Many diets and short-term fixes for weight loss have sparked popularity in the fitness and wellness realm over the last few years, and with over 500 million men and women in the world that are obese, it’s necessary to look at the parameters as to how to stop this epidemic. Between diet and physical activity, studies have shown that both of these two things can pave the way for worldwide weight loss, and plenty of lifestyle trends are in line for helping the pounds drop off.
Even though many of the diet trends that are out on the market today are focused on lowering the fat content of what we consume, one that doesn’t is the ketogenic diet. Popularly known as the keto diet, this particular lifestyle consists of consuming more high fat, lower carb foods, which in turn ends up changing your body’s metabolism and putting it into a state of ketosis. With this state of ketosis, your body is essentially learning to fuel from fat sources, and ketones that are produced in the liver help to supply energy stores for the brain and cognitive system.
Since food is our main energy source, we’re typically supplied with plenty of carbs, fats, and proteins. Carbs are broken down within the body first for energy, then move on to fats and proteins. When we end up having a lower carb intake than normal, the body uses fat instead – this is where the ketones come from. When the body is breaking down fat, the acid that is a by product of that is called ketones.
So how do you know when you’re actually in a state of ketosis? There are several physical signs to look for, when you know that your body has started to use fat as the main fuel source for your body and brain. Let’s take a look at some of them! For one, you’ll probably notice that you have bad breath – this is one of the top signs of your body being in full ketosis, due to the fact that one of the ways acetone is released is through your breath – causing a fruity smell. Aside from that, some other signs of ketosis include increased weight loss and a suppressed appetite, especially when first beginning the keto diet. Many people notice that they drop into what is termed a “keto flu” when they first start eating less carbs and more fat, and this is due to the fact that the body is learning to use fat for fuel instead of the easily accessible carbohydrates that we typically consume. Symptoms range from tiredness, lack of energy, and the sensation of having a brain fog for the first week or two after beginning a low carb diet such as this, and as ketosis sets in.
There are several different versions of the keto diet, but the standard version is the one that has been studied and utilized the most – and basically breaks down the daily macronutrient intake as follows: 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs.
The ketogenic diet has been shown to have many positive health side effects, one of which includes decreasing blood sugar levels. Since the body is learning to fuel more from fat than simple carbs, blood insulin levels are lowered over time as well. This particular diet has also been shown to be a good contender for weight loss; since the foods consumed on the keto diet are filling, there isn’t any reason to need to track food intake or calories consumed. With the weight loss that comes along with a diet such as this, several risk factors for diseases are lowered as well, one being cardiovascular disease. It has been noted that factors such as HDL cholesterol levels (otherwise known as the “good” cholesterol) improve with the keto diet, as well as blood pressure.
While eating and meal prepping on the keto diet, what foods do you avoid to make progress? Some of the top things you want to limit or avoid completely include the following:
-grains and wheat products (such as breads, rice, cereals, etc.)
-sugar-filled, processed foods (such as ice cream, smoothies, creamers, etc.)
-fruit (since there is a lot of natural sugar in fruit, this is to be avoided, unless it’s a small serving of something like blackberries or raspberries)
-any kind of bean, like chickpeas or black beans
Many folks avoid root vegetables as well, such as sweet potatoes and regular white potatoes, due to the spike in blood sugar while digesting them. Alcohol is another item which should be avoided while on the keto diet, due to the amount of carbs and no nutrient value.
With the list of things that should be avoided or limited while on keto, what is left? Thankfully, there are many food choices that are available to help you stay fully satisfied and healthy. Let’s look at some of the nutrient-dense food options that are available while on keto!
Meats, especially lean proteins and fish, are a staple while on the keto diet. Eggs, cheese, and butter are all acceptable, all while making sure they are not processed and grass-fed (if available). Veggies are another staple, and are wonderful sources of vitamins and minerals as well. Look for lower-carbohydrate options, like peppers and tomatoes. Avocados are a good source of healthy fats, and are filling.
Essentially, you’re on the lookout for foods that are whole and minimally processed, without all the added sugars and processed chemicals. All in all, the positive effects of the ketosis diet range from improved blood pressure, decreased blood sugar levels, increased weight loss, improved cardiovascular health, and improved brain function, just to name a few. The risks include being sluggish, having too low of blood sugar, acidosis, and possible constipation. In the long run, the benefits of the ketosis diet seem to outweigh the risks, although it’s always a good idea to speak with your general practitioner and decide if this program is right for you.
Ketosis is not something you want your body to stay in for an extended period of time, so having a plan as to how to modify your dietary habits after you have reached your goals is important. Even though the keto diet removes many of the carbs that are available to us each day, it’s vital to also realize that a combination of healthy fats, lean proteins, fiber, and complex carbs are what will set you on the track to eating well, gaining muscle, and having a healthy lifestyle.