Keto Diet is currently one of the most popular diets in the US. Many followers report that they have quickly gotten rid of excess pounds thanks to this diet. But what exactly is keto? Are there keto diet health risks? Keep reading and we’ll answer all of that and more. You don’t have to take our word for it either. We’ll also share with you what the top experts think about this diet and their opinion on its safety.
How the Keto Diet Works
The principle of this super low-carb diet is quite simple: You restrict sugar and carbohydrates significantly, which means that you eat mostly only fats and proteins instead. It is very similar to other low-carb diets popular throughout the years such as Atkins (widespread throughout the late 90s and early 2000s). When your body is starved of carbohydrates, after about three or four days it will start to go into ketosis.
Ketosis is a metabolic process that occurs when the body begins to burn fat for energy because it does not have enough carbohydrates to burn. Your body turns carbohydrates into blood sugar, which is the preferred form of energy for your body. When the body is starved of carbohydrates (less than 50g of carbs a day for 3-4 days), it will resort to using stored fat for energy instead. When this process begins, the liver starts to produce chemicals called ketones. The ketogenic, or keto, diet aims to induce the process of ketosis to burn more fat.
The Challenges of Keto
Of course, there are many enthusiastic supporters of this diet as it usually produces quick results. However, the critics of the ketogenic diet are becoming louder and louder; for good reason, too. The keto diet can post many challenges to you and your lifestyle.
Like any other diet that completely restricts an entire food group, it can be hard to stay on the keto diet for long. You will be required to plan out all of your meals, which isn’t a problem for some. However, the plans are often so restrictive you won’t be able to share the same meals with friends or family. You will have a harder time eating out as it’s difficult to completely eliminate carbs from most meals. This will be on top of what’s referred to as the “keto flu”. Forcing your body into ketosis comes at a cost. Usually, in the form of headaches, brain fog, fatigue, irritability, nausea, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, and constipation are just some of the symptoms people have reported.
Another common diet-related problem is the yo-yo effect. Most people put some weight back on after they stop on a diet. They will then start the diet again, lose weight, stop it, and put it back on again. Thus, the name, “yo-yo dieting”. With the keto diet, this is very common. This is because of the process in the body that gets activated as soon as you consume carbohydrates again. Your body will quickly leave the state of ketosis and begin to draw its energy again from glucose.
Registered nurse and wellness dietician Mary Condon weighed in recently at The University of Chicago Medicine. More often than not, it’s not sustainable. Oftentimes weight gain may come back, and you’ll gain more than what you lost,” she explained.
Keto Diet Health Risks
It’s not just the yo-yo effect that you have to worry about. Many medical experts are coming out against the keto diet as well due to its possible associated health risks. It’s important to note that initial studies have shown the short-term effects on obese patients to be mostly positive. It’s the long-term effects that most doctors are concerned about.
Preliminary studies have shown some of the long-term keto diet health risks include osteoporosis, nutrient deficiencies, kidney stones, and future heart problems. There is even associated research to support that the keto diet could increase your risks of cancer. This is due to the high amount of red meat consumed on the diet.
There can also be social and mental side effects as well. Studies have shown that restrictive or strict diets like keto can cause social isolation, depression, and eating disorders.
Warning: Restricting carbohydrates is not recommended to anyone with Type 1 diabetes, pregnant women, or people who have an eating disorder. Keto is also not safe for those with any conditions involving their pancreas, liver, thyroid or gallbladder.
Lose Weight and Keep it Off
For most people, it is true that you can lose weight quickly with the keto diet. However, studies have shown that it is not sustainable. As soon as you begin to eat carbohydrates again you are likely to gain the weight back you lost plus more. This is because the keto diet is not built for long-term success. If you do decide to try the keto diet, get your doctor’s opinion first and make sure it is the right diet for you.
The best way to lose weight and keep it off is to cook and eat fresh food, drink more water, and exercise when you can. Losing weight is all about calories in versus calories out. You just have to eat fewer calories than you burn on a daily basis. It’s really as simple as it sounds. There is no need for any sort of restrictive diet that cuts out an entire food group.
Tips for Long-Term Weight Loss
Try to cook and eat fresh foods at home. You can often find cheap produce at your local farmer’s market. Add fruits, vegetables, fish, and lean meats to your diet. Keep healthy snacks around, too, such as almonds, grapes, or baby carrots. Also remember, everything in moderation! There is nothing wrong with having a slice of cake every now and then, for example. Just make it a little smaller slice than you normally would and don’t go back for seconds. That way, you’re not restricting yourself at all and won’t feel left out or the need to splurge later.
A lot of the pounds that are shed quickly with keto is from water weight. You can do the same thing by increasing your water intake! Check out this online calculator to see how much you should be drinking. It’s often a lot more than the 8 glasses a day most people think they need.
Finally, go out and get whatever amount of exercise you feel comfortable with. Most exercise is about heart health rather than losing weight. It’s important to exercise and raise your heart rate but it doesn’t have to be anything extreme. A simple daily walk or yoga would work perfectly.