Low carbohydrate diets have been a staple on the diet front for decades; however, is every carbohydrate-restricting diet considered ketogenic? What makes a diet ketogenic and how will ketosis effect you? Understanding ketogenic dieting and ketosis can help you make a better decision about which diet is best for your lifestyle.
What is a ketogenic diet?
A ketogenic diet is any diet that is high in fat with moderate amounts of protein, and low in carbohydrates. This dietary formula causes the body to shift, metabolically, from using glucose for energy to burning fat for energy. This metabolic shift is known as ketosis. When your body enters ketosis, your liver starts to break down fat cells into fatty acids and ketones for energy.
Normally, our bodies use carbohydrates as its main fuel source by turning them into glucose. With a limited amount of carbs, a ketogenic diet forces your body to burn fat as its primary source of fuel.
What should I eat on a ketogenic diet?
As previously mentioned, Ketogenic diets are high in fat, moderate amounts of protein, and low in carbohydrates. Generally, your daily macronutrients should be approximately 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbohydrates.
Like any other diet, the ketogenic diet works by limiting the amount of calories you consume and creating a caloric deficit (where the body burns more energy than it takes in). The key here is that high fat diets tends to be more satiating and control hunger better than a typical calorie-restricting diet, which leads to more sticking power and weight loss success.
The following is an example of a typical day on the ketogenic diet:
Breakfast: 2 eggs, 1 ounce of chopped onions or other low carbohydrate vegetables, 1 ounce of cheese, coffee with cream
Lunch: 3 cups of salad greens, 6 ounces of chicken cooked in olive oil, 2 tablespoons of salad dressing, 1 celery stalk with 1 ounce cream cheese
Dinner: 6 ounce grilled steak, mushrooms sautéed in olive oil, broccoli or other low carbohydrate vegetable, coffee with heavy cream
Snack Ideas: celery with cream cheese, a slice of cheese, or a handful of macadamia nuts.
Be sure to drink plenty of water and replace electrolytes. Although it is usually advised to limit sodium intake, especially for those trying to lose weight, your body actually needs extra sodium on a ketogenic diet.
When you reduce your carbohydrate intake, insulin is reduced, which effects the rate at which sodium is extracted through kidneys; therefore, this process can cause sodium levels to drop significantly. Replacing sodium is a must— unless you have a medical condition that restricts your sodium intake, do not be afraid to use salt or drink 1-2 cups of bouillon a day.
How do I know if I’m in ketosis?
When you are in ketosis, your body will excrete excess ketones through urine and sweat. To confirm that your body is producing ketones, you can buy a product called Ketostix, which allows you to check the ketone levels in your urine. Once you are consistently in ketosis and you get the hang of the diet, you can adjust your carbohydrate intake to what works best for you.
Is ketosis safe?
Generally speaking, limiting carbohydrate intake is safe and does not have negative side effects in healthy populations. There is a transition period when your body is adapting to using fats and ketones as its primary fuel source.
Symptoms such as headaches, weakness, light-headedness, and irritability can occur. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few days or up to a week or so, depending on your previous diet before beginning a ketogenic plan.
Often, there is confusion between ketosis and a different, serious condition called ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is when a diabetic individual, who lacks insulin, enters a state where ketone levels become too high— far higher than that achieved by ketosis itself.
Benefits of a ketogenic diet
The most common reason to follow a ketogenic diet is for weight loss, and followers are quite successful. When your body is metabolizing fat for fuel it is easy to get rid of excess stored fat as well as fat consumed through diet.
Some other benefits include:
– Controlled blood sugar without insulin spikes. When we eat carbohydrates blood sugar levels rise. By eating a low carbohydrate diet, your blood sugar levels stay steady, and we create an environment within our bodies that limits fat storage and promotes the breakdown of fat.
– Noticeably reduced food cravings and consistent energy.
– Eat fresh, whole foods found in any grocery store or restaurant without speciality products.
– A feeling of being satisfied longer than traditional diets because the food choices are more satiating, as fats and proteins are more filling than refined sugars and simple carbohydrates.
The downside of a Ketogenic diet:
Like any calorie restricting diet, the ketogenic diet is not without some risk factors including the following:
1. Could have a negative effect on your blood lipid profile: some dieters experience a drop in cholesterol levels while others might see an increase.
2. Flu-like symptoms or fatigue that can last anywhere from three days to a week or two. Possible micronutrient deficiencies because you are limiting carbohydrates — be sure to supplement with a high-quality multivitamin.
3. Constipation and electrolyte imbalance.
4. Dehydration due to the diuretic effect of ketosis.
If you are considering a ketogenic diet, check with your physician first to see if it is the right plan for you. Remember, the best diet plan is the one that can be maintained to achieve lasting results.