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Diet Talk: The Ketogenic [Keto] Diet Explained

Published: 3/26/18

You may be hearing your friends rave about the newest diet fad, keto. However, this diet (lifestyle) is not new at all! Doctors have been prescribing the Ketogenic Diet to those with epilepsy for almost 100 years. You will find similarities across other low-carb diets like Atkins, The Zone, Paleo, Whole30, and South Beach. Though each of these diets changes things up a bit, they all follow the same premise—restrict carbs.

What is the Ketogenic (Keto) Diet?

On a low-carb diet, your body produces ketones in the liver. These ketones are then used as energy. When you eat something high in carbs (Hello, pizza. I love you.) your body produces glucose and insulin. Glucose is easily converted into energy, so it is your body’s first choice when looking for a little oomph. When your body chooses to utilize glucose for energy, your fats are not needed and therefore are stored (and they like my hips, apparently). By lowering the intake of carbs, your body will go into the state of ketosis.

That—simply put—means that your body will start utilizing fat for energy.

Macros?! Don’t Make Me Count!

Yes, there is a bit of math involved in this lifestyle. However, you can make it easy on yourself by downloading a calorie-counting app like MyFitnessPal. With the app you can add the Standard Ketogenic Diet breakdown: 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs. As you log your meals, you can see what percentages you have achieved. To give you an idea of what 5% carbs looks like in a typical diet, a medium-sized banana has about 27 grams of carbs, depending on your size and caloric needs, that may just push you over your 5%. So, carbs are very, very limited.

Studies have shown that people who follow a ketogenic diet lose 2.2 times more weight than those who follow a calorie-restricted, low-fat diet. What’s more, high-fat diets are often more filling. So, after the first few weeks of counting calories and getting the hang of things, you may be able to follow this diet without tracking calories.

There Has to Be a Downside, Right?

Many sources, like Women’s Health, say that getting past the “keto flu” or “carb flu” could be the hardest part of this diet. When we restrict carbs to such a low amount, our bodies are confused, and they react almost like they are going through a withdrawal. The symptoms of the keto flu sound pretty terrible: drowsiness, nausea, dizziness, irritability, cravings, confusion, insomnia, and achiness to name a few. However, these flu-like symptoms should only last 3-5 days.

Though it is common, the good news is, some lucky few do not experience these symptoms when restricting carbs to such an intense degree.