What is Keto Diet ? The beginner’s guide

keto diet : the definition

There are several diets plans out there and new ones keep flooding in some good and most of them are bad. A ketogenic diet is an ancient diet that has just gained its popularity recently as more people are trying to lose weight and stay healthy. 

This article seeks to look into the background of keto diet, looking also at what people who used this diet benefited from it. Moreover, like many diets, it has some risk factors, and we will take a look at them so people who take on this diet, do it with an open mind. 

Keto diet has too many restrictions, total adherence to these restrictions could significantly catapult you to the expected results. And as such these makes Keto dieting a somewhat difficult journey that need dedication and discipline if one is to achieve the expected outcome (losing weight at most) from it. 

What Is a Ketogenic Diet?

This diet is popularly known as a Keto diet and it is characterized by a high-fat, adequate-protein, and more importantly a low-carbohydrate (carb) diet. In a typical and normal diet people are supposed to consume at least 130 grams of carbs a day to give energy and enable us to live healthy lives. 

By drastically lowering your carbohydrates intake, the body will get its calories from proteins and fat which activate the metabolic state or process called Ketosis.

Ketosis is a metabolic and normal process that happens when the body burn stored fat resulting in a build-up of acids called ketones within the body. This only happens when there is no or too little glucose to burn for energy. 

Moreover, ketosis makes your body burn fat efficiently for energy thus causing you to shed more weight. As such massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels are attributable to consuming a Keto diet. 

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History of Keto Diet

This diet has been there for centuries, 120 and ‘130s as a mainstream dietary therapy to reproduce the success of fasting to treat epilepsy. However, in favor of new anticonvulsant drugs Keto diet was largely abandoned. 

Sadly, not every epilepsy patient managed to control their seizures with medication successfully. And for this reason, this diet has found its way back and it is used successfully to control and manage epilepsy, and other nervous system disorders. 

Furthermore, in recent years this diet came back with a bang and this time it is popular for the treatment of other conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes and a lot of physicians who recommended the diet has great success stories about the diet. (source)

How Keto Diet Works

Eating less than 50 grams of carbs a day causes your body to runs out of fuel or blood sugar. As a result, your body will start breaking down proteins and fat for energy which is a good thing if you want to lose weight. The process of burning protein and fat as your source of energy can start within 3 to 4 days of cutting carbs. 

Different Types of Ketogenic Diets

These are dependent on the individual’s goals when starting the Keto Diet. The ketogenic diet types include:

The Standard ketogenic diet (SKD)

The diet comprises of at least :

  • Fat of about 75% a day
  • About 20% proteins a day
  • And only 5% carbs a day. 

Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD)

In this type the diet varies between a 5-day ketogenic diet following it up with 2 days high-carb diet refeeds and also.  

Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD)

Since you need more energy during your workouts, this type allows you to get carbs around the time of your workouts. 

High-protein ketogenic diet

More proteins are included in this Keto Diet type. The ratio here is basically; 

  • About 60% fat
  • Over 35% protein 
  • and 5% carbs.

Similarly, there are more extensive scientific studies on the standard and high-protein ketogenic diet. Moreover, the Cyclical or targeted ketogenic diets are primarily used by bodybuilders or athletes as an advanced method. This article is talking to the standard ketogenic diet (SKD). 

Who benefits from a Keto Diet

In the 1920s Keto diet was introduced to help epileptic children prevent seizures. But now there are many other reasons why people are embarking on this diet. These are;’

  • Weight Loss
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancers
  • Acne
  • Heart disease
  • Other Nervous System Disorders
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Weight Loss

Changing fat into energy takes more calories than changing carbs into energy. As such Keto diet helps people burn more fat, particularly on the first 3 to 6 months. Moreover, eating a high-fat, high-protein have more satiety than a high carbs diet, so Keto dieters eat less amounts of food. 

Cancer

Keto diet does not influence the hormone insulin as there is too little glucose released from the low carb diet. As such your body will use or store less sugar.  Having less insulin is cancer protective as it either slow down the cancer cells or prevent its growth altogether. (source)

Heart Disease

Although Keto diet is a high-fat diet, it does not mean that people get to indulge on all kinds of fats. Only the naturally found fats and polyunsaturated are allowed and the trans-fatty acids are not to be used. 

Moreover, junk foods are not allowed either as they have high carbs, trans-fat, too much salt and high sugars. Thus, Keto diet raise the HDL cholesterol levels which are good fats while lowering the LDL which are the bad fats.

Moreover, eating food that reduce insulin levels also reduce your levels of cholesterol. However, more studies are needed to ascertain and investigate how long these effects last. This means that Keto Diet can prevent conditions like;

  • high blood pressure, 
  • hardened arteries, 
  • heart failure, and 
  • other heart conditions. 

Acne

Most skin conditions are linked to the consumption of carbohydrates. That’s why cutting and significantly reducing the intake of carbs improves your skin and also treat acne. 

More importantly, the hormone insulin in your body can also influence other hormones including those that cause acne breakouts. As such reducing insulin levels has more benefits, even reducing acne breakouts. 

Diabetes

This is a chronic condition characterized by having high blood glucose due to the pancreatic failure to convert the sugar into energy using a hormone insulin. All diabetic patients must watch their carbs for these reason. 

That’s why a Keto diet can benefit diabetic patients, particularly type 2 diabetes. However, too much ketones are said to be bad for type 1 diabetics as it makes them sick. 

It is therefore a good practice for diabetics to embark on this diet with the help of their doctor so as to monitor them and ensure the diet is making them better. 

Epilepsy

This diet was formed in order to help this group of patients from the 1920s. There have been many success stories of people who followed this diet and thus completely stopped seizures. 

However, patients are different, and as such their response to therapies will differ. As such, patients MUST work with their doctors to figure out what work BEST for them. 

Other Nervous System Disorders

Keto diet has some good effect on the nervous system and as such it can help people with some nervous system disorders;

Keto diet helps treat these disorders, to date there has not been the scientific reason why this diet is protective, only speculations. More research still need to be done to understand why, so many lives can be changed by this amazing diet. 

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (POS) is a condition where women get small fluid-filled sacs forming around the eggs and ovaries that are abnormally large. This condition is caused by having high levels of insulin. So, having lower level of insulin may potentially treat POS.  

Moreover, there are other lifestyle changes that could treat this condition like losing weight, and exercising regularly. 

Exercise

This diet makes you burn fat for fuel, so it can help with muscle-to-fat ratio. Moreover, athletes who use this diet have more endurance while exercising because it raises the amount of oxygen your body need to use when you are working out. 

Nevertheless, athletes who do vigorous exercises may not benefit from this diet because such exercises need more carb for more energy. 

Side Effects

There are no life-threatening side effects in using a Keto Diet. However, it is always important to consult when you have side effects that just won’t go away.

Also, it is important to know when to stop as there are concerns of using this type of a diet long-term. Just keep an open mind and Be safe. The common side effects are; 

  • constipation, 
  • mild low blood sugar, 
  • or indigestion. 
  • In rare occasions some people using a Keto diets had kidney stones
  • Also rarely, Keto diet can lead to high levels of acid in your body (acidosis). 

As you start this diet, your body will react in early days and you might experience what is called a “keto flu,” this happen because your body is going through changes of learning to use fat for energy rather than using carbs for energy. The symptoms of the Keto Flu include;

  • headache, 
  • weakness, 
  • irritability 
  • bad breath
  • and fatigue 

Diet with Care

Here you need to embrace the fact that YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. So, what you eat matters more and it can determine your health status. It remains your responsibility to do a thorough research about any diet before you jump in with two feet. 

Invest in knowing if you have pre-existing conditions that could affect your health if using a keto diet. As well, know how doing this diet affect your health considering these conditions. 

Likewise, it is also good to slowly change between the normal diet to the Keto Diet so as to allow your body to slowly get used to the change. This will also reduce the severity of the side effects. 

More importantly, keep your eyes on the scientific knowledge so as to know more about your diet and also learn if this diet can be adopted for life. You don’t want to interfere with your health and expose yourself to diseases and conditions that might be expensive to treat or life-threatening. Be wise, BE responsible for your health and Be careful

What to eat

The plan here is to stay away from processed foods as much as possible and go for more organic and natural products. Moreover, one way to curb hunger for dieters is to choose water-based fruits and vegetables as these are filling and healthier hunger busters. 

The worst thing that could stand on your way of dieting is hunger…so we make sure we eat food that will make us feel full for longer. Keto diet list of good food for you include; 

Fats

Saturated fats

You are encouraged to eat these in high amounts and these you will get from;

  • oils (palm, coconut), lard, butter, and cocoa butter.
  • protein sources high in saturated fat such as beef, pork, seafood and bacon.
  • Hard cheese

Unsaturated fats

  • nuts (almonds, walnuts), 
  • seeds, 
  • avocados, 
  • tofu, 
  • and olive oil

Fruits and vegetables 

You should choose fruits that have less sugar because we are trying to reduce carbs intake. Good fruits for Keto Diet will include;

  • berries (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries)
  • watermelon
  • starfruit
  • avocados
  • cantaloupe
  • lemon
  • grapefruit
  • cherries
  • plums
  • kiwi
  • tomatoes

Vegetables

These are important to include as they have a lot of fiber, water and antioxidants which is good for your digestive system. Vegetables are also good because they contain less carbs compared to starchy carbs.  Your list should include; 

  • Leafy greens such as kale, Swiss chard, spinach)
  • cauliflower, 
  • broccoli, 
  • Brussels sprouts,
  • asparagus, 
  • bell peppers, 
  • onions, 
  • garlic, 
  • mushrooms, 
  • cucumber, 
  • celery, 
  • and summer squashes. 

Keto diet risks

It is imperative to jump in with your eyes wide open and know what you are getting yourself into. This kind of knowledge works like your guide to help you act fast should you see any of these signs manifesting. 

Nutrient deficiency 

For a healthier you, eating a variety of foods exposes the body to wide variety of nutrients. Reducing or cutting out certain foods cheat you of certain essential nutrients and if this is done over a long period it can have health problems. 

Liver problems

Keto diet can make liver conditions worse as there will be too much fat to metabolize. So, anyone with liver problems must pass on this kind of diet. 

Kidney problems

These are essential for the protein metabolism. Sadly, a keto diet may overload your kidneys and thus cause kidney problems. 

Constipation

Most high fiber foods contain carbs as fiber is a type of carbs. So reducing them from the diet could lead to constipation. But eating a lot of leafy vegetables could prevent constipation. 

Fuzzy thinking and mood swings 

Sugar is essential for brain functioning. So, a diet low in carbs could cause confusion, bad temper and mood swings. However, it is not known how long these risk factors could take effect.  

That’s why it is advisable to keep your cholesterol and other organs in check during the time one is on a keto diet. This will make sure that anything that get out of range is corrected by eating the balanced diet of worse, treatment.  

Why some people do not lose weight in Keto Diet

It can be frustrating for those who joined the Keto diet in order to lose weight when thy don’t lose weight. As such it is important to look at the reasons that could potentially prevent weight loss for Keto diet and come up with ways to ensure that losing weight is an outcome that becomes a reality. Reasons are listed as follows; 

1 – Not achieving ketosis

If you do not cut back enough carbs could prevent you from getting into ketosis where your body start burning fat instead of carbs for fuel. Failure to stick to 5% of carbs on the ketogenic diet, will definitely not lead into ketosis. So, be careful not to take too much carbs for good results. 

2 – Eating too much protein

A high protein, low carb diet is NOT a Keto diet. A high protein diet can hardly take you into ketosis as when the body break down the excess protein is makes it into amino acids which are converted to sugars. 

More importantly, a person’s diet must not exceed 35% of protein a day in order for them to get into ketosis.  Thus, the diet must have more fat than protein and carbs respectively. 

 3 – Eating too many acceptable carbs

There are certain foods that are typically high in fat which have a lot of carbs in them and if they are not eaten in moderation they interfere with the Keto diet goals of losing weight. As such you need to pump the breaks when indulging on these nutrient-dense high fat and high carbs diets. These include; 

  • Dairy products, especially yoghurt
  • Nuts 

Thus, Keto diet people must replace their low fat yoghurt for the full cream and sugar free ones. Moreover, with nuts rather choose macadamias, walnuts and sunflower seeds as they have less carbs. 

4 – Eating Maltitol

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol that must be avoided because it is not Keto friendly regardless of it being a low glycemic index (GI) sugar. Maltitol can affect blood sugar levels and thus prevent a person from entering ketosis.

5 – Not counting calories

Eating excess calories, more than your body requires a day will NOT lose weight even if they eat keto friendly foods. Newsflash!!! People in ketosis state will definitely gain weight if they consume calories excessively. Moreover, fatty foods are high-dense so, counting those calories will assist you reach your goal fast. 

6 – Constant snacking

Every snack you take is calories added to your body no matter how healthy and keto right it is. So, you need to be cautious when taking your snack to avoid overdoing it. 

 7 – Drinking alcohol

These are high in carbohydrates and as such avoid alcohol in any form as they interfere with getting into ketosis.  So, if you drink any kind of alcohol, you must be too cautious as these could prevent weight loss because alcohol is calorie dense without any nutritive value added to your body.  

8 – High stress

Stress triggers many hormones and these could lead to gaining weight. You need to adopt healthier ways of dealing with problems and challenges. Chronic stress could potentially lead to comfort foods and these are usually junk and as such you end up gaining too much weight. 

 9 – Little to no exercise

Exercise is an excellent way to stimulate your metabolism and burns calories and thus a great tool for dieters. Moreover, the keto dieters need to get into some form of light-to-moderate exercises to keep healthy and lose weight

10 – Underlying medical conditions

If you find yourself doing everything right and still be unable to lose weight on the keto diet, maybe it is time to look into other underlying causes so you can treat them. This is true because some medications interfere with your appetite or can slow down your metabolism.

Some conditions known to increase appetite contributing to weight gain include;

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Depression
  • Elevated levels of insulin
  •  Cushing’s syndrome
  • And polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

It is therefore important that a person consult their doctor if they are unable to lose weight despite all the efforts to eating keto diet strictly not forgetting to exercise. Once the doctor gets to the bottom of things, the condition will need to be treated first and then find effective and healthier ways to lose weight. 

Healthier tips to achieving expected outcome on Keto diet

To avoid common dieting mistakes the following tips may help a person so that they can lose weight on the keto diet; 

Journaling

To keep track of what you eat throughout the day and to be able to calculate your total intake. This makes it easier to track which foods are preventing weight loss.

Drinking plenty of water

Water is good because it does not have any calorie and at the same tie it can fill you up and prevent hunger pangs that could lead to overeating. 

Chewing sugarless gum

To stave off cravings for sweet foods, chew sugarless gum containing erythritol or stevia. This reduces the hunger pangs. 

Getting plenty of sleep

Sleeping is important as it helps reduce stress levels while regulating the body’s normal cycles. 

Conclusion 

Inasmuch as keto diet is one of the most effective diet to lose weight, adherence to the strict rules and restrictions will determine your success. That’s why it is not a decision to be taken lightly, doing this diet. 

Also, this diet lacks a lot of scientific backup long term and as such, people need to get into it with an open mind and keep checking their health status for any deficiencies and other risks. 

Moreover, people who will eat right, exercise and stick to this diet will not need to do it for too long. So, do it right, and also adopt other healthier eating behaviours. 

Ultimately, we all need to know what a balanced diet is, so we could always go back to it no matter how many times we try out other diets for one reason or another. 

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