All about Ketosis
The keto diet is all the rage. You see it everywhere. From the covers of magazines to TV shows to your Instagram feed, everyone is talking about the Keto diet and how awesome it is.
But what is the keto diet? How do you lose weight on it? Is it healthy for you? Does it work?
In this blog, we’re just going to look at the facts. No hype and no sales. Just the facts about the keto diet.
Let’s start with…
What is the keto diet and how is it supposed to work?
Keto is short for ketogenic. A ketogenic diet is very high in fats and low in sugar, carbohydrates, and even proteins. The goal is to force the body to burn something other than carbs and sugars for energy.
When you’re on a keto diet, you’re trying to push your body into ketosis. This is an adaptation of evolution that allows us to survive famine. The body breaks down ketones in the liver. It uses that as fuel, instead of carbs.
Ketones are produced by the liver from fatty acids. When your body doesn’t produce enough insulin to convert glucose into energy, the liver kicks in and converts the fats you eat into ketones. This means the body in now converting fat to fuel. The idea is that it will convert your body fat into fuel. This state is called ketosis, and that’s what keto dieters are trying to achieve.
If a low carb, high fat diet sounds familiar, it is. It shares the same principles as Atkins and South Beach which have been around for years.
How to get to ketosis
The way to get your body to go into ketosis is to severely restrict your carbohydrate and sugar intake.
The typical healthy diet consists of 45-65 percent of calories coming from carbohydrates, 10-35 percent from protein, and 20-35 percent from fats. This doesn’t mean that you can make 60 percent of your diet from Mountain Dew. The carbs you should be eating should come from healthy sources, like whole grains.
In a ketogenic diet, a person is getting 75 percent of their daily calories from fat. Only 5 percent of the calories in day should come from carbs. If you change your diet in this way, you’ll achieve ketosis in about 72 hours.
Some of us have heard the word ketosis in relation to diabetes. Diabetics, whose bodies can’t convert carbohydrates into energy well can enter ketosis without intending to. This is a dangerous condition that requires a doctor’s attention at once.
The ketogenic diet was originally used for children with epilepsy to help control seizures.
If you have diabetes, a liver or kidney disorder, or have ever had an eating disorder, speak to a doctor before starting any diet, especially one as extreme as the keto diet.
What should you eat on a keto diet?
While the definition above is the doctor’s perspective on the keto diet, you’ll see that most keto plans are more balanced and don’t follow the doctor’s definition. A search of the internet and a look at the differences between what medical sites think of the keto diet and what the non-medical sites list are somewhat different. The carbs are gone, but they usually include lots of lean proteins, like chicken, or healthy fatty proteins, like salmon.
Here’s a list of the food you can eat liberally on the keto diet:
Fish, especially salmon
Dark meat chicken
Cheese (hard cheeses that don’t have a lot of lactose, a milk sugar)
Water (Stay well hydrated)
Some of the more surprising foods that you need to watch are cottage cheese (it has a lot of lactose) and coffee (you want to keep your caffeine consumption down so the body is using the fat for energy).
There are lots of common items you can’t have on the keto diet, like ketchup and barbeque sauce. Both have lots of sugar. Honey and maple syrup are sugar. Milk and nonfat yogurt have a lot of lactose and not enough fat. Margarine is fat, but it’s over-processed and often has hidden sugars.
A hardcore keto diet can be tough because it’s the opposite of what many of us were taught decades ago, when adding healthy grains like brown rice to our meals was the direction to go.
Is the keto diet dangerous?
For most people, the keto diet isn’t dangerous in the short-term, but it does have some negative side effects and challenges.
The biggest challenge is that it’s hard to do. Everything we eat has carbs, even when it seems like it shouldn’t. A beef taco might have a lot of fat and protein, but it has a tortilla around that usually the same number of carbs as a slice of bread. Fried chicken has a bready coating that’s all carbs.
The delicious foods you get to eat, like butter and peanut butter, are fun, but putting together meals can be a struggle. Salmon, peanut butter, and an avocado don’t make a meal. Often people struggle with finding the right foods to eat and turning them into a meal.
That said, there are millions of recipes online and hundreds of cookbooks. Often, they’re a little complex since they use a lot of herbs and spices to create flavor.
“Social isolation” is one of the problems listed by many medical sites. It can be difficult to eat with family and friends when you’re on a keto diet. Going to a restaurant can be a bit of challenge. This can be overcome by simply looking at the menu ahead of time and planning your meal in advance. Even a pasta restaurant will have something you can eat, even if it’s a salad with oil and vinegar dressing
Nonetheless, it’s hard to keep the diet going. The dietary restrictions to stay in ketosis are extremely strict. If you stray, you’ll push your body out of this fat-burning mode.
There is some evidence that just eating a healthy diet that’s balanced and plant-based can have the same long-term weight loss as the keto diet.
The biggest argument against the keto diet is that it’s not sustainable over time. You can’t and shouldn’t keep your body in ketosis for years at a time. You need to reintroduce carbohydrates and when you do, you might find that the weight comes right back.
The keto diet can have other side effects, like low blood pressure, constipation, kidney stones, and an increased risk of heart disease. For most people, since the diet is a short-term commitment, these effects aren’t major, but if one decides to do this for the long haul, it can have negative side effects.
There is also something that’s come to be known as the “keto flu.” It’s an unwell feeling that starts a few days after entering ketosis. Decreased energy, upset stomach, dizziness, and mood swings can happen because your body is adapting to ketosis. The “flu” usually only lasts a couple of days. It’s important to know that it might happen, so you don’t fall over or get into a lot of fights with your partner while you’re trying to lose weight.
What are the long-term effects of a keto diet?
The reality is that no one really knows what the long-term effects of the keto diet are. This is because it’s too soon. It might take decades for hardcore keto dieters to show effects that can be measured.
There are some effects that pose a concern in the medium term.
Heart disease caused by high saturated fats and cholesterol are worries for doctors. During a keto diet, you’re eating all the stuff you’re supposed to eat in tiny amounts on a healthy diet, but you eat them in quantity. People are putting grass-fed butter into their coffee.
Doctors worry about vitamin and mineral deficiencies since you’re not eating a lot of the fruits and vegetables that give you the micro-nutrients you need. This can be avoided with a good multi-vitamin.
One of the listed concerns for some doctors is fatty liver disease. It’s just what it sounds like and can lead to cirrhosis and other liver diseases. This is one of those places where the reality goes against expectations.
According to DietDoctor.com in a medically reviewed article, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) can be reversed by a keto diet. They write that it can reduce liver fat, decrease insulin levels, reverse the progression of the disease, and suppress the appetite, leading to weight loss.
NAFLD has become an increasingly common disease, probably because our diets have too many calories and too much sugar. Everything that you know will make you unhealthy, like a sedentary lifestyle and too many refined carbs, gives you NAFLD. Now, in this review of a study, the doctors show that a keto diet can, in some cases, reverse the disease.
In another curious benefit of keto diets, it might help to reduce and reverse heart disease. Keto diets reduce inflammation and lower oxidative stress in the body. This can reduce the inflammation that causes heart disease. But, as Healthline points out, “it’s complicated.”
Other doctors and websites say that no matter what small benefits you might see, all those fats are just not good for your heart. As Dr. Tracy Severson of the Center for Preventative Cardiology at Oregon Health & Science University said, “So many people think it’s about eating bacon and meat, but often they are eating too much protein to be on a true ketogenic diet. It’s about fat, not protein.”
The Least You Need to Know about the Keto Diet
To summarize, a ketogenic diet, or keto diet, is about eating massive quantities of fat to push your body into ketosis. Ketosis is a response to famine where the body will begin to use energy sources it doesn’t normally use, in this case fats.
This “starvation” response causes the body to metabolize some of its own fat. This causes rapid weight loss.
The advantage is that, if done right, the keto diet is fun and relatively easy to do. Choosing what to eat is often a matter of some high fat foods and a few green leafy vegetables.
There are a few concerns:There are no long-term studies of what keto diets do to the body. While it seems unlikely that short-term dieting will do a lot of damage, it will be years before we know what this diet does to the heart, liver, and other organs.
Keto diets are not for people who have diabetes, liver or kidney disorders, or other illnesses of the metabolism. If you’re at all unsure, speak to your doctor before starting a keto diet.
The bounce back from keto diets can be tough. As soon as you add carbs back int your diet, there’s a possibility that you’ll put on more weight. You’ve essentially told your body that you’re starving. It might try to store fat for the next famine.
Too often, people think of keto as being a high protein diet. It’s meant to be an extremely high fat diet. Confusing those two ideas will probably mean that you won’t lose weight and might even gain some.
Keto diets, like Atkins and South Beach before them, are based in a concept that’s scientifically sound, but the evidence is that you can lose just as much weight with a healthy, calorie-restricted diet and little exercise every day.
If you’re in good health, without cholesterol or heart problems, the keto diet in the short-term shouldn’t be an issue. Make sure you do it right, and you’ll lose weight. Reintroduce carbohydrates slowly and sparingly so your body doesn’t store all those easy to digest calories as fat.