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The Keto Diet – What You Need to Know

The keto diet continues to be extensively searched and popularized. It is a dietary approach that emphasizes high fat and low carb consumption to induce ketosis, a metabolic state in which the body utilizes fat as an energy source instead of carbohydrates.

Although the keto diet is highly favored by celebrities such as Adriana Lima, Kim Kardashian, and Megan Fox, it does not receive unanimous praise. Jillian Michaels and Witney Carson from Dancing with the Stars are two individuals who have not endorsed the diet wholeheartedly.

According to Trista Best, RD at Balance One Supplements, there may be drawbacks to the keto diet, particularly if it is not followed correctly. If the fats consumed are mainly unhealthy, individuals expose themselves to potential long-term health risks.

Just like with any health and wellness matters, individual differences play a crucial role. If you are considering giving the keto diet a shot, you might have queries. This article provides comprehensive information about the keto diet, comprising its functioning and the precise amounts of butter and cheese you can consume.

What Exactly Is the Keto Diet?

According to Scott Keatley, RD, from Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy, the ketogenic diet focuses on reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing fat consumption in order to prompt the body to utilize fat as its main source of energy.

Despite its trendy reputation, the keto diet has a long-standing history since its emergence in the 1920s. Initially, medical professionals prescribed this diet to address conditions such as epilepsy and diabetes. However, presently there are individuals who opt for the keto diet as a means of weight loss.

More than 50% of the daily diet for several Americans consists of carbs such as bread, pasta, or potatoes. These carbs are broken down by the body into glucose (sugars) to provide energy for the body.

The aim of the keto diet is to replace the calories derived from glucose with those from fat. Fatty foods become the main focus of your nutrition in a conventional keto diet, constituting approximately 60% to 80% of your daily calorie intake. Proteins account for 15% to 20% of the diet, while the consumption of carbs is limited to a maximum of 50 grams. Consequently, this diet is considered to be quite restrictive.

It is demonstrated through studies that individuals who adhere to the low-carb keto diet tend to experience greater weight loss in the initial 3 to 6 months compared to those following a more well-rounded diet. Nevertheless, due to the significant modifications required in one’s daily dietary intake on the keto diet, it is advisable to consult with a medical professional or nutritionist to determine its suitability for you before commencing.

Although each person’s body and needs may vary slightly, this generally results in:

  • 60 to 75 percent of your calories from fat
  • 15 to 30 percent of your calories from protein
  • 5 to 10 percent of your calories from carbs

Typically, this implies consuming a maximum of 50 grams of carbohydrates per day (with stricter adherents to the keto diet opting for a mere 20 grams daily).

What is ketosis?

Once you have been adhering to the keto diet for approximately two to seven days, your body enters a stage known as ketosis, where it lacks sufficient carbohydrates for cell energy and begins producing ketones. These organic compounds replace the absence of carbs and, simultaneously, your body initiates the process of utilizing fat as a source of energy. Beth Warren, RD, founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Living A Real Life With Real Food, explains this phenomenon.

How can you determine if you’re in ketosis? You can look out for certain symptoms, such as having breath that resembles the scent of nail polish remover (yes, really), or employ tools like keto testing strips (urine-based) or a breath analyzer to ascertain your ketone levels.

How was the keto diet developed?

Contrary to popular belief, the primary purpose of the keto diet, according to New York-based nutritionist Jessica Cording, RD, was not originally to facilitate weight loss but rather to offer aid to individuals with seizure disorders. This is due to the potential benefits of ketones and beta-hydroxybutyrate, a chemical generated by the diet, in reducing instances of seizures.

However, individuals who adopted the keto diet experienced weight loss due to a few factors. The consumption of carbohydrates leads to fluid retention in the body to store carbs as an energy reserve. In contrast, when carbohydrate intake is limited, the shedding of this water weight occurs, as stated by Warren. Additionally, excessive consumption of carbohydrates is common, but incorporating a higher amount of fat into your diet may aid in curbing cravings by providing a greater feeling of satisfaction.

In addition to promoting fat burning, ketosis can lead to significant weight loss.

What is the functioning mechanism of the diet?

By following the keto diet, you consume an inadequate amount of carbs, which causes your body to rely on burning stored body fat in order to meet its energy requirements.

Ketones, which are produced in your liver when your body burns body fat as fuel, result in your body entering a metabolic state known as “ketosis.”

By strictly adhering to the keto diet, your body will enter ketosis within approximately four days, leading to potential weight loss of several pounds within the initial week.

Are There Different Types of Ketogenic Diets?

Despite the appearance of the keto diet being universally applicable, there exist various versions of keto diets, each offering distinct advantages based on your nutritional objectives.

According to Vanessa Rissetto, RD, CDN, all of them share the main concept of being super low-carb and high-fat, but each one has its own distinct set of guidelines. The following are the four most prevalent iterations of the keto diet.

Cyclic Keto Diet

According to Rissetto, the cyclic keto diet closely resembles the standard keto diet, with the exception of one to two days during the week. For five to six days, a person following the cyclic keto diet will adhere to the usual keto guidelines. However, on the remaining one or two days, they will have a “carb cycle” or a “carb refeed” day, during which they will consume approximately 140 to 160 grams of carbohydrates.

Athletes often adhere to this particular keto diet as they need to have a day dedicated to replenishing glycogen stores in their muscles through carb refeeding. According to Rissetto, the extensive physical training undertaken by athletes results in a significant depletion of glycogen from their muscle stores, making replenishment essential.

It is crucial to keep in mind that even if you opt for this diet, it does not imply that you can indulge in a large amount of processed foods and sweets on your days off. Rather, rely on whole grains, starchy vegetables, and fruits as your sources of carbohydrates.

Targeted Keto Diet

Rissetto explains that on this diet, you adhere to all the guidelines of the standard keto diet, but with one difference—you consume carbohydrates before intense workouts. Typically, targeted keto dieters consume around 25 to 50 grams of carbohydrates approximately 30 minutes to an hour prior to exercising. Many dieters discover that this practice enhances their strength and performance during workouts.

While this does take the body out of ketosis temporarily, it will resume within a few hours, depending on how many carbs you consumed. Essentially, the theory behind this diet is that since the additional carbs are immediately burned off, they won’t get stored as body fat.

Vegan Keto Diet

According to Rissetto, the vegan keto diet is suitable for those who desire to adopt a high-fat, low-carb eating plan but refrain from consuming animal-based products. It can be challenging to adhere to this diet since many individuals following keto diets heavily rely on animal products.

Vegan keto dieters commonly rely on tofu, tempeh, nuts, nut butter, and moderate quantities of beans and legumes as their main protein sources.

While it can be challenging, a vegan keto diet is not impossible; it merely requires extensive planning.

What Is the Keto Diet Used For?

Initially, the keto diet was mainly employed to assist individuals suffering from seizures. Gradually, professionals discovered its advantageous effects on various other health ailments, encompassing:

  • Cognitive and memory improvement
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancer such as glioblastoma
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Autism
  • Obesity

The keto diet has proven to be particularly beneficial for specific conditions, notably type 2 diabetes. A study examined the outcomes of following the keto diet for 1 year in 349 adults with type 2 diabetes. It successfully reversed diabetes in approximately 60% of the participants and also assisted many individuals in reducing their reliance on prescribed insulin medications.

It is advisable to consult with your doctor before initiating the keto diet if you have any health ailment.

How Do You Start a Keto Diet?

In order to commence the keto diet, you might need to eliminate a few items from your pantry and incorporate specific high-fat food sources into your regular meals.

It is vital to consult with your doctor or a nutritionist to determine the most suitable options for you. This becomes particularly crucial if you have additional dietary limitations, like being a vegan, vegetarian, or having specific food allergies. Professionals can assist in discovering alternatives or replacements and creating a personalized meal plan that caters to your requirements.

Prior to altering your meals, it is important to contemplate these questions or consult your doctor.

  • Will the keto diet help manage certain health conditions?
  • Do you need to lose weight?
  • What are some of the side effects?
  • Should you take or continue vitamins or supplements during the diet?
  • How long should you stay on the keto diet?
  • Should you exercise? If so, how much?

What Can You Eat on a Keto Diet?

There are certain foods that are compatible with the keto diet.

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Full-fat dairy products
  • Greek yogurt
  • Non-starchy and fibrous vegetables.
  • Fatty oils
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Cottage cheese
  • Coconut

Opt for non-starchy vegetables when consuming 20 to 50 grams of carbs per day.

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Leafy greens
  • Asparagus
  • Green beans

Foods that should be avoided or consumed in moderation are those that are starchy and high in carbohydrates, such as:

  • Bread
  • Baked goods
  • Sugary sweets
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, and beans
  • Fruits high in sugars
  • Wine
  • Beer, unless it’s low-carb

When it comes to drinks allowed on the keto diet, you can choose unsweetened coffee or tea. Reduce the amount of alcohol consumed and if you do drink, select low-carb liquors such as tequila or vodka, and mix them with soda water.

What Snacks Can You Eat on a Keto Diet?

Whether you prefer making snacks at home or buying them from the store, keto-friendly snacks provide a well-rounded combination of healthy fats and moderate protein, while being low in carbohydrates.

This comprises snacks like:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Coconut yogurt
  • Guacamole
  • Cheese
  • Canned tuna
  • Meat jerky
  • Olives
  • Pork rinds
  • Seaweed snacks
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Jicama (low-carb root vegetable)

In the long run, these snacks aid in satiating your hunger in between meals and ensuring you remain in a state of ketosis.

Are There Risks To a Keto Diet?

Although research indicates that the keto diet can be effective in promoting weight loss and managing health conditions for certain individuals, it is not advisable for everyone due to its restrictive nature. Following this diet incorrectly or without proper supervision can potentially have negative consequences.

Every individual responds differently to the keto diet. While some may adapt effortlessly to the dietary modifications, others might experience a longer adjustment period as their body adapts to the sudden changes.

Regularly checking your cholesterol is of utmost importance. The keto diet can lead to decreased cholesterol levels in certain individuals, while in others, it may result in elevated levels.

Some individuals may experience lasting effects from the low-carb aspect of the diet. Abrupt and significant reduction of carbohydrates can often result in what is commonly referred to as the “keto flu.” Flu-like symptoms may arise as your body adapts from utilizing glucose to burning fat as a source of energy.

Some of the symptoms of keto flu are:

  • Stomach aches or pains.
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Sugar cravings
  • Cramping
  • Muscle soreness
  • Feeling cranky
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Poor focus and concentration
  • Brain fog

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