Keto: Everything You Need To Know
The ketogenic diet (called keto for short), has become increasingly popular over the last few years. It’s a high fat, low carb diet that offers a twist on the Atkins. Offering ample health benefits, the results are seen all over traditional image-based social media. In other words, you’re likely to have come across this from Instagram or Pinterest. However, like any diet, it’s always best to know exactly what you’re getting into, before committing. So, before you start, put down the keto recipes. And get to know everything there is to know about ketosis and the keto diet. All in this guide to the keto diet for beginners.
What is the Keto diet?
The keto diet is made up of very low carbohydrates (carbs), while utilising high-fat foods. The reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state referred to as ketosis. When your body is undergoing ketosis, it becomes remarkably efficient at burning fat for the energy required to move, live and simply to keep existing. It’s named this as your liver turns the fat into ketones. Which are a chemical which supplies energy to the brain, particularly during fasting, or during periods of high-energy exercise.
As such, the keto diet plan depends almost entirely on the individual having as few carbs as possible. As we know from our articles on getting healthy, all foods are made up of fats, proteins and carbs. So, it’s extremely difficult to have foods without carbs in, entirely. Instead, the keto diet plan relies on eating food groups that have very low carbs instead. This is not a bad thing! Indeed, carbohydrates can still make up a part of a well-balanced healthy meal, even in keto recipes.
The Different Types of Keto Diet
According to Heathline, there are several versions of the ketogenic diet, including:
- The standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This is a very low carb, moderate protein and high-fat diet. Generally, it contains 70% fat, 20% protein, and only 10% carbs.
- A cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This diet involves periods of higher-carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high carb days.
- A targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): This diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.
- High protein ketogenic diet: This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more protein. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbs.
What can you eat on a keto diet?
As we know, a keto diet plan is made up of low carb foods – but very rarely from no-carb foods. So, items like eggs, lean cuts of meat (such as chicken breast), seafood and vegetables are all great choices. It’s no secret that these keto recipes are very similar to balanced, macro nutritional diets. In other words, it all comes down to a good level of moderation.
Keto snacks can have a bit more leeway, as they aren’t meant to be a major factor in providing energy to your body. Keto meals, however, need to have a good level of fat. If you’re not having any fat, then the keto diet is not for you. Your body needs at least one or the other, in order to metabolise an energy source. As such, nixing both carbs and fats can be extremely dangerous.
In terms of creating a keto diet for beginners, you should focus on the basics. This involves, slowly lowering your intake of carbs will help you adapt to the change your body undergoes. Just like anything in life, if you completely cut it out from the start, you might find yourself struggling to maintain the diet. Of course, individual differences are important, and you may decide that going cold turkey on the carbs is your preference!
How Long Should You Do Keto?
Advanced keto is very different, since your body is likely in full ketosis mode by this point. As such, you’re more likely to be able to handle the cravings alongside your diet. Naturally, whether or not keto is a long-term diet depends on your own, individual differences as well. For some, using a long-term keto diet plan is not ideal, and can lead to arrhythmia (heart rhythm problems). As such, it can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, over a longer period of time.
Instead, it is generally recommended to use the keto diet if you aren’t able to head to the gym, or want to focus on your diet, first. Once you are reaching your ideal weight, introducing carbs back into your diet is the main preference of dieticians and doctors. This involves using more of the CKD and high protein diet, as we discuss above, under the different types.
What Does Keto Do to Your Body?
Keto works by forcing your body to burn fat stores, instead of carbs. Since your body spends more energy-burning fat than it does carbs, it prefers to burn carbs first. This is because carbs create glucose – a sugar that your body uses to create energy for cells. However, when it is starved of this first choice of energy, it turns to fat-burning instead.
When you’re following the diet and planning to undergo ketosis, you also need to be aware of the amount of protein you’re eating. This is because proteins can also be converted to glucose, which your body will then burn, instead. However, we need proteins to help rebuild our muscles after workouts. As such, undergoing ketosis for a longer period is also not ideal for those who want to exercise more.
How do I know I’m in ketosis?
If you aren’t sure whether your body is entering ketosis, it’s worth investing in some at-home tests. All you’ll need to do is pee on these tests and they’ll give you your results. These tests use a colour system to give you a better idea of what stage of ketosis your body is entering. Essentially, the darker the test turns, the more ketones are making their way through your body.
Other than these tests, which are one of the most accurate ways to measure the level of ketones your body is creating, there are some side effects of ketosis. These side effects are actually a great way to tell whether your body is switching to fat-burning. For example, the most obvious sign of ketosis is weight loss. However, you may also feel some cramping and spasms, as well as thirst. These symptoms stem from the lack of electrolytes, which can occur due to lower levels of valuable minerals, often found in carbs.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest side effects to the keto diet is bad breath. This is due to the ketones leaving your body through your mouth, as well as your urine. Some individuals note that this goes away on it’s own, after some time. However, grabbing yourself some gum (sugar-free, to keep those teeth in good condition!) and brushing your teeth more often, are the only ways to help reduce this.
How much weight can you lose in a month on keto?
Any healthy weight loss sits at a rate of around 1-2 pounds per week. However, if you are very overweight, it’s not unusual to notice a higher loss at first. So, you should expect to lose around 10 pounds per month on average, depending on how much fat there is to burn and how active you are.
Just be aware that those who are more active should not be trying to keep their carb as close to zero as possible. Instead, give your body some breathing room and simply lower your carb intake, instead. If you don’t have an active lifestyle, you may see quicker losses on keto alone, but these losses are hard to maintain over time. Don’t feel disheartened if you begin to plateau! Simply add some basic workouts and keep checking in with your doctor about your weight or any physical concerns you have.
Does keto make you pee a lot?
Since carbs help your body to create glycogen, and one of the jobs of glycogen is to hold water in your body, you may notice yourself urinating more frequently than usual, at first. To avoid dehydration, it’s important that you keep drinking water and maintaining good levels of electrolytes in your body.
Eating low carb foods which are rich in minerals is a great way to do this. For example, bananas have plenty of potassium and sodium, which are essential minerals. Similarly, superfoods such as grapefruits and avocados are low in carbs, while the latter has plenty of good fats. Both of these will keep your body healthy, as you undergo ketosis, without harming your keto diet plan.
Does keto hurt your liver?
According to studies by various hospitals in Boston, in the USA, there is an increase in the risk of harm to your liver.
In their published article, the study states that “ketogenic diets eliminate not only sugar and refined carbohydrates but also pulses, whole grains, fruits and starchy vegetables. All of which contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and fibre”. As such, the keto diet “poses a risk of inducing hyperlipidemia, the elevation of liver enzymes and onset of fatty liver disease.”
In other words, long-term use of the keto diet can lead to more fat in the blood vessels. Which is commonly referred to as having high cholesterol. Meanwhile, the elevation of liver enzymes can indicate an inflamed liver. Ironically, these are similar side effects to obesity. As such, it indicates that an extreme or obsessive following of the keto diet over longer periods can almost make users come full circle.
Similarly, going into and coming out of ketosis regularly (also known as “yo-yo dieting”) reduces the effect over time. So, if you keep trying the keto diet, then stopping and starting again, you won’t see the benefits and your body will become accustomed to the changes. Meaning you won’t lose much fat, over time.
Do Doctors Recommend Keto?
Doctors always make recommendations on a case-by-case basis. So, as a rule, the doctor won’t recommend anything beyond eating healthy and exercising more. However, if you’re struggling with high levels of fat in your body, and aren’t having much luck with traditional diets, they may recommend a keto diet plan for you.
However, due to some of the side effects, you’ll often find that they’d like to check in with you, regularly. When they do this, they’ll perform some basic cognitive tests, to make sure your brain is working to the best of its ability. They may also ask for some regular blood tests, to see if the hyperlipidemia is reducing over time. This is actually a good thing – since they’ll be able to tell you when you’ve hit your peak health using this diet. After which, they may offer you some alternatives to help maintain a healthy level of fat in the body. Thus, reducing the risk of damage to your liver.