What is a ketogenic diet and should you follow it?
Ah the variety of diets that you can find online these days! I’m starting a series in which I take a closer look at each of the popular diets out there today and why you should or shouldn’t follow them along. If you are following a ketogenic diet I’d be happy to have you comment below to let me know why you started it and how you feel.
What is a ketogenic diet?
To start with the basics: a ketogenic diet is a diet that is extremely low in carbs and places the emphasis on eating fat and protein. Essentially the body prefers to use carbs as a source of energy or rather glucose into which the carbs are converted. The purpose of a ketogenic diet is to reach ketosis. A metabolic state in which your body burns fat instead of glucose for energy. Sounds good right? It is one of those diets that is extremely popular at the moment and is reporting a huge amount of benefits for those that get to that precious ketosis state.
Your body reaches ketonic state when all available glycogen in the liver has been used up and nothing is left there. Your body is very adaptable and will convert into burning fat instead. That’s why it is important on a ketogenic diet to not eat too much protein. The liver can convert protein into glucose by a process called gluconeogenesis. If that happens you will get out of ketosis.
What are the reported benefits?
Research and studies are still ongoing and more information will probably come out soon. But the findings are showing that a ketogenic diet can be very beneficial for people suffering from mental disorders, diabetes, epilepsy and other neurological disorders. And some studies even suggest they might have a positive result on cancers of the brain.
In fact: the ketogenic diet was developed by a doctor in the 1920’s in order to treat people with epilepsy and it is still used for that purpose today.
Obviously the reason why most people are looking at a ketogenic diet is that you can lose a lot of weight quickly. But because the diet is so restrictive it might be hard to maintain and it is easy to fall back once you start eating carbs again.
On a keto diet you typically consume 70-80% of your daily calories as fat. Protein intake is moderate with 15-20% and carbs 5-10%.
What are the risks of a ketogenic diet?
Well there are quite a few actually:
- gastrointestinal issues (your fiber intake will be extremely low too!)
- kidney stones
- hair loss
- muscle cramps or weakness
- impaired concentration
- increased risk of fractures
- loss of periods in women
And probably the most scary one: ketoacidosis, in which your blood becomes acidic. Which can be life threatening and dangerous. Following a ketogenic diet is always best done under supervision of a medical professional and best not to do it for too long.
At the moment the jury is still out there on the pros and cons of a ketogenic diet. if you want to read more on the subject there are a ton of sites out there that tell you either the good or the bad of ketosis. I find it a bit on the extreme site and for me a more balanced plate makes more sense. In general the paleo diet is sometimes compared to a ketogenic diet but it is really not the same. A paleo diet doesn’t necessarily restrict carbohydrates, it just cuts out the processed ones.