Can a diet rich in fat and protein really be a recipe for losing weight? Well, it sounds incredible, especially in our present world in which the word fat has been constantly associated with obesity, heart disease and other ailments.
Yet, a compelling number of studies from researchers and insights from nutritionists are continuing to prove that consistently eating a low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet has several health benefits, one of which is achieving and maintaining a healthy weight!
This “miracle-diet” is known as the ketogenic diet or keto diet for short. And it should come as a relief to you, especially if you have been thinking of shedding some weight without necessarily having to do away with your favorite high-fat foods, such as cheese, whole eggs and nuts, as some have made us believe for long.
Yes, it had taken some time, but more and more people are getting to know that consuming fat is not the problem in most issues relating to weight gain and heart ailments. In fact, it may surprise you that there are high-fat foods that not only help the heart to function optimally but also prevent heart diseases.
What is Keto Diet
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat diet with moderate protein content and a low carbohydrate allowance. It aims at reducing the average calorie intake by minimising carbohydrates and replacing them with healthy fats and moderate amounts of high-quality protein. This causes the body to switch to using its stored fat for fuel instead of utilising glucose. This “switching” is referred to as “ketosis”, from which the diet gets its name. Explaining this further, Ellit Upton, a fitness expert, says “The idea of keto is to take in such a low amount of carbohydrates that your body switches to a metabolic state called ‘ketosis’ where it uses fat and ketones for fuel instead of glucose.”
This revolutionary keto diet is apparently at variance with the knowledge that many of us had harboured about losing weight. Indeed, in the past, nutritionists used to recommend for those who wanted to lose weight, a diet low in fats and high in carbohydrates. The trouble with such diets, however, is that not only are they high in calories but they get used up by the body more quickly, leaving one to soon become hungry again and the cycle of eating and feeling hungry continues. Moreover diets high in carbohydrates have been found to increase the body’s glycaemic load, while also triggering the body to store rather than burn fat and thus leading to weight gain in the long run.
This is where the keto diet comes to the rescue. When, for instance, a person decides to take less than 40 grams of carbohydrates in a day, the body soon runs out of blood sugar; afterwards the body starts to break down protein and fat for energy, which can make one lose weight.
Fats make you have a feeling of being full and they also do not get used up by the body easily, thereby reducing your craving for food. It is no surprise therefore than in a recent research conducted at John Hopkins University, United States, in which two groups of people were placed on low-fat and low-carbohydrates diets respectively for six months, it was found that those in the low-carb group lost much more pounds on the average.
Food metabolism and Ketogenesis
There are four sources of calories for the body: carbohydrates, protein, fats, and alcohol. The body tends to utilise a given source of fuel for energy in relation to its availability and concentration in the bloodstream. Carbohydrates are the most preferred source of calories because they can be broken down quickly to glucose, the primary metabolic fuel of the body. However, the body can increase or decrease its use of glucose in direct proportion to the amount of dietary carbohydrate consumed. Fat utilisation is dependent on carbohydrates and alcohol consumption.
Nutritionist, Kimberly Holland, says, “The goal of a ketogenic diet is to force your body to stop burning its favorite fuel—glucose from the carbs you eat—and start burning fat stores for energy. The body does this by converting the fats to ketones.” Thus, the ketogenic diet aims at reducing the average calorie intake by minimising carbohydrates and replacing them with a large number of healthy fats and moderate amounts of protein. This mimics starvation or fasting state as the body enters into a condition known as ketosis. Ketosis means that the body is in a state where it doesn’t have enough glucose available to use as energy, forcing it to metabolize free fatty acids as an alternative fuel.
Ngela Mavridis, an LA-based holistic nutritionist, explained that the ketogenic diet is a neat little trick of our body’s biology. Mavridis, who has worked with many top models who walk the runways said that if you are trying to lose weight, you should take more fat, as it has consistently proven to be effective.
Sounds a little weird? It’s not, says Mavridis. “The human body is designed in a way that it can handle this kind of food,” she enthused. To prove this, she cited the example of one Deborah Syan who had been trying to lose some weight, and tried every other diet without a positive yield until she stumbled on a post on Instagram about the ketonic diet in 2017. According to her, within three months of the diet, she had lost 65 pounds; a year later, she had lost 200 pounds.
How the Ketogenic Diet Works
Keto diet will help you to shed a lot of pounds more in the first four to eight months more than the Mediterranean diet, and this is because it takes a lot of calories to change fat into energy than it does to turn carbohydrate into energy.
A typical keto dieter’s day is about 50-70% fat, 10-20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. Some of the constituents of the diet may be surprising. Regular foods include meat, fish, butter, eggs, nuts and low-carb vegetables. Apparently, not all vegetables get a full green light in the keto diet. Certain vegetables, like potatoes and onions, are higher in carbohydrates and must be taken reasonably. For fruit, you can eat most berries but should stay away from tropical fruits and even prosaic stuff like apples and orange, since they are high in sugar. For meat and cheese and other dairies you buy, keep an eye out for added sugars.
Generally, you will have to drastically reduce or totally remove the following from your diet to make it ketogenic: sugary foods, such as soda, fruit juice, cake; grains and starches; beans and legumes, root vegetables and tuber, unhealthy fats and alcohol. On the other hand will have to increase intake of the following: meat, bacon, turkey, fatty fish, butter and cream and the likes.
Beyond Weight Shedding
Although a lot of people take to ketogenic diet for the purpose of shedding pounds, several studies have however shown that the diet can help to manage issues such as brain diseases, cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, acne, and other nervous system disorder. However there is still a need for more research to be done in this aspect. Ensure you talk to your doctor when you are about to try the diet.
A ketogenic diet is vital to endurance athletes, runners and cyclists – for example, when they train. Over time, it helps your muscle-to-fat ratio and raises the amount of oxygen your body can use when it’s working hard. But while it might help in training, it may not work as well as other diets for peak performance.
As with every other diet used to manage metabolic diseases, the ketogenic diet also has its limitations. Therefore, it is crucial that you consult a dietician or doctor who can advise you on the best way to approach it. Some of the common side-effects of the diet aren’t usually serious. You might have constipation, mild low blood sugar, or indigestion. Much less often, low-carb diets can lead to kidney stones or high levels of acid in your body (acidosis).
Other side effects include the “keto flu,” which may come with headache, irritability, bad breath, fatigue, weakness, light-headedness, headaches, and mild irritability. However, each of these can be treated quickly. Cheeringly, most of the symptoms wane off after the first week of the diet.
It is worth mentioning that some people confuse ketoacidosis, an extremely abnormal form of ketosis, with the healthy benign dietary ketosis associated with ketogenic diets. Good nutritional ketosis is a controlled, insulin-regulated process, which results in a mild release of fatty acids and ketone body production in response to low carbohydrate intake, and higher fat consumption. On the other hand, Ketoacidosis is a condition in which abnormal quantities of ketones are produced in a chaotic biochemical situation.
To reach a state of ketoacidosis, the body has to be in a state of not producing enough insulin to regulate the flow of fatty acids and the creation of ketone bodies.