Slashing carbs to this degree forces the body into ketosis, a metabolic state in which your body starts to rapidly break down fat for fuel. That sounds better than it feels. During the first few days—sometimes weeks—of ketosis, people often feel tired, irritable, and dizzy and have difficulty sleeping. This carbohydrate withdrawal is often called the “keto flu,” explains registered nutritionist and certified dietitian Dana Notte, MS, director of nutrition at Green Mountain at Fox Run, a healthy-weight retreat known for helping women “detox” from fad dieting. Check out the 13 things everyone gets wrong about the keto diet.
The Keto diet emphasizes weight loss through fat-burning. The goal is to quickly lose weight and ultimately feel fuller with fewer cravings, while boosting your mood, mental focus and energy. According to Keto proponents, by slashing the carbs you consume and instead filling up on fats, you safely enter a state of ketosis. That’s when the body breaks down both dietary and stored body fat into substances called ketones. Your fat-burning system now relies mainly on fat – instead of sugar – for energy. While similar in some ways to familiar low-carb diets, the Keto diet’s extreme carb restrictions – about 20 net carbs a day or less, depending on the version – and the deliberate shift into ketosis are what set this increasingly popular diet apart.
The popular low-carb diets (such as Atkins or Paleo) modify a true keto diet. But they come with the same risks if you overdo it on fats and proteins and lay off the carbs. So why do people follow the diets? "They're everywhere, and people hear anecdotally that they work," McManus says. Theories about short-term low-carb diet success include lower appetite because fat burns slower than carbs. "But again, we don't know about the long term," she says. "And eating a restrictive diet, no matter what the plan, is difficult to sustain. Once you resume a normal diet, the weight will likely return."
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.6One of the fathers of keto, Dr. Phinney, shows that electrolyte levels (especially sodium) can become unbalanced with low carb intake.
Physicians of ancient Greece treated diseases, including epilepsy, by altering their patients' diet. An early treatise in the Hippocratic Corpus, On the Sacred Disease, covers the disease; it dates from c. 400 BC. Its author argued against the prevailing view that epilepsy was supernatural in origin and cure, and proposed that dietary therapy had a rational and physical basis.[Note 3] In the same collection, the author of Epidemics describes the case of a man whose epilepsy is cured as quickly as it had appeared, through complete abstinence of food and drink.[Note 4] The royal physician Erasistratus declared, "One inclining to epilepsy should be made to fast without mercy and be put on short rations."[Note 5] Galen believed an "attenuating diet"[Note 6] might afford a cure in mild cases and be helpful in others.
The most science-backed performance-boosting supplements, such as creatine monohydrate, beta-alanine, and caffeine, are all A-OK on the ketogenic diet. So, if you take a pre-workout, you should be able to continue without issue. I would also recommend gulping down some bouillon before your session to ensure your sodium and magnesium levels are on point.
The gist of the eating plan? Taking in so few carbs sends your body into ketosis—a state of burning fat for energy, instead of carbohydrates or sugars, explains Beth Warren, RDN, founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Secrets of a Kosher Girl: A 21-Day Nourishing Plan to Lose Weight and Feel Great (Even If You're Not Jewish). In order to stay in ketosis, you only consume 5% to 10% of your calories from carbohydrates—which for most followers is fewer than 20 grams total per day—and instead eat moderate amounts of protein and high amounts of fat.
My point here is that the warnings about the ketogenic principles are well taken and well documented. My concern is implications that this is a fad. I don’t use the word diet with my patients and I’m concerned that the principles behind the label and the real results that these readers have commented on might get minimized. I have found it best to encourage patients to read authors like: Stephen Phinney, Jeff Volek, Patricia Daly, and Charles Gant and the be partners with their doctors and check blood work as they move along. I am not for or against the article. If ketogenic principles offer people enduring, satisfying, and cohesive change then why not read about its potential and flexilbity?
Look, the good doctor is right – he only forgot to stress “portion control” which is why many fanatical dieters are so kee-jerk reactive to any discussion – odds are you over ate like a hog before your keto diet, and are weak and insecure in your diet plans. Eat EVERYTHING in small amounts, and you will live long and prosper. The only thing to avoid are processed foods. Cook your meals from scratch using quality ingredients.
Variations on the Johns Hopkins protocol are common. The initiation can be performed using outpatient clinics rather than requiring a stay in hospital. Often there is no initial fast (fasting increases the risk of acidosis and hypoglycaemia and weight loss). Rather than increasing meal sizes over the three-day initiation, some institutions maintain meal size but alter the ketogenic ratio from 2:1 to 4:1.
But if no carbs are available, our bodies start burning fat as a primary fuel source and producing ketones in the liver, which the body can turn into energy. This metabolic state, called ketosis, is what happens when someone is starving. But it's also how Harper's body works every day. His system relies on fats like butter, oil, and lard as a primary energy source instead of packing them on as in-case-of-emergency poundage.
Cauliflower is a great base for low-carb meals and is popping up everywhere—especially on keto diet blogs. This cauliflower soup by All Day I Dream About Food is super simple to whip up in the Instant Pot and tastes decadent thanks to cheese, bacon, and sour cream. Plus, it only has 5.5 grams of net carbs and delivers nearly 3 grams of fiber thanks to the cauliflower.
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.
Keto breath, on the other hand, is less of a side-effect and more of a major (not harmful) inconvenience (your breath literally smells like nail polish remover). Basically, when your body breaks down all that extra fat on the keto diet, it produces ketones—one of which is the chemical acetone (yes, the same stuff that's in nail polish remover), Keatley previously told WomensHealthMag.com.
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.
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!
The good news is that snacks are totally allowed (and I're not just talking about carrot sticks.) There are plenty of packaged options out there designed for keto fans. FATBAR is one of them. These snack bars have 200 calories, 16 grams of fat, and four grams of net carbs. They're also plant-based and are made with almond or cashew butter, cocoa butter, coconut, pea protein, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds.
If you’re looking to get a jump start on your health and fitness goals this year, you may be thinking about trying the ketogenic diet. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase before — it’s a huge diet buzzword — but aren’t sure what it means. Here’s a primer: The ketogenic diet is an eating plan that drives your body into ketosis, a state where the body uses fat as a primary fuel source (instead of carbohydrates), says Stacey Mattinson, RDN, who is based in Austin, Texas.