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What is a keto diet?

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You've probably heard of the ketogenic diet; it's all the rage lately.

As the percentage who are obese continues to rise, people are turning to a fad diet in desperate attempts to lose their weight. However, fat is notoriously difficult to lose, especially if you are genetically predisposed to it. And unfortunately, research consistently shows that most diets fail. Still, people continue to look for solutions that show promise.

Many are turning to the keto diet as a possible solution, as researchers discover some exciting new information about the effects of increasing fat intake while decreasing carbohydrate intake. One common benefit is easier and more significant weight loss.

However, keto is still a diet, so it may not work for everyone. It is also true that being overweight or obese is not the danger we think it is. Many are undoubtedly "fatphobic" and demonize obesity for a whole host of health conditions that research suggests it might not directly cause.

But aside from weight loss, there can be other very good reasons to follow a keto diet if you stick with it long-term. Numerous studies have shown that low-carb, high-fat diet plans can alleviate several health problems.

If you've been wondering what the keto diet is all about, here's what you need to know to decide if it's right for you.

What is the keto diet?

The ketogenic diet, better known as "keto", focuses on the control of macronutrients, a type of food that the body needs in large quantities. There are three macronutrients through which the human body gets the energy it needs to live: Fat, Protein and Carbohydrates.

Essentially, the keto diet is about eating fewer carbohydrates and more fat while keeping protein consumption in the moderate range. The keto guidelines call for 60 to 75% of calories to come from fat, 15 to 30% from protein, and 5 to 10% from carbohydrates.

The diet is called ketogenic because when carbohydrates are reduced and fat is increased, the body enters a metabolic state called ketosis. When you consume the standard diet, which is high in carbohydrates, the body burns glucose for fuel. Any carbohydrates that enter the body are automatically converted to glucose, and the excess is stored in the liver and fat cells of the body.

However, when the body enters ketosis, a state created by glucose loss, the body converts to fat for energy. Dietary fat, like fat stored in the body, is converted into ketones, which can also be used for energy by most tissues in the body, including the brain.

Keto adaptation

After a few days or weeks of keto dieting, the body and brain efficiently burn fat instead of carbohydrates and switch from primarily using glucose for fuel to primarily using fat. This process is known as keto adaptation.

Your body always uses a mixture of glucose and fat for energy. Even if you don't consume carbohydrates, your liver makes glucose from fat through a process called gluconeogenesis. In a non-ketoadapted state, it reaches for glucose first; in ketoadaptation, your body and brain begin the process of adapting to using ketones as fuel. This process takes about three days for most people. After this point, you enter ketosis.

Unfortunately, keto adaptation can come with some initial side effects, collectively referred to as the "keto flu." These can include fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, and brain fog. You can treat these symptoms by resting, eating fiber, including plenty of green, leafy vegetables, staying hydrated, replacing lost electrolytes, and making sure you're getting enough good, healthy fats.

How long the keto flu lasts varies for each person, but the body usually adjusts to the keto flu after one to two weeks. Once you've adapted, you should begin to feel the positive effects of your new diet plan, including improved mental sharpness and increased energy.

After your body adapts, it will continue to make subtle changes the longer you stay on the diet. For example, although it can be difficult for keto dieters - especially athletes and those who regularly train vigorously - to keep up with your normal performance levels in the first few weeks or even months, over time the keto diet leads to less lactic acid buildup in the muscles after long workouts, which means less fatigue and soreness.

More information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure that the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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