The classic ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet plan that was originally designed in the 1920s for patients with epilepsy by researchers working at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. (1) Researchers found that fasting — avoiding consumption of all foods for a brief period of time (such as with intermittent fasting), including those that provide carbohydrates — helped reduce the amount of seizures patients suffered, in addition to having other positive effects on body fat, blood sugar, cholesterol and hunger levels. (2)
If you're new to keto, watch out for hidden carbs. Generally, dairy products and nuts are a good way to meet your daily fat intake, but know that some of those items may contain more carbohydrates than you think. For example, yogurt topped with nuts may seem like a great keto-friendly snack, but a 5.3 ounce serving of plain yogurt has 12 grams of carbohydrates. Vanilla flavored yogurt has 24 grams of carbohydrates. Add an ounce of cashews, weighing in at nearly nine grams of carbs, and you’re up to 21 to 33 grams of carbs for that snack, which could knock you out of ketosis. Be sure to read nutrition labels carefully and pay careful attention to serving sizes. Track foods using a keto-specific app like Senza or KetoDiet can help you stay within your recommended daily carb intake.
[i] Hussein M Dashti, MD PhD FICS FACS, Thazhumpal C Mathew, MSc PhD FRCPath, Talib Hussein, MB ChB, Sami K Asfar, MB ChB MD FRCSEd FACS, Abdulla Behbahani, MB ChB FRCS FACSI PhD FICS FACS, Mousa A Khoursheed, MB ChB FRCS FICS, Hilal M Al-Sayer, MD PhD FICS FACS, Yousef Y Bo-Abbas, MD FRCPC, and Naji S Al-Zaid, BSc PhD. "Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients"
This is of course just an overview of what you can eat, but these are things I’m most likely going to pick up from the grocery store. I also didn’t want to include crazy expensive specialty items like Erythritol for beginners. I think we all get excited about making our favorite junk foods in the style of our diets right away. This is fine…but it can be very expensive, time consuming and exhausting. Stik with the basics, especially when first starting out!
Bonnie J. Brehm, Randy J. Seeley, Stephen R. Daniels, and David A. D’Alessio, “A Randomized Trial Comparing a Very Low Carbohydrate Diet and a Calorie-Restricted Low Fat Diet on Body Weight and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Healthy Women,” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism: Vol 88, No 4; January 14, 2009. http://press.endocrine.org/doi/full/10.1210/jc.2002-021480.
• Athletic Performance Impediments: For those people who train heavy and hard, going keto might cramp your style. As important as protein is for muscle growth, carbs also play an equally critical role by releasing insulin to drive that protein into muscles faster. It also helps us build up glycogen stores for longer training sessions, runs or hikes. One comprehensive review of the literature in sports nutrition found that while research is lacking on the long-term impacts of the keto diet, in the short term, the keto diet is inferior to other diet protocols on anaerobic, aerobic and in some cases even strength performance measures.
In a standard American diet, the diet is composed of a lot of carbohydrates - enough to keep the body using glucose as its main energy source. This is fine, but requires frequent eating (every few hours) to keep energy levels up and during this time your body stores extra glucose as fat. This state prevents the body from burning its fat stores as energy because it is constantly using glucose.
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.
•Sodium: Believe it or not, depending on your diet, you may be low on salt. When carb intake is low and insulin isn't being excreted, the kidneys absorb less sodium and potassium and excrete more as waste, leaving you feeling dizzy, fatigued and grumpy. Rather than reaching for more processed food, try seasoning your food a little more liberally with sea salt.
Fats are great if you want to add flavor and texture to your meals, and will help you feel full. Some people believe swear by coconut oil, and whether or not the claimed health benefits are actually present, it’s one of the fats that you might want to add to your diet. Butter is an excellent choice, as is ghee (Indian clarified butter). Duck fat is highly prized. Avocado oil is a great choice when making dressings or sauces, as it’s liquid at room temperature and has a mild flavor. The fats and oils listed here are primarily saturated, and they are the least likely to go rancid and produce free radicals and inflammation in the body (5, 6).
Con: Results can vary depending on how much fluid you drink. By drinking more water, you dilute the concentration of ketones in the urine and thus a lower level of ketones will be detected on the strips. The strips don’t show a precise ketone level. Finally, and most importantly, as you become increasingly keto-adapted and your body reabsorbs ketones from the urine, urine strips may become unreliable, even if you’re in ketosis.
Although fat is the centerpiece of any keto diet, that doesn't mean you should be subsisting on butter-topped steaks, says Kristen Mancinelli, RD, author of The Ketogenic Diet. “A big misconception is that you should just put meat at the center of your plate and add more fat on top,” she says. You also shouldn't be relying on fatty meats to hit your fat quota, she adds.
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You should know that the side effects of a ketogenic diet are still being studied. In addition, there have not been significant studies for long term dieters. There are plenty of people that have used the diet long term (10+ years) and very happy with it. It is up to the unique individual, so regular checkups with your doctor are recommended to check that "everything looks good".
Depending on how you choose your fats, the keto diet can contain an abundance of saturated fat, which raises levels of dangerous LDL cholesterol and causes atherosclerosis, the buildup of fats and cholesterol in the arteries. If you decide to go keto, have a doctor monitor your cholesterol levels monthly to ensure you remain within a healthy range.
I’m honestly a little skeptical about it the idea of keto permanently. My brief glance at the literature seems to imply that it can have side effects of kidney stones, skeletal fractures, and slow the growth rate of children, but that was a study on kids with epilepsy (which it treated very effectively), so who knows how that applies to adults. And the other studies I found dealt with overweight and obese subjects, so it may be hard to find something on the long term effects on otherwise healthy adults.
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