Thinking of Trying a Keto Diet Plan? Here’s 12 Things You Need to Know, First
- December 26, 2020
Check out Google, and you’ll find the term ‘keto diet plan’ is having quite a moment. Perhaps it’s trending because Halle Berry has labelled this low-carb, high-fat way of eating as her anti-ageing and weight-loss secret.
Maybe it’s the love for avocados. Or, as per one WH reader, it can help overcome sugar cravings (read “I tried the ketogenic diet”).
But, although it’s easy to be lured in by such life-changing promises, the keto diet plan essentially involves cutting out an entire food group, which, we – and any nutritionist worth their weight – would never advocate without expert consultation.
“Anyone considering doing the keto diet should first consult with a doctor or nutritionist,” says registered nutritionist Jennie Gough. “There are many health reasons why it wouldn’t be advisable plus, as the diet involves cutting out many fruits, starchy vegetables and beans, there is a risk that some people may not obtain enough fibre which is very important for weight loss and digestive health.”
That’s why, with so many of you, obviously, interested in finding out more about the keto diet plan, we wanted to lay its pros and cons bare, and to show you that although it can help with weight loss and sugar cravings, the ride is going to be far from easy. Or, more importantly, sustainable.
Say hello to the WH all-you-need-to-know guide: the top 12 things, as told by researchers, dietitians and nutritionists, to be aware of before attempting the keto diet plan.
Keto is short for ketogenic
Okay, but what does ketogenic mean? A ketogenic diet is one that relates to ketosis, the metabolic state that eating very low carbs, moderate protein and high fat puts the body into.
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“When you eat carbohydrates, they’re broken down into glucose, which your body and brain use as its primary source of energy,” says Gough. “However, on a keto diet plan, because the carbohydrate intake is extremely low, the body is forced to convert fat into ketones (also known as ketone bodies) for energy. This process induces a metabolic state known as ‘ketosis’ where your body is essentially burning fat for fuel. “
But these benefits won’t happen overnight. When it comes to losing weight, the keto diet plan requires staying power. “It typically takes 2-7 days to enter ketosis depending on what you’re eating and your activity levels,” Gough says.
How to tell if you’re there yet? According to Gough, there are at-home urine, breath and blood tests that can test ketone levels.
The Keto diet plan involves eating *very* low carbs
And we mean low.
“The Standard Keto Diet (SKD) is the ‘classic’ and most well researched version of the diet and typically contains 5% carbs, 20% protein and 75% fat,” says Gough.
Which means? Think 35g of carbs per day max (compared to the recommended 260g) – that’s the equivalent of one-and-a-bit bananas or two large slices of bread.
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That said, like yoga, the keto diet plan has many variations, including the cyclical ketogenic diet (for example, five days on the keto diet plan followed by two higher-carb days); the targeted ketogenic diet (you can add in carbs around your workouts); and the high-protein ketogenic diet (60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs). If you’re still game by the end of this article, it’s a case of finding the one that works best for you.
You can expect to lose weight on the keto diet (without counting calories)
“The keto diet plan works by helping to lower calorie intake whilst keeping hunger levels at bay,” says dietitian Nichola Ludlam-Raine (@nicsnutrition).
In fact, according to US research, you could expect to lose 2.2 times more weight on a keto diet plan than people following a calorie-restricted low-fat diet. Simples…?
Cheat days are a no-go on the keto diet plan
Up til now was the keto diet plan sounding too good to be true? Well, here’s the catch you were waiting for: ketosis only works when your carb intake is kept very low and your fat intake very high – so if, one day, you decide to give into an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet, you could be undoing all your hard efforts with every Mighty Meaty bite.
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“In reality, the keto diet plan is hard to sustain long-term,” says Gough. “That’s why there are many ‘keto-friendly’ recipes that aim to replicate foods such as bread, pizza and brownies which can help you feel less deprived.”
Like this fruity low-carb keto dessert recipe that’s just like cheesecake. You’re welcome.
Keto food prep is key
Because carbs are convenient. In need of a grab-and-go lunch – what do you get? A sandwich? Bagel? Wrap? Sushi? Not if you’re on the keto diet plan. Sunday night food prep is going to become your new BFF as you boil up eggs, portion out cheese blocks and steam up veggies.
You may experience “keto-flu”- and other unwanted side effects
Fatigue, brain fog, nausea – sounds fun, right? Or not. But, sadly, “keto-flu” is a common side effect of the keto diet plan.
“This is normally due to dehydration,” says Gough. “Increasing water intake and adding in electrolytes can help minimise keto flu symptoms.”
The “fun” doesn’t end there.
“Bad breath is another common outcome of the keto diet plan,” says Gough. “Then there’s the risk that you can end up relying heavily on processed meats or foods that are high in salt or saturated and trans fats, all of which are not healthy to be consuming long-term.” And, which can result in constipation or diarrhoea – you’ve the lack of fibre in the keto diet plan to thank for that.
But ketogenic eating could give you clearer skin
Aside from weight loss, following a low-sugar eating plan – and one that can help reduce insulin levels – can have benefits for those suffering from acne and chin acne, although according to the University of Padova, more research into this is needed.
And potentially reduce your risk of serious health conditions
As, we’ve mentioned the keto diet plan can lower insulin levels – and research from the Temple University School of Medicine goes one step further, concluding that it reduces insulin sensitivity by 75%. Which is good, why? Your risk of type 2 diabetes will be lowered, too. And for those of you already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes – in a US trial one third of type 2 diabetes patients were able to stop all medication thanks to the keto diet plan.
The keto diet plan has also been shown to slow tumour growth, reduce heart disease and Alzheimer’s risk, control epileptic seizures and, thanks to its impact on insulin (again), alleviate PCOS symptoms.
The keto diet isn’t for you if you’re wanting to conceive
“Low-carb diets are not suitable for conception or pregnancy,” says Ludlam-Raine. “And given that most pregnancies are unplanned, if young girls are following a low-carb or a keto diet plan, they could be unknowingly affecting the development of their unborn baby.”
Vegans shouldn’t attempt the keto diet plan
It might sound obvious but a plan that relies heavily on cheese, meat and yoghurt, isn’t going to suit those avoiding those food groups. “The keto diet plan is so restrictive I wouldn’t advise that people with other dietary restrictions give it a go,” says Ludlam-Raine. “For example, it would be impossible for vegans to eat enough protein as most vegan protein sources contain carbs (beans, lentils etc), while, although vegetarians could eat eggs and full-fat yogurt, food options could get boring pretty quickly.”
Reintroducing carbs post keto diet plan may be hard
Don’t underestimate the impact that avoiding carbs could have on your ability to eventually eat them. For one WH reader, trying to reintroduce carbs after keto proved much harder than she expected.
Don’t forget that cutting out any food group isn’t advisable, unless under expert guidance. Read these five carbohydrate myths about weight loss if you think that ditching bread and pasta is key to shedding excess lbs. (#spoilteralert: it’s not; here’s how carb cycling can increase your weight loss.
There are better ways to lose weight than the keto diet plan
“If you want to lose weight and keep it off then you need to find a way of eating that’s sustainable,” says Gough. “Rather than going on faddy diets it’s much more effective to work on changing your eating habits alongside a good nutritional plan that focuses on increasing your intake of vegetables and fruit, including protein sources such as fish, eggs, beans and legumes, and healthy fats from nuts, seeds and olive oil. Obviously reducing sugary and processed foods will go a long way towards helping you lose weight, but it’s also important to keep a balance and enjoy your favourite dessert from time to time.”
Amen to that.
Keep reading: Real-life keto diet advice from five women who have tried it for themselves.
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