When it comes to diets that are aimed at losing weight, there are a variety of fads and crazes to choose from. However, no weight loss plan is hotter — and perhaps more controversial — than the keto diet.
WHAT IS THE KETOGENIC DIET?
The ketogenic, or keto, diet, is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that has been shown to promote weight loss, an increase in energy, cognitive health and hormonal balance support, and help with the reduction of risks for chronic disease such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides.
The whole point of the diet is to push your body into the metabolic state of ketosis. To summarize, the metabolic state of ketosis involves:
- Drastic reduction of glucose from carbohydrate foods
- Forcing the body to look for alternative sources of energy
- Burning more fat and producing higher amounts of ketones – small molecules that contribute to energy metabolism
In order to work your body into a metabolic state of ketosis — maintaining the state while your body produces ketone bodies that are used for steady energy. To do this, about 75 percent or more of your daily calorie intake needs to come from dietary sources of fat. By kicking carbs and glucose out of the picture, your body relies on fat from your diet, along with your own stored body fat in order to keep itself running. This means that weight loss can happen quickly and reliably. If you are wondering whether or not the keto diet is right for you, continue reading as we share some things you should know about the ketogenic craze.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU TRY THE KETO DIET
YOU HAVE TO REALLY CUT THE CARBS
Carbs are hard to resist, and if you enjoy foods with carbohydrates, the keto diet may be a heartbreaker. This diet recommends a 4:1 of fat to carbs. In other words, that’s about five to 10 percent of your total daily calories can come from carbs. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average person consumes almost half of their calories from carbs, which is quite the difference from about five to 10 percent. In order to slash your daily carbs, you’ll have to kick out grains, sugar, a lot of fruit, and starchy vegetables from your diet.
YOU CAN’T OVERDO THE PROTEIN
One thing that makes the ketogenic diet much different from other low-carb diets is that it incorporates more fat and less protein. The keto diet recommends that protein intake is around 20 percent of your daily caloric intake, which can be an adequate amount for some people. Eating too much protein will cause it to convert to glucose, which is counter-productive on the keto diet and can inhibit your ability to move into ketosis.
SUPPLEMENTS ARE VITAL
Supplementation with the right vitamins and minerals is an absolute necessity when following the keto diet. Pure fats such as coconut oil, butter, olive oil, and other fats make up the base of a ketogenic diet, however, they are not the best vitamin sources. Your body is constantly using these nutrients, but if you aren’t taking the right supplements, those nutrients will never be fully replaced. Plus, because you cut out fruits and vegetables, you won’t be getting any beneficial antioxidants, which have been associated with a decreased risk of cancer, heart disease and other conditions.
THERE MAY BE SOME UNPLEASANT SIDE EFFECTS
Some people will temporarily experience keto diet side effects while they transition into ketosis, some more unpleasant than others. Constipation, bad breath, low energy, cravings, and dizziness are just a few of the side effects of going so low-carb. Because fiber can easily be missed out on, many people experience digestive issues when they try keto. Health experts recommend adding flax or chia seeds, coconuts, raw nuts, and low-carb veggies into every meal if you decide to try keto.
YOU MAY HAVE GUT ISSUES
You may be the next star in a Pepto-Bismol commercial if you choose to go keto. When you are on a low-carb, high-fat diet it is difficult to include prebiotic foods like garlic, onions, oats, and bananas into your meals. These prebiotic foods encourage beneficial bacteria growth that supports intestinal health, which is linked to our overall health. After cutting them out, some people experience negative symptoms like nausea and fatigue — aka the “keto flu” — for a couple weeks as their gut microbiomes adjust to the meal plan. Others, who aren’t as fortunate, continue to suffer from stomach issues throughout the diet. Some think that a fiber supplement is a solution, but many nutritionists advise against them, as the extra carbs in fiber supplements can prevent the person from achieving and maintaining full ketosis. The best solution is to increase your fiber intake with seeds, nuts, leafy greens, and cruciferous veggies. Also, be mindful of how much dairy you’re consuming
YOUR WORKOUTS MAY SUFFER
Keto has no relation to performance advantage for athletes, especially in sports which rely on the fuel you already have stored in your muscles as glycogen. Also, non-athletes may also lack the energy to exercise at their best ability. Weakness and lack of energy are some of the main side effects of this diet, mostly in part to eliminating carbs — the preferred type of fuel for the body, so without them your workouts may not be as efficient and effective as you are used to.
MAINTAINING A SOCIAL LIFE IS NOT EASY
The keto diet is not really social friendly. In addition to advising to eliminate alcohol consumption, the guidelines of the diet cut out many of the foods you would eat when going out or gathering with friends. Because many events revolve around food you cannot eat, your social life can be drastically impacted.
YOU WILL NEED TO COOK MORE
Get ready to spend some more time in the kitchen! Eating out at restaurants or purchasing frozen meals at grocery stores can be difficult as the diet cuts out foods like bread, pasta, rice, ketchup, and many dressings. Not to mention, most packaged foods aren’t keto-friendly. If you want to properly follow the keto diet, you’ll need to ensure that you are prepared to make the time to cook appropriate options.
YOU’LL NEED PLENTY OF FLUIDS AND ELECTROLYTES
When you are on the keto diet, it is important that you drink plenty of water and hydrating liquids throughout the day, including tea, fresh-squeezed vegetable juice, organic coffee, and bone broth. Additionally, you’ll want to include enough salt in your diet to ensure you get enough potassium, magnesium and other electrolytes — which help with digestion, cellular and muscular functions, and improved sleep, energy, and mood support.
Is The Keto Diet Right For You?
We won’t keep it a secret, the ketogenic diet is very restrictive and requires a lot of commitment to get the nutrients you need for overall health. If you are looking for long-term, healthy weight loss, there are probably other diets out there that are a better choice. If you want to know if the ketogenic diet is the right choice for your weight loss goals, talk to our nutritionists at our fitness and nutrition lab!