What is Keto?
Keto, or the ketogenic diet, is a low-carb, high-fat, and moderate-protein diet that puts the body into a fat-burning state called ketosis. While not everyone agrees on the macro percentages for keto, the most common calorie breakdown is 5% carbohydrates (but not over 20g net), 75% fat, and 20% protein. Many studies show that when your body is in ketosis, you can lose weight, manage your diabetes, lower your blood pressure, and increase your overall level of wellness. Of course, you should always talk to your healthcare provider before starting a new way of eating. So, is keto really the cure-all that some claim?
If you’re wondering what all the hoopla is about the keto diet, and if you should try it, here are some pros and cons that might help you decide.
Pro: An Effective Way to Lose Weight
There’s no doubt that keto is an effective way to lose weight. Over 20 research studies have shown that the keto diet helped dieters to lose more weight than a low-fat diet, and they were able to keep it off. The body burns fat instead of glucose when it is in a state of ketosis, meaning it will consume some of that stored body fat you might be trying to get rid of.
Pro: Keto Reduces Hunger
When you follow a keto diet, you will feel full because of the high intake of fat, which will keep you satisfied longer and not reaching for snacks all morning and afternoon. Many people on the keto diet find that they can go for more extended periods of time without eating. They’re just not hungry. Also, cutting carbs will eliminate lots of junk food from your diet, leaving you with meat and vegetables as your mainstays.
Pro: No More Carb Cravings
If you have a carb addiction, keto can also help you beat this. The reason you crave starchy carb-laden foods like chips, bread, pasta, and donuts is often that your insulin levels have dipped too low. And, the more of these simple, processed carbohydrates you eat, the worse it gets. After the significant spike in your blood sugar that comes from eating high carb foods, an insulin crash will follow, leaving you feeling tired and hungry. When you are eating a keto diet, your insulin will be more stable. It’s no longer on a rollercoaster throughout the day. Instead, it stays at an even level after and between meals. This means you won’t be hungry between meals, and you won’t crave those sweet afternoon treats. Wouldn’t it be great not to have to think about food all day?!
Con: The Adjustment Period May Be Rough
The keto diet is usually a drastic deviation from most people’s standard way of eating. Therefore, the transition period from carb-eater to fat-eater can be a difficult one. Many keto newbies complain of the “keto flu,” a one- to two-week adjustment period that includes headaches, fatigue, brain fog, and low energy. This isn’t always the case, though. Lots of keto dieters take supplements to help with the transition, specifically extra electrolytes like salt, magnesium, and potassium. Be sure to talk to your doctor about how to supplement with these electrolytes safely.
Con: Athletic Performance May Temporarily Decline
Besides the keto flu, athletes might notice a dip in their performance for as long as one to six months after starting the keto diet. While they can achieve long-term gains in performance, many are not willing to go through this temporary period of slower running speeds or weaker weightlifting sessions in the gym. Gradually eliminating carbs can make this transition more manageable, and you can also try increasing your protein intake if you are doing heavy weightlifting.
Con: Weight Loss Could Be Slow at First
Some people actually don’t lose weight right away on the keto diet. While you might hear about drastic weight loss stories on keto forums or Facebook groups, that’s not everyone’s story. Some bodies have to go through a healing process before they can effectively get into keto. If you have several health problems, this may be the case for you, which can certainly be discouraging after giving up all of those carbs you love.
Con: What’s that Smell?
When your body first transitions to a fat-burning state to get into ketosis, it releases extra ketones into your blood, sweat, saliva, and urine. Well, ketones don’t smell so great. While this is a temporary issue, it’s still quite distressing for many new to keto. Who wants their breath and sweat to reek like a nail salon? Thankfully, there are some ways to combat this. Keeping your protein at 20% of your diet seems to help. Also, eating enough dark leafy greens seems to help flush the ketones out. Finally, easing into the keto diet may also prevent keto breath and body odor from being so severe.
Should You Try Keto?
If you’re thinking about starting the keto diet, do your research. Don’t just start by eliminating carbs. One of the most common mistakes that keto newbies make is not getting their macros right. They get rid of the carbs, but they end up overeating protein and undereating fat. There’s also a thing called “dirty keto,” which means eating low-quality food and staying in ketosis. To do keto right, it’s best to track your macros at first, eat plenty of green veggies that will supply you with lots of nutrients, and avoid fake sugars until you get a handle on how to do keto.
Also, start slowly. Giving up carbs is a massive change for most people, so don’t go cold turkey. Gradually decrease your total number of carbs over a few weeks and start with the most processed forms of carbohydrates. Of course, always speak with your doctor before trying a new diet as keto may not be a healthy option for some.
Finally, it might be a good idea to monitor your blood glucose and ketone levels to track your progress. Getting a baseline blood workup from your doctor may also be helpful to know where you’re starting and how the keto diet is affecting your overall health.