What Exactly Is the Keto Diet and How Does It Work?

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What is Keto?

Remember when carbs were the cure? When the food pyramid dictated six to 11 servings of bread or pasta a day and only two to four servings of vegetables and fruit? It’s no wonder that millions of humans the world over have ended up – in the words of Joe Cross fat, sick, and nearly dead. Thanks to advancements in medicine and technology, we now know that the simple carbohydrates found in diets are linked to heart disease and Type-II diabetes, while other studies have found a dramatic link between the consumption of refined carbs and depression.

Armed with this knowledge, doctors and nutritionists have worked to address the problem of carb-loaded diets by offering alternatives like the Atkins diet, the Blood Sugar diet, and the Paleo diet – all of which promote healthy high-protein, low-carb plans. However, there is one diet that is gaining traction that has absolutely remarkable and swift results, but it offers no cheat days. The Ketogenic Diet (or “keto” as it’s known to its acolytes) is not for the faint of heart, but it is for those who have a serious amount of weight to lose and want to do that in the shortest amount of time possible.

In a nutshell, the keto diet focuses on eating a high amount of healthy fats, a medium amount of protein, and a low – almost negligible – amount of carbs. For a complete guide on what keto is and how it works, continue reading below.

How Does it Work?

Keto was originally developed in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic in order to treat patients with epilepsy. It works by changing the way the body uses fat as its source of energy, relying on ketones for fuel rather than glucose. Typically, the body is fueled by glucose from carbohydrates, the excess of which – when not used – turns into fat. Too many carbs equals weight gain. Keto stops this process before it begins by using ketones produced by the liver as an alternative fuel source, which means that if you reach the metabolic state of ketosis, you will constantly be burning fat. On this diet, you quite literally become a fat-burning machine.

What Are the Benefits?

Obviously, the main goal of the keto diet is weight loss, but as its origins suggest, the diet also has other benefits. Not only has it been proven to prevent epileptic seizures (as it was designed to do), but it also helps those with Type-II Diabetes regulate their blood sugar, improves mental focus, increases energy levels, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, and helps prevent acne.

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I Want to Try Keto. Now What?

The first thing you need to do before you start the keto diet is consider whether or not you’re ready to commit full-time. On keto, there are no cheat days – if you decide to binge on donuts one evening, you will knock yourself fully out of ketosis. It can be hard to adapt to a diet so strict, but the reported results by hundreds of thousands of keto-ers can’t be argued with. Not only is keto incredibly effective for weight loss, but it’s also one of the fastest and healthiest ways to lose weight. If your body-fat percentage is over 40 percent, experts say you can lose as many as 1.5-3 kg a week, and if your body fat is under, you can lose 1-2 kg a week.

The vast Reddit community of committed Keto-ers is one of the best internet resources for those seeking a high-fat, low-carb diet, while ruled.me is the web’s most comprehensive keto platform. These two sites will be invaluable to you as you start your keto journey. The diet plan begins with determining your macronutrient (or macro) needs – how much fat, protein, carbs, and calories you should be ingesting daily. This calculator comes highly recommended, and has pre-sets in place for any factors you may not know, like your personal body-fat percentage. Once you have determined your macros, you must create a diet plan and stick with it. Here is a quick rundown of what you can and cannot eat on keto.

Yes:

Meat
Leafy greens
High-fat dairy (whole cream, hard cheese, etc.)
Above-ground vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.)
Nuts and seeds
Avocado and berries
Low-carb sweeteners (Stevia, Truvia, etc.)
Fats (oil, ghee, and butter)
Coffee (Bulletproof coffee is a huge cornerstone of the keto diet)

No:

Refined carbohydrates
Grains
Sugar
Fruit
Tuberose vegetables (potatoes, carrots, etc.)

At this point, you might be thinking, “Hey! This sounds like the Paleo or Atkins diet!” And you’re kind of right. Keto, Paleo, and Atkins all focus on low-carbohydrate intake. Keto, however, places much more emphasis on fat. The rules of the Keto Diet are: fat is an upper limit eaten to satiate hunger, protein is a goal and a priority, and carbs are restricted. Most keto-ers aim for less than 20 grams of carbs a day, but rely on the macros calculated to find out how many they should be eating – some go as high as 50 grams and can still maintain the state of ketosis.

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What are the Side Effects?

Your first task, if you choose to accept it, is to explore the vast library of keto information at ruled.me – from diet plans and recipes to clinical studies. Your second is to browse the huge community of various keto-related subreddits, like r/xxketo (which is specifically for women on the diet), r/progresspics (where keto-ers share their astonishing weight-loss journeys), and r/ketorecipes (where users post their favorites with pictures and instructions).

Thirdly, you will want to learn about some of the side effects of keto, which can be less than pleasant. For instance, one of the physical signs that you have reached a state of ketosis is a condition colloquially called “keto breath”, which means your breath smells like acetone. That is because ketones are exhaled and excreted in urine and, unfortunately, they don’t smell so great. However, regular dental hygiene is a practical preventative measure, as is chewing gum.

Many users also report flu-like symptoms in the early stages of keto. Not only is your body adapting from running off glucose, but ketosis is also a diuretic causing more frequent urination. That means you can get dehydrated pretty quickly, so experts recommend replenishing your body by drinking lots of electrolytes while you are learning to adjust to ketosis.

What is KCKO?

Diets are not easy. If they were, we’d all be a size six. Keto is likely one of the harder diets out there, but the results are proven and effective. However, if you choose to try the keto diet, you might find yourself frustrated by how much effort you’re putting in compared to the initial results that you see.

While lots of keto-ers – especially men, for some reason – report huge amounts of weight loss upfront, not everyone has the same journey. Hormonal changes in women can wreak havoc on the scale, especially around shark week. Additionally, weight loss is not linear, so you can go as many as two weeks without seeing any changes before a “whoosh” during which six to seven pounds seemingly disappear overnight. Seriously, that is a real phenomenon of the keto diet. KCKO means Keep Calm, Keto On, and is every keto-ers mantra for a reason.

Oh, and one last thing: the keto diet offers thousands of easy substitutes for the cravy-carb-loaded foods you used to enjoy. If you ever find yourself in dire need of peanut-butter cups, pizza, cheesecake, or even bread, don’t worry – there are many options available. KCKO!

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