The Ketogenic Diet is unlike any other diet in the world in that it utilizes a high fat, minimal carbohydrate and moderate protein system in order to reset your body’s ability to burn unwanted, stored fat. By restricting carbohydrates that are converted into glucose, you begin the journey to re-program your metabolism to start burning stored fats for fuel and energy instead of first burning beneficial glycogen that is stored in your muscles.
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.
Breakfast was our favorite weekend treat. We'd always go out to our diner and order all American breakfast (eggs, bacon, potatoes) and shared an order of waffles or french toast. Now, partially to save money and mostly because you can't really trust most restaurants not to add hidden carbs in things, we cook at home. Now I can't believe we used to eat all of this tasty food AND an extra stack of extras.
Everyone has to find their nutritional sweet spot for producing enough ketones and staying in ketosis, but “the core principle of the diet is to keep carbohydrate intake low enough, so your body continues producing ketones at elevated levels,” says Volek. “Your body adapts to this alternative fuel and becomes very efficient at breaking down and burning fat.”
Because some cancer cells are inefficient in processing ketone bodies for energy, the ketogenic diet has also been suggested as a treatment for cancer. A 2018 review looked at the evidence from preclinical and clinical studies of ketogenic diets in cancer therapy. The clinical studies in humans are typically very small, with some providing weak evidence for anti-tumour effect, particularly for glioblastoma, but in other cancers and studies, no anti-tumour effect was seen. Taken together, results from preclinical studies, albeit sometimes contradictory, tend to support an anti-tumor effect rather than a pro-tumor effect of the KD for most solid cancers.
Lots of apps and website offer keto diet challenges—basically, a blueprint for the keto diet with a fixed starting and ending point (they typically last for a week to a month, though some may be longer). Speaking of apps, plenty of keto-centric ones are right at your fingertips (a.k.a., your smartphone), like the KetoDiet app, which can help you calculate your macros and track your keto diet effectively.
Josh Axe, a doctor of natural medicine and clinical nutritionist, estimates that about 25% of people who try a ketogenic diet experience these symptoms, with fatigue being the most common. “That happens because your body runs out of sugar to burn for energy, and it has to start using fat,” he says. “That transition alone is enough to make your body feel tired for a few days.”
For athletes, research on the keto diet highlights potential improvements in athletic performance, especially when it comes to endurance activities. An article suggests ketogenic-type diets may allow endurance athletes to rely mostly on stored fat for energy during exercise rather than having to refuel with simple carbohydrates during endurance training and competition while additionally improving recovery times. (10)
Net carbs are what we track when following a ketogenic diet. This calculation is pretty straightforward. Net Carbs = Total Carbs – Fiber. For example, one cup of broccoli has 6g of total carbs and 2.4g of fiber. That would mean one cup of broccoli has 3.6g of net carbs. We count Net Carbs because dietary fiber does not have a significant metabolic effect.
Before we dive further into weight loss, a note: Weight loss isn't for everybody, and neither is following a specific, restrictive eating plan. If your goal is to lose weight, that's fine, but your health matters more than a number on a scale (and if you have a history of disordered eating, you should discuss any plans to change your diet with a doctor first). In addition, successful long-term weight loss is the product of many factors: Your physical activity, how much sleep you get, stress management, and other factors like medical issues and hormones all play an important role. What you eat is just one part of the weight loss puzzle.
A lot of people take their macros as a “set in stone” type of thing. You shouldn’t worry about hitting the mark every single day to the dot. If you’re a few calories over some days, a few calories under on others – it’s fine. Everything will even itself out in the end. It’s all about a long term plan that can work for you, and not the other way around.
A ketogenic diet also has been shown to improve blood sugar control for patients with type 2 diabetes, at least in the short term. There is even more controversy when we consider the effect on cholesterol levels. A few studies show some patients have increase in cholesterol levels in the beginning, only to see cholesterol fall a few months later. However, there is no long-term research analyzing its effects over time on diabetes and high cholesterol.
In Asia, the normal diet includes rice and noodles as the main energy source, making their elimination difficult. Therefore, the MCT-oil form of the diet, which allows more carbohydrate, has proved useful. In India, religious beliefs commonly affect the diet: some patients are vegetarians, will not eat root vegetables or avoid beef. The Indian ketogenic diet is started without a fast due to cultural opposition towards fasting in children. The low-fat, high-carbohydrate nature of the normal Indian and Asian diet means that their ketogenic diets typically have a lower ketogenic ratio (1:1) than in America and Europe. However, they appear to be just as effective.
I’m following the ketogenic diet and I find it very easy, pleasant and varied. I can even say that my diet today is more varied than the previous one. I do not intend to leave this diet and I cannot really see why. My initial focus was not to lose weight, I’ve always been lean, but to feel better, well disposed. And I got it! I am very pleased, I have read a lot about it (including scientific literature) and I have influenced other people who need to lose weight or improve some aspects of their health. But from the beginning I went on my own way, without the help of a nutritionist because I did not want to suffer the influence of others’ ideas.
It’s important to remember that the goal of any dietary change is to promote a healthy lifestyle, so make sure to select a meal plan you can envision yourself following long term. If you know you will not be able to comply with such stringent carbohydrate restrictions for years to come, the ketogenic diet is most likely not the right choice for you.
Also, when you eliminate sugar and high-carb foods from your daily diet, "your body is able to heal itself and detox from the accumulated inflammation that it is constantly fighting," That means less brain fog, improved cognition and brain health. Consequently, the improved mental clarity makes it easier for you to make smart food choices, adds the nutritionist.
So people saying that – despite the lack of scientific support – likely have a financial reason to say it. Some of these products are sold under something like a multi-level marketing arrangement, so sales people are entirely paid based on commission. For example, the company Prüvit sells drinkable ketones, called KETO//OS with a multi-level marketing structure.
In a state of ketosis, your body breaks fat down in the liver and converts it into ketones to be used for energy. Fat doesn't generate an insulin response, so insulin levels remain stable. This makes it much harder to store excess fat, and easier to tap into body fat stores for energy. Not only will this allow you to maintain your weight, but it will greatly encourage weight loss.
When a person goes off the ketogenic diet and regains much of their original weight, it’s often not in the same proportions, says Kizer: Instead of regaining lean muscle, you’re likely to regain fat. “Now you’re back to your starting weight, but you no longer have the muscle mass to burn the calories that you did before,” she says. “That can have lasting effects on your resting metabolic rate, and on your weight long-term.”
Remember: Just because something fits your macros doesn’t mean it’s super healthful and providing a balance of nutrients. High consumption of certain foods (like hot dogs, bacon, and other processed meats) and under consumption of healthier foods (nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit, whole grains) are linked with certain health conditions and death from heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, and that’s important to keep in mind even if we don’t necessarily have a causal link or recommended limit.
I’ve been sugar free for 14 years, but sugar free doesn’t necessarily mean low carb or keto. For me back then it meant no white sugar, white flour or anything white or refined. I still enjoyed sweet potatoes and even honey. As the years went on I discovered even natural sugars caused me to continue to crave and I eventually went low carb back in 2013. I started my blog in 2011 so prior to 2013, some of the recipes are not low carb just sugar free. Here’s a post I wrote about the Differences between a Sugar Free and a Low Carb Diet.
Ketones—the molecules produced during fat metabolism on the keto diet and other very low-carb diets—are acidic. “When they start to build up in our blood, the blood becomes more acidic,” Notte says. One of the ways the body balances high acid levels is by using a base like calcium, she explains. “The body pulls this alkaline mineral from our bones.” In the long term, chronic calcium loss can lead to low bone density, osteoporosis, and fractures. Try these 15 ways to boost bone health.
Those issues can be part of what's known as the “keto flu,” Warren says. Other side effects of the keto diet, all of which are tied to carb withdrawal, can include lightheadedness, nausea, mental fog, cramps, and headaches, in addition to tiredness. Luckily, the keto flu doesn't usually last more than a week—which is coincidentally about when people start to see the number on the scale go down, says Warren.