The ketosis (keto) diet has become extremely popular in recent years for weight loss. The keto diet has several variants like the Atkins, South Beach, and Paleo diets, to name a few. So let us learn a little about how the diet works, its risks, and history.
What exactly is the Keto diet?
The keto diet is a low carb diet that relies on protein and fat for caloric needs. Keto is far from the only carb diet out there. But what makes this different from the other is the focus on high fat as the primary calorie and energy source. Up to 90 % of your daily caloric intake may be from fat.
The ketosis diet is not new; it has been around for about 100 years. The ketosis diet was initially developed to treat seizures in children. It is still used to treat medication-resistant epilepsy with promising levels of success. In the 1970s, Dr. Atkins incorporated two weeks of ketosis into his diet weight loss plan; we all know it today as the Atkins diet.
How does the keto diet work for weight loss?
The typical American diet consists of about 50% of the daily caloric intake coming from carbohydrates. So the bodies primary energy source is carbohydrates converted to blood sugar to feed the bodies cells. Blood sugar is the bodies first choice in energy sources. But, in the ketosis diet, there are no carbohydrates to supply the blood sugar. When the supply of blood sugar from food sources has depleted, the body will start to break down stored fat for energy. The process is called ketosis.
When the fat cells are broken down during the ketosis process, it releases ketones. Most cells of the body will use the ketones as their source for energy in the absence of glucose (blood sugar). Once you reach this state, your body will use ketones as energy until carbohydrates are consumed. Typically it takes 2-4 days of a diet containing less than 50 grams of carbs for your body to go into a state of ketosis. In some cases, it may take longer or lower levels of carbohydrates to enter ketosis. The liver performs the process of ketosis, converting fat cells into ketones.
What can you eat on the keto diet?
A ketosis diet in its purest form requires 90% of your calorie come from fat. Being able to maintain that level of fat consumption is difficult to sustain long term. Your fat sources should be as natural and healthy as possible.
So stick with avocado, nuts, seeds, olives, and tofu. While saturated fat sources like butter, lard, palm oil, and fatty meats are permitted in high amounts, they can lead to high cholesterol. Most fruits contain high levels of carbohydrates (1 banana has 27g of carbs) and are not allowed. Vegetables (many also are high in carbs) are reduced to leafy greens (lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, spinach), cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, bell peppers, onions, garlic, mushrooms, cucumber, celery, and summer squashes.
Does the keto diet help lose weight?
Results seem to show a higher weight loss on the keto diet vs. diets that include carbohydrates. Unfortunately, the results from the keto diet are much harder to maintain because the diet its elf is tough to manage. In reality, the keto diet is not recommended as a long term weight solution.
What risks are there using the keto diet?
There are several risks associated with the keto diet. Most of them are not an issue for the average healthy person.
The liver will be required to process all the bad fat and transform it into ketones. The creation of ketones places added stress on the liver and could cause problems if there are existing liver conditions. The use of the keto diet long term (years) could cause liver issues in an otherwise healthy liver.
In a strict keto diet, this is not a real concern. But in one of the higher protein variants, it could become an issue. High consumption of proteins will cause strain on the kidneys. The kidney process, all proteins, and high consumption will add stress. The recommended daily protein intake is 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams for men.
Because of the lack of variety in food choices, you will likely not be able to consume all the vitamins and minerals needed. The deficiency is easy on to overcome by only taking one dose of multivitamins per day.
The keto diet is low in fibrous fruits and vegetables and could cause constipation. Leafy greens, flaxseeds, cabbage, chia seeds, avocado, cauliflower, broccoli, and nuts are all excellent sources of fiber while on the keto diet.
My personal experience with the keto diet
For years now, I have heard about the keto diet (ketogenic diet), and its popularity among bodybuilders trying to lean out. Unfortunately, I have never been able to use this diet. After 4 or 5 days, I would experience extreme lethargy and mental fog. I would trough to though it out, but by about the 10th day, I would give up and eat carbs. I thought my body would go into ketosis, and I would regain my energy and focus. But it never happened, and the fatigue and mental unclarity would worsen.
But that has just been my personal experience. Talking with people who have used this diet, their experience was different than mine. Other people I know that have tried the diet were able to go into ketosis and sustain the diet for short periods. The discipline to continue the keto diet for any amount of time is extremely difficult.
My diet uses many of the principles of the keto, but I never attempt to go into ketosis. I use what is often referred to as carb cycling to lose weight at a fast pace.