Thinking About Keto?
Diet trends—some less advisable than others—come and go. Usually, if a diet plan sounds too good to be true, it probably is. However, many people have taken to the “keto diet” and hailed it as both good and true. So, what exactly is it?
While the ketogenic diet isn’t new, it’s had a surge in popularity over the past year or so. The keto diet is essentially a low-carbohydrate diet, but not all low-carb diets are keto. The ketogenic diet actually originates as an extreme version of the low-carb diet, used medically in efforts to treat epilepsy, usually in children. People have since assigned themselves to the keto diet for weight loss purposes. Those who manage to stick with it have had success stories, but there are also dietitians/medical professionals who are skeptical of the long and even short-term side effects. But first, what does the ketogenic diet actually entail, and what’s happening in your body if you choose to undergo it?
The keto diet basically seeks to heavily restrict the consumption of carbs in favor of high amounts of fats and proteins. Doing so will put your body in a state known as ketosis. Normally, your body would first use all the glucose it has to make energy. If you’re cutting out the carbs, which contains glucose, your body switches over to using fats. Specifically, your liver starts to produce ketone bodies, which enter your bloodstream and give you energy.
For the sake of comparison, an ordinary diet would consist of about 50% carbohydrates, with protein taking up 30% and fat the remaining 20%. The keto diet dramatically reduces your carb intake to about 5% of your diet. Protein still makes up a similar 25%, but fat takes up the majority at 70%. The keto-friendly foods, as you might guess, are meats like pork, beef, and chicken and fruits and vegetables like avocados and cauliflower. On keto, you’re also clear to eat nuts, seeds, butter, and full fat yogurt. On the flip side, you’ll be cutting out bread, pasta, cereal, and any sorts of sweets like cookies and cake. Keep in mind that typically healthy options (like apples, carrots, etc.) are also to be avoided as they convert to glucose, which the keto diet is designed to replace.
While not many people are arguing the weight loss benefits of the keto diet, some are wary of the potential downsides. Newcomers to the diet may undergo what’s known as “keto flu,” which is really just your body reacting to its newfound state of ketosis. It fortunately passes after not much time, but you might experience some nausea, fatigue, and the occasional headache. It should also be noted that the keto diet might make your exercising a bit more difficult, especially for those who have intense workout sessions. This is because the glucose you’re cutting out is primarily responsible for providing an immediate source of energy for your body. And of course, there’s the difficulty that comes in removing such a large portion of carbohydrates from your diet; some are more capable than others at handling this change.
So, there’s unfortunately no magic answer; it all depends on the person. The keto diet is notably reported as one that’s easier to stick with than many other weight loss diets. This is primarily because the foods you’re eating do a better job at leaving you feeling full, and so you’re less likely to experience cravings for food that breaks the diet’s rules. Some dietitians advise the keto diet as a short-term weight loss strategy as long as it’s carefully planned and monitored. There is, however, concern about how realistic and healthy it is to keep it up for a long amount of time. Eliminating an entire food group from your diet, after all, makes it trickier to get all of your essential vitamins and minerals.
At the end of the day, if you’re interested in trying out keto for the weight loss benefits but concerned about any potential health effects, the smartest thing you can do is have your biomarkers checked by a dietitian after a few weeks of the keto diet. If things like your cholesterol level and adrenal health have taken a turn for the better or worse, that should clue you in on whether or not the keto diet is right for you.