Unfortunately, there’s no long-term data on ketogenic diets versus other diets. In a 2015 Italian study, those on a ketosis diet lost 26 pounds in three months. About half of the participants stayed on the diet for a year but lost little additional weight in the next nine months. People in a 2014 Spanish study who followed a very-low-calorie ketogenic diet lost an average of 44 pounds in a year—but a third of them dropped out, possibly because it was too hard to maintain.
“One of the best meal planning tips I’ve ever received is to structure breakfast and lunch so that you don’t have to think too much about it,” says Emily Bartlett, co-founder of Real Plans. “If you’re okay with repetition, it’s ideal to have a simple selection of recipes for breakfast—including some that can be taken on the go. For lunch, go ahead and use your leftovers with a fresh green salad, and be sure to include a dressing that you really love.”
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.
This is one reason why tracking your food intake should be a priority. There are apps like Cronometer, MyFitnessPal, and LoseIt! that allow you to record all your foods for the day, and each has a large database of fresh foods, packaged foods, and restaurant meals, plus you can enter in your own recipes. This way you can know exactly what macro- and micro-nutrients you’re getting, with no guess work.
After about two to seven days of following this eating routine, you go into something called ketosis, or the state your body enters when it doesn't have enough carbs for your cells to use for energy. Then it starts making ketones, or organic compounds that your bod then uses in place of those missing carbs—and oh, it also burns fat for more energy, says Beth Warren, R.D., founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Living A Real Life With Real Food.
When it comes to weight loss — a big possible draw of the plan for many individuals — the benefits of the ketogenic diet may not be much different from any other diet plan. “There is no magical weight loss benefit that can be achieved from this diet,” says Spano. “The ketogenic diet may help weight loss in the same way other diets help — by restricting food choices so you eat fewer calories.”
The ketogenic diet is based on the principle that by depleting the body of carbohydrates, which are its primary source of energy, you can force the body to burn fat for fuel, thereby maximizing weight loss. When you consume foods that contain carbohydrates, the body converts those carbohydrates into glucose, or blood sugar, which it then uses for energy. (1)
Achieving ketosis is a pretty straightforward, but it can seem complicated and confusing with all of the information out there.4If you want to learn more about ketosis and the scientific process around it, you can visit a very in-depth discussion about on Dr. Peter Attia’s website. Here’s the bottom line on what you need to do, ordered in levels of importance:
The current hypothesis is that the brain functions differently on ketones than on glucose, and this is what causes certain brains to reduce epileptic seizures. I would then also hypothesize that certain people who feel that “brain fog” lifted on ketosis is due to either placebo effect OR their brain actually functioning differently on ketones vs glucose.
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