At the core of the classic ketogenic diet is severely restricting intake of all or most foods with sugar and starch (carbohydrates). These foods are broken down into sugar (insulin and glucose) in our blood once we eat them, and if these levels become too high, extra calories are much more easily stored as body fat and results in unwanted weight gain. However, when glucose levels are cut off due to low-carb dieting, the body starts to burn fat instead and produces ketones that can be measured in the blood (using urine strips, for example).
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.
That said, I think the biggest changes are the result of me dropping the sugars and breads. Tracking my eating and being more conscious about my foods has made a difference. I definitely plan to keep on this track for a while and slowly work towards a fuller keto-adapted diet/body. I’m not going with the “all-in” that some recommend, cutting out all artificial sweeteners and such, though I have limited them. I’m not really tempted to indulge in the sweets that have been tempting in the past.
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Paleo and keto can overlap, though there are some major differences in the core of each way of eating. The Paleo diet focuses on whole, natural foods that would have been available as food to our paleolithic ancestors. If it could have been hunted or foraged, then it would have been eaten. Some people on a Paleo plan also focus on what would have been growing in season, and in a certain region of the world for their genetic ancestors. Carbs are overall allowed in a Paleo plan, but they would come from whole foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, fruits, honey, and other unprocessed sources.
In my book "Fat for Fuel," I sought to educate readers about the benefits of using healthy fats as a catalyst to bring about improved mitochondrial function, thus allowing you to achieve better health. In essence, the book answers WHY it is important for you to consume healthy fats. However, you still need to know HOW to prepare the right ketogenic foods in an appetizing way.
If you’re a newbie planning your weekly keto diet plan, make the meals as easy as possible. A keto breakfast, for example, can take advantage of many classic breakfast foods, including eggs, bacon, sausage, and ham. Eggs are real winners in the keto world. They’re extremely versatile, easy to cook, and have just half a gram of carbs but 6 g of protein and 5 g of fat.
In the first week, many people report headaches, mental fogginess, dizziness, and aggravation. Most of the time, this is the result of your electrolytes being flushed out, as ketosis has a diuretic effect. Make sure you drink plenty of water and keep your sodium intake up.6One of the fathers of keto, Dr. Phinney, shows that electrolyte levels (especially sodium) can become unbalanced with low carb intake.
The electrolyte minerals are sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, and you need all four. Sports drinks are full of sugars, and only have low amounts of these minerals, so it’s best to avoid them. Instead, focus on vegetables that contain high amounts of these minerals, and make sure to salt your food to taste. You can also make an electrolyte drink that contains all of these minerals. Lite Salt or No Salt is available in the grocery store as a salt substitute, and contains potassium. Magnesium and calcium powders are available in health food stores and online.
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.
Although the exact role of the ketogenic diet in mental and brain disorders is unclear, there has been proof of its efficacy in patients with schizophrenia. And, to boot, the ketogenic diet works to reverse many conditions that develop as a side effect of conventional medications for brain disorders, like weight gain, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular risks. More research is needed to understand the role of the ketogenic diet in treating or improving schizophrenia, as the current available studies are either animal studies or case studies, but the benefits of a high fat, low carbohydrate diet in neurology is promising.
• 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.
From the early understanding of the keto research and literature, it looks like we're just scratching the surface understanding some of the potential therapeutic roles of the keto diet. While it's unclear if it's any better or worse than any other diet for weight loss, the reality is that there is no one-size-fits-all model for diets. This doesn't even consider that weight-loss diets, in general, don't really work. While researchers can't agree on a specific statistic, it's commonly accepted that the vast majority of dieters will regain the weight lost (and often pack on extra pounds, as well). The long-term outcome of the keto diet is likely to be no different, especially given how challenging and restrictive it is to maintain.
The biggest draw for me is how many of those who’ve tried it say they don’t get hungry. The possibility of that blows my mind, as someone who’s used to any sort of calorie restriction meaning hours of feeling hungry every day. It’s tantalizing enough that I at least want to try. And what have I got to lose, right? I’m already morbidly obese; it’s hard to imagine screwing this up so bad it makes that worse.
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