On a ketogenic diet, you’re generally eating a diet that’s high in fat (roughly 70 percent of your total calories come from fat), moderate in protein (about 20 percent of your calories), and low in carbohydrate (about 5 percent of calories). By limiting carbohydrates (to usually less than 45 grams for the average person), your body lacks the glucose (from carbs) that it normally uses for energy, so it eventually switches over to burning fat as its primary fuel source instead; through a metabolic process called ketosis, the liver converts the fat into fragments of fatty acids called ketones, which power the brain and other organs and tissues.
A study with an intent-to-treat prospective design was published in 1998 by a team from the Johns Hopkins Hospital and followed-up by a report published in 2001. As with most studies of the ketogenic diet, there was no control group (patients who did not receive the treatment). The study enrolled 150 children. After three months, 83% of them were still on the diet, 26% had experienced a good reduction in seizures, 31% had had an excellent reduction and 3% were seizure-free.[Note 7] At twelve months, 55% were still on the diet, 23% had a good response, 20% had an excellent response and 7% were seizure-free. Those who had discontinued the diet by this stage did so because it was ineffective, too restrictive or due to illness, and most of those who remained were benefiting from it. The percentage of those still on the diet at two, three and four years was 39%, 20% and 12% respectively. During this period the most common reason for discontinuing the diet was because the children had become seizure-free or significantly better. At four years, 16% of the original 150 children had a good reduction in seizure frequency, 14% had an excellent reduction and 13% were seizure-free, though these figures include many who were no longer on the diet. Those remaining on the diet after this duration were typically not seizure-free but had had an excellent response.
When I finally starting increasing my fat and not fearing the fat, that’s when I started to realize there is something very special about this way of eating that makes it sustainable too! You’re so completely satisfied after have a moderate protein, low carb, high fat meal that you’ll soon realize it’s better than anything you’ve ever tried. The keto diet does mean sugar free, but it’s so much more as well.
"You can find a lot of "fat bomb" recipes on the Internet," Wittrock says. "These are very good at satisfying your sweet tooth, and are a great way to increase fat consumption without going over on protein. Also, I'm a huge fan of salted pumpkin seeds and salted sunflower seed kernels. Believe it or not, pork rinds are also a very good keto snack."
As for how it feels to follow the diet, St. Pierre says it will vary from person to person; as with most diet-related things, whether or not a way of eating works is in the eye of the beholder. He’s seen some people feel fine, but that “some clients have found it causes brain fog and lethargy, decreases their performance, disrupts their regular bowel movements, and makes them feel generally crappy,” he says. Some keto adherents also report having pretty atrocious breath, which might be caused by the presence of acetone, a ketone and byproduct of fat metabolism, in exhaled breath.
And good news for coffee addicts: you can still have your morning cup of joe. You’ll just need to adjust what you stir into it. Switch out flavored creamer for the real deal—full-fat heavy whipping cream, which has only 1 gram of carbs per tablespoon. If you want to give your java a jolt of sweet, stir in a low-carb sweetener that uses sugar alcohols. But if you can skip the sweet, even better. In time, you’ll retrain your palate to not crave a sugary start to the day.
When you’re eating the foods that get you there (more on that in a minute), your body can enter a state of ketosis in one to three days, she adds. During the diet, the majority of calories you consume come from fat, with a little protein and very little carbohydrates. Ketosis also happens if you eat a very low-calorie diet — think doctor-supervised, only when medically recommended diets of 600 to 800 total calories.