DAY 74 – KETOGENIC eating…

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What is the KETOGENIC DIET everyone is talking about and does it work?

Although it has become the latest topic of “diet” conversation, the ketogenic diet (KD) has been around since the 20’s when it was first used to treat epilepsy.  It made another comeback  in the medical industry about a decade ago as researchers investigated whether it was helpful for treating diabetes, and then cancer.  Although the results show promise, further testing is still required.

More recently, with the advent of paleo and Atkins diets, and the negative light surrounding grains and dairy, athletes and individuals looking to lose weight are seeking the potential benefits of ketosis.

WHAT IS IT?

The classic Ketogenic Diet (KD) is composed primarily of fat (70-90%), with the remainder filled in with protein (8%-25%) and, to a minimal degree, carbohydrates (2%-5%).  The goal is to mimic the body’s state during fasting without impairing its ability for growth.  By limiting the amount of carbohydrates and protein metabolized, energy is instead derived from fat within the body or consumed in the diet.  As glucose levels decrease, fat-derived ketone bodies begin to take over as the body’s main energy source, a metabolic state known as ketosis.

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Ketosis
 is a natural part of metabolism.  It happens either when carbohydrate intake is very low or when you haven’t eaten in a long time.  Both of these lead to reduced insulin levels, which causes a lot of fat to be released from your fat cells. When this happens, the liver gets flooded with fat, which turns a large part of it into ketones.  The end goal of a properly maintained keto diet is to force your body into this metabolic state through starvation of carbohydrates (not overall calories).

IS IT GOOD FOR YOU?

If NOT done correctly, a ketogenic diet carries important risks, including nutrient deficiencies, hypovolemia, hypokalemia, kidney stones, and gout.

During ketosis, many parts of your body are burning ketones for energy instead of carbs. This includes a large part of the brain.  However, this doesn’t happen instantly. It takes your body and brain some time to “adapt” to burning fat and ketones instead of carbs.

During this adaptation phase, you may experience some temporary side effects:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Increased hunger
  • Poor sleep
  • Nausea
  • Decreased physical performance

This may discourage people from continuing to follow a ketogenic diet, even before they start reaping all the benefits.

Other side effects include bad breath (caused by acetone from fat breakdown), muscle cramps, digestive issues (lack of fiber), elevated heart rate, ketoacidosis, kidney stones and raised LDL cholesterol levels.  I’ve also had a friend who suffered from hair loss after 3 months on this diet.

It is highly recommended to follow these guidelines in order to minimize the side-effects:

  • Drink plenty of water: Make sure to drink at least 68 oz (2 liters) of water a day. A significant amount of water weight is lost in ketosis, especially in the beginning.
  • Get enough salt: Sodium, a crucial electrolyte, gets excreted in large amounts when carb intake is reduced. Replenish your salt by adding it to foods or drinking broth.
  • Increase mineral intake: Foods high in magnesium and potassium may help relieve leg cramps.
  • Avoid intense exercise: Don’t push yourself too hard while you’re adapting to ketosis. Stick to moderate levels of exercise in the first week or two.
  • Try a low-carb diet first: To ease the transition, it might help to reduce your carbs to a moderate amount before trying a ketogenic (very low-carb) diet.
  • Eat fiber: A low-carb diet is not no-carb. Eat fiber-rich foods like nuts, seeds, berries and low-carb veggies.


DOES IT WORK?

Being in ketosis has been shown to have powerful benefits for certain people, such as people with obesity or type 2 diabetes and children with epilepsy.

Would I recommend it to everyone?  After speaking to a few people who are either currently on this diet or have done it, I can attest to the fact that yes, they did achieve weight loss.  However, if you follow ANY diet with caloric and certain food restrictions, you are likely to see results.  

While getting into “ketosis” has obvious benefits for some people, it is definitely not for everyone.  Some people feel great and experience incredible benefits on a ketogenic diet, while others feel and perform much better on a higher-carb diet.  I personally love my carbs too much!!!!

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