You’ve probably heard about the latest diet craze, the Ketogenic Diet (or “keto”). There’s a lot to like about this diet, but what’s the science behind it all? We break down the basics of the keto diet to explain why it works, and how. If you’re wondering if the keto diet is a good choice for you, take a look at some of our guidelines to determine if you’re ready.
What Does “Keto” Mean?
Keto is short for ketogenic, which is related to the process known as ketosis. Ketosis as a weight loss strategy has already been popularized by low-carb diets like Atkins or Paleo. Ketosis is a metabolic state that your body enters when a certain amount of your body’s energy is derived from ketone bodies in the blood. Ketosis happens when the body is converting fatty acids into ketones. When you have carbohydrates available for energy, your body will use glycolysis-the burning of glucose-to create energy. In the absence of glucose (which comes from carbs), your body turns to ketosis, or burning fat to create energy.
Foods to Eat
If you’ve ever followed a low-carb diet, some of these foods will look familiar. They are the usual high-fat proteins like meat, chicken, fish, lamb, and other fowl. You can also consume fats like butter, coconut oil, and olive oil, and enjoy high-fat condiments like mayonnaise and most cheeses. Your carb count will be much stricter, though, especially compared to Paleo. No sweet potatoes, and your veggies can have 5 grams of carbs per serving, maximum. You can have 20 net carbs a day, keeping in mind that cheese has 1-2g carbs, and keeping an eye on the vegetables you consume.
Keto Rules of Thumb:
- Keep your net carb intake to 20 grams daily. Net carbs are total carbs minus fiber.
- The majority of your foods will be meats, with some dairy and vegetables included. Stick to veggies with low carb count, like leafy greens, for example. Some people are sensitive to dairy, so just be sure to monitor how your body digests items like cheese.
- Cooking methods for your foods can be baked, fried, broiled, boiled, sauteed, or roasted.
- Absolutely no sugars. A sugar is a simple carb like white or brown sugar, honey, fruit, and juice.
- Whole grains are also off limits. That can include rice, pasta, breads with whole wheat flour, etc.
- Starchy veggies are also a no-no. Examples include carrots, beans, corn, potatoes, and other high-carb count vegetables.
How to Know You Are in Ketosis
If this is your first time trying ketosis, be aware that you may feel some dramatic changes when entering this metabolic state. There are several ways to tell if you are in ketosis; the most accurate way is to test yourself. An at-home urinalysis test (where you test your urine on a test strip) can quickly and easily tell you if you are in ketosis. But if you don’t want to take a urine test, there are many symptoms you can experience that are “telltale” signs you are in ketosis:
- Weight loss: This is usually the most desirable result from a keto diet. When starting a keto diet, some people see dramatic weight loss, even in the first week. However, you want to keep in mind that ketosis is a metabolic state, which can easily be disrupted as soon as you go over the limited car count.
- Bad breath: You might be surprised to discover your breath is really bad when on a keto diet. Why? Ketosis causes your body to produce more acetone. You either excrete it or breathe it out, which causes the bad breath. But don’t worry! You can easily treat this symptom with sugar free gum, and most people notice that bad breath goes away as they continue with the diet.
- Increased focus: We can almost all use a little extra energy boost, and ketosis can provide that. During ketosis, your body is producing ketones. These provide energy to your brain, and the result is increased clarity and energy. Instead of midday brain fog, ketosis allows you to concentrate better.
- Loss of appetite: You may start to notice that you’re feeling less hungry. That’s because you are getting a grip on your hormones that inform your brain that you need to eat. Fats are extremely filling, and in the absence of carbs and sugar, you might become more aware that your body simply doesn’t need any more sustenance after eating half your lunch.
Looking to Get Started?
It’s a good idea to consult your doctor before you embark on any diet plan. The keto diet can be used by many kinds of people with different backgrounds, but notably is not suitable for some groups including pregnant women and those with liver or gallbladder disease. Need some help? Give us a call or schedule an appointment to learn more about starting on the keto diet.