Diet & Nutrition

Should I Start a Keto Diet? What You Need To Know Beforehand

One of the hottest trends for weight loss right now is the Keto diet that has been said to improve the body’s fat burning response, health and even physical performance.

In short, ketogenic refers to a low carb, high-fat diet and has been shown by emerging studies to have substantial health benefits including weight loss.

You may be wondering if keto really works or is just a “fad”? Well yes, keto does actually work but it’s hard to get it right long-term. That’s why you should learn all you need to know before embarking on it!

Keep reading to learn the science behind keto, what benefits it can provide you as well as beginner steps to start practicing a healthy keto diet today!

How Does Keto Work?

Many people jump on the Keto train because of social pressure. With so many people posting successful results on social media, it must work right? The truth is that everyone’s body is different, and it’s important to understand the mechanics behind how it works before starting a diet.

Let’s dive into the science.

The goal of having a Keto diet is to put your body into what’s known as a state of ketosis.

It’s a metabolic state brought about when there is a high concentration of ketones in the blood and can be induced through a reduction in carbs intake and replacing it with fat.

When the body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates (glucose) to burn for energy, it turns to fats as a fuel source instead which allows the body to become very efficient at burning fat. What happens is that the body converts fat into ketones in the liver, this naturall occuring compound has shown to have several health benefits including weight reduction, decrease in blood sugar and insulin levels. Ketons also can provide energy for the brain in absence of glucose.

Sticking to a ketogenic diet is the most efficient way for a person to enter into the state of ketosis.

Symptoms of Ketosis

Here are several common symptoms that indicate you may have successfully entered a state of ketosis.

  • Increased thrist
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Decreased hunger & appetite

Types of Keto Diets

There are several different types of keto diets with different range of strictness in consumption. Here are some of the popular ones:

  • Standard Ketogenic Diet: low carb, moderate protein and high fat diet. Usually consists of 70% fat, 20% protein, and only 10% carbs.
  • Cyclical ketogenic diet: Like it’s name suggests, this diet is more about cycling carbs instead of eliminating them altogether. An example is 5 days of ketogenic diet followed by 2 days of moderate to high carb consumption.
  • Targeted ketogenic diet: In this diet you basically follow normal a standard keto diet but are allowed to add moderate amount of carbs on workout days due to higher energy consumption. The idea is that the body will still burn the carbs for energy and subsequently rely on fat as an energy source.
  • High protein ketogenic diet: Usually somewhere around 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs. This is more popular with people who prefer a higher protein intake. The level of carbs are still the same as the standard diets but moore protein is added for more muscle synthesis and workout recovery.

What Are The Risks of a Keto Diet

This is something that’s probably not talk about very often by programs and coaches who are trying to push keto their clients but it’s so important for your health so PLEASE READ this section!

I always emphasis health over vanity, that’s why I want to point out that staying on a keto diet for too long can also lead to negative effects – you’ll want to take a rest period between every keto cycle to stay healthy and ensure your body is getting enough nutrients long-term!

Because of the nature of the low-carb, low-protein and high fat diet, this can lead to the risks of low protein in blood, extra fat in liver, kidney stones as well as other nutrient deficiences (since the controlled diet may be missing out on other important body nutrients).

I’ve done successful effective keto diets before in the past but have always “cycled” so that I don’t stick to it for too long. Maintaining a healthy food intake mix and balanced diet is essential in the long term. Plus indulging in your favorite food once in a while will also lift your spirits!

Health Benefits of Keto

I started of with the risks because I want you to get a full picture before starting on any diet as your health is the number one priority here. That being said there are some really amazing benefits to a keto diet if executed properly!

1. Keto can help you to lose weight

Of course the most popular benefit is that fact that keto is so effective for weight loss [1]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945587/. It’s been shown by several studies that people who follow a keto diet have been able to lose weight more effectively than a traditional low fat diet [2]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23651522/.

The increase in ketones help to lower blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity and reduce truglyceride levels. People on a ketogenic diet also tend to have lower appetite and feel “fuller” (satiated) which also contribute to better weight management.

This is why most people don’t have to worry about “counting calories” whilst on the diet.

2. Ketones Help to Energize the Brain

Is a common myth is that the brain can’t function without enough carbs in the blood. Whilst glucose is preferred for cell activity in brain, ketones actually help to power brain cells. When the body is in “starvation mode”, the brain can even switch to 60% of it’s energy consumption to ketones from a normal rate of 25%.

The process of gluconeogenesis where the body uses protein to produce glucose for the purpose of powering brain cells coupled with ketones are fully capabale of satisfying the brain’s energy needs.

3. May Improve Heart Disease Risk Factors

Research has found that ketosis helps to improve blood triglycerides, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and overall body fat [3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452247/.

4. May Reduce Risk of Type II Diabetes

Because excess has a very close link with Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, studies have shown that maintaining a ketogenic diet can help to lose weight effectively and improve blood sugar management in the body. A study also showed that it can improve insulin sensitivity which helps to alleviate diabetes [4]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15767618/.

Tips to Stay Healthy During Ketosis

We mentioned above that there are several health risks associated with a long-term keto diet. That is why it’s important to allow follow the tips below in order to ensure your body stays healthy during your keto diet.

  • Consume a lot of high fiber, low carb vegetables
  • Drink a lot of water
  • Monitor your kidney function when on the keto diet
  • Always consult your doctor if you start experiencing any negative side effects to determine if you should continue on the diet
  • If in doubt always seek professional help and clarification – you don’t want to hurt your health in the long-term!

How to Monitor Your Ketone Levels

It’s great practice to constantly monitor your ketone levels (there are several test kits out there that you can get off the shelf or order online). When you start on your keto diet, you’ll see your ketone levels in the blood gradually rising.

The optimal range for ketosis is usually from 0.5 – 3.0 mg/dL [5]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30128963/. These are considered to be safe levels for most people and you don’t have to worry too much unless you’re experiencing sever side effects.

Do take note that there is a condition called ketoacidosis which usually occurs for people who have diabetes. The condition happens when there is a high level of blood ketones together with high blood sugar levels. The ketone levels for people affected by this condition is usually 10-15 times higher than in a ketosis from a keto diet [6]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30128963/.

Tips to Start Practicing an Effective Keto Diet

Before starting your keto journey you should always make sure you have a plan in place. What type of foods and recipes will you be eating?

Here are some tips for you to consider

  • Plan out your meals in advance – speaking from personal experience, if you don’t plan out from the start there will be so many instances where you’ll be tempted to fail. Especially when you’re hungry and can’t find any keto passable meals in the vicinity.
  • Load up on keto recipes & ingredients – Check out keto websites & blogs on the best foods to stock up on and then head to the supermarket to grab whatever you need for your meals for the week.
  • Always check your food labels for breakdown of fat, carbs and fiber – some packaging may be misleading and you may be consuming an ingredient that isn’t keto friendly
  • Decide on your type of fat sources – now that you’re switching to fat as an energy source, you’ll also have to choose from clean v.s. dirty fat in your diet which differe significantly in food quality. If you choose a clean fat diet it may be more much more costly to get your hands on nutritious, high fat foods but you’ll get better micronutrients intake like vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy.
  • Monitor your ketone levels – there are many keto tests that you can get to monitor your ketone levels so that you know how well your diet is progressing and if you need to make any changes.
  • Plan out your budget – maintaining a keto diet can hurt the wallet slightly. It’s great if you have budget options listed down (especially if you cook your own food).
  • Feeling any negative side effects? If you experience any side effective that are harming your body or performance, please please please go consult a doctor! Also if you have any pre-existing conditions it’s always best practice to check with a medical professional first before starting on any diet.

References

References
1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945587/
2 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23651522/
3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452247/
4 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15767618/
5, 6 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30128963/

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