If you ever read health and fitness articles, you’ve probably heard of the ketogenic diet – also known as ‘keto’. It’s often touted as a great weight-loss aid, but it’s also been suggested to aid illnesses too. There’s a lot of stuff out there, and we know you’ve not got all day, so we’re condensing the basics of the ketogenic diet to a nice, bite-size blog post for you!
What is the ketogenic diet?
Basically, it’s a low-carb, high-fat diet. The idea behind it (and its name) comes from the state you want your body to be in – ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state your body enters when food intake is low. During this state, your liver makes ‘ketones’ – an alternative fuel supply for your body! Your body needs to run on something, glucose or ketones, so if you starve it of glucose, it will automatically switch to ketones!
Why would I go keto?
The most popular reason to try this diet out is weight loss – ketosis turns your body into a fat burning machine! During a ketogenic diet, your body is fuelled by ketones. Since your liver makes ketones out of fat, your body is essentially running using fat as a fuel source!
There are other reasons to give this diet a try, however. Firstly, the ketogenic diet has been proven to be great for diabetics – it has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and can even remove the need for diabetic medication! The keto diet has also long been used to treat epilepsy, mostly in children. It can prove so effective that the need for medication is removed! Finally, lots of people go keto to improve their mental focus. Many people report a clearer head and better concentration on this diet, which is probably because ketones are great fuel for your brain!
What can I eat, and what do I avoid?
The ‘golden ratio’ for those on keto diets is 70% fats, 25% proteins, and a mere 5% carbs. Typically, you want your carb intake to fall between 20 – 30g a day. However, the lower your carb intake, the faster you’ll see results!
What you can eat:
- Meat & Fatty Fish – e.g. red meat, pork, chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna, and mackerel
- Unprocessed cheeses – e.g. mozzarella, cheddar, blue cheese
- Veggies – any leafy greens and most green vegetables. Also including onions, peppers, and tomatoes
- Nuts & seeds – e.g. walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds
- Oils – e.g. coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil
- Certain fruits – namely berries and avocados
What you should avoid:
- Grains & starches – e.g. wheat, pasta, rice, cereal
- Most fruit – apart from portions of berries and avocados
- Root vegetables – e.g. potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips
- Beans and legumes – e.g. kidney beans, lentils, and chickpeas
- Sugary foods of any kind
- ‘Low-fat’ or ‘diet’ products – most are highly processed and packed with carbs
Are there any cons?
Your body will take some time to adjust to the ketogenic diet, as it needs to get used to using ketones for energy. Allow 1 – 2 weeks for your body to start to adjust, but during this time you may experience some side effects! These include headaches, cramps, fatigue, irritability, and constipation. You can tough it out, however, and these side effects will eventually subside.
For most people, the most difficult part is actually sticking to the diet. It takes careful calculation to ensure every meal hits the right ratios, and eating out can be difficult.
Importantly, you should check with your doctor before going keto if you’re currently breastfeeding, or on any medication.
All in all, the ketogenic diet can be great for specific people – diabetics, those that want to lose weight and those that want to improve their metabolic health most of all. It might not be so great for elite athletes or those trying to pack on muscle. So, will you be trying out the ketogenic diet? Let us know in the comments!