The ketogenic diet, being most popular, recently, for its effectiveness as a weight-loss tool had originally been designed almost a hundred years ago. More than 20 studies suggest that this type of diet can help you lose weight at a faster pace. It also has many health benefits other than weight loss.
In this article, we will look at all the basic knowledge and information that you need to know before beginning your ketogenic (keto) diet.
What is a Ketogenic (Keto) Diet
The Ketogenic (keto) diet is a diet with very low carbohydrates, very high fats, and high proteins included as sources of daily calories. A ketogenic (keto) diet includes no more than 5%(or 50 grams) of carbohydrates, up to 75% of health beneficial fats and the rest 20% is protein as a calorie source. This diet makes your body consume its fat stores for daily calories needed.
There are many types of ketogenic (keto) diet being used in different scenarios and for different purposes. The main four types of ketogenic (keto) diet and their uses are as follows:
- Standard ketogenic (keto) Diet. This is very high fat (75%), moderate protein (20%), and very low carbohydrates 5% diet. This counts for 150 grams of fat, 90 grams of protein, and no more than 50 grams of carbohydrates in one day. The main purpose to follow the Standard ketogenic (keto) diet is to lose weight on a faster track without calculating the daily calorie intake.
- Targeted ketogenic (keto) diet. This type of ketogenic (keto) diet is mostly used by athletes and physically active individuals. This is similar to standard ketogenic (keto) diet except that it allows you to add some 20-30 extra grams of carbs before and after the workouts to perform high-intensity workouts and a faster recovery.
- Cyclical ketogenic (keto) Diet. This diet allows cyclical ins and outs of ketogenic (keto) diet i.e you can take 2 days off and eat any high carb meal after 5 days of following the ketogenic (keto) diet strictly.
- High Protein ketogenic (keto) Diet. This diet includes 35% proteins, 60% fats, and no more than 5% of carbohydrates. This makes 135 grams of protein per day, 120 grams of fat per day, and no more than 50 grams of carbs pr day. This diet is easier to follow as compared to other diets.
How does it Work
Normally, your body consumes carbohydrates as a primary source of energy for daily activities. And any extra carbohydrates of what you ingest daily is converted to and stored in your body as fat. It only consumes fat as an energy source when it is low on carbohydrates. And proteins are reserved to be consumed at last.
By following a ketogenic (keto) (keto) diet, you are depriving your body of carbohydrates. This shifts your body’s metabolism towards fat consumption and helps you lose weight very fast.
This shift occurs via a process called ketosis. Ketosis means the conversion of fats into ketones and then metabolize these compounds to meet the energy requirements of the body. Ketosis is all the way a normal process and is safe for you, which is also otherwise occurring in your body when you’re fasting or when you don’t eat for a long period of a day for three to four consecutive days. It usually takes 3-4 days for your body to go into ketosis which is the minimum time required to burn all the carbohydrate stores of your body so that it can begin burning fats for its energy.
NOTE: Ketosis is Different than Ketoacidosis
It should be noted that ketosis is different than ketoacidosis. You may take both as same but they are not. As described, ketosis is a normal process and is safe for you. While ketoacidosis is another thing. Ketoacidosis is a condition that occurs in severe diabetes due to building up very high levels of ketones in the blood. This occurs in severe diabetes because the body can literally consume no carbohydrates for energy and all the metabolism of the body gift towards ketones production. This leads to ketones building up in the blood. As ketones are acidic, they shift the pH of blood towards the acidic side. It can cause coma and death. People with diabetes can develop diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) when they don’t make enough insulin or become ill or when they don’t drink enough water and become dehydrated.
Some people can also develop ketoacidosis without diabetes. This happens when they drink too much alcohol or go on starvation for a long time. The overactive thyroid gland may also lead to ketoacidosis.
Uses and Benefits of ketogenic (Keto) Diet
- Drug-resistant epilepsy in children. Although not very popular, the very first time the ketogenic (keto) diet was designed almost a hundred years ago was to treat the seizures of epilepsy in children who were not responding to anti-epileptic drugs.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, ketogenic (keto) diet is often advised to the children with certain epileptic disorders (i.e Lennox Gastaut Syndrome) which are not responding to most of the antiepileptic medications. They also noted that the ketogenic (keto) diet can reduce the number of seizures in such children by almost 50% and 10 to 15% of children become seizure-free without any medication.
- Weight Loss. Although not originally designed for it, but, weight loss is the most popular reason why people adopt the ketogenic (keto) diet. The ketogenic diet helps to lose weight via three mechanisms.
Firstly, it reduces the carbohydrate stores of your body hence the ‘water weight’ that has also been stored along with carbs (to maintain the concentration gradient) is also reduced. Secondly, being on the ketogenic diet suppresses the appetite-stimulating hormones which make you eat less and no extra food goes into your body. Thirdly, the ketogenic diet helps burn the fat stores of your body which also adds to weight loss.
According to a study on PubMed, the ketogenic diet is more effective than any other low-fat diet in the management of obesity and weight loss. Another study shows that individuals following the ketogenic (keto) diet 3 times more weight as compared to individuals following the low-fat diet. Not only this, but TAGs and HDL Cholesterol levels also improved in these individuals.
- Type 2 Diabetes. The ketogenic diet can also help in the management of diabetes. Studies show that the ketogenic diet improves glycemic control in patients with diabetes type 2 so much that patients can manage their blood sugar levels without diabetic medication.
Another study shows that the ketogenic diet can increase insulin sensitivity by almost 75% in type 2 diabetic patients. According to another study, diabetic patients following a ketogenic diet lost 11.1 kg as compared to diabetic patients with high carb diets who lost 6.9 kg only.
- Acne. The effects of ketogenic (keto) diet for acne improvement is under debate. Studies show that high sugar levels in the blood can cause acne and other skin problems. As the ketogenic diet lowers the blood sugar levels, this suggests the role of ketogenic (keto) diet in the treatment of acne.
- Polycystic Ovarian Disease. The ketogenic diet also helps to treat polycystic ovarian disease. A study shows that the ketogenic diet helps keep a balance in androgenic hormones (this hormonal imbalance is the main reason for the disease). It even helps women get pregnant despite previous infertility problems.
- Cancer. The ketogenic diet is also being used as the treatment option for certain cancers. Studies show that the ketogenic diet slows down the growth of many brain tumors and also improves the survival rate of the patients. Another study shows that following a ketogenic diet can help improve the quality of life in cancer patients.
- Others. The ketogenic diet also helps in a lot of other health conditions and studies are also available to show that ketogenic diet decreases the risk of heart diseases (as it lowers the fat levels in the body). It also improves certain mental conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other epileptic conditions.
Foods to Eat in Ketogenic (Keto) Diet
You certainly have to avoid some foods, but still, following a ketogenic diet is very easy as you have a whole lot of things to include in your diet. Here is a brief description of the foods you can include in your ketogenic diet meal plan.
- Natural Fats and Oils. almost one-third of the ketogenic diet consists of fats. You can get most of the fats needed for your diet from Butter, Cheese, Olive Oil, Coconut oil, etc. You can use these to cook your food or even add Olive oil to your salad. It adds taste to your food making it delicious to eat.
- Natural Protein Sources. Proteins are also a major part of the ketogenic diet. You can include meat, beef, or chicken to your diet for the protein part of your diet. But remember, these foods should be unprocessed. Organic and grass-fed meat is much more beneficial for health.
- Eggs. The egg is the best component you can include in your ketogenic diet. It is very low in carbohydrates. You should eat fresh and organic eggs. Remember to eat the whole egg (not only white of the egg) as most of the fat of egg is in its yolk. Moreover, researches have shown egg yolk to be beneficial for heart health (contrary to the older myths that egg yolk is harmful to heart health)
- Seafood and Fish. Wild-caught fish is the best choice in this category. Salmon is much better in this context as it has a very high amount of fats in it. Small fishes like mackerel, sardines, and herring can also be used.
- Keto-Friendly Vegetable. The key rule for this category is that you can include any green-leafy vegetable which is grown above the ground. Some of the examples are cauliflower, zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, and spinach.
You can visit here to know more about ketogenic friendly foods and about different meal plans of a ketogenic diet.
Side Effects of Ketogenic (Keto) Diet
Although the Ketogenic Diet promises benefits in many health conditions it has some side effects too. The most common problem is that it leads to a flu-like condition which is so severe that it got a separate name as ‘keto flu’. The main side effects of the ketogenic diet are described below.
1. Keto Flu
The major issues faced in the very first week of following a ketogenic diet are summarized as ‘keto flu’. Doctors suggest that this may be due to carbohydrates withdrawal. Keto flu includes symptoms like:
- Short-term Weakness
- Sugar Cravings
- Short-term Sleeplessness
- Muscle Pain
- Short-term Decreased Stamina for Exercise
How to Manage Keto-Flu
The symptoms of keto-flu can last for a week and then your body adapts to the new diet you are following. It may take more time (almost 2 to 4 weeks) for some individuals to adapt to the ketogenic diet.
It is this time when most of the people quit the ketogenic diet. But to gain the results you have to show perseverance and be consistent in following the diet. Here are some tips to manage the symptoms of keto-flu and help you not quit the ketogenic diet.
- Keep yourself hydrated by drinking enough water. As you are also losing water along with carbohydrates, you should drink more water, when on the ketogenic diet, to compensate for the loss of water.
- Don’t perform strenuous exercises.
- Replace your electrolytes. The low insulin levels after following a ketogenic diet come with its effects on body electrolytes (as insulin helps keep a balance of many electrolytes in the cells and blood).
By adding more salt to the meal you can replace your sodium levels (decreased insulin levels make your kidney excrete more sodium in the urine). Green- leafy vegetables and avocados can greatly help replace the potassium in your body. These foods are also rich in magnesium which helps avoid muscle pain and also sleeplessness and headaches to some extent.
- Eat enough quantity of the ketogenic (high fat) foods as described above, so that you don’t crave for more and more sugars.
- Get enough and good quality sleep. Increased cortisol levels in the blood, due to stress caused by lack of sleep, can affect your mood and worsen the symptoms of the keto-flu. Getting enough and good quality sleep is very much helpful in avoiding the symptoms of keto-flu.
2. Keto Breath
Keto breath is when your breath smells like a fruity odor or it may also smell like a nail polish remover. It should be noted that this smell of your breath is different than ‘bad breath or Halitosis’. Hence it should be managed in a different way.
The main reason for this smell is ‘acetone’, a chemical compound being expired in your breath. Metabolism of ketones (the products of ketosis) leads to an end product ‘Acetone’.
High levels of ketone metabolism in the body result in high levels of acetone in the blood which is expired through your breath and makes your breath smell like fruity or a nail polish remover. This can also alter your taste sensations.
This effect of the ketogenic diet should not be regarded as a side effect because it is just a little bit of inconvenience to live with that smell of your breath. Sooner you will adapt to it. Also, there are some ways, to avoid your breath from smelling like a nail polish remover, as follows:
- Maintain Good Oral Hygiene. Brush twice a day. Floss your mouth regularly. These habits should reduce the keto breath, if not eliminate the keto breath completely.
- Use Mints and Gums to Mask the Odor. But make sure that you are chewing sugar-free gums. Otherwise, it can interfere with the results of your ketogenic diet.
- Drink More Water. Drinking more water will help your body to dump the extra acetone into the urine. This way you can reduce the keto breath.
3. Urine Smells Fruity
The reason your urine smells fruity when you are following the ketogenic diet is the same as for keto breath. High levels of the acetone being excreted by the kidney in urine make your urine smell fruity. Usually, this should be of no problem to you as there is no inconvenience in peeing fruity-smelling urine.
Still, if you want to avoid this smell of your urine, you should avoid this by drinking more water. This helps your kidney make more dilute urine which reduces the smell of acetone. But you will have to pee more frequently due to this.
4. Keto Crotch
Keto crotch is related to the females following the ketogenic diet. It is a condition in which the odor of their vagina becomes much stronger than normal. The reason behind this is that ketogenic diet alters the pH of the vagina causing the alteration in the bacterial flora of the vagina. This change in bacterial growth leads to the stronger smell of the vagina. You can learn some ways to prevent keto crotch here.