Keto diets are all the rage when it comes to diet plans for a healthy lifestyle. But a few only stop and wonder about the complete diet plan, its effects, and its side effects. Before you change the diet of your body, it is necessary to get complete information about it and hence prepare accordingly. For your convenience, we have researched a lot and written a comprehensive article about all the necessary and important things about Keto Diet. This article includes the explanation, plan for beginners, side effects, facts, etc. We also detail whether diabetics and vegetarian people can go for this diet or not.
Keto Diet Explained.
The term Keto diet is the shortened version of the word Ketogenic diet. We’ll explain why it is called so, but first, let’s see what this diet is. When you start eating very low quantities of carbohydrates (sugar, bread, etc) and replace it with protein and fats, you have yourself a keto diet. It may sound simple, but in reality, it is very difficult to maintain. Let me tell you why.
Calories are the amount of energy you get from food that in-turns run your body processes. You get calories from anything digestible. Eating vegetables will give you calories, so will a cake. The number of calories given will be different. What keto diet does is that it keeps your calories intake the same, but it replaces the source of these calories. So instead of calories from carbs (which is the most common source), the Ketogenic diet gives calories from protein and fats.
While there are similar diets like Atkins diet, Paleo diet, South Beach diet, these diets focus more on protein while reducing your carb intake. Keto focuses on fats. So a diet plan to make you healthy and lose weight makes you eat a lot of fat? Sounds counterintuitive, right? We’ll explain why it isn’t.
How does a Keto diet work?
The Ketogenic diet is called so is because of the process of ketosis. In a normal diet, you get the most amount of calories from carbohydrates which are converted into glucose. Glucose is an instant source of energy for the body. But during a ketogenic diet, your body is denied of carbohydrates. Instead, it is given fats. Breaking down fats gives ketone bodies, which is another source of energy for the body. So starving the body of carbs and making it burn fats is the crux of the keto diet.
Ketones are also used by the brain for its energy requirement. Since most people have lots of fat reserves, this diet gives a steady source of energy, unlike the glucose spike. Hence you stay alert and focused while you lose weight. The whole process of ketosis starts 3-4 days after you’ve begun the diet. This diet is a temporary diet plan that must be used for losing weight. We’ll discuss the important things to keep in mind in the later section of this article.
There are many types of keto diets like the Standard Keto diet, cyclic keto diet, targeted keto diet, etc. This article will focus on the Standard ketogenic diet as this one is for the general population or beginners. The other ones are for the experts, so we’ll leave that out.
In the standard ketogenic diet, the aim is to get low carbohydrates, moderate protein, and high fats. The figures for each are your diet must have 5% carbs, 20% protein, and 75% fats.
Benefits of Keto Diet.
Benefit 1 – It helps you lose weight.
The most important and sought out the reason why people go for the keto diet is that it is super efficient in burning fats and making you lose weight. Thanks to the low carbs intake, you don’t have to sweat a lot to burn off the fats. At the same time, increased amounts of protein help build your body. But don’t think that avoiding carbs is an easy task. Think about it, a small apple has about 21 grams of carbs. And do you know how much carbs per day is recommended for a keto diet? 50 to 100 grams! So anything sweet and tasty is gone from your reach. The aim is to avoid the production of glucose so that the body is forced to start using the fat reserves.
Benefit 2 – It helps in disease control.
Many pieces of evidence have shown that the ketogenic diet can help reduce the chances of certain cancers. Ketogenic diets are also recommended to children suffering from epileptic seizures and it has shown to be effective. Other than these diseases, the ketogenic diet has been beneficial for sufferers of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, sleep disorders, etc. While more research is needed into it, the use of ketones instead of glucose by the brain for energy is the most likely cause.
Benefit 3 – Helps reduce Acne
When you’re on a keto diet, there is no need for glucose to be used for energy. To break glucose, another hormone called insulin is used. Since there is no glucose, insulin reserves are not kept. Insulin causes other hormones to release and they cause an acne breakout.
A higher level of insulin has also been related to ovaries getting larger, a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome. Reduction in the number of insulin reserves can be beneficial for this too.
Benefit 4 – Muscle to fat ratio
Keto diet is rich in protein and fats. Since fats are being burned and protein is given to the body, the muscle to fat ratio also improves, giving a leaner, athletic body. This diet has also shown to increase the body’s oxygen intake capacity. However, long term studies are needed to identify the complete effects of the keto diet or the side effects for that matter.
The Side effects of Ketogenic Diet
We discussed what keto diet is and the benefits of the diet. Now before we go on to the diet plan, we must look at the possible risks and side effects of the diet so that one can know what are the potential hazards. There are no observed serious side effects of a keto diet, but there are many that can be bothersome. Let’s have a look.
Low Blood Sugar – With the reduction in the amount of sugar consumed, it is natural that you will have a lower than normal blood sugar level. As a result of this, you might feel anxious, shakiness, lack of concentration, lightheadedness, etc.
Indigestion and Constipation – This is another issue with the diet that isn’t serious but can be annoying and uncomfortable. The change of diet can result in indigestion which can make you feel bloated and uneasy. This directly takes a hit on your productiveness and work.
Kidney Stones – Not generally but rarely people might get kidney stones while on this diet due to high protein consumption. However, this is often rare.
Keto Flu – The most common and non-serious side effect of the ketogenic diet is keto flu. Symptoms include poor energy and mental functions, increased hunger, sleeping issues, nausea, irritability, etc. Lack of carbohydrates also causes mood swings, lack of concentration, etc This can be avoided by gradually reducing the number of carbs in your diet and slowly reducing it to the desired amount. This helps the body get accustomed to the changed diet.
Some Potential Risks
According to Harvard Medical School, there are certain risks involved in this diet that one must be aware of. Remember these aren’t side effects, meaning that it is rare to happen, but prepare yourself to encounter such problems in the long term and avoid this diet if you have the mentioned conditions. All this is necessary to know before starting the diet.
Harvard states that the number of saturated fats must be no more than 7% of the daily calorie intake. In keto diets, it is usually more than that. In long terms, this can cause heart diseases such as clogged arteries and high blood pressure.
Since almost all the fruits are restricted in keto diets, the chances of you getting nutrition deficiency are very high. Minerals and vitamins such as selenium, magnesium, phosphorous, and Vitamins B and C are the most common in deficiency. Make sure you take the supplements for these and get the levels tested.
Keto diet can pose some risks for your liver and kidneys. Suppose you have some liver problems, then this diet can worsen the condition even more since the liver is used a lot when on the keto diet. Kidneys can be overloaded too because of all the protein metabolism. The recommended amount of protein per day for men is 56 grams and for women, It is 46 grams. In the Keto diet, you take about 75 grams of protein per day. This can cause kidney issues, so be careful and always, always consult a doctor before starting these diets.
The Keto Diet Plan
Now that we have mentioned all the possible cautions and side effects as well as the long term risks of the diet, we can move on towards the actual diet plan for the ketosis to work. Make sure you went through all of that because your health is way more important than an acne-free face. If in confusion, always consult a doctor. Let’s begin with the diet plan now.
Lower your carbohydrates.
The most important thing in the diet is to suppress glucose by not eating carbs. For beginners who do not want to suffer Keto flu, start by eating only about 100 grams of carbs and work your way to reach only 20-30 grams.
Increase the Protein
You must eat moderate amounts of protein. Remember not to exceed the amount of protein intake because too much protein can be converted into glucose, which will render your keto diet useless. The amount is about 60-75 grams of protein per day. Don’t exceed this number by too much.
Get more Fats
Fats are the most important pillar of a ketogenic diet. You have to feed a lot of fat to your body so that it is forced to use it as an energy source. Since fats are reserve for food, it is a lot of effort for the body to burn fats. The recommenced amount of fats per day is about 165 grams.
So in summary, in a 2000 calorie diet, 20-40 grams carbs, 60-75 grams of protein, and about 165 grams of fats.
What to eat.
Here are the things that you can eat and you should eat for your protein requirement.
- Meat – Red meat, steak, ham, bacon, chicken, turkey, go to town on this delicious meat. Make sure that these meats are unprocessed and grass-fed meat where possible. Go to town doesn’t mean that you start ravaging the animals. Remember, too much protein is not good.
- Seafood – You can eat wild-caught fishes like salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel.
- Eggs – Eggs are also a great source of healthy protein. Make sure the eggs are pastured, omega-3 eggs. The great thing about eggs is you can eat it however you want. Fry it, poach it, scramble it, or just plain boil it. You can also eat some nuts like pecans, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts.
Now here are the things you need to eat for your fats requirement.
Virgin olive oils, cream, cheese, butter, coconut oil, etc are a great source of healthy fats. Don’t go for processed oil as that can be unhealthy. Likewise, go for grass-fed butter, and for cheese, make sure they are unprocessed. Goat cheese, cheddar, mozzarella are all fine. For fats, you can also devour some veggies like cabbage, cauliflower, avocado, zucchini, broccoli, onions. All the vegetables but not the root ones like potatoes. We’ll detail on what not to eat soon. For carbohydrates, there aren’t many options. You can only eat enough to get the taste of it.
What Not To Eat.
Here are the things that you have to avoid at all costs.
Anything sweet. Sweet is almost always because of carbohydrates and that is a big no-no. But some things are not so sweet, yet that has a lot of carbs. We have interrogated a lot of food items and many have caved in on admitting that they do carry carbs. Here is the list.
- Sugar – The obvious suspect. Found in sports drinks, energy drink (even processed, sugar-free ones), juices, etc.
- Sweets, candy cookies, cakes, chocolate, donuts, breakfast cereal, honey maple syrup, agave, etc. all have carbs in them.
- Food items with a starch like pasta, rice, slices of bread, sweet potatoes, French fries, chips, porridge, beans, lentils, etc. Now the keto diet is getting tougher, isn’t it?
- Don’t eat nuts like pistachios, cashews, etc. Dark chocolate is fine as long as it does not have milk in it. 90% cocoa or above is perfect. No milk chocolate or white chocolate.
- Grains, starchy food, fruits, tuber vegetables, low-fat diet products, sauces with sugar, processed vegetable oil, mayonnaise, all must be avoided.
One more important thing, eat regularly, but do not snack on fats or protein, Don’t eat just because you’re watching a show or you’re bored.
Drink or Not to Drink
Water is great for the diet. Consume it in good quantities. Add some salt in it if you’re experiencing headaches or weakness. Coffee, tea, etc are fine as long as they do not have milk and sugar in them.
You can drink alcohol, but I’d recommend not to as the kidney and livers will have to work even more. You can drink dry wine, white wine, champaign, etc without the sugar. Minimize the amount of processed stuff you drink. Avoid if it is sweet is the rule of thumb in choosing what to eat or drink.
Your Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
You can take some suggestions from us in planning the three meals of your day. Keep mixing the things to keep it interesting.
For breakfast, you can have eggs, bacon, ham along with cheese (You get high protein and the high-fat meal at the beginning of the day.)
For lunch, let’s keep things cool and light by having some liquid like almond milk, peanut butter, guacamole, some nuts, etc.
And for dinner, we want to keep things light and healthy for digestion. You can have eggs, some green leafy vegetables for fiber, and good digestion.
If you’re eating out, order some fish, meat, egg-based dishes with some vegetables, and avoid anything sugary or starchy.
Important Things to Note
After your keto diet session is over, you can eat carbohydrates again. But keep in mind that eating too much of it can cause obesity again.
There is a risk of losing muscle mass when you start the diet. So if bulk is your priority, then this diet may not be right for you. Don’t worry, you can get back the muscle mass after the diet is over.
If you have some serious craving for calories, you can eat limited amounts of carbs rich food now and then. This is also called cyclic keto diet when 5 days you eat very low carbs and the other 2 days you consume a good amount of carbs.
In the case of keto flu, you can have some supplements for minerals like magnesium, sodium, potassium, MCT oil, etc. You can also tweak the amount of protein and fats in the diet.
A Keto diet can also cause your urine to smell fruity. This is due to the presence of ketone bodies in it. There is nothing to worry about. This diet can also cause bad breath.
Don’t confuse ketosis with ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a dangerous condition that occurs with people with severe diabetes. This is not connected to ketosis.
Berries can be consumed in a keto diet, but make sure to limit the consumption to a small amount.
Proteins for the diet should come from beef, pork, etc. So vegetarian people will have very limited options. They need to consult a dietician before going for a keto diet.
Dietician Kathy McManus who is the director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated hospital says, “Keto diet is primarily used to help reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures in children. While it is also been tried for weight loss, only short term results have been studied and the results have been mixed. We don’t know if it works in the long term, nor whether it’s safe.”
In conclusion, the Keto diet may not be suitable for all, and its positive and negative effects aren’t examined properly. We do not know whether any complications arise in the future in people who followed the diet. It can be very difficult to follow too. So if you’re in doubt or any confusion remains after reading the article, it is always advised to consult a doctor.