How the Keto Diet Works Exactly, Why It's Effective & How It Can Sometimes Be Annoying
Another month, another trendy diet making rounds online
The keto (short for the ketogenic) diet is essentially a low-carb, high-fat dietary regimen, where a meal consists of 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs. Yes, this means bacon is allowed. Yes, you can help yourself to some surf and turf. Yes, this is actually a diet used to lose weight. What’s different about going keto, however, is that it shifts the focus from what you can and cannot eat to a holistic end-goal of changing how your body uses energy.
via Kitchen Swagger
Albeit the interest in the keto diet spiked late this year (thanks to the likes of Megan Fox, Adriana Lima, Kim Kardashian, Mick Jagger and Halle Berry), this diet has actually been around for decades. In the early 1920’s, the ketogenic diet was used to treat young patients with epilepsy and was found to effectively reduce seizures in children.
Today, the keto diet is the latest buzzy fitness trend making a sweep online and in households, convincing folks to “go keto” one success story at a time. Anyway, a diet that allows people to help themselves to fatty food? Count us in!
How It Works
The ketogenic diet works by drastically cutting out carbohydrates (roughly 50 grams of carbs are allowed a day). The body then goes from using glucose as its main energy source to using ketones, which are formed in the liver when there is not enough glucose to supply energy. This newly introduced metabolic state is called ketosis and usually takes three days to a week to get going. Here, the body gets its energy from fat consumed as well as stored body fat. Another great advantage is that this process lowers blood sugar and insulin levels.
The standard ketogenic diet consists of low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat meals. Dieters have the option to tweak this and take on a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet or CKD instead, where dieters can spend 5 days a week following the ketogenic diet and two days where they allow themselves to eat carbs. Another enhanced version is the Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD) where carb intake is allowed around workouts.
The ketogenic diet involves cutting out grains like wheat, corn, rice, cereal and anything similar. Sugar is a no-no, so skip the syrups, honey, cake and other sweets down to fruits high in sugar like mangoes, apples, bananas and oranges. Starchy root vegetables like potatoes and yams are also a big no-no.
Why It’s Great
via @_keto_fitventure_ on Instagram
When paired with regular exercise, the ketogenic diet is proven to be an effective tool for weight loss. It’s also great for those who struggle with diets that work around portion control, leaving them hungry between meals and binging when cheat day comes around. Since you feel fuller for longer on this diet, hunger pangs are kept at bay. Other health benefits of all the fatty acids from going keto include anti-inflammatory properties, regulated blood sugar, reduced blood pressure and sustained energy throughout the day.
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A Word of Caution
As with any reasonable diet, moderation is key. Just because you are permitted to eat fatty foods doesn’t mean you go nuts with a chicharon, sisig and crispy pata feast. Lay off the red meat, processed foods and anything high in sodium to get the most out of the ketogenic diet.
Physicians also do not advise subscribing to this diet for extended periods of time. Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, who has made a career out of providing nutrition advice to professional athletes, said: "I don't think somebody should be on a full ketogenic diet for more than three months. What I teach is not that everybody should be on a ketogenic diet—the basis of what I teach is traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM—but if somebody has the goal of overcoming epilepsy, fighting cancer, overcoming blood sugar issues like diabetes, losing weight, or even some hormonal issues, the ketogenic diet is a great temporary diet.”
Pregnant women, those with gallbladder complications and liver problems should not get on this diet.
When Does It Get Annoying?
Those who love sugar will inevitably encounter some form of withdrawal before feeling great about getting rid of the bloat associated with sugar consumption. “There is a growing evidence base that suggests from a neurological perspective sugar is more addictive than cocaine and interacts with the same pleasure senses of the brain,” said Dr. Charlotte Summers. “When people first start on a journey to a lower carbohydrate lifestyle there are a sub population of people who seem to be addicted to sugar and who actually show addictive tendencies, similar to someone with an alcohol addiction.”
Typically, the first three weeks on the ketogenic diet are the hardest to power through, too. As the body gets used to the new dieting dynamics, there will be side effects: headaches, feeling sluggish or nauseated, leg cramps, constipation are just some of them. Hurdles during the transition period also include endurance loss, dehydration, constipation and mental fogginess.
If you manage to power through the first few weeks and see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s all well worth it. It’s easy to get carried away with a diet that actually encourages the consumption of fatty foods, but remember that healthy fats are the way to go!
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