WHAT IS A KETOGENIC DIET (KETO)?
In essence, it is a diet that causes the body to release ketones in the bloodstream. Most cells desire to use blood sugar, which comes from carbohydrates, as the body’s key source of energy.
In the absence of circulating blood sugar from food, we begin to break down stored fat into molecules called ketone bodies (the process is called ketosis).
Once you reach ketosis, most cells will use ketone bodies to make energy until we start eating carbohydrates again.
The change, from the use of circulating glucose to the breakdown of stored fat as an energy source, generally occurs for two to four days of eating less than 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day.
Keep in mind that this is an extremely individualized process, and some people need a more restricted diet to start producing sufficient ketones.
Because it lacks carbohydrates, a ketogenic diet is rich in protein and fat. It usually includes many meats, eggs, processed meats, sausages, cheeses, fish, nuts, butter, oils, seeds, and fibrous vegetables.
Because it is so restrictive, it is very difficult to follow in the long term. Carbohydrates usually represent at least 50% of the typical American diet.
One of the main criticisms of this diet is that many people tend to eat too much protein and low-quality fats from processed foods, with very few fruits and vegetables.
Patients with kidney disease should be careful because this diet could worsen their condition. In addition, some patients may feel a bit tired at first, while others may have bad breath, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and trouble sleeping.
Is a ketogenic diet healthy?
We have strong evidence that a ketogenic diet reduces seizures in children, sometimes as effective as medications.
Because of these neuroprotective effects, they have raised questions about the potential benefits for other brain disorders such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, sleep disorders, autism, and even brain cancer.
However, there are no studies in humans that support the recommendation of ketosis to treat these conditions.
It has also been shown that a ketogenic diet improves the control of blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes, at least in the short term.
There is even more debate when we consider the effect on cholesterol levels. Some studies show that some patients have increased cholesterol levels at first, only to see that cholesterol falls a few months later.
However, there is no long-term research to analyze its effects over time on diabetes and high cholesterol.
What benefits can you expect from following the Keto diet?
The number 1 reason why people adopt the keto diet? Weightloss. Initially, the loss of weight comes from the loss of water, because it reduces the carbohydrates in your diet and your body consumes the carbohydrates stored in the liver, which retain the water.
Dieting results in greater weight loss because it encourages you to eat whole foods and satisfy healthy fats.
By reducing carbohydrates, you will also cut sugar, which means a more constant supply of energy (no more sugars and collisions!).
Research shows that the keto diet leads to fewer hunger pangs and less desire to eat.
You lose weight because “if you’re not hungry every five minutes and you can work on your strength of will”, you will not eat so much.
And it may be easier to keep the weight down while on the keto diet: one study found that the keto diet led to greater long-term weight loss than a low-fat diet.
The possible role of the Keto diet in the prevention of diseases
However, there is more to the keto diet than weight loss. On the one hand, it has been shown to be a mood stabilizer for people with type II bipolar disorder and maybe even more effective than medications.
The research also suggests that diet could help people with type 2 diabetes and can lead to improvements in HbA1c levels (however, be careful, it can also cause hypoglycemia if you take medications to lower blood sugar ).
Finally, the keto diet may be advantageous for people with epilepsy. One study found that it reduced the frequency of seizures in many of the study participants, 7 percent of whom did not experience seizures at the four-year mark.
And although it was not the goal of this study, almost 20 percent of the participants lost weight while following the diet.
Keto’s Side Effects
Keto’s flu – The main “security problem” with Keto
The side effects that you may experience while your body adjusts to the ketogenic diet are known as the keto flu because they resemble the symptoms of the actual flu.
These symptoms may include:
- Sleep bad
- Increased hunger
- Brain fog
- Decrease in physical performance.
- High heart rate
- Bad breath
- Digestive problems
- Leg cramps
- The main safety problem with keto is keto flu.
These symptoms are the result of your body’s response to the restriction of carbohydrates. During the ketogenic diet, insulin and glycogen levels decrease and cause a rapid loss of fluids and sodium.
The effects that you feel due to this redness are the culprits of the most common symptoms of keto flu, but they are no more dangerous than mild daily dehydration.
Should I try the Keto diet to lose weight and other health benefits?
Given these risks, people who have kidney damage (including people with type 2 diabetes), in addition to people with or at risk of heart disease, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not try the diet keto.
In addition, people with type 1 diabetes should not follow the plan because of the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and anyone whose gallbladder has been removed should avoid it because the diet is very high in fat.
If you are looking to lose weight, keep in mind that the diet is likely to require a complete overhaul in the way you normally eat. But it may be worth it if you are looking to lose weight or if you have one of the health conditions in which it has been shown to help.
To be sure, be sure to check with your doctor if the keto diet is right for you before drastically changing your eating habits.
How to Minimize Keto’s Side Effects
Here is how to minimize the possible side effects of ketosis:
1. Drink a lot of water
Be sure to drink at least 2.5 liters of water a day for women and 3.5 liters a day for men. This will help replenish the fluid you lost.
2. Supplement With Salt
Replace the loss of sodium by supplementing with a teaspoon to one and a half teaspoons of unrefined salt per day.
Add a pinch of salt to your water and your meals for best results.
3. Increase mineral intake
Foods rich in magnesium and potassium can help relieve leg cramps and other symptoms. Pumpkin seeds, almonds, and spinach are high in magnesium and avocado is high in potassium.
You can also benefit from supplementation with potassium gluconate and magnesium citrate or magnesium bisglycinate.
4. Eat more fat
Providing more fat to your body will help you adapt to the burning of fat to obtain fuel.
The best way to do this is through a supplement with MCT oil. MCTs go directly to the liver and become ketones after ingestion.
5. Go for a walk
Low-intensity exercise, such as walking and cycling, can help increase fat burning and improve the symptoms of keto flu. Just make sure you bring water with you.
6. Meditate before sleeping
Stress levels can be higher while adjusting to carbohydrate restriction, so it can be more difficult to sleep and enter ketosis.
Meditation can help reduce stress levels and improve sleep quality, so you wake up feeling refreshed and more likely to use ketones and fats for fuel.
7. Avoid intense exercise
Do not demand too much while you adapt to ketosis. The extra stress can keep you out of ketosis. Continue with low-intensity exercise until you have no more symptoms.
8. Do not eat too much protein
In response to protein digestion, insulin levels tend to increase. When insulin levels increase, sugar is more likely to be used as fuel instead of fats and ketones.
The key to preventing this from happening is to consume the amount of Goldilocks proteins, not too little or too much. To calculate the perfect amount of protein for you, use our keto calculator.
9. Eat a lot of fiber
Fiber is essential to improve digestive health and solve any problem of constipation or diarrhea. Eat low-carb vegetables with each meal for best results.
For more information on keto-friendly vegetables, see our guide to low carb vegetables (with links to delicious recipes included).
10. Try a low carb diet first
You can ease the transition by first trying a low-carbohydrate (but non-ketogenic) diet. This will help your body adapt to the reduction of carbohydrates without feeling that it was hit by a freight train.
One way to do this is to reduce carbohydrate consumption from 5 to 10 grams per day to 30 grams of carbohydrates per day (the ketogenic diet).
Following these suggestions will make adaptation to the ketogenic diet much easier. In fact, you may be able to skip the “season” of keto flu altogether, or if you have symptoms, it will only last a couple of days.