Even if you’re just stepping into the health sphere, you’ve most likely heard of the keto diet for weight loss. You may have even gathered that it’s some type of low carb style of eating, but still don’t know exactly what makes it different from other diets.
It turns out that unlike other low carb diets, this one has a specific goal in mind that may be the ultimate catalyst to dropping pounds for good.
What is the Keto Diet?
The keto diet is a very low carb diet plan originally developed in the 1920s to help treat epilepsy patients. Researchers discovered that fasting helped reduce the frequency of seizures in patients. Along with this, they also observed that it had positive effects on weight loss, hunger levels, and blood sugar.
However (and understandably) it wasn’t necessarily feasible for patients to fast indefinitely, so they began to experiment with diets, discovering that a very low or no carbohydrate diet offered similar effects as fasting [*]
From here, the keto diet we know today was born.
“Keto” is short for “ketosis,” which is a state your body enters that gives the keto diet its special positive effects. The core of the diet involves removing almost all carbs or glucose in favor of fats and proteins. When this happens, your body enters a state that mimics fasting (where no energy in the form of glucose is available) and begins instead to burn fat for energy. Ketones are then produced from the breakdown of your fatty acids and used as a replacement energy for glucose.
Research and testimonials have shown this has many positive effects not only for epilepsy and other conditions, but also for weight loss.
Benefits of the Keto Diet
1. Weight Loss
Keto is considered by many to be the best weight loss diet.
This is because it essentially forces your body to burn fat for fuel, rather than carbs. Glucose is our body’s preferred energy source, but the kicker is that the more glucose (carbs) you eat, the less chance your body has to dip into your body fat stores, unless you’re fasting.
Without carbs, your body utilizes body fat for fuel, and from that body fat produces ketones for energy. These ketones are referred to as “clean burning fuel,” since they don’t cause an insulin spike. Insulin is the hormone responsible for keeping our blood sugar levels down. When too much sugar is in our blood, insulin is released to help store the excess as (you guessed it) fat. Without excess blood sugar or insulin, you mitigate fat storage.
Another benefit of the keto diet that makes it supreme for weight loss is that it’s proven to be more satiating and result in less hunger than other diets. This can minimize binges and setbacks. [*]
2. Increase in Energy
One of the common side effects people mention when they go keto is an increase in energy (this usually follows a mild keto “flu” of a few days of low energy that I discuss below). This is due to your brain burning ketones instead of glucose, which studies show can cause an increase in mental clarity and brain function. [*] Of course, this not only bodes well for your workout regime, but also for motivation and other areas like work that mental energy are required.
3. Reduced Risk of Many Diseases
Studies show going keto can help reduce your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes (due to those lower insulin levels mentioned earlier), cardiovascular disease, autism, multiple sclerosis, and brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Dementia. [*] Of course, a keto diet is still recommended for helping to manage epilepsy as well.
How to Know You’re In Ketosis
The quickest and most efficient way to test if you’re in ketosis is to purchase ketone strips and test your urine. These will tell you if you’re producing ketones.
Another way to tell if you’re producing ketones is to pay attention to your breath. Many people claim their breath begins to taste/smell slightly fruity and “different” than normal.
Foods to Eat
The keto diet emphasizes healthy fats first, followed by plenty of low-carb veggies and leafy greens, wild meats, nuts, seeds, and eggs. Here is a brief list of the major foods to enjoy while going keto:
• Cold-pressed and virgin olive, coconut, avocado, and macadamia nut oils
• Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts
• Wild lean and fatty (unprocessed) meats like chicken, beef, pork, and venison
• Wild fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, cod, herring, etc…
• Leafy greens like kale, spinach, collards, romaine, etc…
• Low-carb veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, celery, cucumber, cabbage, summer squash, spaghetti squash, tomato
• Coconut and unsweetened non-dairy coconut and almond milk
• If tolerated: grassfed ghee and butter
• Low-carb protein powders if needed
• Sparingly: small amounts of low-sugar berries like blueberries and blackberries
Foods to Avoid
As a general rule, you want to avoid all high-carb and high-sugar foods, processed and unprocessed, including:
• Breads, cakes, muffins, cookies, pasta, etc … (even if gluten free)
• Sweet and white potatoes, along with other starchy veggies like beets and carrots
• Honey, agave, and candies
• Sugar in all of its forms, including in chocolate and “healthy” candy bars
• Rice, buckwheat, farro, quinoa, and other grains
• Sweetened yogurts and non-dairy or dairy milks
Side Effects to be Aware Of
While most of the side effects of the keto diet are positive, some people report what is referred to as the low carb or keto “flu.”
This “flu” happens when your body has run out of glucose to use for energy and hasn’t yet adapted to burning fat and ketones for fuel. As such, you may feel tired or a little run down from what appears to be lack of energy. Typically, however, this “down” period only lasts for a week or so (maybe more, maybe less) before your body adapts to and starts burning its new energy source.
If you find it’s been weeks and you’re experiencing lethargy or lack of energy while working out, you may want to try adding a bit more carbs throughout your week. Some people function better with more natural carbs, such as those from sweet potatoes or butternut squash, carrots, pumpkin, and berries.
Another side effect may be urinating more often. Carbs hold more water than fats and proteins, so you may flush water quicker on keto.
The bottom line with the keto diet is that it’s one of the best for directly targeting body fat to be burned for energy, and also shows extremely positive results in studies for the treatment of many diseases. It’s recommended to give it a try for 30 days and monitor your progress, since it takes some time for your body to adapt to a new regime. However, you should notice effects relatively quickly, so give it a go!
Have you ever tried the keto diet? What was your experience?