How does the keto diet work?

Keto is known as a weight-loss wonder, but as with others before, this eating plan is a medical diet that may also come with risks [1].

What is the keto diet?

You can lose weight quickly when you stick with this way of eating, as you stabilise your insulin levels and blood sugar. This is because the foods you consume aid in balancing your hormones. You don’t struggle with cravings, hunger and other problems that hold your weight and overall health hostage. 

Although, keto diets also may also bring some confusion. One day a celebrity swears by it and the next, an expert talks about how dangerous being in ketosis can be [2].

What are the kinds of keto diets?

There are a few versions of the ketogenic diet, including [3]:

  • Standard ketogenic diet (SKD): (low carb, moderate protein and high fat). It usually contains 70% fat, 20% protein and only 10% carbs [4].
  • Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): involves periods of higher-carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high carb days.
  • Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): allows you to add carbs around workouts.
  • High protein ketogenic diet: comparable to a general keto diet, but involves more protein. The ratio is usually 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.

Despite that, only the standard and high protein ketogenic diets have been researched thoroughly. Targeted or cyclical ketogenic diets are more advanced methods and mainly used by athletes or bodybuilders.

Targeted or cyclical ketogenic diets are more advanced methods and mainly used by athletes or bodybuilders

How does it work?

When following a keto diet, you limit protein and carbohydrates, meaning you consume a high-fat diet. Insufficient carbohydrates or protein means you don’t have much glucose for fuel. Your body utilises that back-up fuel,converting the fat you eat and body fat into ketones [5].

This means you’re literally burning fat for fuel. The body is always making ketones but when you on keto,those ketones take over glucose as your body’s prevalent fuel, and you go into ketosis [6]

Transitioning from glucose to ketones could take days or weeks, and maintaining it can be equally challenging because even small amounts of carbohydrates or excess protein can prevent your body from maintaining ketosis. 

That makes keto a pretty strict diet. Maintaining that plan requires:

  • Keeping carbs low: to be able to maintain ketosis,you need to keep your carb intake to around 20 to 50 grams everyday. To visualize that, an apple has around 25 grams of carbohydrate.
  • Retaining your fat intake high: to get and stay in ketosis,you’ll consume a diet that’s about 80 to 90 per cent fat. This means a majority of your diet will consist of dietary fats.
  • Testing whether you’re in ketosis: not a requirement,but you can gauge the level of ketones your body produces with breath tests
  • , blood or urine, 
  • Watching protein intake: extra protein can turn into glucose, which obstructs ketosis. You’ll have to cut the amount of protein you consume on a keto diet. 

Yes, a keto diet can be challenging, at least in the beginning. Although, some enthusiasts swear by their benefits for weight loss and much more.

What are the benefits of the keto diet?

Short term studies present thatketo diets get excellent and rapid results for weight loss and can also help withconditions like type 2 diabetes [7]. These benefits come from many factors, including: 

  • Hormonal balance: keto diets help balance various hormones aside from insulin. Among those hunger-regulating hormones is leptin, which signals your brain to stop eating. On the other handm ghrelin has the opposite effec, as it tells you to eat more. When these and other hormones are balanced on a keto diet, you’re less likely to feel hunger and cravings [8].
  • Lesser inflammation levels: chronic inflammation has a role in obesity, as well as diseases like diabetes. Sugar, in all its many forms, is considered as inflammatory food. On keto diet, you maintain your sugar and overall carbohydrate intake verylow. When you combine that practice with whole, unprocessed foods, you lower inflammation levels. 
  • Lower insulin levels: when you consume foods with carbohydrates and to a lesser extent protein, you elevate your blood sugar levels. Insulin acts to decrease blood sugar levels, supplying glucose to your cells for energy or to store for backup fuel (glycogen). But high insulin levels, which can occur when you eat too much carbohydrates can prevent fat loss. On a keto diet, you mainatin lower insulin levels. This means that your body can more easily access fat stores for fuel [9].

These and additional advantages of a keto diet help you lose weight and reduces your risk of disease. People on keto diets also report more energy, focus and mental clarity.

Short term studies present thatketo diets get excellent and rapid results for weight loss and can also help withconditions like type 2 diabetes [7].

Are there risks for being on keto?

Like any other diet, keto has numerous risks [10]. The top risk is that it’s high in saturated fat. It is recommended that you keep saturated fats to no more than 7 per cent of your daily calories because of the link to heart disease. Indeed, the keto diet is associated with an increase in “bad” LDL cholesterol, which is also connected to heart disease.

Another potential keto risk include nutrient deficiency. If you’re not eating a wide variety of fruits, grains and vegetables, you may be at risk for deficiencies in micronutrients, including vitamins B and C, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium.

If going on a high-fat diet feels challenging when you’re starting, give it a couple of (where it will will feel even more tortuous). But if staying on keto helps you lose weight and feel better while you’re enjoying healthy high-fat foods, stick with it.

In the end, no single diet plan works for everyone. If keto feels a little too extreme or unrealistic for your life, sit down with your doctor to find an eating plan that works for you. Any diet, keto or otherwise, can only be effective when you’re dedicated to it for your circumstances and lifestyle. 


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