What is a ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet is an extremely low-carb diet which focuses more on fat consumption, and shares a lot of similarities with the Atkins and other low-carb diets. For the unversed, our body utilises carbohydrates (sugar) for energy, for the simple reason that our diets always have sufficient amounts of carbs in it – in the form of grains, fruits, vegetables and more. However, the main principle behind this diet is to almost eliminate carb sources and considerably increase the intake of fats. So when you eat less than 50 grams of carbs in a day, your body runs out of its original source of fuel. This state occurs in 3-4 days of starting the keto diet. That’s when it starts looking for an alternative source of energy, which in this case becomes fat. When the body starts metabolising fats to produce fuel, that is called ketosis.
The origin of the diet
While the ketogenic diet is now seen as an effective weight loss diet, it originated in the 1920s as a popular therapy for epilepsy. It was seen as a diet to mimic the effects of fasting. The diet was created to offer alternatives to fasting, which showed positive results in epilepsy treatment – something which was not in the mainstream. However, the diet was rejected when new anticonvulsant therapies were introduced. Interestingly, it was observed that while epilepsy could be controlled majorly with the new and promising medication, 20-30 per cent epileptic cases failed to be managed. So medical practitioners of the time revisited the ketogenic diet and reintroduced it as a non-mainstream way to manage the condition, especially among children.
Are there different types of ketogenic diets?
Yes, there are actually different versions of the ketogenic diet. However, most clinical studies have only been conducted on two types – the standard and high-protein ketogenic diet. Here are some of the more popular ones:
The standard ketogenic diet – This is a very low-carb diet, which allows for moderate protein intake and very high fat. The ideal break up is 75 per cent fats, 20 per cent protein and only 5 per cent carbs.
Cyclical ketogenic diet – If you follow any ketogenic groups, you would have surely heard about this one. This diet follows the same standard ketogenic diet segregation of fats, protein and carbs, however, every 5 days it allows you to have two high carb days. It is also called the refuelling day.
Targeted ketogenic diet – So this diet also primarily follows the principles of standard ketogenic diet but it allows you to intake carbs around your workouts.
High-protein ketogenic diet – As the name suggests, you can have slightly higher protein intake on this type of the ketogenic diet. Instead of 20 per cent protein, you can have up to 35 per cent protein and the fat ratio comes down to 60 per cent instead of the standard 70. However, the ratio of carbs remains the same.
For the unversed, the cyclical and targeted ketogenic diets are slightly more advanced than the other two methods and are most often used by bodybuilders or athletes.
Food you should avoid
The ketogenic diet strictly limits consumption of foods high in carbs. It is because your body has to receive more fats than carbs, to utilise fat as the main source of energy. To give you a better idea, we are listing below some foods that should be restricted or completely eliminated.
No sugar: Forget about sugary foods on a ketogenic diet. Ketogenic diet doesn’t allow any fruit juice, cake, ice cream, candies, fruit smoothies.
No grains: You have to completely avoid grains or starchy foods such as rice, wheat based products, pasta, or any other cereal.
No fruit: While berries are allowed in a limited amount, you have to stop eating all fruits to stay in ketosis
Root vegetables, beans, legumes: So anything that has carbohydrates needs to be avoided. So avoid potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, lentils, kidney beans, peas and more.
Low-fat products: Do not reach out for low fat milk, low fat curd, diet snacks when you are following a ketogenic diet. In fact, make fat your friend! Full fat cream, full fat curd, ghee, olive oil, butter, everything is allowed in generous amounts on keto (watch out for your macro limit)
Avoid unhealthy fats: While you are encouraged to eat fats for keto, you have to choose your fat wisely. Avoid vegetable oils, mayonnaise etc
Alcohol: Most alcohols have carbs and for that very reason you should avoid having it.
What to eat
The list of foods you can eat include meat (chicken, red meat, ham, steak, turkey), fatty fish (salmon, trout, tuna), eggs (whole eggs), butter, cream, cheese (cheddar, goat cheese, blue cheese, mozzarella), nuts and seeds, healthy oils (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil), avocados, low-carb vegetables (cauliflower, green veggies, tomatoes, peppers, onions etc) and normal condiments and herbs.
Perfect drinks for keto
If you have read up about the ketogenic diet or heard about it from an expert, you know how important water intake is when it comes to this high fat diet.
You can also have coffee, in fact Bullet Coffee is a hit among keto diet followers. It is basically black coffee with a generous dollop of fat (could be ghee, high fat cream, olive oil). Many people on keto diet replace their breakfast with bullet coffee, and if you hear it from them firsthand, they will tell you how filling it is – moreover, it also keeps you charged and kickstart your day in the perfect manner.
You can also have tea but milk is a restriction here – try black tea without sugar or try adding almond milk to your tea.
Working out with ketogenic diet
It is said that to get the most from a ketogenic diet, it is important to also follow a workout routine. In fact many athletes, runners, cyclists follow a ketogenic diet when they are training. It is believed that following a ketogenic diet works on your muscle-to-fat ratio and increases the amount of oxygen present in your body.
People who should not follow ketogenic diet
While there are many controversies surrounding the ketogenic diet, it is said to be safe for most people by keto experts. However, there are three categories of people who shouldn’t be following the diet – they need proper medical consideration if they at all decide to do it:
The first category is of people who take medication for diabetes, for example, insulin. People taking medication for high blood pressure fall in the second category and the third category is of pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Health benefits of the ketogenic diet
Ketogenic diet is well known for its weight loss benefits but it is said to be an extremely beneficial diet for diabetes, pre diabetes, PCOS, heart ailments, alzheimer, acne and more.
Many diabetics have benefited from the diet and have shown reduced blood sugar levels. This is primarily because the disease is linked to high blood sugar and impaired insulin in the body. A ketogenic diet helps a person lose weight, which is linked to Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and prediabetes too. A study proved that the diet helped in improving insulin sensitivity by 70 per cent.
Many people advise against a ketogenic diet because we have always seen fat is the real evil and this diet makes you eat more of that. But there have been studies that showed improvement in HDL and blood pressure. Furthermore, the diet is also being tested on cancer patients and cancer survivors.
Also, if you have had an issue with appetite control, then this diet will work wonders for you. Most people following keto diet have experienced dramatic hunger control – their appetite reduces considerably. So you eat less and lose more.
Combination of Intermittent fasting with keto is also a great technique to lose weight faster.
Risks related to ketogenic diet
While the high-fat diet has several health benefits, there have been certain studies that state that in the long-term can have adverse health effects. Some of the most common issues that people complain of are:
Kidney stones (That’s why it is extremely important to drink lots of water as when body starts to burn stored fat, it can be hard on your kidneys)
Excess protein in the blood (Remember, ketogenic diet is not a high protein diet but a high fat diet)
Mineral and Vitamin deficiencies
The infamous keto flu which often occurs within days of starting the ketogenic diet can have some of these symptoms:
Low blood sugar
Low tolerance for exercise
Last but not least, it is important to consult your physician or a health specialist before you start the ketogenic diet. That is the reason it is always advised to start under guidance so you can avoid all health errors.