What Is the Keto Diet, and Is It for You?
If you’re anywhere near the Internet these days, you’ve likely heard about the
ketogenic, or “keto” diet — a high-fat, low-carb way of eating that promises to melt
body fat and improve your health. While low-fat diets were all the rage in the 1970s
and 1980s, research has shown starving your body of fat to lose fat is a myth. The
keto diet switches up the ratio of macronutrients — carbohydrates, protein, and fat
— in your diet, which can have a big impact on weight loss, heart health, hormone
regulation, and insulin resistance.
Speaking of macronutrients, a typical Western diet consists of relatively high
amounts of carbohydrates relative to fat and protein. The keto diet asks you to flip
the script, getting 70-80% of your calories from fat, 20-25% from protein, and only
5-10% from carbohydrates. For most people, this is a big change to the way they eat,
but once they start to see the benefits, the new lifestyle is a no-brainer to maintain.
How Does It Work?
So, what’s happening when you eat keto? Your body enters a state called “ketosis,”
which means that it burns ketones rather than glucose for fuel. When you’re eating a
higher level of carbohydrates, your liver turns the sugar, or glucose, into energy. It’s
why carb-loading before a big race seems to help athletes perform better. As long as
glucose is present, your body wants to use it and will resist breaking down stored
fat. On the keto diet, you’re reducing the amount of glucose available. Your body will
move on to breaking down fat to produce and use ketones for energy instead,
creating a state known as “ketosis.”
Ketosis has numerous benefits, such as increased mental performance, since the
brain is able to readily use ketones for energy, improved cholesterol levels,
decreased triglycerides, and decreased blood glucose. Your body also adapts to
using ketones when you exercise, giving you a longer-lasting, efficient fuel system to
support harder, fat-burning workouts.
Is Keto Safe?
Ketosis, which is a perfectly safe level of ketones (0.5-5.0mmol/L), is often confused
with ketoacidosis, a dangerous metabolic state for diabetics. As the ketogenic diet
does impact insulin and glucose levels in the body, it’s always recommended that
individuals, especially those with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes consult a medical
professional before implementing a lower-carb eating plan. When beginning a keto
diet, you may also experience flu-like symptoms as a result of the fuel switch from
carbohydrates to fat. This usually lasts less than two weeks once the body adjusts.
If you’re ready to get started on the path to weight loss, increased energy, and better
health, start with your plate! Increase your consumption of healthy fats, such as
grass-fed butter, coconut oil, nuts, avocados, and dairy, and add more lean meats
into your meals. Stick to leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, and limit grains
and fruits. Try it today and enjoy the benefits of this healthy lifestyle!
How Do You Adapt to the Keto Diet?
If you’re interested in starting a ketogenic diet, it’s important to remember that
becoming adapted to keto is not an instant process. It can take about a month to get
keto-adapted. However, once past the adjustment period, most people find that the
benefits are well worth the effort.
Getting Started on Keto
When you’re first starting a keto diet, you need to reduce your carbohydrate intake
to roughly 20 net grams per day. The state of your current diet will play a large role
in determining how easy this is for you. If you currently eat a lot of high-
carbohydrate foods such as bread and pasta, this initial period may be difficult. You
may want to gradually reduce these foods from your diet in order to minimize the
side effects of carbohydrate withdrawal.
When you first shift to eating a low-carb diet, you may experience adverse reactions.
Your body will first use up its glycogen stores — energy that has been stored in the
muscles and liver. The release of this glycogen is responsible for the initial weight
loss that is common at this stage. Don’t be surprised if you lose as much as 8 or 10
pounds during the first week.
At this point, your body will be searching for more glucose to use for energy. This is
when many people start feeling shaky, tired, and nauseated. Don’t give up! These
effects, often referred to as keto flu, should subside after a few days. When it can’t
find glucose to use for energy, your body will start using fat instead. At this point,
you’ll be in ketosis.
It’s important to remember that being in ketosis and being keto-adapted are two
different things. Getting into ketosis can happen fairly quickly, but it may take a few
weeks before your body adjusts to using fat as its primary source of fuel.
After a couple of weeks, you should start to experience some of the effects of being
“fat-fueled” or “fat-adapted.” Your appetite will likely stabilize, and you won’t need
to eat as much between meals. You may have more energy or you may notice
greater mental clarity. You may notice you aren’t completely exhausted at the end of
the day, or you don’t need an afternoon cup of coffee to keep you going. You won’t
feel cranky or “hangry” if you haven’t eaten. Your moods may become more stable
since you won’t be subject to the ups and downs of blood sugar. These effects will
likely continue to increase over the next several weeks.
Although there is no definitive test to determine if you’re fat-adapted, most people
can tell after they reach a point of consistently increased energy and mental clarity.
After becoming adapted, you can adjust your diet slightly. Some people increase
their net carb intake to as much as 50 grams per day. You can add some fruit back
into your diet, such as small quantities of berries or tomatoes.
How Does the Keto Diet Help You Lose Weight?
The ketogenic diet has become increasingly popular in recent years as a way to shed
excess body weight. How does the keto diet work, and is it really effective?
What Is the Keto Diet?
The keto diet aims to maintain a state of nutritional ketosis by restricting
carbohydrate intake. This forces your body to start using fat as fuel rather than
glucose. For this reason, people often refer to being keto-adapted as being “fat-
Most of us believe that eating fatty food leads to weight gain. This seems to make
sense — if we eat fat, we’ll get fat. But a high-fat diet is not actually the primary
driver of weight gain. Typically, the culprit is a diet high in refined carbohydrates,
which leads to excess carbs being stored in the body as fat.
Keto and Weight Loss
When you reduce carbohydrate intake, not only do you no longer store fat, you
allow your body to shed the excess fat that it has accumulated.
Be aware that this may take some time. In the first week on a keto diet, you may
experience a rapid weight loss of 8 to 10 pounds. But this isn’t fat — this is water
weight, which is shed when your body uses up its stored glycogen. This initial
weight loss can be exciting, but don’t expect to continue losing weight at this rate.
For many people, the body has to go through some internal healing before it can
start shedding weight. Underlying health factors such as inflammation and
hormonal imbalances can make it difficult for your body to release excess weight,
even if you’re operating at a calorie deficit. The keto diet can often help heal these
health conditions, but this takes time. By eliminating sugar and processed foods
from your diet, you can begin to heal from chronic inflammation and other health
issues. This healing period can last several weeks, and the duration depends on your
health when you started on the keto diet. You may not lose much weight during this
period, but it’s likely that you will experience other benefits, such as increased
energy, fewer food cravings, and an improved mood and sense of well-being.
Following this period, many people experience what is often referred to as the
“whoosh” effect, when your body suddenly starts to let go of the excess weight it’s
been holding onto.
As you progress on your keto journey, it’s a good idea to track your progress with
photos and body measurements. It’s very common for people to experience changes
in body composition even if they aren’t losing weight. Your clothes may be looser
and you may feel better, regardless of the number on the scale!
Also, remember that most people who adopt a ketogenic diet see it as a lifestyle
change and not a temporary fix. If you resume eating a high-carbohydrate diet, you
will likely regain the weight that you have lost.