There are numerous different diets, and each has its own potential advantages and downsides. There are too many to name and review, so this post will be focusing on the ketogenic diet and asking the question "does the Keto diet work?"
When considering starting a diet and moving to a more healthy lifestyle, the first thing most people do is think of starting a restrictive diet, usually one that fits into their current lifestyle and one that can meet their weight loss goals.
The Keto diet has become very popular in recent years as a healthier way of eating, but what is the Keto diet, how does the keto diet work in the body, and how does it help you lose weight?
The Keto or ketogenic diet is an ultra-low-carbohydrate diet that replaces carbohydrates as your body's main source of fuel with fat. I have written a more detailed article, which you can read here.
Those not on a restrictive diet generally use carbohydrates as their main source of fuel; this relies on glycogen and glucose to provide body and brain with fuel. By restricting carbs from your diet your body can no longer use glucose for fuel, this puts your body into ketosis which forces your body to use fat for fuel instead.
Ketosis relies on ketone bodies instead of glucose and glycogen. Ketones are produced by the liver from fat stores which is why it is so good for weight loss.
Once in ketosis and your existing fat stores are depleted they need to be replaced otherwise your body will no longer have a fuel source to function, therefore by focusing on very high-fat foods Keto gives your body both a fuel source and a way to lose weight.
When in ketosis you liver essential burns fat to make ketones, therefore your body is using fat from your body stores and from fatty foods to function. The Keto diet is about eating foods with high fat content that raises the levels of ketone bodies produced by your liver. Ketones are then used as a fuel for the brain instead of glucose.
The Keto diet is generally more of a lifestyle change than a diet and it can be followed for life for long-term weight loss rather than short term: for instance, Halle Berry revealed that she has been on the Keto diet for 30 years to help with her type II diabetes.
There are many reason why you might consider Keto as your preferred diet. Here are the top eight.
Lose weight and feel great
Improve your ability to concentrate and think more clearly
Control your blood sugar - great for patients with type 2 diabetes
Reduce feelings of hunger and the need to overeat
Improve hormone balance
Cancer risk reduction
Improve your physical and mental health
The Keto diet is a well-researched diet with plenty of studies and analysis investigating its weight loss mechanisms and health benefits. It has been around for around 100 years; originally devised in the 1920s.
Keto works very well to help you lose weight and get fitter, it can however take a few weeks to starting working and you need to be continuously in ketosis for Keto to work. There should be some immediate, initial rapid weight loss due to loss of water weight.
This initial rapid weight loss is due to how carbs are stored in your body; carbs are usually stored with water, so when your body uses up stored carbs you also lose water weight.
This is perhaps the wrong question to be asking. What aspect of Keto "working" are you interested in finding out:
The Keto diet works to help you shed pounds.
The Keto diet works to help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and help increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
The Keto diet works to reduce levels of blood sugar and can help with type 2 diabetes and insulin sensitivity.
The Keto diet works to help reduce blood pressure.
How soon does keto work? Ketosis starts working a few days after restricting carbohydrates from your diet. To make sure Keto works for the long-term you need to stay in ketosis continuously for the benefits of Keto to be maintained.
It normally takes between 2 days and one week for Keto to start working and start burning fat from this high-fat diet instead of glucose on Keto. For some it can take longer but there are a few things that you can do to speed up the process:
Fasting can work to speed up ketosis considerably.
Physical exercise can work to speed up fat burning by depleting glycogen stores.
Some supplements claim to kickstart ketosis, but there is evidence that they may do the opposite so you should avoid taking supplements advertised as facilitating ketosis when starting Keto. Some supplements are Keto-friendly, such as the Okinawa Flat Belly Tonic, which I have reviewed here and Dr. Berg's Electrolyte Formula which provides a way for exogenous ketones to be produced.
Follow a well-designed Keto programme. The Custom Keto Diet is a good candidate that will help you start your Keto journey in the best way possible and ensures Keto will work for you.
Keto works by utilizing ketosis. Ketosis is a naturally occurring metabolic adaptation that allows your body to survive during a famine/starvation and is primarily due to your body not having enough carbs to burn for energy.
During ketosis your body breaks down ketones and uses this for fuel: ketones are a type of fuel that your liver produces from stored fat. A typical American diet is a higher carbohydrate diet that comprises a minimum of 50% carbs; your body converts carbs into glucose and uses this as the primary fuel source.
When you switch to Keto, your body works by replacing carbs with very high fatty foods your body will naturally move away from using glucose for fuel and instead use fatty acids and ketones for energy. The process of using fat instead of glucose is called ketosis; which is where the ketogenic/keto diet gets its name and why fat is used instead of carbs/glucose.
Keto is a restrictive diet and is definitely not a low-fat diet: total carbs should comprise a maximum of 5% of your daily calorie intake. The rest of your calorie intake should come from about 70% fat and 25% protein.
No, your body needs to be in the state of ketosis for Keto to work. Ketosis is required for you and your body to experience any Keto diet results.
If you are not in ketosis it is possible you will experience weight gain.
Keto has many health benefits, not just excellent weight loss results by restricting your carb intake. Other health benefits include, lowering insulin levels, helping you keep your hormone levels balanced, and lower levels of inflammation. But why are these important?
Lowering your insulin levels. When you eat carbs your blood sugar levels increase, high glucose levels make it difficult to lose weight and in many case prevent fat loss. Keto naturally works by keeping your blood sugar levels lower. Low levels of insulin means that your body can more easily access fat stores for food which is the underlying method of weight loss in Keto.
Balancing hormone levels. Keto works to help balance hormones, particularly hunger-regulating hormones. The main two being leptin, which tells you to eat less, and ghrelin, which tells you to eat more. When these are part of a balanced diet and in equilibrium you are less likely to have hunger and associated cravings.
Lowering inflammation levels. Inflammation plays a huge role in obesity and diseases like diabetes. Long-term studies show that glucose increases inflammation levels and long-term sustained increased levels of glucose can lead to other health conditions including heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, and cancer. Keto naturally decreases blood sugar/glucose levels due to the very low carb intake. Keto works by encouraging a healthier diet that comprises whole foods which also contribute to lower inflammation levels.
I have written an article on what foods can and cannot be eaten on Keto, or any low carb diet for that matter. You can read that article here. But briefly, here are a few foods that are very keto-friendly:
high-fat cheese and other dairy products
eggs are especially excellent for keto
leafy green vegetables
oils like extra virgin olive oil
The Mediterranean diet works particularly well and is well suited to Keto
meat, including bacon
fish also works very well for Keto
Basically anything that is high in fat and which contains no or very few carbs works great, though foods should also not contain excessive protein.
Meat should be eaten in moderation, as while it does not usually contain a lot of carbs, lean meats do contain protein; most amino-acids that are found in protein can be converted into glucose by your body which, if not monitored carefully, can work to undermine all of your carb-cutting efforts.
If your daily calorie intake is 2000 calories for Keto to work your diet should comprise around 165 grams of fat, 75 grams of protein, and a maximum of 40 grams of carbs. To make Keto work you should still be careful to eat fewer calories than you burn: a calorie deficit is crucial for weight loss.
To make Keto work you should still be careful to eat fewer calories than you burn: a calorie deficit is crucial for weight loss.
I have written an article that lists the most common Keto-friendly foods, you can find it here.
I have written a more comprehensive article on this here, but briefly carbs are obviously not allowed.
This includes starchy foods, like bread, pizza, and potatoes.
This also includes most fruit due to the sugar content; though berries are the main exception.
Most alcohols should be reduced to a limited amount or cut out entirely as beers contain barley, wheat, rye, or oats and most alcoholic drinks include sugars.
Whole grains should be avoided as they contain a lot of carbs.
As well as reducing carb intake, Keto can work to reduce hunger. Reducing appetite and hunger is one of the key parts of any diet as not feeling hungry reduces the need to eat which in turn reduces calorie intake due to not consuming excess calories.
There is evidence that Keto decreases ghrelin levels (source) which helps reduce food cravings. Also, Keto-friendly foods like eggs also decrease ghrelin levels. To make Keto work what you eat and drink is very important and needs close monitoring.
Eating healthy fatty foods instead of saturated fats helps increase your health levels whether you are on Keto, thinking about starting Keto, or just eating a normal carbohydrate diet. Healthy fats that are keto-friendly include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats like extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil.
To ensure you are living a healthy life it is best to stick to a pure Keto diet rather than follow a "dirty Keto diet", which is where you eat what you like, including processed foods, while making sure to restrict carbs enough to stay in ketosis.
Eating healthy whole foods like chicken or salmon, salad and olive oil means that you stay healthy and remain in ketosis, and works best for Keto and general health. Obviously it is up to you how you manage Keto, but avoiding trans fats and saturated fats should be part of your diet plan.
Consulting a wellness dietitian may also help if you are trying Keto without using The Custom Keto Diet to guide you through, especially if you lack a full understanding of how Keto works.
The latest health information shows that Keto works and is safe for the average person. It is also recommended, unless monitored by a doctor, that only adults follow Keto.
Keto can produce some side effects, but these are very short-lived. Some people experience flu-like symptoms and feeling tired when first starting Keto, these are primarily caused by your body fighting the move away from using carbs as fuel and getting used to the new low-carb diet. I have written two separate articles about this.
To make sure that Keto works you should be keeping track of the precise amount of carbs you are consuming per day. The point of Keto is to trigger the natural process of ketosis as quickly as possible, so that your body can convert excess fat as fuel. The quicker you enter ketosis the more likely you will avoid Keto headaches and Keto flu. So, it is important that you carefully follow a strict low-carb meal plan.
This is why I highly recommend the Custom Keto Diet to help and guide you through the Keto.
The Keto diet has some risks, like any change in diet. If not careful, and due to the reliance on very high fat, it is possible that some people on Keto could eat high amounts of saturated fat.
The latest health information says that it is recommended that fewer than ten percent of your daily calorie intake should be from saturated fats due to its link to heart disease. This is not unique to Keto.
Another risk, that again is not unique to Keto, is that with high fatty foods it is possible to increase "bad" LDL cholesterol consumption, LDL is also linked to heart disease, however if eating healthy fats, both of these risks are easy to avoid.
For peace of mind I recommend the Custom Keto Diet as this tells you in weekly instalments, and will also provide you with a bite-sized, easy-to-follow eating plan, what foods to buy and eat to help you stay fit and healthy for a long time.
Some athletes are on Keto, even though carbohydrates usually work as an excellent fuel for exercise and strength building. However, it is still possible to make Keto work and be an athlete, for instance a study with gymnasts reported that after 30 days the gymnasts on Keto were just as strong as the non-Keto group but the Keto group weighed less and had less fat mass, source.
Note, when first switching from a carb-rich to a carb-restricted diet you may find yourself feeling weaker. This is usually short-lived and will pass once your body gets used to the low-carb diet.
It is not recommended to try Keto without exercise. But it does work without exercise, assuming you abide with its strict rules. But if you want to truly see Keto work and experience its health and weight loss benefits, and reach your weight loss goal it is best to combine the diet with at least some light, regular exercise, this could include cycling, walking, and/or swimming a few times a week.
Exercise is essential if you are overweight/obese to make Keto work.
It might not appear obvious that sleep is important for dieting however studies show that not getting enough sleep and chronic stress can negatively impact weight loss outcomes. This is equally true when following Keto.
In fact, studies have shown that not getting enough sleep can negatively impact hunger hormones, like ghrelin and leptin, source.
To make Keto work it is important to get enough sleep; sufficient sleep reduces appetite, increasing the hunger-reducing effects of Keto. Making sure that you take time to unwind and get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night can help Keto to work.
There are plenty of popular low-carb diets (including Atkins or Paleo; I have compared Keto with Paleo in this article); though these are little more than modified versions of Keto diet and consequently work the same way, via ketosis, and they come with the same risks.
The original diet (Keto) has been around for 100 years with many randomized controlled trials investigating its benefits so it obviously works and is not a fad diet.
The ketogenic diet is highly recommended to treat conditions like type II diabetes as it helps control blood sugar levels.
It has become very popular recently, which is why some people consider it one of many fad diets, but the long-term health benefits of Keto and its use in controlling health conditions means that the Keto diet is here to stay.
Keto is suitable for most people, though as always if starting a new diet you should consult your physician for advice and a medical review. Keto might even help if you have pre-diabetic risk factors.
So give the Keto diet a try, it should work for you, particularly if you follow a detailed plan that is customized to your own specific needs and food preferences such as the Custom Keto Diet. I have reviewed it here and it comes highly recommended.
You can also click this image to take you to a free Keto ebook. The ebook contains some delicious and simple Keto diet recipes to try out as well as more information about Keto.
You can also subscribe to my YouTube channel, new videos are uploaded every Tuesday.
No, Keto flu is neither related to nor not the same as ketoacidosis. The name is similar but that is where the similarity ends.
Ketoacidosis is a condition where the body produces large numbers of ketone bodies which causes the blood to become more acidic.
Ketoacidosis can be a life-threatening condition: people following the Ketogenic diet typically do not have ketoacidosis.
So, does the keto diet work? Yes, it still works and is very effective to help weight loss and improve overall health.
The benefits of the Keto Diet are numerous and promising.
It is important to be mindful of the potential side effects and downsides before you embark on your Keto diet weight loss journey. However, I believe the benefits of losing weight and leading a healthier lifestyle should surpass these side effects. For two reasons, 1) most of these potential side effects appear during the initial stages of the diet as your body becomes accustomed to the new regimen and 2) they are all usually very mild.
So, give Keto a try and unlock the person you want to be.