The Ketogenic Diet.
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What Is The Ketogenic Diet?
A keto diet is well-known for being a low-carb diet, where the body produces ketones in the liver to be used as energy. It’s referred to by many different names – ketogenic diet, low carb diet, low carb high fat.
When you eat something high in carbs, your body will produce glucose and insulin.
- Glucose is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy so it will be chosen over any other energy source.
- Insulin is produced to process the glucose in your bloodstream by taking it around the body.
Since the glucose is being used as a primary energy, your fats are not needed and are therefore stored. Typically, on a normal, higher carbohydrate diet, the body will use glucose as the main form of energy. By lowering the intake of carbs, the body is induced into a state known as ketosis.
Ketosis is a natural process the body initiates to help us survive when food intake is low. During this state, we produce ketones, which are produced from the breakdown of fats in the liver.
The end goal of a properly maintained keto diet is to force your body into this metabolic state. We don’t do this through starvation of calories but starvation of carbohydrates.
Are There Dangers in the Ketogenic Diet?
Can ketone production in the body get too high? Yes, it’s called ketoacidosis. Is it likely under normal circumstances? Not at all. For most people, it’s a challenge just to get into optimal ranges for ketosis. Getting into territory where you need medical intervention is just not likely.
The main exception to ketoacidosis is type 1 diabetes – it can happen when insulin levels are severely low which is rare in someone with a normally functioning pancreas. Dangerously high ketone levels result in insulin secretion.
Please, I am not knocking the Keto Diet Plan, just investigating it.
What is a normally functioning pancreas? Do you know if your pancreas is functioning normally?
Whatever you plan on doing, please always consult your Doctor first!!!
What happens to your body when you switch from your regular diet to a new, “Ketogenic Diet”?
Your body is used to the simple routine of breaking down carbohydrates and using them as energy. Over time the body has built up an arsenal of enzymes ready for this process and only has a few enzymes for dealing with fats – mostly to store them.
All of a sudden your body has to deal with the lack of glucose and an increase in fats, which means building up a new supply of enzymes. As your body becomes induced into a ketogenic state, your body will naturally use what’s left of your glucose.
This means your body will be depleted of glycogen in the muscles – which can cause a lack of energy and general lethargy.
In the first week, many people report headaches, mental fogginess, dizziness, and aggravation. Most of the time, this is the result of your electrolytes being flushed out, as ketosis has a diuretic effect. Make sure you drink plenty of water and keep your sodium intake up.
In fact, you should go overboard with the salt – salt everything! Sodium will help with water retention and help replenish the electrolytes. For most, this temporary groggy feeling is the biggest danger you’re going to face. It’s called “Keto Flu.”
Keto flu is a very common experience for new ketoers, but it often goes away after just a few days – and there are ways to minimize or even eliminate it. When transitioning to keto, you may feel some slight discomfort including fatigue, headache, nausea, cramps, etc.
There are a few reasons for the keto flu, but the two primary concerns are:
- Keto is a diuretic. You tend to go to the bathroom more to urinate, which is attributed to a loss of both electrolytes and water in your body. You can usually help combat this by either drinking a Bouillon cube or Powerade Zero and by increasing your water intake. Mainly, you want to replenish your depleted electrolytes.
- You’re transitioning. Your body is equipped to process a high intake of carbs and a lower intake of fat. Your body needs to create enzymes to be able to do this. In the transitional period, the brain may run low on energy which can lead to grogginess, nausea, and headaches. If you’re having a large problem with this, you can choose to reduce carb intake gradually.
Increasing water intake and replacing electrolytes, should relieve most all symptoms of Keto Flu. For an average person who is starting a ketogenic diet, eating 20-30g of net carbs a day, the entire adaptation process will take about 4-5 days. Cutting your carbs to fewer than 15g to ensure that you are well on your way into ketosis within one week. If you are experiencing any more keto flu symptoms, double-check your electrolyte intake and adjust.
You may notice that if you’re an avid gym-goer, you lose some strength and endurance. A temporary decrease in physical performance is typical. Once your body becomes keto-adapted, your body will be able to fully utilize fat as its primary source of energy.
Common Side Effects of a Keto Diet:
Here are a few of the most common side effects that I come across when people first start keto. Frequently the issues relate to dehydration or lack of micronutrients (vitamins) in the body. Make sure that you’re drinking enough water (close to a gallon a day) and eating foods with good sources of micronutrients.
Cramps (and more specifically leg cramps) are a pretty common thing when starting a ketogenic diet. It’s usually occurring in the morning or at night, but it’s a pretty minor issue overall. It’s a sign that there’s a lack of minerals, specifically magnesium, in the body.
Make sure to drink plenty of fluids and eat salt in your food. Doing so can help reduce the loss of magnesium and get rid of the issue.
Salt? Everything in moderation I guess. But then if you did everything in moderation would you need to go on a ketogenic diet?
The most common cause of constipation is dehydration. A simple solution is to increase water intake and try to get as close to a gallon a day as possible.
Making sure vegetables have some fiber will also usually help. Getting some good quality fiber from non-starchy vegetables can solve this problem. Though if that’s not enough, usually psyllium husk powder will work, or taking a probiotic.
When transitioning to keto, you may notice that your heart is beating both faster and harder. It’s pretty standard, so don’t worry about it.
If the problem persists, make sure that you’re drinking plenty of fluid and eating enough salt. Typically, this is sufficient to get rid of the problem right away. However, if the issue persists, it may be worth taking a potassium supplement once a day.
Reduced Physical Performance:
You may see some limitations on your performance when you first begin a keto diet, but it’s usually just from your body adapting to using fat. As your body shifts to using fat for energy, all of your strength and endurance will return to normal.
Less Common Side Effects of a Keto Diet:
These are some of the lesser common problems that I am e-mailed about on a semi-consistent basis. Many of these problems also relate to hydration and micronutrients, so make sure that you are drinking plenty of water and replenishing electrolytes.
There are mixed and matched studies on keto and breastfeeding, though nothing is well-researched at the current moment. Right now it’s understood that ketogenic diets are typically healthy to do while breastfeeding.
It’s suggested to add in 30-50g extra carbs from the fruit when breastfeeding to help the body produce milk. You may also have to add in extra calories.
Specifically, 300-500 calories worth of extra fat to help with milk production. You should always contact medical professionals for advice.
If you’re experiencing hair loss within five months of starting a ketogenic diet, it’s most likely temporary. You can take a multivitamin and do what you normally do.
Though hair loss is very uncommon on keto, you can minimize it by making sure you’re not restricting calories too far and making sure you get 8 hours of sleep a night.
Usually, it’s a good thing! Many studies point toward cholesterol elevation when doing a low-carb, ketogenic diet.
Higher cholesterol is generally due to HDL (the good cholesterol) increasing – lowering your chance of heart disease. You may see increased triglyceride counts, but that’s very common in people losing weight. These increases will subside as weight loss normalizes.
There’s a small percentage of people who experience raised LDL cholesterol as well. These elevated levels are usually fine – though harder to test. The dangers of LDL cholesterol come from size and density, which are shown to be very healthy on keto.
Friends it is a long article, but I do feel it is essential for you to read it before going on a Ketogenic Diet.
Of the few studies done on keto and gallstones, most people have either improved or cured gallstone problems. The only downside is that many reported an increase in discomfort when starting out on low-carb. If you stick with it, you should notice a vast improvement.
Another common question relating to gallstones is “Can I start keto if I have had my gallbladder removed?” The answer is yes.
You may want to increase your fat gradually to allow your system some time to get used to it.
Generally speaking, switching to keto gets rid of indigestion and heartburn. Keep in mind that some people see increased attacks when they’re first starting out.
If you’re experiencing problems, it may be best to limit the amount of fat you intake; gradually increasing the amount you have per day over a two-week period.
There’s no real scientific reasoning/explanation behind why some people start to itch when they start keto. There are just a handful of experiences that people have written about, and so I’m basing my answer on what I’ve read.
From anecdotes, it’s most likely irritation from the acetone that is excreted in sweat (it’s why you may experience bad breath).
It’s worth looking into better clothing options for absorbing sweat from your body. It’s also worth showering right after an activity that causes you to sweat.
If it’s a lasting issue that is causing problems, you may want to consider upping your carbs or changing exercise plans.
Questions and Answers:
Q: How much weight will I lose?
A: The amount of weight you lose is entirely dependent on you. Obviously adding exercise to your regimen will speed up your weight loss. Cutting out things that are common “stall” causes is also a good thing. Artificial sweeteners, dairy, wheat products, and by-products (wheat gluten, wheat flour, and anything with an identifiable wheat product in it).
Water weight loss is common when you first start a low-carb diet. Ketosis has a diuretic effect to it that can cause many pounds of weight loss in only a few days. While I hate being the bearer of bad news, this isn’t fat. But on a side (and more positive) note, that shows that your body is starting to adjust itself into a fat-burning machine!
There’s a huge list of keto-friendly recipes for you to choose from, go check them out! See keto recipes >
Q: How should I track my carb intake?
A: The most common way to track your carbs is through MyFitnessPal and their mobile app. You cannot track net carbs on the app, although you can track your total carb intake and your total fiber intake. To get your net carbs, just subtract your total fiber intake from your total carb intake. I have written an article on How to Track Carbs on MyFitnessPal.
Others choose to use FatSecret, which is an app I am unfamiliar with, although I do know that you can track your net carbs. The choice is entirely up to you and up to your free will to decide.
Q: I cheated and want to get back on keto. How do I do that?
A: First take a breath, it’s not the end of the world. You may find that your weight goes up temporarily as your body retains water. You may also find that the scale goes down pretty quickly when you lose that water. If you see the scale fluctuating, please keep in mind that there’s a biological reason for it.
Pick yourself up, get back on track, and stay strict to keep cravings down. If you’re having trouble with the planning aspect, you may want to consider looking into our Keto Academy Program.
Q: I’m not losing any more weight. Now what?
A: Many things can cause a slowdown in weight loss: stress, lack of sleep, exercise, hormonal changes, and alcohol use among other things are factors. Weight loss will not always be a linear process, either. We have fluctuations in water that happen every day.
On average people will lose 1-2 lbs. a week, but that doesn’t mean the scale will drop consistently. Take measurements as well as track your weight via scale, as often there can be changes in size but no change on the scale. If you’re still experiencing problems after 4-5 weeks, start looking into your dietary choices.
The first thing people typically recommend is re-tracking your macros to make sure you’ve been on track, making sure you’re drinking enough water and supplementing electrolytes, and finally reducing the amount of dairy being used.
Q: I don’t like meat/eggs/dairy/[insert disliked food], can I still do a ketogenic diet?
A: The short answer is yes. Aside from the broad guidelines stated above, there are no real “rules” so long as you’re low carb, moderate protein, and getting the rest of your calories from fat. If it fits within your macros, then you’re fine.
Some drink coffee with butter (recipe here) and eat plenty of meat; some do vegetarian recipes, and some are dairy and nut-free. There are lots of options out there to suit any dietary restrictions.
Q: What happens after you reach your goal weight on keto?
A: Some people want to go off keto once they’ve reached their goal weight, others choose to stay on keto or take up a clean-eating diet. I’ve been on keto for almost a decade now. One thing to always remember – if you go back to your old habits you will put the weight back on.
If you keep your intake in check, you may still notice an increase in weight because of glycogen stores refilling. Many people find they stick to keto or a low-carb diet simply because it makes them feel better.
Other points to be aware of:
A ketogenic diet may be more expensive than a standard American diet, but it’s no different than other clean-eating lifestyles. That said, there are still numerous ways to save money while cooking keto. The best ways to save money are the same as with any other budgeting:
Search for deals. There’s always a sale or a coupon to be found for keto-friendly items out there. Typically you can find significant savings in magazines and newspapers that are sent to your house, but they can also be combined with in-store specials and manager cuts. When combined, you can save a significant amount of your keto groceries.
Bulk buy and cook. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, this is the best of both worlds. Buying your food in bulk (specifically from wholesalers) can reduce the cost per pound tremendously. Plus, you can make ahead food (bulk cook chicken thighs for pre-made meat, or cook entire meals) that are used as leftovers, so you spend less time cooking.
Make things yourself. While it’s extremely convenient to buy most things pre-made or pre-cooked, it always adds to the price per pound on items. Try prepping veggies ahead of time instead of buying pre-cut ones. Try making your stew meat from a chuck roast. Or, simply try to make your mayo and salad dressings at home. The simplest of things can work to cut down on your overall grocery shopping.
You can read more advice on how to save money on eating keto on a budget.
Overall, eating a high amount of fat, moderate protein, and low amount of carbs can have a massive impact on your health – lowering your cholesterol, body weight, blood sugar, and raising your energy and mood levels
A ketogenic diet can be hard to fathom in the beginning but isn’t as hard as it’s made out to be. The transition can be a little bit tough, but the growing popularity of the clean eating movement makes it easier and easier to find available low-carb foods.
Keep it straightforward and strict. You usually see better results in people who restrict their carb intake further. Try to keep your carbs as low as possible for the first month of keto. Keep it strict by cutting out excess sweets and artificial sweeteners altogether (like diet soda). Cutting these out dramatically decreases sugar cravings.
Drink water and supplement electrolytes. The most common problems come from dehydration or lack of electrolytes. When you start keto (and even in the long run), make sure that you drink plenty of water, salt your foods, and take a multivitamin. If you’re still experiencing issues, you can order electrolyte supplements individually.
Track what you eat. It’s so easy to over-consume carbs when they’re hidden in just about everything you pick up. Keeping track of what you eat helps control your carb intake and keep yourself accountable.
A personal note:
It is ultimately your decision whether you want to go on the ketogenic diet. I can not say if it is good or bad. I have heard both sides of the story. Yes, it does work!!! OR, I fell ill when I tried going on the ketogenic diet!!! There will always be two sides to almost everything. I am not on a diet. I eat well, exercise, get as much sunshine as I can, and get at least eight hours of sleep.
I will provide you with some ketogenic diet recipes. This way I would feel more comfortable with your adapting. I wish you all the very best in whatever decision you make.
Ketogenic Diet Recommendations 1
Bad To Eat Good To Eat
Please always consult with your doctor first before making any lifestyle changes.
Thank you for reading,
Comments are welcome.