If you’ve heard about the keto diet, you may have wondered what it is and if it works.
The keto or ketogenic diet is a very low carbohydrate diet that is used to treat children with epilepsy and some disorders involving brain energy. In recent years, the diet has become popular as a weight-loss method.
How the Keto Diet Works
To produce energy, the body typically uses carbohydrates. But after a few days on the keto diet, with its restrictive carb intake, your body cannot produce enough energy and looks for another source — breaking down stored fat to generate energy in a process called ketosis. It takes about a week for the body to start that shift from using carbohydrates or glucose, to using ketone bodies. The keto diet can help people lose weight. Some studies show those on the keto diet lose an average of five percent of their body weight, however the mechanisms are not clearly established.
What the Keto Diet Includes
We know the keto diet restricts carbohydrates, but what can you eat? Actually carbohydrates are allowed, but in very small amounts — less than 30 grams per day (for perspective, a medium apple contains about 25 grams of carbs). The diet focuses on meats, eggs, cheese, fish, nuts, butters, oil, heavy cream, mayonnaise and low-carb vegetables such as kale and broccoli.
Several types of keto diets exist, from the standard ketogenic diet that usually contains 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein and five percent carbs to the high-protein ketogenic diet, which contains 65 percent fat, 30 percent protein and five percent carbs.
A typical day on a keto diet might include breakfast of fried eggs or a frittata with eggs, mushrooms, cheese and butter; lunch of chicken thighs with cabbage and olive oil; and dinner of bacon burgers with green beans and butter. The emphasis on proteins and fats also is intended to provide a feeling of fullness, which can make the eating plan easier to stick to.
Going Into Ketosis
As your body transitions from using carbs to using ketones for energy, you may notice some significant changes during the first month, including:
- “Keto flu” —Tiredness or brain fog in the first few days or weeks of the diet.
- “Keto breath” — An odor that results from the release of ketones. It often dissipates over time, and good oral hygiene can help in the meantime.
- Fatigue — Occurs as the body adjusts to not having carbohydrates for energy.
- Digestive issues — Constipation and diarrhea can result in the beginning as the body adjusts to processing different proportions of food. Eating low-carb vegetables can help.
- Insomnia — Usually improves after the first month.
Keto advisers say these symptoms are short-term and are proof your body is producing and using ketones as desired. Over time, symptoms disappear and dieters reportedly have more energy and focus.
Keto Diet for Long-Term Use?
The keto diet does provide short-term benefits, but the long-term benefits are still unknown. Researchers caution that a very low carb diet can be difficult to maintain long term, leading to “yo-yo” dieting and increased weight gain. Researchers suggest that the keto diet can be used to kick start weight loss, but should be followed up with healthy eating plans that can be sustained long term.
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