A ketogenic diet or low carb-high exists since the 1920’s.
Unlike most modern diets that come and go ketogenic diet has been going strong for over 9 decades.
It’s effective in treating lots of underlying causes of health problems as well as excess body fat.
Here’s what you have to know to get started:
What ketogenic diet is.
How you can lose weight with it.
How long will it take to lose weight?
What foods should you eat and what should you avoid.
How long will it take to get into ketosis?
How to avoid common ketogenic diet side effects.
So, what is a ketogenic diet?
A ketogenic diet is about shifting your body’s primary fuel source. You have to do this by eating more fat. The term “ketogenic” comes from fuel molecules called “ketones” which the body produces in the liver from fatty acids. Normally, your body is using sugar for energy: carbohydrates that you eat get broken down into glucose which is then used as energy.
Any excess is stored as glycogen in the liver, muscles or converted to body fat. When your body runs out of glucose, it signals your brain that you need more carbohydrates. What happens next is you reaching for a quick snack like chocolate, chips, etc. And you know what this vicious cycle leads to? That’s right! You getting fatter day by day! But no worries.
When you get used to burning ketones, this won’t be the case anymore. I promise you that! You won’t crave food as much once you adapt to using fat. The reason why is because the liver provides glucose from its reserves to fuel the body. But, when you keep your carbohydrates low and fat high, you start depleting glycogen reserves.
Now, the liver has to start producing ketones. You may get sugar craving during the transition so, you might wanna try something like keto bombs that are sweetened with natural sweeteners like Stevia. There are tons of recipes on the internet. You will find something you like.
How does the ketogenic diet help with weight loss?
Ketogenic diet got popular in the weight loss world. It works for a lot of people. Like I mentioned in the beginning, the ketogenic diet makes your whole body switch its fuel supply to run on fat. Not just fat from food but your body fat as well. Your body fat is there for a reason. Your body does not want to start using it so easily.
Evolution prepared us to use it only if there is no other source of energy. When we had nothing to eat, we had to rely on your fat reserves for energy. Unless you’re starving yourself, your body will always look for another source of energy that is not coming from its fat reserves.
By going on keto you start to adapt your body to burn fat instead of sugars. As ketones start to get released due to no glycogen, your body will start to use its fat reserves or fat from the diet. Keep in mind that eating fat makes you feel full for longer.
That’s because it does not stimulate insulin all that much so there is no energy crash, making it a steady energy source. This will make you less hungry so, you will consume fewer calories thus leading to weight loss.
Unless you start eating like a maniac ( which I used to do ) and stuff your mouth with so much fatty food in a very short period that your brain doesn’t even know if you’re full or not thus making you exceed your daily calorie limit fast. Eat slowly, enjoy your food. This way you will feel full earlier and eat less.
How fast will I lose weight on a ketogenic diet?
By now you are probably wondering: How long will it take to start seeing results? well, we’re all different. It’s hard to point out exactly how long will it take to lose weight. But here’s a list of most common things to take into considerations. They will determinate the pace of your weight loss on keto.
- Your current health. Are you suffering from things like insulin resistance? Diabetes? How overweight are you? Do you have problems with thyroid? Your health determines a lot about how long will it take to lose weight so, you have to consider these things.
- Your body fat percentage. How much fat do you have on your body? What’s your body mass index (BMI)? How much muscle mass you have? If you have a lot of fat you will most likely start losing weight fast in the beginning.
- Your age. The older you are the longer it might take to get your body adapted to a ketogenic diet. Your metabolism is also slower. But don’t give up! It’s never too late to change your life!
- Your habits. Are you exercising or just doing a ketogenic diet and nothing else? Your progress may be slow or non existent. Are you binging on sugary foods and drinks? Are you eating food without knowing what’s in it? There might be hidden carbs in there. This will keep you far away from ketosis so watch out for it.
What to consume on a ketogenic diet?
Fat and moderate protein while keeping the carbs low. That’s the only way to go. You can’t eat all kinds of things. First few days will be tough, I know. You might crave sweets but, don’t worry. Cravings for sweets will fade away once you get used to burning fat. What if they don’t? You might ask. well, you could try keto bombs with sweeteners like Stevia.
There are plenty of alternatives for all kinds of sweets you are used to eating. Remember that you have to keep carbohydrates low if you want to get into ketosis. Also, remember that carbohydrates are in healthy foods as well, so don’t eat everything that might be healthy. Not all healthy foods are good for keto.
Like oats, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, potatoes, beans, rice, fruit, etc. Not all fruit is bad either. You could eat avocado and berries, as long as you consume them in moderate amounts. So what to eat and what to avoid in summary:
- Foods to Eat
- Grass fed meats like beef, lamb, chicken
- High fat cream
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Sunflower seeds
- Stevia as a sweetener
- Foods to Avoid
- All wheat products (including whole wheat)
- Processed sugar foods
- All fruits except avocados and berries (in moderation)
How long will it take to get into ketosis?
When carbs are cut down and the body gets used fat, it is said to be in the state of ketosis. It may take a few days, even weeks to get into ketosis. It is all about keeping carbs low, protein moderate and fat high. The transition can be sped up if we fast – stop eating for some time.
I recommend combining the ketogenic diet with intermittent fasting for faster results. You may know that you’ve reached ketosis by noticing changes like:
- You don’t feel as hungry and, you also have more energy. This is the biggest sign of ketosis. You don’t get hungry as often as you used to.
- You have more energy. Since ketones are being produced, they help your body provide a more reliable energy source which makes you more energized.
- Better mental focus. You experience an increase in mental performance. This is due to ketones being a better fuel source for your brain.
- Dry mouth. This symptom is due to your body releasing fluids. When your body gets rid of all the carbs it loses a lot of fluids. You need to replenish your body with electrolytes. Consume enough salt and potassium.
- You have to urinate more frequently. Ketones are diuretic. You may start urinating more than usual. This is due to acetoacetate which is a ketone body being excreted.
- Weird breath. You may notice a strange, sweet smell in your breath. This is due to acetone interacting with the air in your lungs before being released in your mouth.
Common ketogenic diet side effects and how to avoid them.
As you start going keto, like with any other diet change, you essentially force your body to start changing the way it works. Body switching to fat instead of sugar for energy is the case with a ketogenic diet. There is no perfect diet. Neither is ketogenic.
But, if you’re overweight like I was, this diet will have fewer side effects than the diet you most likely are on now. You may experience side effects but, there are ways to fight them.
- Dizziness and Drowsiness
When body starts losing carbohydrates it will start getting rid of excess water. So, a lot of minerals like sodium, potassium, and magnesium will be lost as well. This, in turn, makes you fatigued, lightheaded or dizzy. You may also notice irregular heartbeats and shivers.
But you can make sure this never happens by eating food that is rich in potassium like kale, broccoli avocados, etc. You may have to supplement with magnesium as well but, check with your doctor if you have any kidney problems. Make sure you consume enough sodium too. Start adding more salt to your foods.
Don’t listen to the media giving salt a bad rep. Salt is good for you but, like with everything in life. Moderation is the key. If you’re suffering from high blood pressure, you should check with your doctor before making any change to your diet.
Because ketones are diuretic, your body is losing fluids so, you might experience cramps. To prevent it you have to do the same thing I mentioned above. Up your sodium intake. You will also have to increase your water intake. If you still have or you are starting to notice cramps you might want to supplement with magnesium.
- Low blood sugar
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) may occur at the beginning of a ketogenic diet. Have you been used to eating a lot of simple carbs (sweets) every day? This has made your body used to release higher amounts of insulin due to your frequent consumption of sugars.
Insulin is a hormone which removes sugar from the bloodstream if insulin is released in high amounts when there is no need, low blood sugar occurs. This will make you hungry and tired but don’t worry. Your body will adapt soon.
- Sleep issues
You might find it harder to fall asleep on keto. If you do, this might be due to low insulin and serotonin levels. Try snacking before bed with few carbs and some protein to stimulate insulin to give your brain some tryptophan. Tryptophan is the precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Histamines might also cause a problem for you. It might cause sleeplessness anxiety. You could try testing to make sure if that is the case by reducing foods high in histamines like eggs, cheese, avocado, spinach, bacon or nuts. If you consume vinegar or any vinegar containing food, stop it.
If you start getting better after reducing these foods, try replacing them with more vegetables.
When you’re getting adapted to ketogenic diet you might experience constipation. This may often be the case of dehydration. Since your body is losing carbs, it’s losing fluids as well. To avoid it, make sure you eat a lot of non-starchy vegetables, consume enough sodium, eat quality fiber from vegetables and drink plenty of water.
If you still have constipation you might wanna cut down on dairy and up your magnesium intake.
- Faster heartbeat
You may notice that your heart is starting to beat faster as you start adapting to ketones, it’s a common symptom and it should not last for long. However, if it does, you might be dehydrated, your sodium is low or both. Just keep drinking enough water and salt up your salt intake.
If you’re doing that and you still find your heart beating fast or irregularly, your potassium might be low. Eat more vegetables.
- Reduced physical performance
When you’re still adapting to fat as an energy source, you may find that you can’t perform as well as you used to. Because your body has not fully adapted, there is very little energy left in the body. There isn’t much you can do.
Just keep eating keto friendly foods and once you adapt to using fat for energy, you’ll perform like you used to or even better than before your body was using glucose. Just keep going forward. It’s worth the wait.
- Sugar cravings
As you produce ketones, your cravings will reduce. But, getting there might be hard. You have to go through the transition stage which might be challenging. It was for me. I have failed many times to get into ketosis due to my strong cravings for sweets.
But once I finally went through the transition, I noticed that I had fewer cravings. It took me around 1 week to finally notice my cravings fade away. What I would do is, I would clean up my house from any triggering foods while I was in the transition phase. I think that was the smartest thing to do.
It helped, a lot and I think you should do it too if you are easily triggered.
- Start implementing this diet.
- Eat high-quality fat.
- Consume moderate protein.
- Keep carbs below 50 g.
- Eat tons of vegetables.
- Add salt to your food.
- Supplement with magnesium if necessary.
- Say NO to sugar cravings because you know they will go away.
- Get healthy.
- Lose weight.
- Work out.
- Look good.
- Feel good.
- Enjoy life.
- Do all the above.
- If you screw up, try again.