Following a diet that drastically restricts carbohydrates requires carefully monitoring your food choices to ensure you are meeting your nutritional needs. Working together with a registered dietitian can make sure you follow this diet in a healthy manner without increasing your risk for complications or negative side effects. You can find a registered dietitian at EatRight.org.
But what does the science say? Results are mixed. In one Spanish study of 20 obese adults, participants were put on a low-calorie keto diet and lost an average of 40 pounds over four months. Another small experiment had a similar outcome. In a six-month Experimental & Clinical Cardiology study of 83 obese adults, those on the keto diet lost an average of 33 pounds, while lowering their bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and increasing their good (HDL) cholesterol.
For people with diabetes, rapidly rising ketone levels can signal a health crisis that requires immediate medical attention. When there is an absence or not enough of the hormone insulin (or the body is too resistant to insulin to allow it to drive glucose into the cells for energy), the body cannot use glucose for fuel. Insulin helps ferry glucose to our cells and muscles for energy. Instead, in this case, the body resorts to burning stored fat for energy through the process of ketosis, leading to a buildup of ketones in the body.
• Standard ketogenic diet (SKD) — SKD is the type I typically recommend for most people, because it is very effective. It focuses on high consumption of healthy fats: As I explain in my book, "Fat for Fuel," you should aim for having 70 to 85 percent of your total daily calories to come from healthy fats. For your protein intake, the general rule of thumb is to follow the formula of 1 gram of protein for every kilogram of your lean body mass.
There are so many tricks, shortcuts, and gimmicks out there on achieving optimal ketosis – I’d suggest you don’t bother with any of that. Optimal ketosis can be accomplished through dietary nutrition alone (aka just eating food). You shouldn’t need a magic pill to do it. Just stay strict, remain vigilant, and be focused on recording what you eat (to make sure your carb and protein intake are correct).
Protein will induce an insulin response in the body, if consumed in high amounts. The most intuitive way to start a keto diet for most people is by removing all of the carbs they have been eating. Typically people will replace those calories by increasing their lean meat consumption. That's a recipe for disaster! Keeping protein moderate is an often overlooked, but very important part of a keto diet. Most people need around 0.6g to 1.0g of protein per pound of lean body mass.
For athletes, research on the keto diet highlights potential improvements in athletic performance, especially when it comes to endurance activities. An article suggests ketogenic-type diets may allow endurance athletes to rely mostly on stored fat for energy during exercise rather than having to refuel with simple carbohydrates during endurance training and competition while additionally improving recovery times. (10)
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The ketogenic diet — a high-fat and very low-carb eating plan — can be tough to start. After all, it’s likely a radical departure from the way you’re eating now (a typical standard American diet is high in carbohydrates and processed foods). But many people are trying the keto diet, which puts your body in a state of ketosis. That's what happens when your body’s carb-burning switch flips to a fat-burning one, a change that can cause weight loss and has even been credited with controlling diabetes. (1)
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