Here’s a Basic and Detailed guide to the Game-Changing Diet – THE KETOGENIC DIET.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis refers to a process or metabolic activity undertaken by our body when it does not have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy. Therefore, the body burns fat instead and produces things called ketones, which is used as fuel for energy by the body.
Ketosis is a popular low-carb weight loss program that helps you burn fat and feel less hungry. Ketosis generally kicks in when you reduce the consumption of carbohydrates in your body, hence depriving the body of glucose (sugar), which is the main source of energy.
The most effective way to start the process of ketosis is through a ketogenic diet popularly known as the ‘KETO DIET’. One can enter ketosis also through fasting. Intermittent fasting helps the body to enter ketosis faster. There are many types of intermittent fasting but the most popular is eating food for 8 hours per day and fasting for the remaining 16 hours.
There are also a number of tests to determine whether your body has entered ketosis in the form of blood, urine, and breath tests which measure the amount of ketones produced by the body.
You can also come to know if the body has entered ketosis through the indication of symptoms such as dry mouth, frequent urination, increased thirst and loss of appetite.
What is a ketogenic diet AKA ‘KETO DIET’?
A ketogenic diet popularly known as a keto diet is a low carb – high fat diet plan similar to the low carb or atkins diet plan that helps in weight reduction and even has a number of other health benefits.
The idea is to cut down on carbohydrate consumption of the body replacing it with higher fat intake which helps your body to get into a metabolic state called ketosis.
When your body achieves ketosis, it becomes extremely efficient at burning fat for energy resulting into weight loss and reduced appetite.
Also, it turns fat into ketones which become the source of energy for the body instead of glucose which results in reduced blood sugar and insulin levels in the body providing some health benefits.
How does the Keto diet work?
For a healthy non-diabetic person a keto diet generally starts the process of ketosis in 3 to 4 days of reducing the carbs intake to 20gms to 50gms per day; that’s roughly around a cup of low-fat fruit yogurt, two small bananas or three slices of bread.
When the procedure of ketosis starts, your body eventually starts using up fat as a fuel for energy in the body. This results in burning of fat and reduction of weight.
Though studies have shown keto diet to have some health benefits but it is important to understand that keto diet is primarily used as a short-term plan for weight loss rather than for the health benefits.
Who benefits from keto diet?
Ketogenic diet is most popularly used as a weight loss plan. This diet is so filling with high fat intake that it helps achieve weight loss without counting calories or tracking your food intake.
It is also recommended plan of some doctors for children having epilepsy as it helps prevent seizures. Some research also suggests its usefulness in other medical conditions like lowering risk of heart disease, acne, certain metabolic syndromes and certain brain conditions but there are no proven results so far.
It is always advisable to consult with your doctor first before starting the ketogenic diet especially if you have Type1 Diabetes.
Health Benefits of a Keto Diet
The major benefit of a ketogenic diet is weight loss and this is the main reason it is widely used. But besides weight loss, it has a number of other health benefits.
Doctors also prescribe ketogenic diet to children suffering from epilepsy to help prevent seizures.
Research suggests that keto diet can help lower the risk of heart disease. Some studies also suggest its benefits in conditions such as metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.
Since ketogenic diet helps reduce excess fat, it helps patients having Type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and metabolic syndromes.
An old study has proven the benefit of ketogenic diet in improving insulin sensitivity by 75% which is commendable.
Another study conducted with 349 Type 2 Diabetic patients observing Ketogenic Diet achieved a weight loss of an average 26.02 pounds (11.9kg) over a period of 2 years. They also experienced a considerable improvement in their blood sugar management resulting in the decrease of blood sugar medicines during the course of study. 
Besides this research is also going on to study the effects of ketogenic diet on different conditions such as:
- Nervous system diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s and Parkinson’s.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Symptoms and side effects of Keto Diet
If you are a normal healthy person, then usually keto diet is safe for you and doesn’t have any significant side effect. But even though, when you initially start the keto diet, then during the first week or so you may experience some symptoms which is usually referred to as ‘keto flu’ which is actually not an official medical condition and its over in a few days.
Studies suggest these symptoms usually occur due to sudden sugar and carbohydrate withdrawal from the body. It can also be due to changes in gut bacteria or an immune system reaction.
Reported keto flu symptoms include:
- Loss of energy and mental tiredness
- Sleep issues
- Sugar cravings
- Brain fog
- Digestive discomfort
- Decreased exercise performance
- Bad breadth known as keto breath
How to minimize side effects of Keto Diet?
Keto diet symptoms or keto flu is temporary and usually goes away in a few days. But, there are certain things you can do to minimize these side effects.
The first thing you can start with is instead of directly switching to keto diet you can start with a low carb diet for the first few weeks. This will help your body to adjust to lower carbs in their diet and teach it to burn more fat rather than eliminating the carbs to a bare minimum directly which is required in keto diet.
The other most important thing is to drink a lot of water and keep your self-hydrated always. This helps to ease and prevent some of the symptoms.
The water and mineral balance of the body gets affected when you start keto diet. And so, it is recommended to include additional salt in your meals or take some additional mineral supplements. Please talk to your doctor about the nutritional needs before you take on any supplements.
You must eat until you are full without calorie count at least in the starting duration of the diet which will help you avoid certain symptoms. Anyways keto is a diet that doesn’t require calorie restriction.
Research also states that every 1 in 20 children suffering from epilepsy that are put to keto diet get kidney stones. Potassium citrate supplement has proven to be helpful in preventing it. It’s important to talk to your doctor about risk of kidney stones whenever a child is put on keto diet.
Keto diet is never suggested for a pregnant woman and even doctors recommend a breastfeeding mom should avoid this diet until their feeding duration. If a breastfeeding mother doesn’t get adequate calories or fluids it can affect the breast milk supply.
Risks of Keto Diet
Ketogenic diet which is observed for a short duration generally do not impose any vital risks in a healthy person. But, if observed for long term it may have some negative effects on the body.
Some of the risks linked to ketogenic diet include:
- Kidney stones
- Low protein in the food
- Loss of muscle
- Extra fat deposits in the liver
- Micronutrient deficiencies
For a diabetic person it may also cause ketoacidosis.
Ketosis and Ketoacidosis
Ketogenic diet helps your body to start the process of ketosis in order to lose weight. But generally, the body of a healthy person who has a balanced diet does not make or use ketones and controls the amount of fat it burns. And only when the body is deprived of calories and carbs it will switch to ketosis for energy. The body can go into ketosis also during pregnancy or when you exercise for a long time.
For a diabetic person ketosis can become a major risk when ketones gets built up in the body in high levels and can cause dehydration and change the chemical balance of the blood. This may result in blood becoming acidic which can also lead to coma or even death.
Ketoacidosis or diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) occurs in a person whose diabetes is not under control and they don’t take enough insulin. People who have diabetes can also get DKA in case of an injury or sickness where the body doesn’t get enough fluids causing dehydration.
Sometimes ketoacidosis also occurs in a non-diabetic person due to alcoholism, starvation or an overactive thyroid.
Contact your doctors in case you notice any of the following symptoms while on a ketogenic diet:
- Excessive thirst
- Dry mouth
- Breathing problem
- Fruity- smelling breath
For a diabetic person, throwing up can be dangerous. Usually, DKA is a slow process but can be accelerated with vomiting. Therefore if vomiting continues for more than 2 hours it is advisable to consult a doctor.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ’s):
Here we have provided with most common concerns and questions regarding the ketogenic diet:
Although on an average this diet should be continued for at least 90 days to give you visible weight loss results. Still, result for each person will vary depending on the lifestyle and body type.
Yes. But, during the first 2 to 3 months of the diet it is extremely important to cut down on carbs significantly. After that occasional carbs intake should be fine as long as you manage to stay on diet after that effectively.
Protein intake should be moderate as high level can slow down ketosis. The upper limit permissible is around 35% of the total calorie intake.
Yes, ketosis through ketogenic diet is usually safe for a healthy person. Speak to your doctor before starting any new diet.
Yes, there is a risk of muscle loss with ketogenic diet. But it can be managed through required protein intake and ketone levels. In addition to this weight lifting also helps minimize muscle loss.
Yes, but it would take more efforts and may not work as well as on a balanced diet.
The keto diet is not generally very good for a long term as it can cause many negative impacts on health, vitamin deficiencies and also hamper your ability to exercise.
That’s normal. Bad breath is a common side effect of the keto diet. You can try having sips of naturally flavored water at regular intervals. Chewing sugar free gums may also help.
This is another common side effect of the keto diet but generally it goes in a few days. If it persists for long you can try including more fiber in your diet.
This can happen when you are not in full ketosis yet or your body isn’t utilizing fats and ketones efficiently. To prevent this, you can lower your carb intake and try to increase the ketones levels.
A ketogenic diet is a great way to lose weight effectively. For healthy people process of ketosis can prove beneficial in multiple health issues.
The keto diet works wonders for people who are overweight and wants to improve their metabolic health.
This diet is not suitable for people who want to gain muscle and weight. It is also not favorable for athletes as it hampers the exercising performance.
Though this diet has some amazing benefits for some people it may not be a sustainable option for everyone. Keto diet brings a lot of changes in the entire body system of an individual which may not be suitable in case of some people’s lifestyle and preferences.
Before starting a ketogenic diet it is always advisable to consult a doctor first to decide whether a keto diet is right for you.
We hope this article was informative and helpful for you. We look forward to your feedback and suggestions if any. Please do write to us in the comment section below!