In the world of nutrition, the Ketogenic diet is all that anyone who is aspiring to live heathier or lose weight could talk about. Since 2016, Google has seen an upsurge in searches for the keto diet. Just to give you an idea, almost 1,500,000 people have subscribed to the r/keto subreddit, and if you tweet #keto on Twitter, you will inevitably find an endless stream of creative keto recipes and success stories touting miraculous weight loss.
If you are new to the health realm, you might be wondering what the keto diet is all about. In a nutshell, it is a low carb diet, where the body produces ketones in the liver to be used as energy. As soon as you consume anything high in carbs, your body automatically converts it into glucose and insulin. Since your body breaks down glucose as its primary energy source, fats are not needed, and are instead stored in your body. However, in the absence of carbs and therefore glucose, the body is induced into a metabolic state known as ketosis, laying the foundation for what we call the Keto diet. We don’t do this through cutting down calories, but via starvation of carbohydrates.
When you deprive your body of glucose, either by following a very low carb diet (VLCD) or fasting, your body enters the metabolic state called ketosis – it’s primarily getting fuel by burning stored fat.
Our bodies are adaptable to the core; when you take away carbohydrates and load them with fats, our bodies begin to burn ketones as the primary energy source. Optimal ketone levels offer a host of weight loss, health, mental and physical performance benefits.
Why Eat A Keto Diet – The Health Benefits!
The keto diet offers a bevy of benefits similar to those of high-fat and low carb diets, but it surely takes it up a notch. Keto can be construed as more of a super-charged low-carb diet that is packed with plenty of hidden benefits.
This is a no-brainer; training your body to become a fat-burning machine can greatly help you meet your fitness goals. Sticking to the Keto diet drops insulin levels, while fueling up your body’s fat burning action. This appears to make it far easier for body fat loss to occur without starving yourself to no end. We have over 30 high-quality scientific studies to prove that when compared to other low-carb diets, keto leads to more effective weight loss.
When your body learns to burn fat round the clock, you gain better control over your appetite, since your body can now tap into months of stored energy, instead of making your tummy rumble. This helps curb appetite, which further leads to weight loss. It also makes intermittent fasting a breeze, something that has the potential to reverse type 2 diabetes and speed up weight loss, adding to the benefits of Keto.
Plus, imagine the time and money saved when you don’t feel the constant need to munch away all the time. Many people only feel the need to eat twice a day on a keto diet, and some just once a day. Not having to stave off hunger pangs all the time could perhaps provide a solution to eating disorders like bulimia or food addiction. Food becomes less of a guilty pleasure and more of need.
Control Blood Sugar and Reverse Type 2 Diabetes
A ketogenic diet can greatly keep your blood sugar levels in check. It is one of the best diets for managing type 2 diabetes, sometimes even resulting in a complete reversal of the disease as witnessed in a plethora of cases and proven by studies. It makes perfect sense since in lowering blood-sugar levels, Keto alleviates dependency on medicine and rids you of the potentially negative impact of high insulin levels.
Improved Health Markers
We have many studies to prove that low-carb diets improve several important risk factors for heart disease, including the cholesterol profile (HDL, triglycerides), and moderately affecting the total and LDL cholesterol levels as well. It doesn’t come as a surprise to see improved blood pressure, insulin levels, and blood sugar levels. These commonly improved markers are related to what we call as the “metabolic syndrome” and include improvements in waist circumference and weight and diabetes type 2 reversal.
Energy and Mental Performance
A lot of studies link Keto diets to increased mental performance. Not to mention, people on Keto diet experience a boost in energy. Instead of relying on dietary carbs, the brain is fueled by a never-ending supply of ketones, an effective brain fuel. Ketosis ensures an incessant flow of ketones to the brain, bidding issues stemming from blood sugar swings. This paves the way for resolution of brain fog and improved concentration and focus, with a promise of enhanced mental clarity.
A calmer stomach
A keto diet often alleviates the symptoms of IBS, such as pains, cramps, gaseousness, and indigestion, and for the cherry on top, this starts within a day or two of going on the diet.
Enhanced Physical Endurance
In theory, keto diets cause a boost in your physical endurance by letting your body tap into the vast amounts of energy in your fat stores. The body’s supply of glycogen runs out in an hour or two of intense exercise, but your fat stores can help you last weeks. Apart from this, keto diet reduces the body fat percentage, which can prove to be a great help in a number of competitive endurance sports.
The keto diet was initially invented for Epilepsy patients in 1920, before its weight loss implications were known. Epilepsy patients on keto diet are known to remain seizure-free, even on lesser doses of anti-epileptic drugs. This helps rid the body of drug side effect, boosting mental performance.
Understanding macros is the secret to success on the ketogenic diet.
What are macros, you may ask! Macros are your main sources of calories.
The macros that you need to keep an eye on are:
And in that order only.
This is because the keto diet is a high-fat diet, with a major chunk of your daily calories coming from fats. The general ratio of macros to strictly adhere to goes like: 70% fats, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrates.
When starting off on keto, make sure your daily net carbs don’t exceed 20g.
What Can You Eat on a Keto Diet?
Now that you know the ins and outs of the Keto diet, it’s time to make a checklist and head out to the grocery store. While on the keto diet, be prepared to eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods including seeds, nuts, vegetables, meat, and plenty of healthy fats from other sources. Time to cleanse your pantry of fruits, processed foods, legumes, and grains. Here are the keto-friendly foods you can consume within your macro guidelines:
MEAT, EGGS, AND NUTS
All types of meat, including seafood, are included, but make sure they are fried or breaded. Be choose to opt for the highest quality of meat, picking only pasture raised pork and poultry, wild-caught fish, organic and grass-fed beef whenever possible. All seeds and nuts have a thumbs up from our end, provided they are not sugar coated or roasted.
Enjoy meals containing:
- Pork, including sugar-free bacon, ham, chops, tenderloin, and pork loin
- Poultry, including wild game, turkey, quail, and chicken, but be sure to opt for fattier, darker meat
- Beef, preferably fattier cuts like stews, ground beef, roast beef, veal and steak
- Organ meats, such as offal, kidney, tongue, liver, and heart
- Shellfish, such as lobster, mussels, crab, clams, and oysters
- Fish, including mahi-mahi, catfish, cod, halibut, salmon, tuba, and mackerel
- Lamb and goat meat
- Eggs to be consumed whole as boiled, scrambled, fried, or deviled
- Vegetarian sources, like nut butter, almonds, or macadamia nuts
When on a keto meal plan, be sure to get your fill of healthy, low-carb vegetables. Vegetables are the best way of getting your dose of micronutrients, so that you don’t get vitamin deficient. Enjoy low-carb vegetables like cruciferous veggies and leafy greens, which contain less than 5 grams of net carbs per serving.
Veggies to shop for include:
- Fermented vegetables such as Kimchi and Sauerkraut
- Lettuces, including butterhead, romaine, and iceberg
- Cruciferous veggies like zucchini, cauliflower, and cabbage
- Leafy greens such as arugula, swiss chard, spinach, and kale
- Other vegetables such as celery, asparagus, and mushroom
Good news for dairy lovers, the keto diet is dairy friendly. Be sure to opt for high-quality, organic, whole-fat and grass-fed dairy if you can afford it. Stock up on:
- Hard and soft cheeses
- Sour cream
- Fermented dairy products such as kefir and yoghurts
- Heavy cream
- Butter and ghee
When on keto, sugar laden friends are your worst enemy. Still, if the sweet tooth kicks in, grab a handful of raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, or blueberries to treat yourself. Avocado is the only fruit you can gobble up guilt free.
HEALTHY FATS AND OILS
A healthy keto diet encourages you to eat up a mix of both animal fats (saturated fats) and plant-based fats. Healthy fat sources include MCT oil from plants, sustainable palm oil, olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, tallow, avocado oil, walnut oil, sesame seed oil, Flaxseed oil, Lard, mayonnaise, and grass-fed butter.
HERBS AND SPICES
Living the Keto way doesn’t have to be bland. Season freely, as long as its sugar free. You can consider stocking up on fresh herbs to add that zing to any dish.
How to Know if you are in Ketosis?
You are faithfully sticking to your keto diet, but how to know if it is actually working? While you measure ketones in your body via urine or blood strips, there are some symptoms to look for which would tell if you are on the right track.
- Frequent Urination: Being a natural diuretic, being on a keto diet entails more frequent trips to the bathroom. Acetoacetate, a ketone body, is also excreted in urination, which further increases your bathroom trips.
- Dry Mouth: Frequent urination leads to dehydration, resulting in increased thirst and dry mouth. Just make sure to stay hydrated and replenish all your electrolytes (salt, magnesium, potassium).
- Keto Breath: Acetone partially excretes via our breath, causing it to smell like nail polish remover. Don’t worry, it will go way when your body starts adapting to it.
- Enhanced Energy and Suppressed Appetite: Once you get over the “keto flu”, be prepared to achieve a more energized mental state than you have ever experienced.
How to get into ketosis Fast on a keto diet?
When your body is striving to enter into Ketosis, here is how you can speed up the process:
1. Restrict carbohydrates
Your carbohydrate intake should not exceed 20gm a day, no matter what. Fibre, however, doesn’t count as it is beneficial for ketosis. Internet is replete with keto diet plans and recipes that will make sure you don’t exceed the carb count. While this is the essence of the keto diet and in most cases, will suffice to get your body in ketosis, the rest of the list will make sure that you are on the fast lane to success.
2. Cut Down Protein
Keto is not a high-protein diet so try to cut your protein count low. Aim to meet your optimal protein need daily but don’t eat more. This is because any excess protein gets converted to glucose in the body, reducing ketosis. Aim to consume 1.5 gram of protein per day, per kg of body weight – which would mount to almost 1.5 gram of protein per day, per kg of body weight – if you weigh 70 kilos. Consuming any more would only show down the process.
3. Eat Only when hungry, but until you feel satisfied
The biggest difference between a Keto diet and starvation is that keto is a high-fat, low-carb diet. Think of keto diet as highly sustainable. People who resort to starvation give up after a while, exasperated of feeling hungry and worn out all the time. Being a sustainable diet, keto diet always keeps you satiated. If you still feel hungry, add more fats to your diet, like munch on nuts, drizzle more olive oil over your meals, snack on an avocado, etc.
4. Avoid Snacking Whenever you can
Just because you can eat more on keto diet than any other diet, doesn’t give you the license to glut. Avoid snacking when you are not actually hungry, this includes boredom eating as well. Just eating for fun all the time which slow down weight loss, since your body will assimilate all the excess fat instead of – the
5. Practice Intermittent Fasting
Throw intermittent fasting to the mix to speed up weight loss. For instance, skimp on breakfast, fast for 16 hours a day, and only eat during the remaining 8 hours. This increases the ketone levels in your body, as well as accelerate diabetes reversal and weight loss.
6. Exercise, Exercise and Exercise
When you exercise on a low-carb diet, you actually give a boost to your ketone levels. While exercise is not a part of the keto diet, it does help to speed up the process.
7. Catch up on Sleep
For most people, sleeping less than 7 hours a night adds to stress levels. Stress hormones and sleep deprivation do nothing more than slowing ketosis and raising your blood sugar levels. Not to mention, they make it harder to resist temptation in the face and stick to the keto routine.
A Sample Keto Meal Plan For 1 Week to Get you Started!
If you are clueless as to how to start keto diet, here is a sample ketogenic diet meal plan for one week:
- Breakfast: Two eggs fried in pastured butter served with sautéed greens.
- Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil and feta cheese.
- Dinner: Roast chicken with cream sauce and sautéed broccoli.
- Breakfast: Egg, tomato, basil and goat cheese omelet.
- Lunch: Steak bowl with cauliflower rice, cheese, herbs, avocado and salsa.
- Dinner: Salmon with asparagus cooked in butter.
- Breakfast: Coconut milk chia pudding topped with coconut and walnuts/ Coffee with 2 Tbsp Heavy Cream
- Lunch: Bun-less salmon burgers topped with pesto.
- Dinner: Zoodles with ground beef and homemade tomato sauce
- Breakfast: Omelet with avocado, salsa, peppers, onion and spices.
- Lunch: Turkey slices + almonds + avocado + cucumber + blueberries
- Dinner: Zucchini lasagna (ground beef + mozzarella + parmesan + zucchini slices)
- Breakfast: Eggplant hash (eggplant seared in olive oil) topped with fried eggs.
- Lunch: Beef stir-fry cooked in coconut oil with vegetables.
- Dinner: Sashimi takeout with miso soup
- Breakfast: Keto pancakes with berries and heavy cream
- Lunch: Arugula salad with hard-boiled eggs, turkey, avocado and blue cheese.
- Dinner: Pork chops with green vegetable salad.
- Breakfast: Green smoothie (avocado + MCT oil + cucumber + spinach + parsley + hemp seeds + turmeric + lemon)
- Lunch: Shrimp and Artichoke plate
- Dinner: Baked tofu with cauliflower rice, broccoli, and peppers, topped with a homemade peanut sauce
Common Side Effects on a Keto Diet
There are a few common side effects that people encounter in the initial days of the keto diet, but they go away after a while. More often than not, the issues stem from lack of micronutrients in the body and dehydration. Make sure you are getting your fill of micronutrients and water.
Legs cramps, especially those happening at night or in the morning, are the bane of all those just getting their feet wet with keto. It’s mostly due to a lack of magnesium in the body. Make sure to season all your meals with salt and stay dehydrated. If the problem persists, you can take a magnesium supplement. Keto friendly magnesium-rich foods like broccoli can also prevent it.
Those frequent trips to the bathroom cause dehydration, which eventually leads to constipation. A simple solution is to drink more fluids, almost a gallon a day if possible. Fibre-rich non-starchy vegetables, such as spinach, can alleviate this issue to some extent. If the problem still persists, usually taking a probiotic or psyllium husk powder will work.
It’s pretty common for your heart to beat a bit harder and faster than necessary while on keto. It’s pretty standard, so nothing to worry about. Just make sure to monitor your salt and water intake. Typically, this suffices to alleviate the problem right away. Though if the issue persists, try taking potassium supplements.
Reduced Physical Performance
You may notice a slight decrease in your physical performance when you first begin a keto diet, but it’s just your bodies way of adopting to the keto diet. As your body starts assimilating fat for energy, all of your endurance and strength will return to normal.