Frederick F. Samaha, M.D., Nayyar Iqbal, M.D., Prakash Seshadri, M.D., Kathryn L. Chicano, C.R.N.P., Denise A. Daily, R.D., Joyce McGrory, C.R.N.P., Terrence Williams, B.S., Monica Williams, B.S., Edward J. Gracely, Ph.D., and Linda Stern, M.D., “A Low-Carbohydrate as Compared with a Low-Fat Diet in Severe Obesity,” N Engl J Med 2003; 348:2074-2081. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa022637.
• Water Loss: There is some evidence that higher-protein diets like the keto diet do have some weight-loss benefits, partially because both fat and protein are satiating so you don't feel hungry, but also because of the loss in glycogen stores. Glycogen is the body's glucose storage that is bound up with water, so when we deplete the glycogen, you also deplete your water storage. Lose a ton of water, and you're going to drop weight fast.
Spices are an easy way of adding more flavor, vitamins and antioxidants into your food. Furthermore, they are low in carbohydrates. Make sure that you're using fresh, organic spices for maximum flavor and nutrients. Some spices sold in packets found at the local grocery should not be used, as they often contain fillers that can increase your carbohydrate consumption, thus putting you out of ketosis.26
Bulk buy and cook. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, this is the best of both worlds. Buying your food at bulk (specifically from wholesalers) can reduce the cost per pound tremendously. Plus, you can make ahead food (bulk cook chicken thighs for pre-made meat, or cook entire meals) that are used as leftovers, so you spend less time cooking.
• Reducing appetite — Constant hunger can cause you to consume more calories than you can burn, which can eventually lead to weight gain. A ketogenic diet can help you avoid this problem because reducing carbohydrate consumption can reduce hunger symptoms. In one study, participants who were given a low-carbohydrate diet had reduced appetites, helping them lose weight easier.2
Yes, you can drink alcohol on keto, but there are a couple of catches. The first thing to watch out for is, obviously, the carbohydrates in your drink of choice. If you’re choosing clear liquor, it tends to have a low amount of carbs, but it still has some. Your mixers also may have carbs in them, so choosing something like tonic water over a soda will keep you within your limits. Beer, cider, wine, and other bottled alcoholic drinks tend to be high in sugars, so you might just want to avoid them.
If this diet is so tough, then why has it been around since the 1920s? For starters, there’s some evidence to suggest that ketogenic diets help regulate epilepsy, according to research in ISRN Pediatrics.Redox Biology reports the diet may benefit cancer patients. While it may be helpful for short-term weight loss, that wasn’t the diet’s original intention, and the jury’s still out on its long-term effects.
Anecdotally speaking, people do lose weight on the keto diet. Heather Wharton, a 35-year-old business relationship manager from Tampa, Florida, lost 140 pounds since starting the keto diet in January 2016: “I plan on being on the keto diet for the rest of my life,” says Wharton. “My husband and I consider ourselves to be food addicts, and the keto diet is what we use as a form of abstinence from trigger foods that have sugar and other carbohydrates." A typical day of eating for Wharton includes coffee with a protein supplement, a cup of unsweetened cashew milk, cauliflower rice with ground turkey and liquid aminos (a carb-free substitute for soy sauce), spinach, six slices of turkey bacon, six eggs, and a little salsa.
A keto diet has shown to improve triglyceride levels and cholesterol levels most associated with arterial buildup. More specifically low-carb, high-fat diets show a dramatic increase in HDL and decrease in LDL particle concentration compared to low-fat diets.3A study in the long-term effects of a ketogenic diet shows a significant reduction in cholesterol levels, body weight, and blood glucose. Read more on keto and cholesterol >
Other experts say the long-term accumulation of ketones could be harmful. “Those ketones are emergency fuel sources, and we’re not meant to run on them long-term,” says Kristen Kizer, a registered dietitian at Houston Methodist Hospital. “Ketones are negatively-charged molecules, which means they’re acidic. When you build up ketone bodies in your system, you’re building up acid. One of the ways your body buffers acid is by pulling calcium from your bones.” Kizer also notes that the diet isn't very balanced and involves a very high intake of animal products, which generally do not protect against cancer, diabetes, or other diseases.
Aside from the various keto-friendly foods mentioned in this article, you may be wondering if there are other options that may help support your ketogenic diet. If you find that the ketogenic diet is limiting when you start out, don't worry. There's actually a lot you can add to your diet that's "keto" as long as consumption is controlled. Here are some commonly asked questions:
Some people like to weigh their food when they first transition from a normal diet to a ketogenic diet, in order to have a fuller understanding of the amount of carbohydrates that they consume, although this can be used just in the beginning as a guide. But ultimately no, you do not have to weigh your food in order to be successful with a keto diet.
• Multiple Sclerosis: In a small 2016 study, patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) were put on a ketogenic diet. After six months, they reported improved quality of life, as well as physical and mental health improvements. Before doctors or researchers can make a connection between keto and MS, they need bigger sample sizes and more thorough research. Still, the preliminary findings are exciting.
In some ways, it’s similar to the Atkins diet, which similarly boosts the body’s fat-burning abilities through eating only low-carb foods, along with getting rid of foods high in carbs and sugar. Removing glucose from carbohydrate foods will cause the body to burn fat for energy instead. The major differences between the classic keto diet and the Atkins diet is ketogenic emphasizes healthier fats, less overall protein and no processed meat (such as bacon) while having more research to back up its efficacy.
The recipes themselves are divided into smoothies and breakfasts, appetizers and snacks, fish and poultry, meats, veggies and sides, desserts, and staples. Each individual recipe gives an overall "keto quotient" (how close it fits the idea balance of fats, carbs, and protein) as well as what each serving contains in calories and the fats, carbs, and protein for those servings. This makes life a lot easier if you are using a phone or tablet app to keep an eating record.
• Potassium: With the approved list of foods being so brief, you might not be getting in enough fruits and veggies on keto. One of the biggest impacts? A potassium deficiency—and all of the lovely constipation and muscle cramps that accompanies it. Aim to up your intake of foods like spinach, avocado, tomatoes, kale and mushrooms to get your potassium fix.
This is an adaptation period, where we’re essentially re-training our muscles and our brain to use fat as the primary fuel source instead of glucose. This adaptation can take a couple of weeks to a couple of months. As a hallmark of being keto-adapted and not just in ketosis, the skeletal muscles are able to burn fat directly for fuel, and the brain relies on the higher volume of ketones in the blood as its main source of energy.
Thanks for the very informative article. This was the push I needed to at least try it. Starting next weekend, my partner and I will be trying keto for 30 days. I’m all for small changes, in theory, but what I sometimes discover is that sweeping changes can have their place, too, if they produce positive results. Often, what will work for me is trying a big change, and even if I then throw out 80% of it, at least the remaining 20% sticks. By contrast, any backsliding from a small change can often mean just throwing it out entirely.
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