One of the most common side effects of starting the ketogenic diet is the “keto flu.” This term describes the often unpleasant, fatigue-inducing symptoms that occur as the body adjusts from a high-carbohydrate to a low-carbohydrate diet. During the keto flu, the body’s stored glucose begins depleting, and the body starts adapting to producing and utilizing ketones as energy. (2)
Over 8–10 mmol/l: It’s normally impossible to get to this level just by eating a keto diet. It means that something is wrong. The most common cause by far is type 1 diabetes, with severe lack of insulin. Symptoms include feeling very sick with nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and confusion. The possible end result, ketoacidosis, may be fatal and requires immediate medical care. Learn more
The ketogenic, or "keto," diet — which first became popular in the 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy and diabetes— limits carbohydrates to no more than 50 grams a day, which is the rough equivalent of a plain bagel or a cup of white rice. By comparison, dietary guidelines from the US Department of Agriculture recommend from 225 to 325 grams of carbs a day.
The Atkins diet, on the other hand, is solely focused on weight loss. There is no restriction on artificial sweeteners or manufactured foods, as long as the foods consumed fit the Atkins prescribed ratios. There are four phases to the Atkins diet. The first phase is the most strict, designed to get you into ketosis. The second phase is a tolerance testing phase, where you add more foods to see how many grams of carbohydrate you can still eat and lose weight. The third phase is more generous with carbs, and the fourth phase is the most generous, and it’s in either the third or fourth phase that most people find a good maintenance level.
On a keto diet, weight loss can often be substantial and happen quickly (especially for those who start the diet very overweight or obese). The 2013 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that those following a keto diet “achieved better long-term body weight and cardiovascular risk factor management when compared with individuals assigned to a conventional low-fat diet (i.e. a restricted-energy diet with less than 30 percent of energy from fat).” (4)
First, let’s start with the fact that most of the food in your cabinets just won’t work anymore. They’re not keto. Period. Lock them up, throw them out, donate them to a neighbor – whatever you have to do to get them out of the house. In the first week, when you’re craving carbohydrates, these foods will be the death of your ketogenic diet. Purge your pantry of carbohydrate foods!
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.
Many books could be written on this very subject, and undoubtedly they have been. There are many answers, and they all depend on context. Lots of variables impact how well, and how consistently we lose weight. How much sleep do we get each night, and how restful is that sleep? What micronutrients are we not getting enough of? How much water are we drinking? How much are we exercising?
• Cyclic ketogenic diet (CKD) — Whereas TKD is focused on fitness enthusiasts, CKD is focused more on athletes and bodybuilders. In CKD, you cycle between a normal ketogenic diet, and a short period of high carb consumption or "re-feeds."8 The idea here is to take advantage of the carbohydrates to replenish the glycogen lost from your muscles during athletic activity or working out.9
• Cardiovascular Disease: This is definitely a point of confusion and controversy since a diet that relies so heavily on meat and fat is naturally thought to raise blood cholesterol and cause heart issues. However, some evidence suggests that this may not be the case. In fact, the keto diet may help improve triglyceride, HDL and LDL levels. A 2017 review looked at all of the available evidence around the ketogenic diet and cardiovascular health and found that the diet may be associated with some improvements in cardiovascular risk factors. Mind you, the authors also expressed their concerns with maintaining the diet in the long term, and they proposed that these benefits may not be long-lasting. It's clear that we need long-term studies to fill that gap.
This means that if you have risk factors for heart disease — such as elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure (hypertension), or a strong family history of the disease — you should use caution when following this diet. The diet's heavy reliance on fat, especially saturated fat, can elevate cholesterol levels, further increasing your chances of developing heart disease in the future. (7)
To prevent side effects such as the keto flu, begin transitioning your meal plan gradually. Start by understanding how many carbohydrates you take in most days. Then begin slowly reducing your carbohydrate intake over a period of a few weeks while gradually increasing your intake of dietary fat to keep your calories the same. You should also make sure to seek guidance from a professional to make sure this plan works best for you and your health goals. “See a dietitian and adapt the diet to fit your long-term needs,” Spano recommends.
If you talk to keto aficionados, you’ll find many save leftovers from dinner for the next day’s lunch. Cook once, eat twice—your keto diet menu for lunch is solved. If you don’t like leftovers or if you’re craving something different for lunch, the mid-day meal can be as simple as a scoop of chicken salad. Or, hit the salad bar at a local grocery store and top a bowl of greens with some good-fat goodies. You can also try one of these simple keto lunches:
Also make sure that you know what foods have mostly carbs, fat, and protein, so you can make the right choices. For instance, it’s not just bread, pasta, chips, cookies, candy, and ice cream that contain carbs. Beans may contain protein, but they’re also very high in carbohydrates. Fruit and veggies also mostly contain carbs. The only foods that don’t contain carbs are meat (protein) and pure fats, like butter and oils (including olive oil and coconut oil).
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Medical Disclaimer: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.
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