In the ketogenic diet, carbohydrates are completely banned from your plate. We will explain how quickly you can lose weight with it and how healthy the diet is.
The ketogenic diet is considered to be a hip way for losing weight. But what is a keto diet anyway? Why does no one suddenly eat carbohydrates anymore? And what is the point of all this effort?
What is the ketogenic diet?
The keto diet is ultimately a new edition of a well-known (and proven) method: reducing the intake of carbohydrates and thus losing weight. After fats were demonized for a long time, Robert Atkins revolutionized the world of people who wanted to lose weight in the 70s with the first low-carb diet. It was followed by Logi, Dukan – and now Keto.
The name “Keto” is derived from the principle that all these diets are ultimately about. The body is fed as few carbohydrates as possible to bring it into a state of ketosis, sometimes called ketosis. This means that it draws its energy from fat and not, as is usually preferred, from carbohydrates. This is done by converting fat in the liver into so-called ketone bodies, which can then be used by the body to produce energy.
Is the keto diet the same as the low carb diet?
Yes and no. Carbohydrates gone, fat in – this makes the ketogenic nutritional principle one of the low-carb diets but goes one step further. While low-carb diets allow 50 to 120 grams of carbohydrates per day, ketogenic diets, also known as no-carb diets, allow virtually no carbohydrates (less than 50 grams per day). This causes the body to switch to ketosis mode even faster (and more consistently).
Since ketosis is not a natural state for the organism and the metabolism has to get used to it, there are some things to consider. Otherwise, the melting of fat becomes a problem.
This is how your metabolism switches to ketosis
Your metabolism loves sugar because from the simple sugar glucose it gains energy the fastest. Above all the brain is dependent on glucose, because proteins and fats cannot overcome the blood-brain barrier. The problem: an excess of sugar is stored in the body. So if you regularly eat more carbohydrates than you need, your body converts them into fat and stores them for bad times.
The ketogenic diet counteracts this. The no-carb principle goes back to an ancient protective mechanism of the brain. This starts when there are not enough carbohydrates available, which is quite common in primitive times due to lack of food. Then the body is forced to fall back on the fat reserves. Ketosis occurs as soon as the insulin level falls below a certain level because then free fatty acids and the ketone bodies are formed from fat cells. These ketone bodies are essential for survival because the brain can also gain energy from them.
If you do not provide your body with glucose, it will inevitably have to change its metabolism to get energy from fat. Excess body fat should be broken down in this way, while at the same time maintaining muscle mass.
What kind of side effects can the keto diet cause?
The body must first adapt to these changes and the new “fat metabolism”. During the transition period, symptoms of the so-called “low-carb flu”, such as headaches, tiredness, and weakness, therefore occur frequently.
How long the body needs to get used to the new metabolic situation depends on you, your age, and your general state of health.
What is the distribution of nutrients in a ketogenic diet?
The most extreme form of the keto diet was performed under clinical conditions and provided fat and protein in a ratio of 9:1 – and truly zero carbohydrates. But don’t worry: For realistic implementation, there is a slightly more attenuated form.
Moderate form: with 30 to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day are permanently feasible, but you have to be the type. As a pasta and bread junkie, it will be difficult.
Extreme form: A permanent, extreme reduction to 0 to 20 grams of carbohydrates per day can quickly lead to medical complications.
Do I have to starve myself with the keto diet?
No, don’t panic, with the keto diet you should not starve, but rather avoid it. The exact macronutrient distribution depends not only on your weight but also on your goal, activity, and previous diet. Optimal is a distribution of 65 to 70 percent fat, at best from meat and high-fat fish, 20 to 30 percent protein from eggs and lean poultry meat, and 5 to 10 percent carbohydrates.
In order to know approximately how many carbohydrates are in your food, only meticulous weighing and studying the nutritional composition will help. With packaged foods from the supermarket, it is relatively easy. You will always find an overview of the nutrients on the back.
What am I allowed to eat on a keto diet?
Every beginning is difficult – even the introduction to ketogenic nutrition. In order to achieve good results with a ketogenic diet, you need to know how many carbohydrates, proteins, and fat each food contains. We have compiled a list of what you can and cannot eat:
- High-fat food
Fat plays a major role in the ketogenic diet and should account for up to 70 percent of your daily diet. Polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and saturated fatty acids are allowed. Optimal are therefore fish (tuna, salmon, anchovies, dorado, trout), vegetable oils (olive oil, rapeseed oil, linseed oil, coconut oil, butter, avocado oil, cream, lard), numerous nuts, cheese, and sausages.
The only type of fat you better not touch is industrially hardened fat, i.e. all so-called trans fatty acids. However, since they are usually found in fried or ready-made meals, you don’t have to worry about them. Fries, frozen pizza, and chips are taboo anyway.
- Protein-rich foods
Some high-fat foods are also good sources of protein, which should also be on the ketogenic menu every day: Meat (beef, chicken, game, sausage, ham, minced meat, bacon), eggs, and of course the above-mentioned fish.
- Fruit and vegetables
Vegetables and fruit should not be missing in your diet – even during a ketogenic diet. The stupid thing is that many vegetables and fruits contain a lot of starch (multiple sugars) and fruit sugar. Forbidden are therefore potatoes and potato products, legumes (like chickpeas, soy, lentils & Co.), and most kinds of fruit.
When it comes to fruit, you should limit yourself to avocados and berries of all kinds, which contain little fructose. Pumpkin, carrot, and sweet potato should only be on the menu as an exception because they contain many carbs compared to other vegetables.
With vegetables, focus on salads, green leafy vegetables, and spinach. Also cabbage, for example, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and kohlrabi are allowed.
- Nuts and kernels
Nuts and kernels, such as Brazil nuts, macadamia, hazelnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds are permitted as ketogenic food. But beware: Nuts provide a lot of fat and protein, but also some carbs, so you should always pay attention to the portion size. Walnuts, cashews, but also pistachios, and peanuts provide quite a lot of carbohydrates and should only be snacked in moderation. Dried fruit is taboo.
- Flours (grain) and sweeteners
Instead of wheat flour, almond or coconut flour may be used for baking. Flours that contain many carbohydrates, including whole grain, are taboo. Just like couscous, bulgur, corn, pasta, cornflakes, oatmeal, rice, rye, etc. Permitted sweeteners are sucralose, erythritol, xylitol, and stevia.
Sugar, agave syrup, artificial sweeteners, syrup, and all sweets (ice cream, chocolate, cookies) are removed from the meal plan.
Good drinks are water, tea, and coffee without milk (cream is allowed). Energy drinks, alcoholic drinks, fruit or vegetable juices, and soft drinks are not suitable.
Change of diet: The ketogenic diet in practice
In order for ketosis to start at all, all carbohydrate reserves in the muscle cells and liver must first be used up. On average, this takes 4 days after the carbohydrates have been reduced to less than 30 grams per day. During these first days of settling in, your mood may suffer somewhat, you often feel weak, tired, and irritated.
From day 5 on it starts: the body starts to signal the metabolism to break down the fat reserves. Free fatty acids and ketone bodies for the brain, muscles, and organs are created as alternative energy sources. However, this is a difficulty that does not exist with any other diet:
Small sins are immediately punished with the ketogenic diet.
100 grams of carbohydrates alone are enough to get the body out of ketosis for 1 day because it is busy metabolizing this amount.
Even just 1 apple with 20 grams of carbohydrates without fat and protein leads to such a large insulin release that one falls out of ketosis.
The breakdown of the macronutrients is therefore extremely important and should be the same for all 3 meals. If, on the other hand, you start eating again as before in the long term, the fat cells consumed by the ketosis will be back on their feet faster than you think. But if you keep at it, you can achieve good results.
How quickly can I lose weight with ketogenic nutrition?
A large-scale study by the Sapienza University in Rome showed that participants lost an average of 10 percent of their body weight one year after starting the ketogenic diet. Another study found that overweight participants reduced their weight, BMI, and blood sugar levels within 24 weeks. Especially in the first weeks of the ketogenic diet, weight loss success is high.
These different values show that individual metabolism does not make it possible to determine a fixed period during which weight loss can be achieved. A healthy woman wants to live ketogenic for 1 to 3 months at a stretch. After that, it is important to listen to body signals. Poor sleep or dry eyes can be a sign that a carbohydrate-rich phase can be helpful.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of keto nutrition?
There are studies that link diet to the relief of epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and type 2 diabetes. Many study participants also report that ketone bodies instead of carbohydrates make them feel fitter and in a better mood.
But: despite or perhaps because of the big hype, experts also warn of possible risks, because the diet is nothing more than an extreme form of low carb, and this can also have negative effects. If you consistently abstain from all carbohydrates, this should really only be done under medical supervision.
Especially the complete renouncement of fruit and vegetables almost inevitably leads to a vitamin and mineral deficiency. The lack of dietary fiber also causes problems with digestion. If the blood sugar drops too much, this can even lead to collapse.
In addition, blood values can deteriorate. If there is an excess of ketone bodies in the blood, the pH value can change drastically, which can be life-threatening in the worst case. In addition, bad breath develops over time, as the resulting acetone is released through the air we breathe.
The ketogenic diet has some disadvantages besides the possible advantage of weight loss: The choice of permitted foods is limited, and health disadvantages cannot be ignored. Losing fat is never worth putting your health at risk. So always listen to your body, not to the scales!