Diet, Health

Is the Keto Diet Right for You?

One of the latest diet trends is the Ketogenic Diet, referred to as the Keto Diet. The Keto Diet is similar to older diet plans like Dukan, South Beach, and especially the Atkins Diet because it relies on low-carbohydrate intake, usually under 30 grams of carbs per day. At such carb levels, the body is forced to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. Carbs are converted into glucose, which is vital for brain function. If fewer carbs than the body needs are consumed, then the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies (ketones). Ketones then naturally replace glucose in the brain.

Historically, inducing the body to enter the state of ketosis, where it is burning ketones rather than glucose for fuel, was developed to treat epilepsy. Today people without pre-existing health conditions often turn to the keto diet to shed extra weight, especially men over 40 who find stubborn belly fat hard to melt through restricting calorie intake.

Fat is back

Recent studies have debunked the effectiveness of low-fat diets in weight loss. The role of fat intake in a number of serious health conditions, including Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) has been called into question. As with most things in life, moderation is the key. Vary the fats you take in and try to balance animal fats with sources of plant fats. Be aware that saturated fats are still saturated fats, and on a ketogenic diet, you should aim to ingest 55-60% of your daily caloric intake in fats.

Benefits

Possible benefits of the ketogenic diet is reduced inflammation in the body due to a reduction of insulin resistance. Diabetes and pre-diabetes are rampant on the western, processed food, high carb diet. Properly executed, you will have more stable blood sugar on the keto diet and eliminate blood sugar spikes. Stable energy is another major benefit of the keto diet. 

You will also experience reduced hunger because you are consuming a diet higher in fat, protein and fiber. The keto diet puts your body in a state where it burns fat readily. Fat loss and attendant weight loss are some of the most powerful benefits of the keto diet.

Is it safe?

The ketogenic diet is safe. Ketosis is a natural metabolic state in which the body burns ketone bodies. Ketone bodies are readily used by the heart, muscles, and kidneys for energy. Adverse effects from short-term use of the ketogenic diet are well-known. These include minor, short-term side effects such as possible nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue, insomnia, exercise intolerance, and constipation. These symptoms are sometimes called the ‘keto flu’ and often end quickly after the transition to the diet is made. These symptoms may be related to changes in gut flora, and the so-called ‘die off’ of microorganisms in the body dependent on high levels of glucose, and anecdotal evidence points to people generally feeling more alert, less bloated, and clearer-headed on the ketogenic diet.

More serious, longer-term effects may be hepatic steatosis (accumulation of fat in the liver), low blood-level protein (hypoproetinemia), kidney stones, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Most of these, however, are due to inadequate consumption of protein rich, nutrient dense, low-carbohydrate vegetables and fruits. Any healthy diet includes plenty of non-starchy vegetables, and the ketogenic diet is no exception. People make the mistake of thinking that ketogenic diets are carnivore-only regimes, where most food intake consists of meat.

The Successful Ketogenic Diet

I am a healthy 49-year-old male. However, like most men my age, I have struggled to get rid of the belly fat that has accumulated due to a sedentary lifestyle. Like many men, I spend long hours sitting in front of a computer screen. Until COVID hit, I was a regular gym goer, but now I struggle to get out to exercise. On the urging of a friend, I decided to try the keto diet. My initial results with the keto diet have been good. I lost 15 lbs in three weeks. I have also learned how to avoid overeating fats and proteins – one of the big mistakes that people make while trying the keto diet. Eating too much meat can lead to taking in excess protein. A sound ketogenic diet should limit protein to less than 1g/lb of body weight, while those who perform heavy exercise should take in up to 1.5 g/lb. Excess protein will be converted to glucose through the process of glucogenesis.

So what can you eat?

Meats, non-starchy vegetables, and healthy oils and fats are the foundations of the keto diet. As I’ve warned above, do not be tempted to overdo it on meats. The following vegetables have less than 5 grams of net carbs per 100 g (3.5 oz) serving include spinach, lettuce, asparagus, cucumber, cabbage and kale and these can be eaten relatively freely. Avocados are another terrific food for the ketogenic diet. Berries like raspberry, strawberries, and blackberries are acceptable, but even those these are among the lower carbohydrate fruits, the carbs can add up quickly. Avoid other fruits which are high in carbs. Nuts are often a great dietary component of the ketogenic diet.

5 Simple Rules for How to Succeed:

  • Keep a food diary. Make sure you record the foods you are eating and track your carbs, protein, calorie and fat intake.
  • Monitor your ketone levels. This is easy to do with ketone test strips available at any pharmacy or online. Fasting for approximately 24 hours will force your body to dump stored glucose – glycogen – accumulated in the liver and speed the process of ketosis.
  • Drink lots of water. Issues like kidney stones are often in large part related to levels of hydration. Most people simply do not hydrate themselves. One of the major problems with consuming our typical hi-carb diet is that we do not feel thirsty. Drink water in moderate quantities throughout the day. I always have a bottle of water to hand.
  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Do not snack.

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