What is the Keto Diet? (And Should I Try it?)

Carbohydrates are eliminated. The fat is in it. At least that's the case if you believe the ketogenic diet. The claims that the keto diet can somehow trigger the performance of superhero exercise and fat loss have become so strong that it's hard to believe that the dietary approach was initially conceived as a means of treating epileptic seizures in children . ]

But then, taking your body into ketosis – the process by which the body runs on fat because you do not have enough carbs / glucose – is a rich resource for incredible appearance. This is, after all, a dieting method that requires you to buy special test strips to examine your urine to confirm if you have reached "ketosis". (Yes, seriously.)

Is the keto diet effective? Yes and no.

Claims of keto superiority for fat loss and muscle gain are significantly inflated.

But that does not mean that the diet is worthless.

To help you determine if the keto diet is the right approach for you, we are looking at your biggest keto diet questions – and some you probably have not even thought to ask. In the end, if you decide that keto is the best for you, you will at least know how to do it correctly (most people do not do it), understand what it really does for your body (ditto), and be aware of the risks involved.

What is a ketogenic diet?

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A bunch of test strips is found near a urine sample.

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Ketogenic diet, you consume 80% of your daily calories from fat, the remaining 20% ​​is divided between protein and carbohydrate, but most are protein, usually 20 grams per day, or less than what you consume.It is in a single apple , according to Andy Galpin Ph.D., CSCS, CPT, Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Director of the Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Exercise Physiology at California State University, Fullerton.

This number is much lower than what you will find with most low carb diets, which typically consume about 45% of calories per day, according to a study by Tulane University . For someone on a 2,000 calorie diet, that equals 225 grams a day.

But, do not forget the most important part – it's not the low carb that surprises most people. After all, keto is known as the low carb diet. What's important to remember is that the ketogenic diet is also surprisingly low in protein.

Why? As you will learn, taking your body into ketosis means that your body runs on fat for fuel, and proteins can be converted into glucose in your body. This means that you have to keep the protein levels lower to really establish a ketosis condition.

Why do ketogenic diets go so low with carbohydrates?

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3 strips of cooked bacon aligned side by side.

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Carbohydrates and glycogen (or carbohydrates stored in the liver and muscles) are the preferred and most effective source of energy for the body. Once you deplete them, your body must find other sources of energy.

When you drastically reduce carbohydrates – as is the case for a keto diet – you can put the body in a state of ketosis. What does it really mean? Your liver is forced to convert fats to fatty acids and ketones – compounds that the body can use to produce ATP, a.k.a, explains Gaplin.

It is this process that really separates the ketogenic diet from other low carb approaches like Atkins, and why the diet revolves around such a dietary fat intake: without it your body can not produce the necessary ketones to keep you going and running.

To determine if the body has really entered a state of ketosis, you must test yourself for high levels of ketones, notes Galpin. That's why people who go keto have to urinate on home test strips.

If your body is not in a state of ketosis, you are technically following another low carb diet.

Which means that your body does not work with ketones. And all this carbohydrate depletion will not work the way you want it.

With ketosis, your body becomes what many call "fat-adapted," which means your body adapts to what you give it and uses fat for energy.

In a world of quick fixes and promises, this is not usually a fast process. Research suggests that it usually takes several weeks to occur, according to the ketogenic diet researcher, Antonio Paoli MD, director of the Physiology Laboratory of Nutrition and Exercise at the University of Padua in Italy.

What happens in the process of becoming fat adapted? Expect extreme fatigue, brain fog and lethargic exercise performance. After all, your brain is the main user of carbohydrates and glycogen in your body. Without this fuel, your entire central nervous system feels the effects.

In fact, it is the effects on the neurological system that have most popularized the keto diet. According to a 2014 review published in Journal of Lipid Research ketosis alters the activity of mitochondria in the brains of people with neurodegenerative diseases, which helps to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures.

Is a keto diet good for muscle building?

For those looking to reduce their body fat percentage or improve their physical performance, the keto diet comes with mixed results.

In a study Nutrients male cyclists who were on a keto diet for four weeks decreased their body fat percentages and improved their VO2max levels (the amount of oxygen that they could absorb and use in one minute), but their maximum power decreased.

Other studies suggest that following a ketogenic diet may allow the body to burn a greater percentage of calories from fat rather than carbohydrates and glycogen during blood tests. endurance such as marathons and triathlons. Force and Conditioning Review .

But part of this is very misleading. According to nutrition researcher Alan Aragon, you do not burn more body fat.

You see, when you eat more fat, your body will burn more fat. This causes an increase in "fat oxidation", which can easily be interpreted as an increase in fat loss.

But when proteins and calories have been balanced (as in, you compare diets where total calories and protein are the same – but fat or carbohydrate intake is the difference), it is not the same. There is no difference between a keto diet and a higher non-keto / carb diet.

"To lose weight, you have to consume fewer calories," says Galpin. "There are no physiological shortcuts.Calories still have importance, and even though they are not the only thing that matters for fat loss, you still have to maintain a calorie deficit for to lose fat. "

Paoli notes that a ketogenic can help reduce calories by increasing satiety, but that the potential benefit is not yet definitive.

Unfortunately for people who have bodily goals (think: ditching and muscular), research consistently shows that to lose fat without also losing a significant amount of lean muscle mass, the daily intake of protein should to be superior to a traditional ketogenic diet offers.

After all, with only 20 percent of your daily calories from carbohydrates and protein combined, there is not much for muscle building proteins. A 2015 review published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism showed that, to maintain muscle mass while reducing calories, protein intake should be set at about 25 percent of daily calories Total. And why should proteins be so weak on a keto diet? All of this relates to the prevention of side effects (which we will see in the next section).

Equally important, keto research so far seems to indicate no performance benefit among those performing high-intensity activities such as sprinting and weightlifting, according to the review's authors. This is due both to a decrease in the availability of fast-acting carbohydrates and to a recruitment of slow-strength type II fibers to high-power fibers.

It is worth noting, however, that many studies on keto made to date have suffered from at least one major design flaw.

"A major problem with research on the ketogenic diet is that a huge chunk of it does not establish whether the study participants are actually in ketosis," Galpin says. "Often, researchers do not draw blood to determine a state of ketosis and instead assume that participants ate not enough carbohydrates and enough fat that they were."

What about side effects – is a keto diet safe?

When it comes to protein, a keto diet puts people in a sort of situation "screwed if you do, screwed if you do not do it".

Although low protein intake can result in loss of muscle mass in the body, too much protein intake can drive the body out of its ketosis state, Paoli says.

Basically, the breakdown of proteins into energy is easier than the production of ketones and their use for energy. So, if it's an option, your body will take it.

But a much bigger problem is that eating too much protein during a ketogenic diet can put your body into a state of ketoacidosis, in which ketonic acids (ketonic acids) accumulate and lower the pH bloody, "said Galpin.

When this happens, symptoms include nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst and confusion. In very rare cases, "extreme ketoacidosis" can be fatal.

While some may think that a keto diet gives them permission to go crazy about fatty and processed foods and lose weight, it's important to focus on dietary fats from whole natural sources: Red meats, eggs, avocados, nuts, olives, oil and dairy products (although many forms of dairy products contain enough carbohydrates to help you get rid of ketosis, FYI).

It should be noted that since these high-fat foods tend to be low in fiber, a keto person should work with a dietitian to maintain fiber intake at a level that prevents constipation and gastrointestinal problems. intestinal tract as diverticulitis. Galpin says. He adds that most keto-dies require extra fiber to get enough fiber without going too far on carbohydrates.

Finally, high protein intake may also increase the already high risk of keto-diets to develop kidney stones. Note that a high protein diet is not a precursor to kidney problems as many people believe. But, adding a protein-rich approach + a keto diet can potentially lead to kidney stones.

What else should I know if I want to go keto?

The keto diet has a lot of very interesting research on brain health and the fight against autoimmune diseases. For people struggling with a variety of health problems, the nature of food is promising. And for those who do not mind the harsh rules, it can be a very effective approach to fat loss – just like many other diet methods.

At the same time, there is no way around the problem: the keto diet is incredibly difficult to follow. Researchers have found that this is true even when adults are trying to control their epilepsy. If people who have such a high degree of motivation have trouble following the protocol, you have to ask yourself a simple question: how much do you think you will follow the rules of food?

Research has repeatedly shown that your success on a diet depends entirely on how you can be consistent.

So, if you can not stay long, then another option might be a better fit.

After all, nutrients are not isolated: they are found in whole foods that usually contain a mixture of the three macros. It can be difficult to find high-fat foods that do not put you above your protein or carbohydrate goals. And since fat is a high energy density macro, which contains nine calories per gram, it's also easy to go overboard and gain weight rather than lose it.

If you choose the ketogenic diet, keep a cheat sheet of ways to stay on track. Reminders like "doing too much protein can get you out of the ketosis" will help ensure that your efforts are paying off. Or how even a carbohydrate "cheats" on the ketogenic diet can nullify all the alleged benefits of the diet. If you are going to see success with the ketogenic diet, you must do it at a T – and it is best to do it under the supervision of a doctor or dietitian, according to Paoli.

LEARN MORE:

Healthy fat: Which foods should you really eat?

The Protein Guide: How much protein do you need?

Do carbohydrates make you fat?

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