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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.
For a period of 3-4 days up to 2 weeks, you will be eating the minimal amount of carbohydrates and sugar (20 grams net carbs maximum per day). After this you may be able to add in small amounts of net carbs if your body can handle it, but probably not more than 50 net carbs total per day. This is tricky, because some people can't handle more than the 20 net carbs even after they have adjusted to ketosis. Others can handle 50 net carbs and easily stay in ketosis. If you feel fine at 20 net carbs and it doesn't bother you, than there's no reason to make any changes. You can test your ketosis by how you feel, or by actually testing - which is discussed in section 3.
For any individual with diabetes, discussing dietary changes — especially those as dramatic as the ones the ketogenic diet requires — with your healthcare team is essential. Because carbohydrates are broken down into glucose in the blood, cutting carbohydrates from your diet could cause levels to crash rapidly depending on your current medication regimen. Such a change may require significant adjustments to medication and insulin to prevent dangerous side effects such as low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia. (8)
There are several types of the keto diet, but essentially, to achieve a state of ketosis, you have to severely reduce the amount of carbs you eat. (You can use this ketogenic calculator to create a custom food plan.) Data suggest the average American man over age 20 consumes 47.4 percent of his daily calories from carbs, and the average American woman over age 20 consumes 49.6 percent of her daily calories from carbs. (3) But in the classic ketogenic diet, which was originally used for the management of seizure disorders, 80 to 90 percent of calories come from fat, 5 to 15 percent come from protein, and 5 to 10 percent come from carbohydrates.
The average person's diet contain about 55% carbohydrates, 30% fat, and 15% protein. On the keto diet, you eat a whole lot more fat, and a lot less carbs: 80% of the diet is comprised of fat, 15% is protein, and a mere 5% of calories come from carbohydrates. For someone on a 1,500-calorie diet, that translates to 19 grams of carbohydrates per day, which is less than what you find in one medium-sized apple.
Over the past century, ketogenic diets have also been used to treat and even help reverse neurological disorders and cognitive impairments, including epilepsy and Alzheimer’s symptoms. Research shows that cutting off glucose levels with a very low-carb diet makes your body produce ketones for fuel. This change can help to reverse neurological disorders and cognitive impairment, including inducing seizure control. The brain is able to use this alternative source of energy instead of the cellular energy pathways that aren’t functioning normally in patients with brain disorders.
Alcohol also tends to interrupt ketosis, since your liver will burn it preferentially before anything else. Your body treats alcohol like a toxin and like a fuel source, so your body will use it before it uses foods or the calories stored in your fat cells. While it won’t necessarily “knock you out” of ketosis, it does pause it until the alcohol is cleared from your system.
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.
If you start at 20g of carbohydrates a day, you should slowly move to 50 as you reach your goal. Once you reach your goal, you can up your carbs as you see how they effect your weight. If you eat fruit for a week and gain weight, cut back. You have to figure out what works best for you. Ketosis is usually reached by only consuming 50g of carbs or less each day so that should be your starting range. I would not move past this until you have reached your goal weight and started to exercise daily (more about exercise is at the bottom of this post).
• Cancer: Early experimental research suggests that the keto diet may have anti-tumor effects, likely because it reduces overall calorie intake (and circulating glucose) for tumor growth. In one 2014 review of animal research, a ketogenic diet was found to be successful at reducing tumor growth, colon cancer, gastric cancer and brain cancer. More research on humans with larger sample sizes is needed, but it's definitely food for thought.
• Constipation: No one likes to feel backed up, and sadly if you're not careful about your diet choices when going keto, it could become a regular concern. One 10-year (albeit small) study looking at the effects of a keto diet on young children found that 65 percent experienced digestive woes. Thankfully, going keto is not a life sentence for problem bowels. Since you're cutting out whole grains and fruit (two of the most common sources of fiber), aim to up your fiber-rich veggies, and consider a supplement.
5) By now you should know both where you are and where you want to be. Those are the first steps. Now it’s time to start planning your meals. You can use these food lists to help you figure out what kinds of foods you should be eating. Remember this is not a diet plan that has an end date. This is a lifestyle change that you will pass on to your children.
One of the secrets of getting into ketosis faster is by fasting, since this helps burn off stored glycogen, so trying intermittent fasting can help you on your way. While it isn’t necessary to be on a ketogenic diet, doing IF while on a ketogenic diet can be very helpful. Most people who do IF don’t even think about food until late in the morning because it becomes natural to wait until later to eat.
Okay, I’ll admit I bailed just after the sriracha covered chicken costume, so maybe I missed it, but I wanted to ask: is Keto intended to be a permanent diet change? It seems very challenging, and as I was reading, I kept asking myself “How is this consistent with the concept of small sustainable changes?” Is it? I think it’s a great topic to cover, but how would you describe the relationship between the keto diet and NF philosophy regarding sustainability? Thanks!
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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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