The Keto Diet: Explained
If you follow fitness trends at all, you're probably aware that the "Keto Diet" is taking the world by storm. Many Keto enthusiasts attribute a variety of health benefits to their new lifestyle, including weight loss, increased energy, faster metabolism, enhanced mental clarity, and even lower stress levels. Some of its more ardent supporters go a step further, claiming superior bone density, more lean muscle mass, and anti-inflammatory properties to go with their weight loss. Keto opponents tend to point out that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
The Keto Diet has a solid biological foundation as a means to lose weight, but actually realizing them can prove difficult for the average consumer. Let's begin by taking a closer look at exactly what the Keto Diet entails.
What Is A Keto Diet?
The Keto Diet requires you to get 70 percent or more of your total caloric intake from fats, with 25 percent devoted to proteins and only five percent or less from carbohydrates. Considering the sheer quantity of foodstuffs that qualify as carbohydrates (all sugars, starches, and fibers have the combination of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen required to be classified as carbs), eliminating them from your diet entirely has to be a conscious choice.
It may seem counter-intuitive to eat nothing but fat in an effort to lose fat, but it can work thanks to the human body's biology. Typically, the body derives energy from a process called glycolysis that burns a simple sugar called glucose. Fat is stored for later, emergency use: An evolutionary survival mechanism that is largely no longer necessary in modern society. The glucose-burning process is very efficient, making it the body's go-to source for the energy it needs.
While glycolysis is preferred, there are other avenues the human body can use to get the energy it needs. For example, a process called ketosis allows the body to burn fat directly, deriving energy without using any glucose at all. If you want to lose weight, what better way could there be than forcing your body to directly burn fat for all of its energy needs?
Why Keto Isn't For Everyone
The Keto Diet makes theoretical sense, but often proves difficult to put into practice for a myriad of reasons. First, it can take up to three full months for your digestive system to give up on glycolysis and resort to ketosis. This period is usually uncomfortable, as you are effectively starving yourself to force your body into survival mode. As a result, many dieters report side effects such as lethargy and headaches during this transition period.
The supplement industry would love to help you get through this transitional phase with products containing Beta-Hydroxybutyrate, or BHB for short. BHB is a compound that is believed to stimulate the enzymes responsible for converting fat into energy, potentially allowing you to achieve ketosis in a month. However, it isn't very well researched in supplement form just yet. The jury is still out on whether BHB actually promotes weight loss or is even safe to take on a regular basis. Once you achieve ketosis, you should start to feel better and begin losing weight. However, your body's preference for glycolysis will still be intact. If you cheat on your diet and eat even one carb-heavy meal, your body will shift back to glycolysis and force you to "earn" ketosis all over again. It typically doesn't take as long the second time around, but it can still be discouraging to go back to square one after seeing some results.
The Final Verdict
While most diets have some built-in leeway allowing you to cheat and make up for it on subsequent days, the Keto Diet offers no flexibility. Either you maintain a constant Keto lifestyle, or you uncomfortably shift between glycolysis and ketosis without enjoying the benefits of either. If you think that you can successfully maintain the lifestyle required to achieve ketosis, you should consult your doctor before making any major lifestyle changes.