What are the common physical and mental health benefits of following a ketogenic diet?
The idea of adopting a ketogenic diet – a high-fat, low-carb diet – has become increasingly popular in recent times as a way for people to improve their overall health and lose weight. But what exactly are the benefits and challenges associated with the Keto diet? In this article, we’ll take a comprehensive look at the physiology behind the Keto diet, the potential benefits and downsides, and the common FAQs that come with it.
What is the Keto Diet?
When your body has been deprived of its main source of energy – glucose found from carbohydrates – it will switch to burning fatty acids for energy. This is known as ketosis, and when people undertake a ketogenic diet internally, they force their body into a mild state of ketosis. By reducing carbohydrate intake to around 5-10% of total daily caloric intake, and increasing fat to around 70-80%, the body begins to burn fat stores for energy.
Benefits of the Keto Diet
Many studies have outlined the potential benefits to adopting the Keto diet. These include improved metabolic function, reduced LDL cholesterol, reduced blood sugar, improved appetite control, enhanced weight loss, and improved cognitive performance.
- Improved metabolic function – The Keto diet has been linked to improved metabolic health, as the body can burn fat for energy more efficiently than it can burn glucose.
- Reduced LDL cholesterol – A Keto diet has been found to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol more than a traditional low-fat diet.
- Reduced blood sugar – A Keto diet can reduce blood sugar levels which can be beneficial for patients with diabetes.
- Improved appetite control – Adopting the Keto diet can help to control your appetite by keeping your blood sugar stable, reducing cravings.
- Enhanced weight loss – Weight loss is often the most noticeable benefit of adopting a Keto diet. Due to the reduced caloric intake from carbs, the body begins to use fat for energy, leading to weight loss.
- Improved cognitive performance – A Keto diet has been linked to improved mental clarity and focus, as the body is able to turn fat into energy more efficiently than glucose.
Drawbacks of the Keto Diet
On the flip side, there are some potential drawbacks to adopting the Keto diet. These include nutritional deficiencies, constipation, fatigue, kidney stones, increased cholesterol, and risk of low blood sugar.
- Nutritional deficiencies – As some essential vitamins and minerals are found in carbohydrates, it’s important to supplement your diet with other foods to ensure you are getting the necessary nutrients.
- Constipation – Due to the low-fibre content of a Keto diet, those who adopt it may suffer from constipation.
- Fatigue – Those who transition from a higher carbohydrate lifestyle to a Keto diet may experience fatigue while the body adjusts to using fat for energy.
- Kidney stones – A Keto diet can lead to an increased risk of suffering from kidney stones as it elevates the amount of calcium in the urine.
- Increased cholesterol – Those with pre-existing high cholesterol may need to approach using a Keto diet with caution as it can increase LDL cholesterol.
- Risk of low blood sugar – Adopting a Keto diet can lead to hypoglycemia, a condition characterized by low blood sugar.
Common Questions About the Keto Diet
Finally, let’s look at some FAQs that often come with the Keto diet.
- How long before I start to see results? – Generally, it can take between three and five days before the body begins to enter a state of ketosis. Most people will start to feel the benefits of the Keto diet within a few weeks.
- Do I need to exercise? – Exercise is not required, though it can certainly help to speed up the process of achieving ketosis.
- Do I need to count calories? – No, it’s not necessary to count calories on the Keto diet. You should be getting the majority of your calories from fats and proteins.
- Can I eat cheat meals? – Yes, though it’s important to be mindful of how many carbohydrates you’re eating. Too many carbs can push you out of ketosis, meaning you’ll need to re-start the process again from scratch.
- How long do I need to stay on the diet? – There is no set amount of time. As long as you’re seeing the results you want, you can continue the Keto diet for as long as you wish.
Adopting a Keto diet can be a great way to improve overall health and lose weight. Whether you’re looking to take control of your diet or are simply seeking the metabolic benefits of ketosis, the Keto diet could be the right choice for you. However, it’s important to keep in mind the potential drawbacks, and ensure you’re supplementing your diet with other foods to ensure you’re getting the essential vitamins and minerals you need.