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If you’re in tune to trends in the dietary world, you may have already heard of the ketogenic diet. As with many popular diet plans, the keto system has received both praise and criticism for its restrictive dietary plan and impressive weight loss results.
What Exactly Is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is an extremely low carb, high fat diet. In a standard diet, an individual’s caloric intake is roughly divided between 45-65% carbohydrates, 20-35% fat, and 10-35% protein. On the ketogenic diet, these macronutrient ratios are significantly altered so that 65-75% of daily calories come from fat, 20-25% from protein, and just 5% from carbohydrates.
How Does Ketosis Work?
By eating such a carb-restricted diet, the body enters a metabolic state known as ketosis. While consuming a normal diet, ketosis does not occur, and the body receives its energy from glucose. Low carb consumption, however, can trigger ketosis, in which fuel molecules known as ketones are created. These molecules are produced when fat is broken down in the liver. Ketone levels in the blood and urine can be measured to determine whether or not an individual is in a ketosis state.
What Can I Eat on the Keto Diet?
Food choices on a ketogenic diet are more limited than on many other diets. If carbs are not highly restricted, ketosis will not occur. Just one apple or slice of bread contains all of the carbs that a keto dieter should consume in one day. For this reason, it is crucial to avoid all grains, legumes, fruit, and sugar on the keto diet. Instead, dieters should focus on consuming lots of meats, seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and high-fat dairy. When sticking to a strict ratio of macronutrients, dieters can naturally enter a state of ketosis.
What are the Benefits of the Keto Diet?
Most people switch to a ketogenic diet in order to burn fat more easily. When ketones are produced, the body begins switching its fuel supply from glucose to fat. This may result in speedier weight loss, decreased hunger levels, and more consistent energy levels throughout the day. Though fasting can also trigger ketosis, it is impossible to fast forever. Those who are interested in maintaining ketosis will therefore want to stick to the keto diet.
The ketogenic diet was initially developed to treat children with otherwise unmanageable epilepsy. Both adults and children with epilepsy seem to respond well to the keto diet, allowing patients to take fewer anti-epileptic medications.
Individuals with conditions such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, migraines, dementia, and acne may also see positive results from switching to a ketogenic diet. Other benefits, such as improved mental focus and increased physical stamina, are experienced by many dieters.
What are the Drawbacks to the Keto Diet?
The ketogenic diet is not without its complications. To begin with, entering ketosis may trigger a number of negative side effects. As the remaining sugar in the body is burned up, water is released and expelled as urine. This loss of fluids can also deplete salts in the body. It is therefore important to remain hydrated and consume an adequate amount of salt on the keto diet.
Many individuals also suffer from the “keto flu” during the first few weeks of the diet. As the body adapts to using ketones for fuel, symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, food cravings, and dizziness may occur. Changing to the keto diet may also cause bowel issues, such as constipation. Transitioning to the diet over the course of a few weeks may prevent these symptoms from occurring.
Many individuals who switch to the keto diet experience bad breath and body odor as a result of the change. Though these symptoms often decrease or disappear with time, they may also linger.
Though most individuals experience stabilized energy levels after a transition period, some who engage in high-intensity exercise or strength training may find it more difficult to maintain their previous levels of athletic performance. Others argue that the keto diet has benefitted their endurance. Consuming a small amount of carbs before working out may help those who struggle with stamina on a keto diet.
Medical professionals debate whether or not long-term ketogenesis is a good idea. Maintaining a keto diet for long periods of time may cause metabolic adjustments that may be difficult to reverse. Some individuals who stick to the diet for longer periods of time may experience symptoms such as kidney stones, menstrual irregularities, bone density issues, and problems with balance. Dieters must also be careful to avoid over-consuming saturated fats, which may elevate blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
When properly implemented, the ketogenic diet can be a healthy and effective weight loss method. Like most restrictive diets, however, it is not without its complications. If you choose to follow the keto diet, transition into it gradually and consult your doctor for further tips on how to stay healthy while dieting.
If the keto diet sounds too limiting, don’t stress about it! There are dozens of less restrictive dietary plans that may be a better fit for you.
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