What You Need to Know About Keto Diets
The ketogenic diet, a high-fat, low-to-no carb lifestyle, has been taking the world by storm. It can be difficult to know where to start, what to eat, what not to eat, how to prepare in bulk, reasonable expectations for fat and weight loss, the health benefits and risks, and all of the side effects.
First off, it should always be stated that before starting any new diet or exercise plan, you should consult your physician first. The ketogenic diet is not suitable for diabetics using insulin, persons with high blood pressure and women who are nursing. If you still make the cut, let’s keep going.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a natural metabolizing process that occurs when the body must create energy from fat instead of its first choice – glucose, which comes from carbohydrates. Because of this, it is difficult for the body to store fat during this metabolic process.
Ketosis can occur because of fasting or by following a ketogenic diet.
The average person can remain in a state of ketosis while consuming under 20 grams of carbohydrates per day, although over time as your body adjusts, some may be able to consume up to 50 grams or less per day without falling out of Ketosis.
What to Expect: The good, bad and ugly
If you are going from a typical American high-carb diet directly into the Keto diet, your body will have to go through various different states before entering Ketosis. Initially, your body will store up the remaining glucose in your body, holding onto it for up to 48 hours. This process is called Eventually, though, the brain will play its role in pulling from the liver to create energy out of the ketones that are produced there.
The first week on a ketogenic diet is often referred to by the health community as prime time for “carb flu.” Carb flu can last up to 5 days, but most dieters notice a decrease in symptoms by day 3. Some symptoms of carb flu are mind fog, difficulty focus, physical fatigue, nausea, headaches or migraines, mood swings, stomach aches, and muscle spasms.
This is because if your brain had a say in the matter, it would prefer to pull energy only from glucose. One way to shorten the duration of these flu-like symptoms is to avoid “easing” into the Keto diet and keep your carbohydrate intake as low as 5 grams in those first 5-7 days to force your body to reach for those ketones sooner.
Once your body is creating energy again, most people report feeling better than ever with a clearer, sharper mind and an energy supply like they’ve never experienced prior.
Most keto dieters report constipation as a potential downside to this eating plan, but the truth is the ketogenic diet is very well-balanced as long as you are keeping up on vegetables, high-fiber foods, and water intake.
These are the three most important elements of having consistent bowel movements. On top of aiding digestion, drinking half your weight in ounces of water per day will help take the edge off of the symptoms of carb flu.
This is doubly important if the Keto-friendly foods you choose to eat are high in sodium. High water intake should be your first priority if you are prone to UTIs.
There are very obvious benefits that you can expect from following the ketogenic diet and even some not so obvious ones.. First off, the fat and weight loss. Because the body’s levels of insulin are dropping, your body’s ability to store fat is greatly hindered.
You can achieve this with other diet plans, but usually not without the price of hunger pangs day in and day out. That’s the main appeal of this diet and probably why it is so consistently practiced.
You can eat a great deal of very filling foods without sacrificing much flavor.
Other benefits include improved memory and attention span, migraine prevention, enhanced cognitive functions, seizure prevention, improves dementia symptoms at all stages, prevents Parkinson’s, combating type two diabetes, increases fertility in women, decreases risk of cataracts, manages ADHD, lowers risk of heart disease, muscle gain, curbing obesity, and even prolongs the survival of cancer patients, particularly those with metastatic tumors.
What to Eat
Coffee, tea, and water will become your go-to beverages, with red wine as a treat as it only contains two carbohydrates.
Meats to add to your grocery shopping list are chicken, ground beef, turkey, lamb, pork, bacon, sausage, fish and seafood. Safe vegetables are as follows: olives, avocados, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant, zucchini, spinach, kale, asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower, green beans, peppers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
A useful factoid to keep in mind while shopping is that most vegetables that grow above ground have between 1 and 5 carbohydrates. Most fruits are high in carbs, so it will be especially important to keep an eye on your carb count when considering eating one.
In small portions, the lowest carb fruits are blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, lemons, coconuts, cantaloupe, and plums. Nuts are tricky, but if you stick to small portions of pecans, macadamia, and brazil nuts, you can easily stay under the 20g cap. Other acceptable foods on this diet are eggs, cold cuts, cheeses, low carb dipping sauces, pork rinds, beef jerky, peanut butter, and butter. Last, but not least, don’t forget about your fats! Olive oil, coconut oil, cream cheese, mayonnaise, hot sauce, guacamole, and heavy cream are the best of them.
What Not to Eat
As discussed, most fruits are dangerous ground, but bananas, strawberries and grapes can kick you straight out of ketosis if you’re not careful.
One banana usually possesses 20 carbs and one bushel of grapes is 16.
Some very basic items to avoid include potatoes, cooked pasta, bread, rice, soda, juice, chocolate, donuts, sweetened coffee beverages, milkshakes, energy drinks, deli meats that are sweetened or cured, vitamin water, yogurt, flavored greek yogurt, low fat cheese, margarine, halo top, muffins and other baked goods, candy, beer, maple syrup, ketchup, bbq sauce, tomato paste, and jams.
Cashews, pistachios and almonds are the three highest carb nuts and should be avoided. Avoid consuming vegetables that grow below ground such as potatoes, celeriac, rutabaga, beetroots, parsnips, onions and carrots.
How will I know when I’m in Ketosis?
1. Foul Breath
2. Weight Loss
3. Lack of hunger
4. Increased Mental Acuity
5. Sleep changes: Insomnia or better sleep
6. Physical performance changes
7. All of the symptoms of Carb Flu
8. Staying below carb and protein limits
How to Achieve and Maintain Optimal Ketosis
Based on the blood ketone count, your body can either be in one of the four different stages of ketosis. Between .5 and 1.5 millimolars is the stage called “nutritional ketosis.” From about 1.5 to 3 millimolars is what is known as “Optimal Ketosis.” Higher than 3.0 millimolars can often be indicative of health problems and if you get to over 8, the state named after the condition, “ketoacidosis,” you need to head to the ER. It is nearly impossible to reach such levels from a ketogenic diet alone, though.
You can measure the ketones in your urine or breath by purchasing over-the-counter tests at most drug stores or online. In order to accurately compare daily results, measure your levels around the same hour each day. Because your readings are likely to be the lowest in the morning, it is best to test before bed after you’re done eating for the day.
The most important elements for maintaining optimal ketosis is to limit carb intake to under 15-20 per day, keep protein intake under 70 g per day, up fat intake to satisfy hunger, avoid eating for any other reason than hunger, use the 16:8 intermittent fasting method and keep up moderate physical activity via a regular exercise routine.
There are many guidelines for keto diets out there that suggest purchasing MCT oil or ketone supplements on the belief that if you add more fat to your diet, you will lose weight faster due to more ketones.
This is not the case and will actually work against you by giving your body extra fat to burn, which means less of your body’s stored fat will be used up. More useless dietary fat means less stored fat is fueling your body and brain.
Beware of many people selling vague products on the web. Whenever there is a craze over a diet, there will always be people marketing lies to make money off useless products said to support said diet.
Do your research and check sources before spending unnecessary money. One of the perks of the Ketogenic diet is that you don’t have to spend more money than you usually would on groceries to lose a ridiculous amount of weight.
Now you’re equipped with a decent sized shopping list and everything you need to know about jumping off the deep end into a new lifestyle that is proven to transform many aspects of your health. Good luck!