How is America losing weight now? One way or another, keto eating is the winner. The International Food Council says 8% of people attempting to lose weight are doing keto, 10% are intermittent fasting (another way into keto) and 7% are sticking with low-carb eating (that’s a feature of keto, as well). So here’s your quick guide to keto and why it gets results.
Keto is shorthand for ketogenic. This eating style puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. When you are in ketosis, you burn body fat for fuel.
While ketosis is natural, most of us would rarely experience it because as long as we have plenty of carbs in our diet we store sugar, and our uses that for fuel instead of fat. The whole idea of the keto lifestyle is to push yourself into the fat-burning keto state by controlling the kinds of foods you eat. You need to load up on fat, get a moderate amount of protein, and strictly limit your carbohydrates.
Limiting carbs is the key to keto success. Ironically for all we talk about carbs, there’s a lot of confusion about them. Carbs have been villainized as bad… but broccoli and spinach are carbs, and everyone knows they’re good.
The confusion happens because carbs are a big class of foods, and they are not all alike in nutritional value.
Any food you eat that is not a fat or protein is a carb. That ranges from sweets like maple syrup and sugar to asparagus and zucchini.
To succeed, a keto eater needs to choose carbs wisely. All the simple carbs we use for sweetening food, including table sugar, honey, jellies and jams, and agave are off limits. You can use substitutes like stevia and sucralose (Splenda) if desperate. But it’s best to go unsweetened so you become less used to have sweet-tasting foods.
Avoiding high-sugar also means saying no to certain healthy complex carbs like peas, sweet potatoes, beets, corn, winter squash and onions because they are high in natural sugars, too. It also means most fruits with the exception of lemons, limes, avocados, and coconut and berries are off limits.
What’s So Bad About Carbs?
Keto diets are extremely low in carbs, but the diet’s proponents don’t hate all carbs, especially not vegetables.
Most people who follow keto eating are doing it to lose weight. Thus they are gladly pushing a few things off their plate temporarily until they reach their goal. Carbs aren’t “bad,” they are just off limits for a while.
Although some people follow keto all the time as a lifestyle, that’s the exception. In fact, some doctors believe it is best to take breaks every three to six months even if it is a lifestyle.
The truth is that “carbs” is such a broad category ranging from candy bars to spinach, that we tend to make two main kinds of mistakes. (And keto eating eliminates both of them.)
1. We overeat them! When the body consumes an excessive amount of carbohydrates, some of the excess is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver cells. Eventually, after the muscle and liver cells have reached their maximumstorage,any remaining surplus glucose is converted to fatty acids and stored in adipose tissuearound the body as fat.
We’re not likely to eat one-pound hamburger or drink a cup of olive oil in one sitting, but carbs are different. Lots of us can wipe out a couple dozen Oreos or a bag of potato chips, which have just as many calories, as a snack between meals or while watching late-night TV.
2. We eat the wrong ones. If you look at breads, rices, pastas, and cereals, they all look pretty much the same. But all carbs are notcreated equal. America has an obesity epidemic because most of the carbs people choose are the worst kind.
Distinctly Different Classes of Carbs
Keto eating is not just low carb; it is devoid of the wrong carbs. If you are allowed 30 grams a day of carbs on your keto plan, that doesn’t mean you can meet your quota with a bag of baby carrots and sugar in your coffee. It’s important to make distinctions.
Simple carbohydrates are sugars. Sugar is out for keto. It has have little or no nutritional value. And that includes “healthy” honey as well as table sugar. Milk and fruit are also high in simple sugars, so despite having some nutrition, they are also avoided on a keto plan.
Everything that’s not a simple carb is a complex carb, but they’re not all the same for your health either.
Starchy carbs turn into sugar soon after you eat them, and many of these are also so highly refined that they offer no fiber, little nutrition, and excessive calories. Starchy carbs include potatoes, white rice, anything made with flour, most cereals, oatmeal, corn, cornmeal, buckwheat, rye, and pasta. They also include high-sugar root vegetables like sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, and carrots.
White bread, white rice, cookies, andsoft drinks are at the heart of the obesity, heart disease, and type II diabetesepidemics in the US. There's little doubt that our excessive intake of sugars and refined-flour goods has contributed to the obesity and type II diabetes epidemics.
Whole Grains and Beans.These are also avoided on keto. Even quinoa, despite its protein content. They are complex carbs that are healthy in their own right, but still have enough sugar to disrupt a keto diet.
The Good Complex Carbs (In Moderate Amounts). But some complex carbs do fit into a keto diet. These have a high concentration of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.They are naturally low in sugar. The best vegetables for keto eating are asparagus, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, and zucchini.
Ketones Are Key
As mentioned at the beginning, the idea behind following keto is to force your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. In that state, you will have less sugar in your blood and more ketones.
You can measure these ketones to check whether you are actually in ketosis. Ketone indicator strips are available in health food and vitamin stores, drugstores, and online. You put the strip into recent urine. Either directly or in a small sample you capture. The strip will change color to tell you where you are.
For most people, it takes two to four days on a keto diet to be fully in ketosis.
It is crucial to have ketones in your system because, while your body can burn fat for energy, your brain does not have the ability to do so.It can only run on ketones or glucose. But on a low-carb diet, you are restrictingglucose supply.So your brain needs those ketones. This is also why some people feel a little less mentally alert for a few days when they start a keto diet. When keto levels rise, all will be well.
Reaching and maintaining ketosis in your body is not without its challenges.
To get there and stay there, you'll need to drastically restrict your carbohydrate consumption, consuming no more than 20 to 50 grams (g) of carbohydrates each day, depending on your weight.
That's why it matters what kinds of carbs you choose. One baked potato could exceed your daily allocation. In contrast, you can have practically as much rawspinachas you wantbecause it only has 1.1 grams per cup.Zucchini is a carb bargain, too, with about 4 grams per cup. Or you can have an egg, which only has 1 gram of carbs.
Online searches and resources provide numerous charts, lists, recipes, and meal plans for changing to a keto lifestyle.
This Way to Keto…Follow the Rules
Keto is different from the Atkins diet, even though both follow low carb eating. Atkins allows unlimited protein. Keto limits protein to roughly 20% or less of total daily calories until exercise routines and habits are built.
The actual amount that’s right for you depends on your weight. Keto lifestyles build muscle and energy by keeping protein consumption at 1 gram protein per pound of body weight per day. So if you weigh 150, you get 150 grams of protein, or about a third of a pound of protein.
The carbs should account for only 10% of your daily caloric intake.
If you are adding it all up and wondering… yes, the rest of your diet comes from fat. Olive oilis always a good source, so are avocados (even though they will contribute some carbs).
But you have to do more than hit your target some days and let it slide on others. You have to stay on plan. As a rule, a person needs to follow a keto eating plan for 2 to 4 days before their body is in ketosis.
That can trip you up. Say you start your new keto lifestyle on Monday and decide to have a cheat day on Thursday. You probably knocked yourself out of keto before you got there. Then you would need another2-4 days to get back to ketosisthe following Sunday or Monday.
The upshot is that following your new keto lifestyle sporadicallywould mean you never actually get into full ketosis.
But there is an alternative…
Another method of achieving ketosis is through intermittent fasting.
One approach is to eat only during an eight-hour window and then fast for 16 hours. You would follow a plan like that every day to get results.
Another intermittent fasting approach is the eat-stop-eat method where you fast for a full one to two days. Some people allow 500 calories on fast days, but completely fasting is more effective.
As you consume less food, your body begins to rely more on its fat reserves for energy.
The Basic Plan
A "normal" ketogenic plan consists of at least 70% of calories coming from fat, with fewer than 10% of calories coming from carbohydrates and less than 20% of calories coming from protein. Many people try to keep the carb count even lower, down to 5% of calories.
Cheese, butter, eggs, almonds, salmon, bacon and olive oil are just a few of the tasty items that should be consumed in healthy quantities. Other non-starchy vegetables that should be consumed in moderate quantities include broccoli, cauliflower, greens, and spinach, among other things.
The Advantages of the Ketogenic Diet
1. Burning Fat Fast. Removing excess carbs from your diet means your food will not raise blood sugar or store more glycogen in your liver, so when you need energy, your body has to turn to another source… your fat. That’s why people following keto diets lose weight quickly.
2. Lower blood sugar. All followers should see blood sugar levels drop to better or good levels. The benefits vary by your status. Type II diabetics usually have lower blood glucose and lower A1c scores. A person with Type 1 diabetes may need less insulin on keto, but it is important if you have Type 1 diabetes to work closely with your doctor because the insulin to ketone ratio for you needs to be especially well monitored.
3. Chronic conditions may improve.The keto eating has been studied extensively and has been shown to provide therapeutic advantages for a range of illness conditions in hundreds of research trials. In fact, it had a medical origin as a treatment for epilepsy. The diet is currently showing promise in the treatment
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Alzheimer's Disease
- Parkinson's Disease
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Mitochondrial Disease
4. Energy and Fitness Boost.The keto lifestyle tends to make people feel more energetic, so they are apt to move more and exercise again.
5. Muscle Protection. Keto will not add muscle by magic. You still have to work out. But it may protect you from losing muscle while you are dieting. Most other diet programs fail to preserve muscle. About a fourth of the weight loss on low calorie diets is usually muscle loss.
Cons of Following a Ketogenic Diet
1. Ketosis diet plans can be challenging.Food is love and reward in our society, and that often means sweets and snacks. Following a keto lifestyle may mean working to disconnect the link between way you think about food and the emotions around it. It’s also hard to stick with keto if you are in the habit of sandwiches or fast food for lunch.
2. You may eliminate some healthy food nutrients.When you severely restrict carbohydrates, it can be difficult to get full vitamin, mineral, and fiber intakes. These can be supplemented with several great products on the market.
3. You may feel tired and fuzzy-headed before you are energized.Carbohydrates are associated with wheat and sugar intake, which creates a false sense of high energy in the body. In the few days of ketogenic eating, some people find it difficult to concentrate. Their energy may drop for a few days as well. This is known as carb crash, and it should soon go away.