score on how overweight a person is. As your BMI reduces the fat in your belly will also likely reduce as well.
One point to keep in mind though is that loosing weight might be achieved with other types of diet plans which are not low carb based. For example there exists other diet which restrict the amount of calories you take during your day might also result in loosing weight fast in the same way the keto diet does.
While being on the keto diet you will decrease drastically your intake of carbohydrates which, as a direct effect, cuts your intake of daily calories drastically as well. This can result in loosing a lot of water that was stored in your body and will quickly be seen when you weigh yourself. Generally people enjoy this quick weight loss effect because it is very rewarding on the quantitive side as your weight shrinks. It’s also super enjoyable on the qualitative side because most people feel an increase in their self-esteem.
It’s important to note that there is a risk in not experiencing calorie reduction while eating more fat because fats are a type of foods that is very dense in calories. So you need to be careful and measure thoroughly the amount of each type of food you eat daily, namely fats, proteins and carbs.
For example a scientific study found that people eating lots of animal fats while on a low carb diet were eating around 700 more calories than people eating mostly a diet based on plants and poor on fats. That study showed it’s very important to be aware of the calorie composition of the foods your consume during your day to avoid falling in this kind of pitfalls.
Benefit 2: You May Increase Your Sport Performance
Athletes exercising sports based on endurance, think running, marathon, swimming, or team sports like hockey or basket ball might benefit the most from the ketogenic diet or similar type of diet. A British scientific study found that athletes in these endurance sports that were doing a keto diet allowed their body to source their energy mainly from fat stored in their body instead of sugars.
These athletes do not have to constantly replenish their energy levels with sugar based drinks. The study was able to show this benefit both during trainings and also in competitions. Furthermore another advantage is that endurance athletes on keto diet were experiencing faster recovery after competitions.
As it is often the case in science multiple studies might came to different conclusions. Indeed another scientific study was not able to conclude whether following the keto diet might increase or decrease performance for endurance athletes. But this study concluded positively on the fact that it allowed endurance athletes to decrease their body fat and loose weight.
Benefit 3: For Type 2 Diabetic Persons You Might Better Control The Glucose Level in Your Blood
Controlling the level of glucose in your blood all along your day and in particular after meals is crucial for diabetic persons. Indeed people experiencing diabetes need to control their glucose level in order to prevent a fatal risk. They need to measure thoroughly the food they consume. And a lot of them use a monitor to control their glycemic index after meals.
Multiple scientific studies have found that low carb diets and the keto diet may help control the glucose level in your blood. Some scientific studies even found that a proper diet for diabetics might allow to stop taking diabetes medications completely for persons experiencing type 2 diabetes. So diabetics persons should seriously consider switching to the keto diet. Obviously that shouldn’t be done without discussing with their medical advisor first as she will be able to guide them accordingly.
Potential Risks of the Keto Diet to Be Aware Of
So far we reviewed the multiple benefits you might experience for your health if you start a ketogenic diet. It’s also crucial to be aware of the potential risk for your health so you can be better prepared and hopefully avoid them. Multiple scientific papers have been focused on studying how low carb diets might affect or impact our health. Let’s review thoroughly these health risks.
Risk 1: The Keto Flu May Induce Fatigue
The keto flu is not a real flu caused by the flu virus. In fact what is called the keto flu is a common side effect that routinely happens while starting a keto diet. While your body needs to transition from a regular American diet rich in carbs to the keto diet poor in carbs, you might experience symptoms of fatigue which can be undesirable.
The keto flu is in fact a normal phase during the keto diet as your body needs to adapts in a new way to source its energy. While your body was used to source its energy from the abundance of glucose in your blood, as you decrease drastically this source of energy, your body adapts as it starts metabolizing ketones by burning fats in your liver.
In scientific studies it has been observed that the keto flu phase lasts around a couple weeks. During the keto flu phase you might experience the following unpleasant symptoms:
- fatigue as mentioned before
- headaches or migraines
- problem for falling asleep
- cramps in your members
Please not that these are worst cases symptoms and it’s highly unlikely to experience multiple symptoms other than a couple ones, let alone all of them.
A great way to prevent these symptoms and even make them disappear consists in having a longer than usual transition from your regular diet to the keto diet. Most people tend to switch to the keto diet from one day to another without transition. This is a sure way to experience keto flu symptoms. Instead one might consider transitioning to the keto diet over the course of one month. For example:
- On week 1, we start by consuming 30-40 percent of our daily calories from fat.
- On week 2, we can increase to 40-60 percent of our daily calories from fat.
- On week 3, we increase again to 60-80 percent of our daily calories from fat.
- On week 4, we finally can reach the 80-90 percent level of your daily calories from fat.
Following such a gradual pattern to transition from a regular American diet to the keto diet will alleviate considerably the risk of the experiencing the keto flu phase, and will probably prevent it altogether for most people. If the keto flu symptoms persist you should consult your medical advisor.
Risk 2: You May Suffer From Constipation on Keto Diet
As your metabolism adapts to the new keto diet you might experience gastrointestinal effects like constipation or diarrhea. But please note that these digestive effects aren’t very common though. These symptoms result from the fact that you might not eat enough vegetables, fruits, or grains. Indeed vegetables rich in fibers like beans, collard greens, acorn or butternut squash, broccoli, or kale constitute the main source of fibers for our body.
So when transitioning to the keto diet its is important to eat these fiber-rich vegetables and to avoid vegetables low in fibers like white potatoes, beets, carrots, canned vegetables, asparagus, lettuce, or tomatoes. Focusing on the right fiber-rich vegetables will keep a sufficient amount of fibers for your gastrointestinal system to function properly. This way your intestines stay happy and you as well.
Risk 3: You Might Experience Nutrient Deficiencies
Getting rid of a whole food group as is almost the case with the keto diet can trigger deficiencies in necessary nutrients for your body. It’s important to be aware of that in order to avoid them.
The keto diet is often low in calcium and magnesium as well as in vitamin D and folic acid. An easy way to alleviate and remove completely this risk is to take a multivitamin supplement along your lunch or dinner daily. Multivitamin supplements can be found at your usual pharmacy near your home and are very cheap.
If you take the store brands you can buy a yearly supply of 300 to 400 multivitamin supplements for around 10 dollars. So it should be a no brainer to supplement your diet with these multivitamin supplements since they are so inexpensive and will prevent nutrient deficiencies risks.
Risk 4: You May Increase Your Cholesterol Levels
Some scientific studies warn us that as the keto diet is very rich in proteins and animal fats, it is important to be careful with our heart and protect it. In particular people at risk of cardiovascular disease or people who are currently diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases should avoid switching to a keto diet.
Common risk factors for cardiovascular diseases include hypertension and high blood pressure, high cholesterol level and a family history of heart disease. People falling into these categories should be very careful if switching to a keto diet, or even avoid it. Indeed as the keto diet relies heavily on fat, the saturated fats among them can increase your cholesterol levels which can results in increased dangerous cardiovascular risks down the road.
Indeed some research papers have warned that low carb diets like the keto diet might raise cholesterol levels in certain cases depending on the health condition of the persons. If you are unsure about your cardiovascular disease risk you should definitely discuss with your physician who will do a thorough check-up.
Risk 5: Diabetic People May Experience Risky Low Blood Sugar
Diabetic people shouldn’t switch to a keto diet without consulting their medical advisor like their doctor. As the keto diet has such a deep impact on your metabolism by radically shrinking the level of glucose in your blood, it is fundamental to be well aware and conscious of the potential implications.
As you decrease your daily intake of carbohydrates, your body has less carbs to transform in glucose. And since the glucose level is the key indicator that diabetics need to monitor and control during their day, a drastic change in their glucose level could be very dangerous for them. In particular your doctor might help you adapt your medication level to avoid the dangers that might cause a low level of glucose in your blood. So it is very important for diabetics to consult their physician if they consider switching to the keto diet.
Risk 6: You May Experience Ups and Downs in Weight
Keeping up on the keto diet in the long run might not be an easy road for some persons. As it’s quite a restrictive diet people who love vegetables and fruits might find it hard to adhere to this diet for a long time in their life.
Also one phenomenon that could happen with some people is switching quickly to the new keto diet to experience rapid weight loss as it works great for loosing weight. But then getting back to their regular American regimen as they find the keto diet too strict. This might results in them regaining the weight they lost recently. As a secondary level of consequence, displeased with gaining weight again, they might switch back to keto and loose weight again. As you can see this might result in cycling between a lower average weight and a higher average weight in a short period of time which might not be the best for your overall health.
Can Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes Do the Keto Diet?
The ketogenic diet is based on the principle to drastically reduce your daily intake of carbohydrates. As we explained above this allows to control the levels of sugar and glucose in your blood. Individuals with type 2 diabetes try to control their level of A1C. The keto diet has become an increasingly popular diet option for them. Several scientific studies have shown that the keto diet allows to loose weight fast and to reduce the level of glucose in the blood which is crucial for individuals with diabetes.
Nevertheless it is important to be aware that the crash in glucose level in the blood might cause interactions with diabetes control drugs. This should be discussed thoroughly with your doctor as this could be very dangerous for your health.
Additionally as the keto diet increases the level of ketones in your organism, these ketones need to be evacuated in your urine. Your kidneys are responsible for that evacuation of the urine. People with dysfunctional kidneys are at a higher risk to experience kidney problems and should consult their medical advisor.
If you are interested in switching to the keto diet and your are a type 2 diabetic individual, it is crucial that you take the time to meet and discuss with your doctor.
Natural ketosis triggered by the keto diet can be confused with a condition named diabetic ketoacidosis which require medical emergency. An individual with diabetes who experience a quick increase in ketones might be required to consults a doctor immediately. As the ketone levels increase in the blood, the blood becomes more acidic which can be the cause of a condition named ketoacidosis. It is critical for diabetic individuals to consult a doctor immediately as ketoacidosis can be lethal for them.
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