Keto diet for beginners | What is keto diet? How does it work? Who uses it? + Tips and Discount.
Drastically reducing the number of carbohydrates in your diet with the idea of losing weight or fighting chronic disease, is the basic principle of the ketogenic diet. While it can provide health benefits, it has certain side effects that are sometimes severe. A point is essential before embarking on a keto diet!
What is the keto diet?
The ketogenic diet consists of drastically limiting carbohydrate intake (we speak of a hypoglycemic diet) and increasing the proportion of fat in the diet. The macronutrient intakes are typically distributed according to this diagram:
This distribution of macronutrients is not strictly fixed, but the common denominator of a ketogenic diet remains a very low proportion of carbohydrates. Proteins can go up to 30 or even 35% of the total, in the extreme. However, it is important to keep in mind that excess protein will easily be converted to carbohydrates by deamination, which is unfavorable for ketosis and therefore defeats the intended purpose.
This diet severely restricts foods rich in carbohydrates such as starches, legumes, and certain fruits and vegetables. It gives pride of place to meats, fatty fish, dairy products (butter, crème fraîche, cheeses), oilseeds, vegetable oils, eggs. Avocados and green vegetables, low in carbohydrates, are allowed. On the fruit side, a small quantity of berries is allowed (raspberries, blackcurrants, etc.).
There is a multitude of variations to this diet, some also limiting the number of daily calories ingested.
The effects of the ketogenic diet on the body
When you reduce your carbohydrate intake below the threshold of 50 g per day, the body will quickly deplete its glucose reserves. After two to three days, it uses an alternate source of energy to fuel the cells: ketone bodies. These are produced in the liver by a process called ketogenesis, from acetyl-coenzyme A (or acetyl-CoA) resulting from the breakdown of fatty acids. They can therefore supply the heart, muscles, kidneys, and brain.
Part of the ketone body is eliminated through respiration, which produces a particular breath that is typical of this diet.
The state of ketosis that occurs during this diet is also observed during a fast or a calorie restriction. It would partly explain the benefits of these approaches on the longevity of living beings.
Why practice the ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet was introduced in the 1920s, initially to treat epilepsy refractory to conventional treatments. This approach has proven to be effective in this context in both children and adults, in particular thanks to the anti-epileptic action of ketone bodies.
As this diet caused weight loss, it later became a popular slimming method. For example, a study has shown its effectiveness in obese people: carried out over 12 weeks, it allows a loss of 18 kg on average in men, 11 kg in women. By fighting obesity, it could help reduce cardiovascular risk.
In type 2 diabetes, it appears to be useful in improving blood sugar control and the body’s sensitivity to insulin, allowing patients to reduce their drug treatment. Its potential benefits are also being studied in the context of neurodegenerative diseases ( Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease ) and psychiatric, migraines, or even certain cancers.
What are the side effects of the ketogenic diet?
In view of these many benefits, the ketogenic diet might seem like an ideal diet. The reality is however a little more nuanced, and it is important not to overlook the drawbacks of this eating method.
1. The “keto flu”: a bad time to pass
The transition from a regular diet to a ketogenic diet is not the most pleasant. Australian researchers are interested in feedback from consumers who have experienced it and describing the state of malaise that accompanied it, called “ketogenic flu”. Among the most frequent manifestations, these people evoke headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, muddled thoughts, digestive discomfort, decreased energy, and changes in heart rate.
These symptoms are however only transient: they are most intense during the first week and disappear after 4 weeks. But longer-term side effects take over in some cases.
ketogenic flu combines symptoms of discomfort associated with starting the ketogenic diet
Adopting a ketogenic diet is often accompanied by symptoms of discomfort: it is the “ketogenic flu”
2. Nutritional deficiencies caused by the ketogenic diet
Since the ketogenic diet is very restrictive, nutritional deficits can occur in some practitioners. For example, one study showed a drop in vitamin A, selenium, and magnesium levels in children with epilepsy after a year of diet, which can compromise immunity and lead to growth problems.
The developmental delay has also been demonstrated in children with epilepsy following a ketogenic diet over two years. A catch-up in growth then occurs, with a significant gain in height and weight one year after resuming a conventional diet.
Selenium deficiency can lead to heart muscle dysfunction (cardiomyopathy) if it is not corrected quickly.
Among the nutrients that may be lacking is carnitine. This amino acid derivative, produced in the body and provided by food, ensures the transport of long-chain fatty acids within the mitochondria, the energy factories of our cells. The high-fat content of the ketogenic diet places great demands on this mechanism, and these increased needs for carnitine are not always met by food intake. However, it appears that carnitine levels drop during the early stages of the diet, before returning to their original level after a few months. Supplementation can thus be considered at the start of the diet.
In general, a diet low in carbohydrates causes a drop in thiamine, folate, magnesium, calcium, iron, and iodine intake. It is therefore advisable to favor authorized foods rich in these micronutrients. It is generally recommended to take dietary supplements rich in vitamins.
3. The ketogenic diet increases the risk of kidney stones and bone loss
The ketogenic diet can disrupt the body’s mineral balance. An excess of calcium in the urine, associated with a deficiency in citrates, is frequently observed. This increases the risk of kidney stones forming, which appear in 3-6% of people on this diet over two years.
A ketogenic diet could also alter bone capital. A study has indeed shown a gradual decrease in bone mineral density in children with epilepsy during a 15-month ketogenic diet. Vitamin D supplementation ( 5000 IU per day ), essential to fix the mineral fraction of the skeleton, helps restore it.
4. Ketogenic diet and acidosis: ketoacidosis
In rare cases, the ketogenic diet can cause ketoacidosis: the blood pH decreases, which puts you at risk to life. The ketone bodies produced, 3-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate, are in fact acidic compounds that can alter the acid-base balance of the organism. However, the blood pH must be permanently located in a very narrow window, between 7.38 and 7.42, for our organism to function optimally.
The scientific literature has thus reported the case of people who have suffered from ketoacidosis, for example, a healthy 32-year-old lactating woman who presented to the hospital with a set of symptoms (nausea, vomiting, heart palpitations, tremors, extremity spasms) ten days after starting a ketogenic diet a 60-year-old man with stabilized type 2 diabetes who has been on this diet for a year; he was hospitalized after fainting, nausea, and vomiting following a 5-day fast
5. Can cancer cells be more aggressive in the absence of glucose?
Cancer cells’ appetite for glucose is well known – they actively take it from the bloodstream to support their rampant growth, a phenomenon known as the Warburg effect. Starving them by depriving them of sugar is thus a strategy being studied against cancer, through the practice of therapeutic fasting or the ketogenic diet.
This approach is paying off in many cases, especially for brain tumors, leukemia, and some breast and bowel cancers. In addition, the testimonies of people with cancer emphasize that the ketogenic diet helps to support the medical treatment, necessary but very heavy and aggressive for the body.
However, a study shows a size limit for this approach. She has shown that some cancer cells, lacking a protein called PKCζ, become more aggressive when they are deprived of glucose. They are able to use another source of energy, glutamine. In this case, the maneuver is therefore strongly counterproductive.
It is also important to keep in mind that a cancer cell has by definition undergone a mutation, which causes it to behave abnormally. The knowledge that we take for granted, about the functioning of healthy cells, does not necessarily apply in the case of cancer.
What are the contraindications to the ketogenic diet?
To avoid putting your health at risk, you should be vigilant when trying to embark on a ketogenic diet. In the case of diabetes, an adjustment of the drug treatment may be necessary to avoid hypoglycemia; this point must be determined with his doctor.
It is not recommended to follow a ketogenic diet in case of:
pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) or liver failure, fat metabolism disorders, hereditary deficiency in carnitine and its enzymes porphyria (a blood disease) deficiency of pyruvate kinase, an enzyme that forms pyruvate. This compound is used by the liver to produce glucose.
Finally, it is interesting to note that, in rare cases, following a ketogenic diet can induce a false-positive result on a blood alcohol test.
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