Updated: Mar 15, 2022
What is the Keto Diet?
Initially used as a treatment for epilepsy and to control diabetes. The Keto diet is now considered by some to be a miracle like solution to obesity around the world. It is difficult to scroll through social media without seeing promotions and social media stars advocating this method of weight loss. Indeed, I follow one particular instagram account and she is currently all about having one-meal-a-day and following the keto diet. She wears a blood glucose monitor and regularly checked her own ketones via a fingerprick test to check she in in Ketosis. To me, that sounds horrendously restrictive and pretty miserable, but she has peaked my interest, hence the inspiration to find out more and write this.
So how does it work?
Through a diet of fat rich foods and low carbohydrates, the body is deprived of glucose (sugar). The brain demands a regular supply of glucose throughout the day as it is unable to store much of it in the way it does with fat. Through eating very little carbohydrates (sugar source) initially our body breaks down muscle and pulls the small amount of stored glucose from the liver, but once this has been depleted, the body begins to use fat stores as its primary source of fuel. Blood levels of the hormone insulin (hormone used to breakdown sugar) decrease, and the liver produces ketones from fat which can be used instead of glucose. Once enough ketones have accumulated in the blood the body reaches a state called ketosis. - Clear as mud eh?!
I myself have never followed a keto diet, although I admit to being curious and half tempted to try it just to see how I feel whilst following it. But my research seems to suggest there is not a specific ratio of macros to follow (percentages of fat, protein and carbohydrates allowed per day), but rough amounts appear to be keeping carbohydrates under 50grams a day with your diet being made up of roughly 70-80% fat, 10-20% protein and 5-10% carbohydrates. Surprisingly, protein should only account for 20% of intake as it can prevent the body from reaching the desired state of ketosis.
So, are you prepared to wave goodbye to, potatoes, pasta, biscuits, starchy vegetables, alcohol and fruit juice?
One Harvard School of Health paper states that the ketogenetic diet is thought to be successful due to multiple factors;
- A decrease in food ravings due to the new high-fat content of the diet
- A decrease in insulin which stimulates your appetite.
- The presence of ketones, which again decreases hunger.
- Increased metabolism due to the conversion of fat and protein into glucose.
- Fat loss, rather than a reduction in lean body mass, due to decreased insulin levels.
What are the negatives?
Obviously you will not longer be eating many carbs, so following the keto diet will likely be a dramatic change in your normal eating habits. You will be mostly cutting out an entire food group from your diet and will likely find eating out, or eating on the move, more difficult. More thought will be needed to ensure you are still getting the important nutrients normally present in foods containing carbohydrates, such as vitamin B, fibre, magnesium, iron and zinc.
My research suggests feelings of hunger, dizziness, insomnia, nausea, constipation, headaches, low mood and fatigue are not uncommon, along with a decrease in exercise tolerance – something that puts me off greatly.
The same Harvard School of Health paper I mentioned above, states that keto can increase the risk of kidney stones, gout, and osteoporosis.
Ketoacidosis is when the body has dangerous levels of ketones in the blood. If a normally healthy person follows this diet carefully, they should continue to produce enough insulin to stop the body reaching a state of ketoacidosis, however there have been rare reports in this happening to nondiabetic people after following a prolonged low carbohydrate diet.
Furthermore, there appears to be a lack of information available about the long-term risks of following such a high-fat diet.
If and when you decide you have had enough of Keto, it is important to slowly transition back to a higher carb diet or you are likely to experience, weight gain, bloating, fatigue, irritability and increased hunger. The process of finishing a keto diet should take a few weeks
In summary, you are likely to feel less hungry on a keto diet – therefore likely to eat less calories.
Your metabolism increases – burns more calories
If after all this, you still eat more calories than your body burns, you will still gain weight. Therefore, EVEN IN KETO CALORIES MATTER.
I have read about 25 different articles to produce this one blog, and the advice seems to vary about whether or not people should actually count calories whilst on keto. Some keto experts state that this is not necessary, and if eating less processed and more nutrient dense foods, you will ultimately naturally be in a calorie deficit due to having less calorie intake as you are less hungry. Other sites state that paying attention to calories can be important, as it is still possible to overeat on keto if choosing more processed food, or foods like cheese and nuts which are so hugely calorie dense.
I might give keto a go in the future, just for purely curiosity reasons really and to see if I can do it. I know my diet contains more sugar than it should, and it will be an interesting challenge to see if I am capable of eliminating carbs completely.
I would love to hear any first-hand experiences of living on a keto diet. How do you eat out? Has it increased your food bill? Do you really feel less hungry? And most importantly, did it work for you? Why not leave me a comment to let me know. Alternatively, post on my Facebook page.
I told my doctor I wanted to start a vegan keto diet
She told me ‘that’s nuts’!!