This post was provided by our friends at MRM and written by Samantha Crosland.
OK, so we’ve all heard about the keto diet by now. It’s everywhere—all over your social media feed and your best friend’s boyfriend’s sister’s mom lost a million pounds and is in the best shape of her life. So, it begs the question: Why is everyone so obsessed with keto? Is it safe and healthy?
Keto Diet Benefits
The ketogenic (keto, for short) diet has been studied, and studied and studied over and over again, and the results continue to come back the same: The keto diet, when practiced correctly, can work wonders for our health. Yes, you’ll probably lose a bunch of weight, too, which is why it’s really become so popular. But, the benefits far outweigh going down a pant size. We’re talking gut health, brain health, anti-inflammatory lifestyle, energy for days…true internal physical health!
Did you know, the ketogenic diet was actually developed and practiced back in the 1920s for people who suffered from epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases, especially in children’s hospitals? Since then, it has been found that a keto diet can help improve your health and encourage weight loss. This high-fat, moderate protein and low-carb diet has been seen to help battle other diseases like diabetes, cancer and even Alzheimer’s while helping to improve triglyceride levels, cholesterol ratios and cardiovascular disease risk factors.
Keto Carb Limit
What does “ketogenic” even mean? Ketogenic is to cause ketogenesis, or putting your body in an energy deficit state by limiting carbohydrates, so much so that your liver begins to convert fat into ketone bodies. These ketone bodies become the new energy source for your brain and body.
You might be thinking, “Wait, I thought carbs were an essential part of a healthy and balanced diet?” Here’s the thing: We eat too many carbs. The average American eats around 225 to 325 grams of carbs per day. Considering 70 percent of the population is overweight, it’s safe to say this high amount of consumption is not recommended for those who live the standard sedentary American lifestyle (1).
Yes, when we eat carbs and use them for energy right away—like going for a run—they’re great for us and used efficiently. Unless you’re extremely active every day or a professional athlete, the amount of carbs you need are much smaller than what we’ve been led to believe. When we eat too many carbohydrates and don’t use them for energy, they get converted and stored by and on the body as fat.
Contrary to popular belief, fat is not bad! Fat is, in fact, great for us. Our bodies prefer to use consumed fats as our energy source. Plus, when we eat the proper proportions of macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats), fat doesn’t get stored as fat. It’s used for, you guessed it, energy! In fact, you need to eat fat in order to lose fat. Healthy fats are used throughout our entire body and for so many crucial metabolic functions, it’s not even funny. To starve yourself of fat is to starve your body of essential, vital nutrients.
The human body can’t make essential fatty acids on its own, so we need to get them from our diet. Carbohydrates are not essential because we can make the carbs we need from other nutrients stored in the body. This is another reason the keto diet is popular. You eat barely any carbs, you convert the fat you have stored into energy for your brain and body, you lose weight and you feel fantastic. Our bodies do work more efficiently this way, which is another reason it’s being touted as one of the healthiest diets around.
Adapting to the Keto Diet
The process of becoming a keto powerhouse can be challenging, and some people even experience what’s called the “keto flu.” Now don’t worry, this isn’t necessary or permanent, and there are ways to help combat this. What’s really happening is you’re forcing your body to re-learn how to process foods in order for you to survive. This can take anywhere from two days up to a few weeks, depending on how many carbs you consume, your activity level, lifestyle and a little on your genetic makeup.
The keto flu happens when the reduction in carbs is so drastic, your body goes into shock and you experience withdrawal symptoms: headaches, fatigue, irritability and sugar cravings, just to name a few. You can slowly transition into a keto state by reducing your carb intake over time while increasing your fat and maintaining your protein intake until you get to the recommended keto ranges and stay there. You can also add supplements to your diet to help your body begin using and accessing fat stores more efficiently. (Check out our list of foods to eat and avoid on the keto diet below.)
Getting Into Ketosis
Keto only works when done right, and that’s easier said than done. To get into ketosis, the metabolic state of the ketogenic diet, you need to drastically reduce your carb intake to anywhere between 20 to 50 grams per day, or less. Remember, the average American eats around 225 to 325 grams of carbs per day, so it’s easier said than done for most.
What would a traditional keto macro breakdown look like? Of your daily caloric intake requirements, to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle, you would want:
Essentially, you’re going to starve your body of carbs—*NOT to be confused with starving yourself*—and eat a moderate amount of protein and a high amount of healthy fats.
You would also want to up your water intake. More water is never a bad idea, but increasing water is a great way to help your body transition into this new type of diet and lifestyle.
What Foods Can You Eat on the Keto Diet?
Here are some supplements to help make the transition easier:
What Not to Eat on the Keto Diet
Take note: before transitioning into any new diet, especially one that almost eliminates an entire food group, it’s important to consult your doctor. Remember what you learned in preschool: safety first, always!