Is the Keto Diet Right for Me?

The ketogenic diet also referred to as “keto,” is a popular dieting method, but is it right for you?  The keto diet induces ketosis, which is a state where your body is running primarily off of fat and ketones instead of sugar from carbs. This can occur through lowering your carbohydrates and having very high fat intake. Specifically, the ketogenic diet targets about 80 percent of calories from fat, 15 percent from protein and 5 percent from carbohydrates.

How Does the Keto Diet Work?

Consuming fewer calories means weight loss, but fewer calories also mean you’re going to be hungry more often than not. The ketogenic diet avoids this pitfall by making the majority of the calories you consume come from fat. Fat is very satiating, so a very high-fat diet will help you feel fuller for longer.

In addition, keto-enthusiasts say you’ll have more energy, feel more alert and possibly even experience other neurological benefits. By dramatically lowering carb intake and inducing ketosis, you can force the body to burn fat for energy instead of carbs. Consuming too many high GI (glycemic index) carbs, can increase insulin production, which leads to weight gain, and in worse instances, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Even a lean individual can carry around about 50,000 calories of energy in the form of fat on their body. By eating less and inducing ketosis, you make it easier for the body to tap into the energy reserves it already has on hand, keeping you energized between meals.

There is research indicating that a high-fat diet could be very harmful, but this could be the case when you’re consuming both high-fat and high-carb foods. If you haven’t induced ketosis, or forced the body to start metabolizing fat, then a high-fat diet can be harmful. However, research shows that a properly balanced high-fat and low-carb diet might be beneficial for weight loss while still preserving muscle and strength.

The Upside of Ketosis

While this method may have gained popularity among athletes and other hard-core fitness buffs, they’re far from the only ones who will see benefits from this method. When you implement a well-formulated proper ketogenic diet, you can see improvements in performance and body composition at the same time.  You’ll look leaner and shed fat, but you won’t feel sapped of energy like when you decrease calories. The bonus is you won’t experience the post-meal crash associated with a higher-carb diet.

For most ketogenic diet newbies, there won’t be a need to count overall calories either. As long as you’re paying attention to your diet and inducing ketosis through high-fat and low-carb consumption, most dieters automatically hit a calorie intake that allows weight loss. (Over time, it may become necessary to pay attention to both macronutrients and calories.)

The Downsides of the Keto Diet

Obviously, that transition period can be a big “con” when it comes to embarking on a ketogenic diet.  It’s also important to note that a ketogenic diet can make it easier to become dehydrated and lose electrolytes, so it’s essential to stay hydrated and replace electrolytes like potassium, sodium and magnesium in your diet or with supplements.

When researching or talking about the ketogenic diet, you may encounter a common myth that ketosis leads to ketoacidosis. That’s a condition typically only seen in uncontrolled diabetes and you will not achieve that state on a well-formulated ketogenic diet. Unless you suffer from one of a handful of medical issues (like impaired functioning of the kidneys, gallbladder, pancreas or liver, for example), a ketogenic diet is safe.  Having a “well-formulated diet,” though, does mean you do need to plan, prepare and think about your diet far more than you may be used to, especially at the beginning. 

Making the Keto Diet Work for You

As the first step to ketosis, it is recommended to cut out as many high-carb foods from your diet as possible: bread, pasta, rice, grains and sweets. In the meantime, you’ll want to significantly increase your fat intake via high-fat animal proteins, like fish, meat and eggs, and plant-based fats, like avocados, oils, and some nuts. 

After you’ve eliminated the most obvious sources of carbs, look to certain types of dairy, fruit and condiments, which can sneak in surprising amounts of carbs. You should aim to get most of your roughly 30 grams of carbs daily from fiber instead of sugar. That fiber can often be found in foods like leafy greens and other veggies — but again, beware of the high-carb count that some veggies, such as sweet potatoes and squash, may have.  Creating a well-formulated diet is the key to staying healthy while losing weight.

Perhaps the most important step is to get into a state of ketosis as quickly as possible. There might be a  transition period of a few days commonly known as the “keto flu.” As your body adjusts to its new fat-based energy source, you may feel tired and groggy.  It’s essential to move through this period as quickly as possible in order to make it to ketosis and see the results that will keep you motivated to continue.

So, is the Keto Diet right for you?  

Only you and your doctor can decide if this diet makes sense for you or not.  As with any new diet program, it is always best to discuss it with your doctor before you begin.  If you need help with a meal or exercise plan, be sure to contact me.  I can put together customized plans to meet any specific needs. 

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