In a recent study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, Weiss and his colleagues found that participants performed worse on high-intensity cycling and running tasks after four days on a ketogenic diet, compared to those who’d spent four days on a high-carb diet. Weiss says that the body is in a more acidic state when it’s in ketosis, which may limit its ability to perform at peak levels.
How did this diet, which was first developed in the 1920s as a treatment for children with epilepsy (and has been shown to reduce seizures in patients whose epilepsy symptoms aren’t responding to other medications), become the diet du jour, and why such a discrepancy between its fandom and expert opinion? Let’s take a closer look at what “going keto” entails.
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Over 8–10 mmol/l: It’s normally impossible to get to this level just by eating a keto diet. It means that something is wrong. The most common cause by far is type 1 diabetes, with severe lack of insulin. Symptoms include feeling very sick with nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and confusion. The possible end result, ketoacidosis, may be fatal and requires immediate medical care. Learn more
This doesn’t mean that you can never have some of your favorite foods again. Once you get past the adaptation phase and you have tested that you are in Ketosis, you can start experimenting with Keto versions of the foods you don't want to give up. Here are a few simple Keto recipes to start with. If you're looking for ready-to-eat Keto-friendly options, check out Country Archer Meat Sticks, Cuvee Coffee and FBOMB nut butters.
There are so many tricks, shortcuts, and gimmicks out there on achieving optimal ketosis – I’d suggest you don’t bother with any of that. Optimal ketosis can be accomplished through dietary nutrition alone (aka just eating food). You shouldn’t need a magic pill to do it. Just stay strict, remain vigilant, and be focused on recording what you eat (to make sure your carb and protein intake are correct).
Just this week, a 25,000-person study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Munich suggested that people on the lowest-carb diets had the highest risk of dying from cancer, cardiovascular conditions, and all other causes. Another study, published this month in the Lancet, also found that people who followed diets that were low in carbs and high in animal proteins had a higher risk of early death compared to those who consumed carbs in moderation. (The opposite was true, however, for low-carb dieters who opted for plant-based proteins over meat and dairy.)
The ketogenic diet is a mainstream dietary therapy that was developed to reproduce the success and remove the limitations of the non-mainstream use of fasting to treat epilepsy.[Note 2] Although popular in the 1920s and 30s, it was largely abandoned in favour of new anticonvulsant drugs. Most individuals with epilepsy can successfully control their seizures with medication. However, 20–30% fail to achieve such control despite trying a number of different drugs. For this group, and for children in particular, the diet has once again found a role in epilepsy management.
Positive science on ketosis coupled with personal successes passed by word-of-mouth have driven more people to explore the ketogenic diet, says Volek. More recently, the keto diet hints at having a promising therapeutic role in cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Research is still early in many areas, but Volek suspects there will more definitive answers on the wider scope of the diet’s benefits within the next decade.
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.
The reason you eat a balanced diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, is to get a variety of nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. You can do so on a lower calorie diet *and* successfully lose weight. However, on the keto diet, grains, legumes, and fruit are pretty much eliminated (berries, watermelon, and apples are allowed sparingly). These food groups provide a ton of nutrients including fiber, phytonutrients, and antioxidants like vitamins A and C. Keto dieters are also known to have constipation because of the lack of fiber in their diet. (FYI, here are the supplements you should take if you're on the keto diet.)
You want to keep your cheats to none. Be prepared, make sure you’re eating what you need to be satiated (“full”), and make sure you’re satisfied with what you’re eating. If you have to force yourself to eat something, it will never work out in the end. This is just a guideline on how you can eat on a ketogenic diet, so you’re very welcome to change up what kind of foods you eat!
These are just a few samples of what a ketogenic diet menu looks like. As mentioned above, it comes down to eating some protein, adding as much fat as you like (within calorie limits) and choosing low carb veggies to round out the meal. Of course, you can't consume whole sticks of butter and expect to lose weight, but if you aren't trying to lose weight, eating enough saturated fat and adequate protein is a very good way to kill hunger.
Before starting, ask yourself what is really realistic for you, Mattinson suggests. Then get your doctor’s okay. You may also work with a local registered dietitian nutritionist to limit potential nutrient deficiencies and talk about vitamin supplementation, as you won’t be eating whole grains, dairy, or fruit, and will eliminate many veggies. “A diet that eliminates entire food groups is a red flag to me. This isn’t something to take lightly or dive into headfirst with no medical supervision,” she says.