What You Need to Know Before Starting a Ketogenic Diet

ketogenic diet
The Ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet probably has about as many adherents as it does critics.

While the Centers for Disease Prevention and control considers the ketogenic diet and effective method to combat obesity, the Harvard Medical School considers the diet too heavy on unhealthy foods.

While nutritionists and large schools of thought continue to debate over the effectiveness of a ketogenic diet, one this is for certain it’s certainly gained popularity in recent years.

All of that fame comes mostly from the proponents promising all of the benefits of a strict diet with none of the drawbacks. Large claims to rapid weight loss and muscle gain alike are sure to pique anyone’s interest, but begs the question how does the ketogenic diet, or keto diet, work?

To answer that question, we’ve assembled everything you need to know before embarking on a ketogenic diet. We’ll go over tips, tricks, and whether or not this diet is a fad or the start of a new and innovative lifestyle for you.

Ketosis Explained

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the ketogenic diet, we’ll need to clear up the terminology for you.

You’ll hear terms like ketosis, ketogenic, and ketones thrown around a lot when discussing this particular diet, which all stems from the science between this particular method of calorie burning.

Here’s the short version: the National Institutes of Health explains that your body typically runs on simple sugars glucose to be exact to power the body and deliver energy to the trillions of cells in your system. The goal of the ketogenic diet is to change this normal state of being and switch over to ketosis.

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When you drastically reduce your carbohydrate intake, your body is forced to burn through all of its glycogen reserves. After this, your liver will begin to create ketones from fat to keep your body running smoothly.

This process, otherwise called ketosis, allows you to start burning the fat stores from your body directly instead of needing to deplete the reserves each time you stop eating or fail to consume enough calories.

There’s a lot more to the story of ketosis then we have time for which is why it’s especially important for you to do your research and be very careful about changing up your diet. Too little carbohydrates can be just as damaging as too many if not more so.

However, when properly executed, maintained ketosis allows your body to eat fatty foods without as high a risk of weight gain. You’ll also be more likely to keep and create muscle mass.

How does ketosis work in the ketogenic diet?

Entering ketosis isn’t quite as simple as cutting out carbohydrates. On that note, we wish to stress that eating absolutely no carbohydrates for an extended period can be very dangerous.

Entering ketosis is a process that can take a few days of eating right. You’ll need to manage to eat a low amount of carbohydrates (often under 20-30 grams), a medium amount of proteins, and a large number of fats per day. Doing so for an extended period will force the body to rid itself of the glycogen stores and begin powering itself on ketones.

Entering ketosis is a process you will most likely feel as you do so. In many ways, entering ketosis can make your body feel as if it is being depleted of nutrients since ketosis is not a native state for the body to be in.

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This is why many people who try to enter into the ketogenic diet are surprised to uncover the insidious keto flu. While it doesn’t happen to everyone, it is something you’ll need to know about before cutting carbs.

Keto flu is a colloquialism for a myriad of flu-like symptoms you may experience when you enter into ketosis. This includes increased lethargy, pains, dizziness, cravings, and a loss of quality sleep.

Keep in mind that keto flu is a temporary condition, and should right itself after a few days. If your keto flu symptoms last any longer than a week, be sure to check in on your levels of carbs, proteins, and fats, and ensure you’re getting everything you need to survive and thrive.

Is the Ketogenic Diet Dangerous?

All of this talk of keto flu and unnatural states can make people quite uncomfortable with the ketogenic diet. However, there is little evidence to point to concerning any dangerous side effects of ketosis or the ketogenic diet.

Simply put, going onto the ketogenic diet just means swapping out lettuce for bread, or skipping heavy diary. You’ll still be responsible for getting all of the necessary vitamins and minerals during the day, but otherwise, little else will change.

What we can say is that the ketogenic diet does require a great deal of maintenance and oversight. Many people attempt to enter ketosis by simply keeping their carb counts low without paying much attention to their proteins and fats. This so-called “dirty keto” is a good way to lose steam fast and feel less than great.

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If you’re going on the ketogenic diet, you’ll need to sort out your macros that is, the number of macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbs) you should be eating daily. Once you sorted your macros, stick to your diet, keep up your nutrient intake, and the rest will work itself out in time.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the ketogenic diet is simultaneously effective and difficult. There are many different ways to enter into ketosis, but once you’re there, you need to keep a close eye on your food. While ketosis itself is not dangerous, there are many dangerous states of being that you can easily fall into if you’re not paying attention.

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