If you think that going on a diet means starving yourself or choosing everything on the menu that says low-fat, you pretty much need to catch up on this trendy diet. Called the “keto diet” (short for “ketogenic diet”, this diet plan may not be new but is brought to the spotlight after celebrities share publicly their love for it.
The best part about the ketogenic diet that makes everyone go ooh and aah about it is that you don’t actually have to starve yourself nor give up on some of the guilty treats that you enjoy. In other words, it goes very much against the traditional dieting methods that most of us are familiar with.
So what exactly is this Ketogenic diet and how does it work?
What is ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet is all about consuming high amount of fats, low carbohydrate and moderate protein.
This would mean saying yes to consuming butter, full cream milk, mayo and all other foods that would usually have been considered “sinful”.
Instead of fats, what this diet is against are carbohydrates and sugar. Rice and bread, and even some vegetables such as potatoes and onions are examples of carbs-heavy food.
Apart from the usual soft drinks and ice-cream, natural foods that are high in sugar such as oranges and apples, as well as honey and flavoured yoghurt, should be avoided due to their higher sugar content.
How does the ketogenic diet work?
The science behind ketogenic diet comes from understanding the process of transforming food to energy inside the body. Typically, the body breaks down carbohydrate into glucose to refuel the brain and muscles.
Fats, on the other hand, are reserves that the body taps into when there is low amounts of carbohydrate or glucose available. When you go on a ketogenic diet and stop giving your body carbohydrates, you are essentially pushing your body into a state of “ketosis”, a metabolic process that effectively burns fat.
The fats are broken down into “ketones”, substances that are produced when the body burn fats for energy, which are then used to feed the rest of the body. So at the end of the day, the body gets the energy it needs, and you get to burn those fats.
Does the ketogenic diet really work?
The ketogenic diet is well-received precisely for its efficiency in getting rid of fats, allowing dramatic weight loss at a quicker rate. Some celebrities that have given their testimonials include Vanessa Hudgens, Megan Fox, Alicia Vikander, Kourtney Kardashian, and Victoria’s Secret Angel Adriana Lima.
There are apparently a bunch of other benefits associated with the ketogenic diet too.
Benefits of ketogenic diet
1. Improves mood and energy level
Remember the food coma you get after lunch? This is because your body is doing the quick-burning of carbohydrates from your meals to recharge.
It loads your blood stream with excessive insulin* to curb with the sudden increase in the amount of glucose that came from the carbohydrates you ate.
This process makes the body work harder, causing lethargy and lower mood. Ketones, on the other hand, provides a cleaner alternative as the body does not need to go through the surges of blood sugar level, which helps to improve mood and energy level.
*Insulin is the hormone that gets released to control blood sugar level.
2. Improves mental performance
Instead of breaking down carbohydrates into glucose and carrying it to the brain, the body sends ketones to the brain directly and consistently. Most people who swear by the ketogenic diet claim that going into ketosis helps them to focus and stay alert better.
3. Reduces food cravings
When your body goes into ketosis, it constantly has access to the fat reserves that are stored from weeks or months ago. When your body is burning fats 24/7, feelings of hunger will be greatly reduced including those cravings and sugar addiction.
Basic tips for keto diet beginners
1. Food to take
The rule is to keep a big proportion of your intake for fats, and a super small proportion for carbs. In general, a Ketogenic diet is made up of 60-80% fats, 15% protein and 5% carbohydrates.
In an average person’s diet (about 2,000 calories), that would mean only 25 grams of carbohydrates should be consumed per day. If you want to lose weight, the total calories intake will have to drop below 2000 calories. The consumption of carbohydrates per day should then fall under 20 grams, which is about the amount of carbohydrates you will find in a quarter cup of cashew nuts.
2. Drinks to take
Sugar remains as the enemy in a ketogenic diet. The comforting news is that you may not need to avoid your favourite tea or coffee, but remember to keep them free of sugar and sweeteners including honey and syrup. Cream and milk can be used in moderation but frappes and lattes are a no-no.
3. Be prepared for the keto flu
As your body is used to the old process of breaking down food, the sudden drop of carbs and sugar intake may result in some side effects.
The most common symptoms experienced in the first week of switching to the ketogenic diet include fatigue, headache, dizziness and nausea.
The body takes a few days to deplete the amount of glucose in your body before entering and getting used to the ketosis mode. Once it has adapted, the symptoms would generally subside as well.
Changing to a Ketogenic diet does not automatically cancel the need to exercise. In fact, to lose weight at a quicker rate, the diet should be complemented with cardio exercises to burn more fats. However, it is never good to start a new workout regime during the period when you are experiencing the keto flu.
5. Research and seek a nutritionist or doctor’s opinion
Every body is different even in the way it processes food and energy. The ketogenic diet could be a miraculous weight loss programme for some people but there are also some whose bodies do not react to the new diet.
The controversy of the ketogenic diet also lies in the lack of extensive studies on the health benefits and detriments of practising this diet in the long term. Since ketosis is a body’s way of reacting to an emergency situation such as food scarcity, concerns about the sustainability of this diet are raised. The effects of constantly loading the body with a fat-intense diet and excluding carbohydrates are rather uncertain at this point either. People with certain health issues may also face problems with this diet.
If you are unsure about your body type and whether a ketogenic diet is suitable for you, seek professional advice from a nutritionist or a doctor. They will be able to help you understand the inherent make-up of your body and the types of nutrients needed for you to stay healthy while trying to lose some weight.
It is important to fully research on this (and any other kinds) of diet plans and ensure that your body is suitable for it instead of jumping straight into the bandwagon. We hope that the information we have shared shed some light onto this trendy diet, but we are in no way endorsing it. Always speak to a medical and/or nutritional professional if you have concerns about embarking on any diet plans.