Low carb, high fat diet. Seems like everybody is talking about it. Some people swear by it, others claim it’s not very healthily. In recent years it regained its popularity through diet junkies who would do anything to lose another inch of body fat. Many celebrities claim it worked wonders for them too.

In medicine, the keto diet was known for a long time. Originally it was created to treat difficult-to-control epilepsy in children, as ketosis (the stage in which your body is during such diet) lead to a reduction in frequency of epileptic seizures. 

How does the keto diet affect your body?

To explain the diet briefly, let’s start with a bit of biology. Typically, for the source of energy, your body relies on sugar (glucose), which comes from digesting carbohydrates. Glucose is crucial, especially for healthy brain function and in general, it gives you energy and will to live. 

All you need to know about the ​keto diet. 1

The basic principle of Keto diet says that you should eat meals low in carbs and high in fat. This way, your body turns into starvation mode. With no free glucose in the blood stream (as you are not eating carbs), your body starts to produce ‘ketones’. It’s basically your body on starvation mode, trying to unfreeze previously stored energy (the fat) and use it for surviving.

Unlike other more balanced diets, Keto diet is the ‘all in or nothing’ type. There is no ‘let’s eat a bit less and exercise a bit more’.

This is the ‘bring all you’ve got’ kind of fight. You basically trying to deprive yourself of the foods that your body is most used to get energy from – like bread, pasta, potatoes, fruits, sweets,  etc. and you start eating tons of food full of fat.

As your body switches its fuel supply to run mostly on fats, you basically burning fat 24/7.

Different types of the keto diet.

75% of your daily calories should come from fat, another 20% form protein, and for dessert only small amount of carbs (5% of your daily intake). There are many ways to choose your foods, depending on the type of Keto diet you interested in.

All you need to know about the ​keto diet.

Standard Keto diet (SKD) – where you eat no more than 50g of carbs per day.

Cyclical Keto diet (CKD) – that’s when you eat high fat low carbs (no more than 50g per day)  five to six days a week. Then on day seven you up your carb intake to 150g. This day is called carb refeed day. This way of eating apparently helps you to avoid some negative side effects from prolonged Keto diet (eg. fatigue, dry eyes or thyroid issues).

Targeted Keto diet (TKD)– you eat the standard Keto diet, but eat extra carbs 30min prior to your workout. The glucose from this meal is meant to increase your performance and give you extra energy for your high-intensity workout.

High-protein Keto diet – This is where you eat  60-65% of fat, 30% of protein and 5-10% of carbs. Wheras carbs are still very restricted, most people find this modified keto diet easier to follow. The downside is, that you might not be able to get your body into ketosis stage constantly, as proteins can be broken down into glucose for fuel. You will generally still lose weight. 

Dirty Keto diet – this one follows the standard keto diet in terms of fats, proteins and carbs ratio, but nobody tells you where those macronutrients should come from. Fancy a bunless Big Mac with a liter of diet coke – you’ve just found yourself a diet that justifies such behaviours.

What should you eat on a keto diet? 

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To be able to reach ketosis, you obviously need to minimise carbs intake. Feel free to eat more of the butters, olive oil, fish, sea food, meat. You can also enjoy fair amount of cheese, eggs, vegetables (best are those that grow above the ground). Amongst the things to avoid you can find most fruits, starchy food like potatoes, pasta, rice and bread as well as sugary foods like soda, juice, chocolate, doughnut, candy. 

What to drink on a keto diet?

Water is perfect at any time, but you can also enjoy sugar and sweeteners free coffee and tea. A small amount of milk is your coffee is also fine, but you should stay away from caffe latte, cappuccino etc. The occasional glass of red wine is also ok, but don’t overdo it.

All you need to know about the ​keto diet.

Is keto diet good for you or simply dangerous?

There is one thing both sides agree upon – if you go on the keto diet, you will lose weight, that’s clear. What about the state of your body during the process? Are there any side effects?

Many people feel simply sick once they commence on such diet. Fatigue, lethargy and gastrointestinal distress are amongst most common symptoms. It’s not surprising, since you depriving your body of sugar. The transition that your body has to go through, to start using fat as a main source of energy is drastic. Once it get’s used to it, you start to feel a bit better. 

Keto diarrhea is another thing people seem to talk about. Lack of fiber in a diet can contribute to such problems. However, most likely it is due to your gallbladder being overworked. The gallbladder is the organ that produces bile, which helps to break down fat from the foods you eat. Since all of the sudden you eating tons of fatty foods, the gallbladder is simply going into overproduction, which in turn can cause diarrhea. 

Some people claim, that keto diet does wonder for diabetes. This disease is characterized by changes in metabolism, high blood sugar, and impaired insulin function. Keto fans are convinced that by losing weight quickly, you can reverse your diabetes. Although it is true, that obesity is closely linked to diabetes, you should have your doctors permission before you go on such diet if you diabetic. For people with type 1 or 2 diabetes, ketosis can trigger more dangerous stage called ketoacidosis. This happens when the body stores up too many ketones (the byproduct of burning fat). If the blood becomes too acidic, it can lead to liver, kidneys or even brain damage. In severe cases, it can be fatal. 

Keto diet works while you on a diet. The moment you decide to join your family and friends at the dinner table and start eating your usual diet, you will quickly regain all of the kilos back. Moreover, it’s more likely you’ll regain more fat, rather than the lean muscles you’ve previously had. This is the case for any fad diet. When you lose weight that quickly, you lose lean muscles first. Muscles weight more than fat, so you will notice the weight shift, but that’s just the beginning. You keep on loosing weight, getting rid of the fat, but at the same time, your metabolism is already slowing down. Whenever you go back to your usual eating habits you might be disappointed, as the composition of your body will differ. 

What about possible benefits, besides weight loss?

It seems that keto diet can help you alleviate chronic pain by reducing inflammations in your body. It also has an effect on glucose level. Since you are not consuming many carbohydrates, blood sugar gets stabilised, which can be beneficial for diabetics and pre-diabetics and insulin-resistant people. Keto diet is proven to help with children epilepsy, as well as lower your cholesterol levels. Of course it is also an effective way to lose weight and lower blood pressure. 

How do you know you doing it properly?

The aim of keto diet is to get into ketosis state. That’s when the body switches and starts using fat as a source of energy, rather than relay on glucose. If you keep the general rules, you are very likely to achieve it. There are few ways to tell for sure, that you are in ketosis.

Firstly, few scientific ways:
  • Check your pee: Urine strips are the simples and the cheapest way to measure ketosis. You can buy them in any pharmacy. You basically pee on them or dip the strip in your urine. Then after few seconds the colour of the strip changes to indicate the presence of ketones. The darkest the colour, the more ketones are present in your urine.
  • Analyze your breath: You often can notice changes in breath smell, especially at the beginning of your diet. That’s because ketones are present also in the air you breath out. breath-ketone analyzers, usually by the change of colour on them, can tell you if there are any ketones in your breath.
  • Blood-ketone meters: In case you want to know the exact and current level of ketones in your blood, you should invest in this one. It’s the most expensive method out of the three, but you get the most specific results. It analyses your blood sample (usually from the finger) and tells you the level of ketos present in your bloodstream. In case you do invest in blood-ketone meter, see below, what different reading means:
  • Light Ketosis: 0.5 mmol/L – 0.8 mmol/L
  • Medium Ketosis: 0.9 mmol/L – 1.4 mmol/L
  • Deep Ketosis (best for weight loss): 1.5 mmol/L – 3.0 mmol/L

Buying measuring equipment of any kind is not absolutely necessary for keto diet. There are many telltale symptoms that require no testing. In ketosis you most probably will notice:

  • Dry mouth and increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • keto breath (somewhat ‘fruity’ breath)
  • Reduced hunger
  • Weight loss

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Frequently Asked Questions

Below you can find answers to the most common questions about Keto diet.

  1. Will I ever be able to eat carbs again?

The simple answer is Yes. However, it’s best to significantly reduce your carb intake initially. This will help you to stay in ketosis. After 2-3 months, you can eat some more carbs occasionally and just come back to your diet straight after.

2. Will I lose only fat or also some muscles?

It’s quite likely that you will lose some muscles at the beginning together with losing fat. Be sure that you eat enough proteins to minimize this. Doing weight lifting exercises might also prevent muscle loss.

3. How much carbs, proteins and fats should I eat?

The most effective ratio seems to be 70% calories from fat, 20% from proteins and only 5% from carbs.

4. Will I be hungry on keto diet?

One of the most common, and surprising, effects of keto diet is always feeling full. It’s highly unlikely you will feel hungry, if you follow keto macros.

5. My breath smells, my pee smells…what’s wrong with me?

This can happen and it’s quite common side effect. Smelly urine is simply due to the erection of byproducts created during ketosis. Bad breath is similar. Try chewing sugar free gum if it really bugs you.

6. I’ve just started and I constantly have diarrhoea. Will it ever stop?

Yes. Diarrhoea is a common side effect of keto diet. It should go away after 3-4 weeks. Eating more high fibre vegetables and adding magnesium supplement might help. 

7. How long does it take to get into ketosis state?

It takes anywhere from 2 to 4 days, depending on your body type, activity level and the types of food you choose. 

8. I’ve had a cheat meal with lots of carbs. Will this ruin my keto diet?

Unfortunately, the moment you start eating carbs (even if it’s just one meal or banana), your body will re-wire itself and start using glucose as the main source of energy. If you minimize the carbs again, it will take another few days to go back to a ketosis state.