Your Quick, Simple Keto Diet Guide
When you announce that you want to get in shape, get healthy, and get back in the gym, you get flooded with bad advice about which diet worked for your friend’s uncle and your co-worker’s cousin. It seems like everyone and their mother has the miracle answer to weight loss which involves some sort of ridiculous diet that will ultimately leave you hungry, cranky and lacking some of the major nutrients your body needs. In the midst of all of this misinformation, you might be wondering, “Is there actually a diet out there that works?”
Your detailed keto diet guide
There are several effective diet plans out there, but the one that has recently been thrust into the spotlight not only by magazines and gossip columns, but also fitness and health experts, is the ketogenic diet, also known as the keto diet.
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet basically operates on one principle: replace carbs with fat. “Wait, what?”, you might be asking, “Isn’t fat bad?” Contrary to popular belief, the body needs fat, even when not on a ketogenic diet. Fat is good for the organs, bodily functions, and acts as a secondary energy source.
In the ketogenic diet, however, the fat we eat becomes our primary energy source in the place of carbohydrates. The ketogenic diet restricts carbohydrates on an extreme level and increases the intake of fat to serve as an energy source.
Here are some of the many benefits that coming along with adhering to a ketogenic diet:
- No complicated calorie counting
- The ability to still eat satisfying food
- An extremely wide range of meal options
- Improved ability to regulate blood sugar for those with diabetes
How Does it Work?
When you subtract carbs, your body essentially panics and enters a state of what is called “ketosis”. Ketosis is the transition of using carbohydrates as an energy source to fats. It isn’t an automatic transition, and it takes up to a week for the body to end its withdrawal symptoms from the carbohydrate cutoff (i.e. moodiness, fatigue, hunger pangs, etc.) and successfully transition into ketosis.
Your body needs energy. In a traditional diet, your body converts carbohydrates to glucose for energy. Carbohydrates are pretty readily available so our bodies have adapted to choosing them as an energy source, which is also because carbohydrates are very easy for the body to process into glucose and burn as fuel.
However, free-form fatty acids as an energy source are actually more efficient. The body will only use these fats as fuel when there are very low carbohydrate levels, which is what the ketogenic diet induces. This difference in fuel quality is part of the reason why people on ketogenic diets tend to have higher energy levels than with other types of fat loss diets that cut carbs low, but not low enough to the point where the body transitions to ketosis.
How to Measure Your Ketone Levels
Ketosis can be a tricky thing to enter, but once you’ve made the transition, you’ll want to regulate and maintain your ketone levels to make sure you’re not close to dropping out and transitioning back into the body’s normal, carbohydrate-burning state. There are three main methods to measure the body’s ketones to keep your levels in check and help you stay comfortably in ketosis:
Blood Ketone Meters
Blood ketone meters are the most consistently accurate way to measure your ketone levels. These meters work exactly like the meters that test blood sugar. In fact, some of them are the same meters, just with different accessories to test for ketones instead of blood sugar.
Blood doesn’t get diluted or affected by foods and hydration like urine strips and breath monitors do, which is why many die-hard ketoheads rely on these blood monitors for their accuracy.
These are the second most popular (and accurate) way of testing your ketone levels. Their use is pretty self-explanatory, simply dip them into a cup of urine, wait, and compare the color displayed on the strip to the colors on the box to get a ballpark figure of where your ketones are at.
One thing to note before using urine strips is to make sure you haven’t just chugged a ton of water, as that can dilute the results and display inaccurate readings.
Breath monitors are the easiest way to test your ketone levels, but they are also the least accurate. They can be employed mostly to get an approximation, but more accurate readings should be left to the other methods.
To use a breath monitor, you simply blow air into the monitor until you hear the beep and check the levels. These levels can vary depending on what you recently ate, alcohol consumption and hydration.
What are the Drawbacks of a Ketogenic Diet?
Despite its extreme cut back on carbs, there are fewer ongoing drawbacks than you might expect. There are two main drawbacks to be aware of.
When you drop your carbohydrate intake, before your body transitions to ketosis it will simply go into “survival mode”. Your body thinks that you stopped eating carbohydrates because there is no food, so you will experience cravings, mood swings and even flu-like symptoms until your body completes the transition.
The induction flu, otherwise called the keto flu by dieters, is one of the main reasons why the ketogenic diet doesn’t work for everyone – many simply can’t make it past that week(ish) of transition time and dig into a muffin or a stack of pancakes so their body stops punishing them.
Lack of Glycogen
This mainly applies to those looking to put on muscle mass (bodybuilders, athletes, other various types of gym rats, etc.). Glycogen is basically stored carbohydrate-energy in your muscles. When your muscles have high glycogen levels, your muscles are strong and can keep going set after set. However, if they are low, your strength and bodybuilding-style workouts will take a hit.
Many strength athletes find that their lifts get weaker or their mass-building plateaus after transitioning to keto; but for those looking to lose weight, this diet is perfectly fine in the gym.
As you can see from the keto diet guide, the ketogenic diet is one of the few fad-diets that looks like it is here to stay – and for good reason. Satisfying food options, higher energy levels throughout the day, optimal fat loss body environment – all benefits that few other diets can advertise.
If your goal is weight loss and you haven’t tried the ketogenic diet yet, it might just be the perfect time to give it a shot.