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.
Lastly, if you're active, you might need to make some adjustments to take that into account. "For the first one to two weeks, temporarily reducing your exercise load can be helpful as your body adjusts to being in ketosis," he says. "Additionally, for those who have an intense workout schedule, carb cycling may be a good option." Carb cycling essentially means you'll increase your carb intake on the days you're doing exercise, ideally just two to three days per week. "While low-carb days may be around 20 to 30 grams of net carbs daily, high-carb days can range all the way up to 100 grams, although it can vary based on your size and activity level," says Dr. Axe. (Related: 8 Things You Need to Know About Exercising on the Keto Diet.)
“I would make broccoli rice or cauliflower rice to at least feel like I was eating some carbs,” she wrote on her blog. “Then I would add protein, so I often ate grilled chicken and fish over broccoli rice, cauliflower rice or spaghetti squash. I mixed in roasted vegetables, fresh salads with homemade dressing, and smoothies made with avocados and bananas.”
A keto diet is very restrictive—more so, even, than plans such as paleo and Atkins. One piece of fruit or a serving of steamed beets can put someone over his or her entire daily carbohydrate limit. “Restrictive dieting is a psychological stressor,” says psychotherapist Shiri Macri, MA, LCMHC, clinical director at Green Mountain at Fox Run, who specializes in working with people who emotionally overeat or binge-eat. “When people deprive their bodies of the amount of nutrition and the nutrients that it needs, the body responds in a state of emergency. Levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, go up, and we also have a decrease in mood-boosting serotonin.” Check out the 11 hidden dangers of the keto diet.
The former NFL star loves adding avocados to his daily diet as part of the keto program. “I have to take in a lot of fat, and the number one fat comes from avocados,” he told GQ. “It’s a super food. And even if that’s not your diet, it’s incredible food for you. I put them in my smoothies, guacamole, a bunch of different things. For me it’s more than just trying to stay in shape for sports, it’s a way of life, of trying to be healthy.”
The keto diet (also known as ketogenic diet, low carb diet and LCHF diet) is a low carbohydrate, high fat diet. Maintaining this diet is a great tool for weight loss. More importantly though, according to an increasing number of studies, it helps reduce risk factors for diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and more1-6.On the keto diet, your body enters a metabolic state called ketosis. While in ketosis your body is using ketone bodies for energy instead of glucose. Ketone bodies are derived from fat and are a much more stable, steady source of energy than glucose, which is derived from carbohydrates.
I decided originally to do the thing properly and got a personal trainer, as my Gym experience was about limited to looking in thru the windows once or twice. This was invaluable as I would have been using the machines wrong, guaranteed. He ran me thru the basics like posture and stance always being correct for heavy lifts and all the important "don't hurt yourself" things like that. Worth every dollar.
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.
When it comes to starting the keto diet (or any diet for that matter), there's one thing all experts agree on. You *must* have a plan. "Never try to wing a keto diet," says Julie Stefanski, R.D.N., C.S.S.D., L.D.N., a dietitian based in York, PA, who specializes in the ketogenic diet. "Set a start date and get prepared by reorganizing your pantry, planning out meal and snack options, and purchasing appropriate foods and dietary supplements," she says. "The biggest reason people have a hard time sticking with keto is that people don't have enough interesting foods to turn to, and high-carb favorites win out over good intention. If you didn't buy foods at the grocery store that fit the guidelines, there won't be an easy option in the fridge when you really need it." (A great place to start is this List of High-Fat Keto Foods Anyone Can Add to Their Diet.)
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.)
While following keto, you’re encouraged to eat as much fat as you want, no matter the source (e.g., butter, olive oil, meats, cheeses), until you feel full. Fat can have a strong satiety effect, but following this recommendation may not be comfortable for everyone. According to recent research, fatty foods may increase feelings of nausea and bloating for some people. Beyond potential physical discomfort, it also might not be emotionally comfortable for everyone—after all, keto is still a restrictive diet, which typically is not a good choice for anyone with a disordered relationship to food and eating. And as with any restrictive dietary plan, following a ketogenic diet can present challenges when it comes to social occasions, celebrations, office parties, meals out, etc. It also might be necessary to limit or avoid culturally relevant foods on the diet in order to stay in ketosis. For still other people it will be tough to sustain because carbs aren’t only delicious, they’re omnipresent. Avoiding them day to day means fastidious meal prep and planning, and planning for social events that include food or eating.
Contrary to what most people think, the keto diet isn’t a high-protein plan; it’s really about cutting carbohydrates and protein. And that protein deficit can be hard on your muscles, research suggests. When you limit carbs from things like fruits, vegetables, and grains, your body starts to steal protein from your muscles and other tissues to transform it into carbohydrate, Notte says. “Protein makes up our organs, our heart, our muscles as well as some hormones, antibodies, and neurotransmitters.”
Protein will induce an insulin response in the body, if consumed in high amounts. The most intuitive way to start a keto diet for most people is by removing all of the carbs they have been eating. Typically people will replace those calories by increasing their lean meat consumption. That's a recipe for disaster! Keeping protein moderate is an often overlooked, but very important part of a keto diet. Most people need around 0.6g to 1.0g of protein per pound of lean body mass.
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."
This can be tough for folks who need a "cheat" day, but it can also take a mental toll on the dieter. In a usual diet plan when you go off of it for a day or two, you just get right back in the saddle and start again. With keto it's more than that: You need to start from scratch to get yourself back into ketosis, which can take a few days or weeks. This can really make you feel bad about yourself and take a psychological toll on your well-being and self-worth. (Related: Why You Should Give Up Restrictive Dieting Once and for All)
The first signs of ketosis are known as the “keto flu” where headaches, brain fogginess, fatigue, and the like can really rile your body up. Make sure that you’re drinking plenty of waterand eating plenty of salt. The ketogenic diet is a natural diuretic and you’ll be peeing more than normal. Take into account that you’re peeing out electrolytes, and you can guess that you’ll be having a thumping headache in no time. Keeping your salt intake and water intake high enough is very important, allowing your body to re-hydrate and re-supply your electrolytes. Doing this will help with the headaches, if not get rid of them completely.
Wondering what fits into a keto diet — and what doesn’t? “It’s so important to know what foods you’ll be eating before you start, and how to incorporate more fats into your diet,” says Kristen Mancinelli, RD, author of The Ketogenic Diet: A Scientifically Proven Approach to Fast, Healthy Weight Loss, who is based in New York City. We asked her for some guidelines.