If you're into fitness, or you have a family member or friends who are into fitness, chances are you've heard about the "keto diet." The newest trend in the ever-changing and ever-evolving world of diets and weight loss, the keto - or ketogenic - diet is one of the most controversial and popular new fads around. Whether it's the subject of a diet book, a tv show, or a new supplement, "keto" is everywhere, but there's one thing that isn't immediately apparent about it that everyone needs to know: it is not for everyone. Unlike many user-friendly diets like the South Beach Diet and the Atkins Diet, the ketogenic diet is hardcore and definitely not for the faint of heart.
What does the ketogenic diet consist of? Well to explain that, we should first get into what keto is and how it's supposed to work. Normally, the body takes carbohydrates and breaks them down into glucose (sugar) which it then burns for energy. When the body has no carbs to burn, it resorts to the next best thing: body fat. The liver goes about metabolizing fat cells and breaking them down into things called ketone bodies, which the body uses for energy instead of glucose. This state is called "ketosis," and is the foundation of the ketogenic diet. By severely restricting your carb intake, dieters are supposed to induce ketosis in their bodies, thereby forcing their body to burn fat cells and lose weight.
So it probably sounds like your average low-carb diet, right? We've all heard of those: cut down on bread, pasta, and potatoes, bingo. How different could it be?
Well, the answer is this: it's completely different. Unlike the low-carb diets you've read about, the ketogenic diet takes carb restriction to the next level. According to medical professionals, the method of achieving ketosis requires you to get your total amount of daily carbs down to between 20 and 50 grams per day. Sound doable? Well, for reference, a single banana contains 27 grams of carbs alone. Think about that: one banana and you're already pretty much at the limit for daily carbs.
How do you follow such a strict diet, when even simple fruits can put you over the limit? And if you follow it, how do you avoid the pitfalls that others have come across?
Measure everything. The time for just counting calories is over. Using your preferred nutrition/food tracker, you'll have to get used to looking up every single thing you eat, and paying special attention to the carbohydrates. Count them up, and make sure you don't go over 50 grams in a day.
Plan in advance. If you're going to do a diet that's this tough, you can't depend on "winging it" throughout the day. You'll need to plan out your meals and snacks in advance, making sure you get enough fats and proteins, and making sure the carb limit is observed. Left to your own devices, you might end up eating the wrong thing and setting yourself back. Planning is key.
Take a multivitamin. By cutting out carbs, you're also cutting out important sources of key vitamins and minerals your body needs to function properly. Zinc, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin B are some of these, and they're typically found in whole grains and carbohydrate-rich vegetables - things you're supposed to cut out completely from your diet. So make sure you supplement your diet with enough of the vitamins and minerals you need, or you'll end up malnourished.
Beware the "keto flu". While not technically a "flu" in the sense that it's not caused by a virus, the keto flu can still floor you. Consisting of a combination of nausea, exhaustion, and irritability that users experience about a week into the keto diet, it can seriously ruin your day. If it happens to you, consider going into the keto diet more gradually, allowing your body to adjust, without jumping right into the deep end.
Know when to stop. Unlike other diets like the DASH Diet or the Mediterranean Diet, the keto diet is meant to be used short-term - it is not a permanent lifestyle change. If you've committed to starting the diet, make sure you know what your weight loss goals are, and once you hit them, ease yourself off the keto diet. Staying on this diet for too long could cause problems with your body, and it's not known exactly how safe it is to practice it long-term.
So there you have it. The 5 simple rules for following a ketogenic diet. While this hardcore diet isn't for the casual dieter, some have found it to be extremely helpful in helping them lose weight, gain energy, and feel better. If you're unsure, definitely check with a doctor first before attempting it, and make sure that, if you do, you follow our list of simple rules. They might just help you avoid the problems that have ensnared others, and could help set you up for success.