Ease of Following
The Keto Diet Promise
Eat lots of fat and protein with minimal carbs and shed the pounds!
About the Keto Diet
Getting back into shape these days is like a bag of “Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans”. Before you quirk your eyebrow and brush that off as an unlikely comparison, think about it! You have as many options to get back into shape as you do magic beans, if not more! There are low calorie diets, there are very low calorie diets, low fat diets and low carb diets. And just as you may not like every flavor of beans (earwax, remember?), not every diet is for everyone, but the Keto diet seems to have nearly universal acclaim, something even Hollywood movies find difficulty achieving. Based on our body’s natural “fat burning mode,” this low carb diet could be exactly what you’ve been searching for to get fit.
The keto diet, or the Ketogenic Diet, is a low carbohydrate diet that has been shown to be very effective when it comes to weight loss. Why is it so effective? Well, because the process of your body getting energy itself is centered around burning fat, not to forget that it’s one of the most natural diets as it takes your body into a state it’s already downright familiar with.
Most of us (at least those of who us managed to pay attention in science class!) know how the body gets its energy – we eat, we metabolize the food to get glucose, which is then “burned” to get energy. Whatever is leftover is converted into fat and stored for another day. If you’re wondering which day, that’s a valid question! Well, fat storage was a great idea when our species was in the wild, hunting animals and gathering fruits, not knowing when the next meal was going to be. Thus, fat was stored away for the days when food was unavailable. Now, you’re more likely to be sitting in a chair for hours on end with ready access to food three to four times a day. So though we’ve come a long way in the journey of evolution, some things, as the saying goes, never change. Our bodies still tend to store fat (unless you’re Melman, in which case you’d never have to worry about “thunder thighs” and “jelly calves” because giraffes just don’t put on weight!). Anyway, stating the obvious, we don’t need to store fat! We need to burn it.
Fat is naturally burnt by your body when it’s looking for energy and you haven’t eaten enough for it to get it from your food. The keto diet plan exploits this feature positively to bring your body into “fat burning” mode.
How Does the Keto Diet Work?
How exactly do you trick your body into burning more fat? Magic? The way some of us struggle with weighty issues, it may well seem like magic, but well, the answer is ‘no’. Don’t rely on magic and make fat the only viable source of energy! Enter something called ketosis, a metabolic state of the body where in the body uses ketones instead of glucose as an energy source. When your body has a low intake of carbohydrates, the liver begins to break down stored fat into fatty acids and ketones. Don’t worry too much about the chemistry – just know that it works really well at burning fat. So well, in fact, this is one of those diets in which you don’t have to remove fat from your diet. This is because most of it will be used as energy instead of being stored. So go ahead, reach for that butter.
Like we said, your body naturally enters a state of ketosis, so you know you’re in a state of ketosis when you haven’t had a meal in a long time. Starvation causes your body to use all the energy sources it can find and fat is usually a good reserve. Following a diet that makes your body mimic this metabolic state is the key, and many keto diet food lists are designed to help you do just that.
A keto diet consists of low carbohydrate, adequate protein and high fat intake. Foods which suit this trifecta make it into typical keto diet menus. The adequate protein ensures that your body has enough strength to maintain its muscles, which may otherwise be eaten away instead of your body just burning the fat. The low carbohydrates begin the process of ketosis within three or four days of reduced intake. The high fat acts as another source of energy apart from the fat already present in the body and further reinforces ketosis. So with 70% of your food as fat, 25% protein and the remaining 5% carbohydrates, you’re on your way to ketosis.
However, do remember that since the keto diet is not an all-round balanced diet. Not even the keto diet can be that magical, and thus, supplements of vitamins B and D as well of calcium must be taken separately to avoid adverse effects on the body.
But enough of the science and statistics! Let’s get to what you can and can’t eat while on the keto diet.
What’s on the Menu?
- Protein: Bacon, beef (ground), sirloin steak, beef bottom round, and chicken (white meat, dark meat)
- Vegetables: Asparagus, broccoli, tomato, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, radishes, radicchio, chives, spaghetti squash, carrots, garlic, green beans, celery, cucumber, mushrooms, butternut squash, onion (green, white), spinach, acorn squash, bell pepper (green), pickles, Romaine lettuce, butter head lettuce, shallots, snow peas, Swiss chard, bok choy, and bamboo shoots
- Dairy Products (raw, organic and full fat): Heavy whipping cream, cream, whole milk, butter milk, full-fat cheese (blue cheese, Colby, feta, Monterey Jack, parmesan, cheddar, Swiss, mascarpone, mozzarella, cream cheese), sour cream, cottage cheese, and butter milk
- Fats: Avocado, butter, beef tallow, duck fat, macadamia oil, goose fat, coconut oil, chicken fat, ghee (clarified butter), non-hydrogenated lard, mayonnaise (without added sugar), olive oil, coconut butter, red palm oil, and peanut butter
- Fish: Flounder, sole, halibut, snapper, trout, mackerel, mahi-mahi, catfish, cod, salmon, tuna, shrimp, and lobster
- Shellfish: Oysters, scallops, clams, mussels, crab, and squid
- Whole Eggs: Boiled, poached, fried, deviled, and scrambled
- Meat (grass fed): Beef, goat, lamb, veal, and other wild game
- Pork: Pork chops, ham pork loin, bacon, and sausage
- Poultry: Quail, pheasant, chicken, duck, and turkey (breast)
- Nuts and Seeds: Peanuts, walnuts, macadamias, cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, flax seeds (milled), chia seeds, chestnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, and sesame seeds
- Berries: Blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries
- Beverages: Water, tea (herbal and non-herbal), and coffee
- Sweeteners (liquid form): Stevia, sucralose, Erythritol, Xylitol, monk fruit, agave nectar, and aspartame
- Herbs and Spices: Sea salt, sage, thyme, turmeric, black pepper, basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cilantro, cinnamon, and cumin
- Condiments: Mayonnaise, soy sauce, mustard, full-fat salad dressing (Bleu Cheese, Italian, Ranch, Caesar), lemon or lime juice, and hot sauce
- Miscellaneous Foods: Cocoa powder (unsweetened), almond milk (unsweetened), coconut milk/cream (unsweetened), almond meal/flour, olives, pickles, and dark chocolate
- Vegetables: Turnips, rutabaga / swede, parsley root, white and green cabbage, leek, onion, globe or French artichokes, garlic, winter squash (pumpkin), red cabbage, eggplant, celery root, carrot, beetroot, tomatoes, peppers, sugar snap peas, wax beans, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, fennel, spring onion, mushrooms, sea vegetables (nori, kombu), okra, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, parsnip, and sweet potato
- Fruits: Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, mulberries, coconut, rhubarb, and olives
- Grain-Fed Animal Products: Beef, poultry, and eggs
- Dairy Products (full-fat): Plain full-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, cream, sour cream, cheese, and ghee
- Nuts and Seeds: Macadamia nuts, hemp seeds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, pistachio and cashew nuts, and chestnuts
- Fermented Soy Products: Natto, tempeh, soy sauce, Edamame (green soy beans), and unprocessed black soybeans
- Condiments: Arrowroot powder, xanthan gum, sugar-free puree, passata, sugar-free ketchup, cocoa powder, carob powder, and extra dark chocolate
- Fruits (in very small amounts): Watermelon, cantaloupe, Galia, honeydew melons, apricot, dragon fruit (Pitaya), peach, nectarine, apple, grapefruit, kiwifruit, kiwi berries, orange, plums, cherries, pears, and figs (fresh)
- Alcohol: Dry red wine, dry white wine, and spirits (unsweetened)
What’s off the Menu?
- Grains and Products Made from Grains: Rice, barley, quinoa, corn, barley, millet, bulgur, sorghum, oatmeal, oat bran, wheat, rye, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains, pasta, pizza, and crackers
- Sugar-Rich Foods: Juices, chocolate, cakes, cookies, soft drinks, breakfast cereals, bread, biscuits, candies, pastries, ice cream, muffins, flavoured yogurts, and sweet puddings
- Tropical Fruits: Pineapple, mango, banana, papaya, grapes, and tangerines
- Sugar and Sweets: Table sugar, HFCS, and agave syrup
- Factory-farmed fish and pork
- Processed foods
- Refined Fats and Oils: Sunflower, grapeseed, corn, cottonseed, canola, safflower, and soybean margarine
- White potatoes
- Fruits and fruit juices
- Beverages: Beer, red wine, white wine, soft drinks, diet soda, cocktails, and fruit juices
- Other Foods: Mints, chewing gum, dates, and raisins
What to Do When You’re Craving Sugar
If you’re anything like us (that means the part of the human population that counts itself as “normal”!), sweet things are as essential to you as breathing! For most of us, no meal is complete without dessert. Right at the end, you need some of that sweet stuff to feel really satiated, unless you’re Jennifer Anniston (We’re pretty sure this pretty lady doesn’t know the meaning of a “cheat day”. Seriously, have you ever caught her not perfectly toned?). However, you can’t have carbs and there’s no two ways about it! Don’t worry though, there’s an alternative for you – protein powder. It comes in all sorts of flavors and you can use it to bake those goodies you’ve been craving!
Advantages of the Keto Diet
- Weight Loss: This one’s pretty obvious. You’re going to be in fat burning mode and that’s going to get you shed pounds at a healthy but noticeable rate. You’ll be back in shape in no time!
- The Pleasure of Eating: Sure, you might not have any sugary foods or drinks, but you’ve got to admit that there’s an ecstasy that comes from a fat rich meal. To make the deal sweeter (no pun intended!), you won’t even have to worry about being affected negatively!
- Energy: With an energy rich diet, you’re going to feel a lot more enthusiastic and high spirited the whole day. No more sleepy Monday mornings!
- Lower Blood Sugar: Studies1 have shown that the keto diet leads to a drop in LDL cholesterol which is a big help for those suffering from type II diabetes.
- Improve Cholesterol Levels: The keto diet helps to improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels which are the prime reason for clogged arteries leading to heart disease.
- Hunger Pangs: The fat and proteins in the keto diet plan makes you feel satiated for a longer time and this means no more hunger pangs.
- Burns Fat: The keto diet improves the body’s ability to burn the stored fat to produce energy, thereby helping you shed the fat, resulting in weight loss.
- Reduce Risk of Diseases: The keto diet can help you lose weight and reduce the risk of diseases2 such as type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Disadvantages of the Keto Diet
- Fatigue: When you are embarking on the keto diet, for the first few weeks there is a metabolic shift occurring in your body. It is likely that in this time, you may experience fatigue and brain fog, commonly known and hated as “the keto flu”. However, this phase is short-lived and once your body gets used to manufacturing ketones as the main source of energy, you will feel more energetic and you will also not experience fluctuations in the blood sugar level.
- Micronutrient Deficiencies: The keto diet restricts the consumption of carbohydrates and this can result in micronutrient deficiencies3. You can prevent this by taking multivitamins or mineral supplements.
- Ketoacidosis: If the ketone levels in your body increases a lot, there is a chance of ketoacidosis as ketones are acidic. This can lower the pH level of your blood and can sometimes even be fatal. You should be especially careful if you are diabetic4.
Changing the body’s source of energy has obvious consequences, apart from the intended weight loss. While side effects vary from person to person, there are a few side effects that may occur in conjunction with the others and must be treated with either a change in diet or medication. Some side effects include (but are not limited to):
- Low level acidosis
- Low blood sugar
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Raised levels of lipid in the blood
- Slow or stunted growth
- Brown fractures
- Kidney stones
- Menstrual irregularities
While these are possible side effects, these are rare and also depend on whether the diet is practised properly.
Common Myths and Misconceptions of the Keto Diet
The Keto Diet Is Unbalanced and Can Cause Nutritional Deficiencies
The keto diet recommends restriction of carbs and limiting proteins to the point where ketosis begins in the body. If you achieve this by eating “healthy” fatty meats, dairy, nuts, plenty of green leafy and fibrous vegetables, then your diet is a complete and a nutrient-dense one, which means you don’t have to worry about nutritional deficiencies and imbalance5.
Following the Keto Diet Can Lead to Ketoacidosis Which Can Be Life-Threatening
If you do not have any health issues and your pancreas are functioning normally, then there is no risk of developing ketoacidosis if the Keto diet is followed properly.
The Keto Diet Can Cause Dehydration and Electrolyte Deficiency
As the keto diet flushes the water out from your system, you may experience some dehydration and electrolyte loss. This can be easily countered by drinking plenty of water and consuming foods that are rich in sodium, potassium and magnesium.
The Keto Diet Causes Constipation
We completely get you if the word “constipation” has you slightly panicking. This means you’re one of those people who place importance on good, regular bowel movements and think that anything but (again, no pun intended!) is a literal pain in the you-know-where. However, if you follow the keto diet correctly, you will be eating plenty of foods and vegetables that are high in fiber, meaning that you will not suffer from constipation.
Ketosis Damages the Kidneys and Can Cause Kidney Stones
Remember that story about how you’d die from cyanide poisoning if you drank Pepsi or Coke immediately after eating Mentos? Well, the fact that ketosis damages your kidneys is about as true as that story6. Or about as true as the fact that Napoleon was short (he wasn’t!). The keto diet is not really a very high-protein diet. In fact, it restricts the amount of protein to be consumed to 60-120 grams per day, depending on your weight and lean body mass, to minimize the protein conversion to sugar.
- Treatment of Cancer: According to research, ketosis as a condition is beneficial for people suffering from cancer7. When the carbohydrate intake is restricted to below 20-25 gm per day, the body runs out of glycogen reserves and begins to produce ketones. Healthy cells use ketones for energy; however, cancer cells cannot use these ketones and “starve to death.” So the keto diet can be used in the treatment of cancer.
- Treat Neurological Diseases: The keto diet has been used to treat neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, migraines, autism, depression, Alzheimer’s disease8, etc.
- Other Ailments: The keto diet has also been used in the treatment of other ailments such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (POS)9, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc.
- Epilepsy: It has been known for centuries now that withholding food from an epileptic leads to a decrease in the frequency and severity of seizures. In the past century, doctors have come to understand that maintaining the body in a state of ketosis is essential for this anticonvulsive effect. In fact, when used on young children for a period of two years, there have been cases of a total stoppage of seizures wherein a normal diet may be taken for the rest of their lives10.
Phases of the Keto Diet
Phase 1: Introduction Phase
In this phase, you will be essentially preparing to eat the right kinds of food and getting rid of all the “unhealthy” stuff such as sugar, pasta, sweets, fruits, sodas, etc. from your pantry. Thus, you must start eating plenty of fats and cleaner carbohydrates, preferably in the form of vegetables. You must also move away from lean meats and start eating more fatty meats as the idea of this phase is to keep you feeling full. This is quite a restrictive phase with very strict guidelines and can last anywhere between 21 days to a year. This means that you’re going to feel like giving up more often than you feel like sticking with the diet, but just keep your eyes on the prize and don’t give up!
Phase 2: Adjustment Phase
If you’ve made it through phase 1, kudos! One of the hardest parts is over. You have sort of settled down into the “Keto” style of eating and selecting the foods that are right for you based on the diet plan. Now, in your adjustment phase, you can add more healthy carbs i.e. vegetables and fruits to your diet. You can also increase or decrease the levels of protein and fat intake in this stage to help you achieve your goals. This phase is an open-ended one and the idea is for you to reach your ideal goal weight by making the necessary adjustments in your meal plan.
Phase 3: Fitness Phase
No diet is complete without the presence of exercise. We’re sorry to burst any bubbles, but the same goes for the keto diet. Just eating differently isn’t going to take you all the way! The exercise or “fitness” phase can be followed along with the Adjustment Phase or started after phase 2. In this phase, you will start incorporating an exercise routine to your diet plan. Exercise will help to burn the fat by depleting the glycogen reserves in the body and jump-starting the fat burn process. You can consider including high intensity exercises, low-intensity aerobics and lifting weights to your exercise regimen.
Bonus Phase: Maintenance Phase
Whoever said that the road to success is dotted with many parking spaces, couldn’t have been more right. The keto is a lifelong phase of maintaining your weight and way of eating when you have reached your desired, goal weight in order to live a fit and healthy life, making it a lifestyle and not just any old diet. Though you may feel like “parking”, don’t! You may think of taking a break just for a day or two or a week or two and before you know it, a month has gone by! Procrastination is a human tendency but it can be overcome. So just keep driving and enjoy the new views (quite literally!) that come with it.
Variants of the Keto Diet
Standard Keto Dieting (SKD)
This is the simplest and the most basic form of the keto diet. This version of the diet is where you follow a constant ketogenic nutrient consumption, which is a moderate to high protein, high fat and a low carbohydrate diet. The diet typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbohydrates. Most dieters follow this version of the keto diet.
Cyclical Keto Dieting (CKD)
In this version, you alternate days of following the keto diet with days of high carb consumption which is known as “carb-loading”. CKD introduces recurring carb-loading for a short period of time to help the muscle to restore the depleted levels of glycogen. This diet typically follows 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days. When on the CKD, you consume around 50 gm of carbs per day during the first phase of the keto dieting and around 450-600 gm of carbs during the carb-loading phase. The time between the carb-loading can also depend on the individual and their weight-loss goals and workout intensity.
Targeted Keto Dieting (TKD)
This version of the diet follows intermittent carb-loading periods, especially focussed on the times of workout. It is recommended that you eat carbs 30-60 minutes before exercise and it is advisable to choose easily digestible carbs with a high GI index. Also, avoid foods that are high in fructose. This is to provide enough glucose for energy during the workout without preventing ketosis for extended periods of time. Post exercise, your meals should be high in protein and low in fat.
Who Is It For?
The keto diet, especially the Cyclical Keto Diet or the Targeted Keto Diet, are recommended for bodybuilders and athletes who are looking to build lean muscle mass and maximize fat loss. The keto diet is also great for people who are overweight, diabetic or looking to improve their general metabolic health.
Who Is it Not For?
- The keto diet may not be suitable for elite athletes who are looking to add large amounts of muscle or weight (think Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson!).
- The keto diet can cause shifts in body chemistry that have impact on medications11, especially in the first few weeks of the diet. For example, you can experience sudden drops in blood pressure and blood sugar and if you are on medications for these conditions, the effects can be intensified which can be quite harmful. When on the keto diet, the body flushes out water which may cause medicines like the antidepressant and mood stabilizer, Lithium, to become concentrated in the blood causing toxicity. It is always a good idea to consult with your doctor or medical practitioner before starting the keto diet while on medications.
- The keto diet is not suitable if you:
- Have a gallbladder or suffer from gallbladder disease
- Have undergone bariatric surgery
- Suffer from rare metabolic disorders
- Are pregnant or nursing
- Are a child
- Suffer pancreatic insufficiency
- Are prone to kidney stones
- Are very thin or suffer from anorexia
The keto diet is complete and is one of the most nutritious diets, but of course, like your insurance, there are terms and conditions to the efficiency of this diet. In fact, the only term is that you follow the diet properly! Too many people expect good results without putting in the required effort, like expecting an “A” in a test you didn’t study for. It usually takes around four to six weeks for your body to truly adapt to the Keto diet and enter a state of ketosis. Once you’ve adjusted, take it from us when we say that it’ll seem the most natural form of eating. Remember, the diet will help you lose some fat but that isn’t the end. Truly getting back into shape requires a combination of diet and exercises so that you begin to build muscle too. Give it a try, stay healthy.