Why the Keto Diet Works and How to Lose Weight Fast
The ketogenic diet (keto diet) is a high fat, low carb, diet designed to put your body into a ketosis state where fat is consumed as the primary fuel source. Ketosis keeps your body consistently burning fat to fuel your energy. Ketosis leads to a whole slew of health benefits such as weight loss, mental focus, an increase in energy and performance, and more.
When you eat foods high in carbohydrates, it produces glucose in your body used as fuel. Since your body uses glucose for energy, fats entering your system are stored for future use. To transition your body into using fats as a primary fuel source, you need to remove high carb foods from your diet. Your body needs to enter a ketosis state to become an automatic fat-burning machine.
Why Keto Diet Works
Carbohydrates are the easiest form of fuel for your body. When your body gets to choose between carbs or fats as energy, carbs always wins. There are a few reasons why your system picks carbs over fats. One of the reasons is carbs are much easier to break down in your body, requiring less effort. Another is storage, your body can only store a fixed number of carbohydrates, in the form of glycogen. Fats can be stored indefinitely, so your body will break down the carbs first and store fats for later use in case of starvation.
In a high-fat, high-carb diet (today’s traditional diet), your body uses carbs as fuel, for both your brain and body and stores the fat. A high-fat, high-carb diet leads to weight gain and obesity. By enforcing a high-fat, low-carb diet (keto diet), you are forcing your body to make the switch from carbs to fats as your primary energy source.
Simply put, ketosis allows your body to break down fats to fuel your system, both body and brain. You go from a carb-fueled to a fat-fueled energy source. Your body will be a consistent fat-burner, always using fats in your system to keep your system functioning thus dramatically increasing weight loss. It’s the perfect combination; you want to burn fat so have your body do the heavy lifting!
Continue reading to learn more about the keto diet and how you can benefit from it. Also, there are a few things you should be aware of before taking the leap. It’s good practice to be well informed before moving forward with something new.
What Is Ketosis?
Ketosis is when your body begins ketone production, used as your primary energy source. The liver produces ketones through the breakdown of fats. To enter a state of ketosis, you need to introduce a low-carb diet and limit the number of carbs you consume. Glucose is the easiest form of energy your body can use, by removing glucose as an option, your body will begin to breakdown fats in your liver to produce ketones. Ketones are then used as your primary energy source to fuel both your body and your brain.
Once in a ketosis state, your body, and brain, will rely on ketones to supply energy. Ketosis leads to weight loss since your body is now consuming fats for energy.
A Few Benefits of a Keto Diet
The ketogenic diet has many advantages, not only for weight loss but also for performance and health. Here are a few benefits that the ketogenic diet provides.
The ketogenic diet is one of the most effective diets when it comes to losing weight. Keto is highly targeted at burning fat by keeping you in a state of ketosis. The diet alone, without exercise, can shed 20-30lbs your first month. Of course, each person is unique. If you’re looking for some serious weight loss, healthily, this is your best bet.
Control of Blood Sugar Levels
The ketogenic diet naturally lowers blood sugar levels due to the restrictions the diet imposes on the foods you eat. By reducing carb intake, you also reduce insulin levels. Keto is a great way to control your blood sugar levels, especially for those with diabetes.
Many people who use the keto diet use it to improve their mental performance. Ketones are an excellent fuel for your brain. Consistent production of ketones and lower blood sugar results in higher mental focus and improved concentration.
One misconception is your brain requires carbs to function properly. Carbs are only necessary if there is no production of ketones.
Fat can carry enough energy to last you for weeks; it’s a well-known fact that fats can provide more energy than carbohydrates. By providing your body with a better energy source, you feel more energized throughout your day, mentally and physically.
These are just a few benefits of using a ketogenic diet.
What Can You Eat?
The keto diet is a low-carb diet, avoid all foods high in carbs. Here is a quick run-down of what you can eat and what to avoid.
- Foods containing grains – bread, rice, pasta, cereal, oatmeal, etc.
- Foods high in sugar – ketchup, honey, maple syrup, low-fat yogurt, fruit juices, etc.
- Most fruits – Banana, orange, pineapple, apple, etc.
- Tubers – cassava, yam, sweet potato, potato, etc.
- Meats – chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish, lamb, eggs, etc.
- Leafy Greens – Arugula, romaine, spinach, collard greens, kale, etc.
- Vegetables – Tomatoes, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, etc.
- Fruits – Avocado, berries
- Nuts – macadamia, brazil nuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts
- Dairy – cream, yogurt, mayonnaise, cheese, etc.
- Low-carb sweeteners
- Fats – MTC oil, coconut oil, olive oil, saturated fats, etc.
Keto Diet Macros
On a keto diet, you want to aim for 70% fats, 25% protein, and 5% carbs. These ratios should be your target for your macros. A high intake of fats and low carbs is necessary to transition your body into ketosis and keep it there.
Signs You Are in Ketosis
There are a few signs you can look for to tell if your body is in ketosis:
- Increased Urination – Acetoacetate, which is a ketone body, is released in the urine. Usually, this causes an increase in urination, especially for beginners.
- Dry Mouth – Due to more frequent urination, your body needs to replenish the water, and electrolytes, it’s depleting. Dry mouth is a common sign when in ketosis.
- Keto Breath – Keto breath is a cause of acetoacetate escaping from your breath. Keto breath is common during the early stages of ketosis when your body is beginning the transition. Keto breath is usually temporary and goes away after a few days or week.
- Increased Energy and Reduced Hunger – You will experience a reduced appetite once your body is in ketosis. Reduced hunger is due to higher efficiency of the fuel source, fats. A smaller appetite also makes it easier to apply an intermittent fasting routine to the mix. Intermittent fasting works well on a keto diet. In the beginning, you may feel a lack of energy such as tiredness, a decrease in mental focus, and other similar symptoms. Lack of energy is due to the transitional period, in which your body is leaning off of carbs as a fuel source. But after a few days, you will notice an increase in energy levels, both physically and mentally.
Tools to Measure Ketosis
There are three tools you can use to measure ketones in your body:
- Urine Strips
- Breath-ketone Analyzers
- Blood Ketone Meters
Ketone measuring tools may be overkill, but for those looking to be stricter on their diet and need to be certain they have reached ketosis, these tools can help. Out of the three, your best bet is the blood ketone meter, hands down the most accurate but also the most expensive. The other two may result in some inaccuracies.
Keto Diet Potential Side Effects
There are side effects associated with a ketogenic diet, not everyone will experience it, but it’s good to know what they are. Some are more common than others, and some are just myths.
*Please note that these side effects are temporary, usually preventable, and are natural when drastic changes are made in your diet. Regardless of the diet you decide to go with, if it fundamentally changes the way you eat than side effects may occur as the body adapts.
Keto Diet Common Side Effects
- Keto Flu – Keto flu is the most common side effect for people new to the keto diet and just starting out. Symptoms include nausea, headache, cramps, fatigue, etc. An increase in water and electrolyte intake will help reduce the symptoms, and in some cases, prevent it completely. Keto flu usually goes away after a few days on the keto diet.
- Cramps – Another common side effect for new keto dieters. Usually mild and mainly cramping of the leg muscles. Be consistent with fluid and salt intake to prevent this.
- Constipation – Constipation is caused by a lack of hydration. Best preventative is to drink plenty of water throughout your day. Aim for a gallon a day. Also, eating vegetables higher in fiber or probiotics can help as well.
- Heart Palpitation – When starting out with the keto diet, it can be normal for your heart to beat faster and harder. Heart palpitations are due to the transitioning your body is undertaking. To prevent it, drink plenty of water and ensure you are adding enough salt to your foods. You can also supplement with potassium. No need to worry though, this is normal and will go away after a few days.
- Drop in Physical Performance – When you begin a keto diet, you may feel tired and lack energy. Similar to other common symptoms, you will experience tiredness due to your body’s transition from carb to fat fueled energy. Once the transition is complete, you will find your energy levels back to normal, and most likely greater!
- Bad Breath – Bad breath is common when starting out and can last longer than other side effects. Usually temporary and can be helped by consistent water and electrolyte intake throughout the day and, of course, oral hygiene.
Keto Diet Less Common Side Effects
- Breastfeeding – Currently, there are mixed studies on this particular side effect, but it may be best to stay away from a keto diet if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Until we have more information, it’s best to play it safe.
- Temporary Hair Loss – Hair loss is more common for calorie restrictive diets, but in some cases, it can happen on a keto diet. Usually, if it does occur, it takes place 3-6 months after beginning the keto diet. You may notice an increase of hair falling out, usually mild and most of the time will go unnoticed. If you happen to be one of these rare individuals, don’t worry it is only temporary! Within a few months, things will be back to normal. You can help prevent this by ensuring you do not restrict your calorie intake too much and you get sufficient sleep.
- Increased Cholesterol – Not necessarily a bad side effect since the cause of the increase is from high HDL (good cholesterol) levels, lowering your chance of heart disease. There have been cases of an increase in LDL (bad cholesterol). The dangers associated with LDL increase is based on its density and size, which has been shown to be healthy on a keto diet, so no worries.
- Gallstones – You should see an improvement in gallstone problems, sometimes even cured. But you may find some discomfort when starting the keto diet. As you stay persistent, you should notice a drastic improvement.
- Indigestion – In some cases, you may find yourself experiencing problems with indigestion and heartburn. The best way to tackle this is by reducing the amount of fat you intake and gradually increase it every day until you hit your ratios. But in most cases, and in the long-run, you will get rid of any indigestion and heartburn problems you have.
- Keto Rash – There is currently no real explanation behind this particular issue but what may seem to be the case is a reaction to the acetone that is in your sweat. Some people have experienced rashes while on the keto diet. The best way to tackle this problem, if you encounter it, is to wear more sweat absorbing clothing or regularly cleaning sweat off your skin. Showering immediately after physical activity will be a good idea as well.
6 Keto Diet Myths
- Osteoporosis – Can you get osteoporosis? Nope, you cannot!
- Ketoacidosis – Ketoacidosis is a malfunction of the body excessively producing ketones. This malfunction is mostly found in type 1 diabetes if insulin is not taken. Ketosis is under full control of the body and is in no way related to Ketoacidosis; the two are very different.
- Brain and Carbs – Your brain does not only rely on carbs for fuel. On a low carb diet, your brain can use fats as its primary fuel source by having the liver break down fats to produce ketones.
- Nutrient Deficiencies – Quite the opposite. The foods you are consuming on a keto diet are filled with nutrients.
- Thyroid Damage – Unless you’re starving yourself, this won’t happen on a keto diet. Thyroid damage is a result of long-term starvation or a calorie restriction. None of these are part of a keto diet.
- Kidney Damage – Kidney damage can only be a result of a high intake of protein. A keto diet is designed for a high intake of fats with a moderate intake of proteins. If you follow a keto diet, this problem is non-existent.
As noted earlier, these side effects are temporary and in most cases, will go unnoticed. Don’t let these scare you away from what can be a truly life-changing diet. Be more energetic, mentally focused and aware, fit, and feel marvelous!
Keto Diet Variations
There are a few variations to the ketogenic diet, and you should pick the one that suits what you’re trying to achieve; whether it’s to lose weight or build muscle. Let’s look at the different diets.
Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)
This is your standard keto diet, hence the name. This variation requires you to stick to 20 – 50 grams of net carbs a day. Net carbs are your total grams of carbs minus total grams of fiber (soluble or insoluble) minus half the grams of sugar alcohols if it contains 5 or more grams. It’s a simple formula you can use to help you with reaching your carb target.
Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)
This keto diet is a great variation for those looking to add exercise to lean out, although, many disagree that carbs are necessary at all if you’re working out. This variation requires you to consume 25 – 50 net carbs, 30 to 60 minutes before exercising. The carbs will be efficiently burned during your routine and won’t disrupt your ketosis for too long. For the post-workout meal, it is recommended you consume a high-protein, low-fat meal to help with muscle recovery and nutrient absorption. Keep note that you should be consuming easily digestible carbs with high Glycemic Index.
Cyclic Ketogenic Diet (CKD)
This variation has you cycling between days of low-carb intake and high-carb intake (also known as “carb-loading”). Usually, the carb-loading sessions will last 1 – 2 days. Low-carb intake is your standard, 20 – 50 grams of carbs while your high-carb intake is around 400 – 600 grams of carbs. You will find this variation of the ketogenic diet mainly used by body builders and athletes to maximize fat loss while building lean muscle.
TKD and CKD are usually too advanced for standard users and only recommend for those individuals who are highly active. SKD should suffice for the majority of keto dieters.
The keto diet is perfect for those looking to shed some pounds fast. It works well, and you can start noticing results pretty quickly. Stay dedicated to this diet, and you will achieve the results you want in no time!
Hope you enjoyed the read and got all the information you need to begin the keto diet. Please leave a comment below with any questions you have or share some of your experience or thoughts on the keto diet.
Thanks for reading!