At the core of the classic ketogenic diet is severely restricting intake of all or most foods with sugar and starch (carbohydrates). These foods are broken down into sugar (insulin and glucose) in our blood once we eat them, and if these levels become too high, extra calories are much more easily stored as body fat and results in unwanted weight gain. However, when glucose levels are cut off due to low-carb dieting, the body starts to burn fat instead and produces ketones that can be measured in the blood (using urine strips, for example).
¢ Water Loss: There is some evidence that higher-protein diets like the keto diet do have some weight-loss benefits, partially because both fat and protein are satiating so you don't feel hungry, but also because of the loss in glycogen stores. Glycogen is the body's glucose storage that is bound up with water, so when we deplete the glycogen, you also deplete your water storage. Lose a ton of water, and you're going to drop weight fast.
¢ Increasing muscle mass ” Jeff Volek, Ph.D., is a registered dietitian specializing in how a high-fat, low-carb diet can affect health and athletic performance. He's written many scientific articles on this topic, as well as two books, and he explains that ketones have a similar structure to branched-chain amino acids that can be useful for building muscle mass. Ketones spare these amino acids, leaving higher levels of them around, which can help promote muscle mass.
The keto diet changes the way your body converts food into energy. Eating a lot of fat and very few carbs puts you in ketosis, a metabolic state where your body burns fat instead of carbs for fuel. When your body is unable to get glucose from carbs, your liver converts fatty acids from your diet into ketones, an alternative source of energy. Burning ketones in place of glucose reduces inflammation and spurs weight loss.
¢ Weight loss ” If you're trying to lose weight, then a ketogenic diet is one of the best ways to do it, because it helps access your body fat so that it can be shed. Obese people in particular can benefit from this method. In one study, obese test subjects were given a low-carb ketogenic diet and a low-fat diet. After 24 weeks, researchers noted that the low-carb group lost more weight (9.4 kilograms or 20.7 pounds) compared to the low-fat group (4.8 kilograms or 10.5 pounds).1
This means that if you have risk factors for heart disease ” such as elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure (hypertension), or a strong family history of the disease ” you should use caution when following this diet. The diet's heavy reliance on fat, especially saturated fat, can elevate cholesterol levels, further increasing your chances of developing heart disease in the future. (7)
¢ Constipation: No one likes to feel backed up, and sadly if you're not careful about your diet choices when going keto, it could become a regular concern. One 10-year (albeit small) study looking at the effects of a keto diet on young children found that 65 percent experienced digestive woes. Thankfully, going keto is not a life sentence for problem bowels. Since you're cutting out whole grains and fruit (two of the most common sources of fiber), aim to up your fiber-rich veggies, and consider a supplement.
At 4 weeks you should be feeling pretty darn good. If you are feeling better, but not awesome, give it a little more time. If you have not felt better throughout this time and have stuck strictly to your low carbs and high fat, your body may not align with the keto diet. If you only feel bad because you're craving bad food, this may be a mental "block" that you need to deal with. Coaching can help.
Also make sure that you know what foods have mostly carbs, fat, and protein, so you can make the right choices. For instance, it's not just bread, pasta, chips, cookies, candy, and ice cream that contain carbs. Beans may contain protein, but they're also very high in carbohydrates. Fruit and veggies also mostly contain carbs. The only foods that don't contain carbs are meat (protein) and pure fats, like butter and oils (including olive oil and coconut oil).
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Medical Disclaimer: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.
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