If you’ve read about the ketogenic diet, and have seen it popping up a lot on social media recently, you may be wondering just what exactly it is.
Here’s what you need to know:
What is the keto diet and how does it work?
The ketogenic diet is a diet that uses fat for fuel.
Typically our body runs mostly on glucose.
We get glucose from the consumption of carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains), and these carbohydrates are converted to glucose and glycogen by a series of reactions within the body.
The glucose is used immediately - sent into the blood stream and then used to fuel our daily activities - while glycogen is the storage form of glucose, whereby the body stores it to use for energy later on.
In the case of the ketogenic diet however, the body mimics starvation mode, whereby it uses fat as this main energy and fuel source, in the absence of carbohydrates.
The body breaks down fat via the liver, turning fatty acids from food and stored fat, into ketones to fuel the activities within the body.
In order to do this, it has to have enough fat there to burn and carbohydrates low enough that it doesn’t burn those first.
Therefore, the ketogenic diet is essentially a high fat, low carbohydrate diet, where the individual focuses on getting most of their calories from fat as opposed to carbohydrate sources.
What are the side effects of the diet and cutting carbohydrates?
Because the body is designed to run on carbohydrates and typically uses this as its main energy source, robbing it of this nutrient can lead to many side effects, such as moodiness, lethargy, headaches, bad breath, poor memory, or slowed cognitive function.
Metabolism may slow down, leaving individuals feeling fatigued, and can also cause weakened bones, as the acidic nature of ketones causes them to pull calcium out of the bones.
For many people, these symptoms abate as their body becomes used to using fat for fuel, and many people find in fact that their brainpower is enhanced and they feel more focused and alert.
As detailed below, it is different for everyone.
Is the keto diet right for me?
As with other diets, there is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to understanding and applying ketogenesis, and it may or may not be the right diet for you.
In order to benefit from a ketogenic diet, it needs to be very rigidly maintained.
Because the body is naturally trained to run on carbohydrates, upon the consumption of carbohydrates, it will very quickly and easily revert back to using glucose as a fuel source.
In other words, if you slip up on your diet and consume too many carbs for a few days, it is very easy to come out of ketosis, hence negating your work thus far.
In addition, many people experience many of the symptoms and side effects listed above.
One thing to consider however is whether the diet is sustainable for you.
If you are looking to go on the ketogenic diet for a quick weight loss solution, be aware, that while you may lose weight, as soon as you abandon the diet, you will probably regain the eight quite quickly.
If you are not prepared to cut out carbohydrates for the long term, this diet may not be your best option.
By: Laura Peill