First of all: what is keto?
Going “keto” is the newest craze to hit the health and wellness scene since the “paleo” diet. If you haven’t heard of keto, also known as ketosis, it’s a diet that encourages using fat as your main energy source instead of carbohydrates. Ketones are what’s produced when the body is burning fat for energy. Those going keto typically aim for meals low in carbohydrates, higher in fat and a moderate amount of protein.
According to Dr. Axe (draxe.com), the strictest calorie breakdown of keto is getting 75 percent of your calories from fat, 20 percent of your calories from protein, and 5 percent of your calories from carbohydrates. So, let’s say you’re eating a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. You would be able to eat one medium-sized banana for your carbohydrates. Then the rest of your calories would come from protein and fat sources, such as salmon or avocado.
While keto seems like a new buzzword, it’s actually been around in the medical field for quite some time as a therapeutic diet. For example, doctors have prescribed the keto diet for decades to children who have stopped responding to their epilepsy medication. Research has shown that going keto can change genes involved in energy metabolism in the brain, which can then reduce the child’s risk of seizures.
Not to mention, those who have gone keto swear by it as one of the most effective diets for weight loss and satiety, which makes sense. Fat tastes amazing and it makes you feel full. So theoretically, the fuller you feel, the less you eat. Lebron James is a famous example of someone who uses the keto diet. He told Sports Illustrated that he went keto during his offseason to keep from gaining weight while he wasn’t training as much.
So, you want to go keto? Here’s where you can start. First, you should always consult your primary care doctor before starting any new diet regimen. Then, after getting clearance from your doctor, you’ll want to start taking refined carbohydrates out of your diet. That means saying no to foods like breads, pasta and white rice. These foods spike your blood sugar and keep your body from being able to stay in ketosis. As a general rule, aim to eat less than 15 grams of carbohydrates per meal. And when you do eat carbohydrates, you want to choose nutrient-dense sources like leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, or Swiss chard.
Once you’ve kicked the refined carbohydrates, you’ll want to add quality sources of fat and protein. Unfortunately, this is where a lot of people can really go wrong. Technically, you can be keto while consuming tons of processed meat and cheese, like salami and Velveeta. However, you would be much better off consuming quality sources of protein like grass-fed beef, or wild-caught salmon, both of which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and help fight inflammation. Some healthy sources of fat include avocado, coconut oil and almonds. You’ll want to stay clear of trans fats, or foods that contain vegetable oils, as these have been shown to increase your risk of heart disease.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that keto is not an all-you-can-eat buffet of fat. While that does sounds pretty tempting, only 60-75 percent of your calories come from fat. So if you are going keto, I would recommend using a calorie counter, like My Fitness Pal app, to make sure you aren’t going overboard. You can also use urine testing strips to check for the presence of ketones and ensure that you are staying in ketosis.
Keep in mind that after going keto, you may actually feel worse before you start to feel your energy improve – and see your waistline shrink. Many times when changing your diet, you will notice an adjustment period. When your body is transitioning from using carbohydrates to fat, you may notice an array of symptoms that have been labeled the “keto flu.” These flu-like symptoms can range from feeling fatigued, achy or even nauseous, to name a few. However, if this feeling doesn’t go away after a week or two, you should stop the diet and speak to your doctor. Those who are hard exercisers might also want to take caution because drastically restricting your carbohydrates can be challenging for those who compete in endurance sports, or high-volume activities.
Whether you choose to try keto or not is a personal choice. Just remember to listen to your body, and have fun seeing what works for you!