If you’re looking to get a jump start on your health and fitness goals this year, you may be thinking about trying the ketogenic diet. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase before — it’s a huge diet buzzword — but aren’t sure what it means. Here’s a primer: The ketogenic diet is an eating plan that drives your body into ketosis, a state where the body uses fat as a primary fuel source (instead of carbohydrates), says Stacey Mattinson, RDN, who is based in Austin, Texas.
The meal plan is designed to ensure you get three balanced, healthy meals a day that address fiber, satiation, and adequate protein intake. The greatest part of a ketogenic diet is the fact that it spares muscle loss, where a carb-based diet doesn’t. Weight lost in a high carb, calorie-restricted diet will often come both from muscle and fat, whereas with keto, you can burn fat without sacrificing muscle. This is referred to often as “body recomposition” and leaves you with a much more preferred physique after weight loss.
Also make sure that you know what foods have mostly carbs, fat, and protein, so you can make the right choices. For instance, it’s not just bread, pasta, chips, cookies, candy, and ice cream that contain carbs. Beans may contain protein, but they’re also very high in carbohydrates. Fruit and veggies also mostly contain carbs. The only foods that don’t contain carbs are meat (protein) and pure fats, like butter and oils (including olive oil and coconut oil).
Stock up: The Amazon Fresh grocery delivery service makes it easy to ensure you always have keto-friendly veggies in the fridge. We love its delivery scheduling tool; simply fill your cart, then decide which day and timeframe you'd like your groceries delivered. One of our faves: Pre-Cut Zucchini Noodles are great for whipping up low-carb "pasta" dishes.
If you start at 25g of net carbs a day, you can slowly increase to 50g as you lose weight. Once you reach your goal, you can increase your carbs as you see how they affect your weight. If you eat fruit for a week and gain weight, cut back. You have to figure out what works best for you. Ketosis can be maintained with as many as 100g of carbs each day.
When your body burns its stores of fat, it can be hard on your kidneys. And starting a ketogenic diet -- or going back to a normal diet afterward -- can be tricky if you’re obese because of other health issues you’re likely to have, like diabetes, a heart condition, or high blood pressure. If you have any of these conditions, make diet changes slowly and only with the guidance of your doctor.
Carbohydrates have been linked to this skin condition, so cutting down on them may help. And the drop in insulin that a ketogenic diet can trigger may also help stop acne breakouts. (Insulin can cause your body to make other hormones that bring on outbreaks.) Still, more research is needed to determine exactly how much effect, if any, the diet actually has on acne.
Can’t you take ketone supplements? No. While it is possible to elevate ketones by taking them, “without the low-carb stimulus, there is no net increase in ketone production, no decrease in insulin, and no net increase in fat oxidation,” says Volek. Don’t trust trainers or “body hackers” who say you can induce ketosis quickly without changing your diet.
Still, it can be hard to get enough fat when you first start this diet. Butter, nuts, coconut and olive oils, and fatty cuts of meat are all on the menu. However, don't go overboard with polyunsaturated fats like soybean, corn, or sunflower oil. Keto dieters who increase their intake of those fats often end up with gastrointestinal distress that causes them to jump ship.
Run by the Charlie Foundation, this calculator can be helpful when you’re using keto as a therapy to help manage a medical condition. The calculator helps estimate calorie needs based on weight, assists in determining a macro ratio and macros needed per meal, and can calculate macro numbers on the basis of meals and snacks you enter into the system. Also takes into account fluids, supplements, and medications.
Keto for Diabetes: The ketogenic diet can be an extremely effective therapeutic treatment for diabetes. Since type 2 diabetes is hallmarked by insulin resistance, a ketogenic diet may improve insulin-resistance, associated pathological state via the following: 1) lowering and stabilizing both blood glucose and insulin levels, 2) improving insulin sensitivity, and 3) providing an alternative fuel source through ketone production. Virta Health recently published a report showing patients could rapidly improve glycemic control through reductions in fasting blood glucose, HbA1c, and medication use after 10 weeks of treatment. Patients lost 7% of their body weight on average and reported less hunger. For more information, please visit our friends at Virta Health who are actively working with diabetics (https://www.virtahealth.com).
In order to maximize the benefits of a keto diet for beginners, self-experimentation to achieve an optimal level of ketosis is important. In addition to quantifying blood ketone levels, there are several biological changes that your body will experience to help identify a ketogenic state. These changes will be more robust for some, In contrast to the negative side effects often experienced while on other low-carbohydrate diets, a ketogenic state and “keto-adaptation” can elicit euphoric effects including:
Keto for Epilepsy: The ketogenic diet originated in the 1920s as an effective treatment for children suffering from drug-resistant epilepsy. Since then, its highly successful applications have expanded to treat adult epileptic patients as well. This was an important progression in treatment because, despite the introduction of anticonvulsant drugs in the 1930s, at least one third of patients suffering from epileptic seizures are still fully resistant to anticonvulsant drug therapy. Early studies found that, when placed on a ketogenic diet, 12% of children suffering from epileptic seizures experienced full remission and 42% saw a reduction in seizures.
Body Composition: Physical changes in the body are one of the primary reasons people are attracted to and implement low-carbohydrate diets. By definition, being in a state of ketosis means you are able to tap into the body’s fat stores, metabolizing fat for immediate energy and producing ketones for fuel. Furthermore, the ketogenic diet has been shown to reduce circulating insulin levels, which may lead to less storage of fat by the hormone insulin. While both “low-carbohydrate” and ketogenic diets are effective for weight loss, studies have demonstrated that the ketogenic diet is superior.
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