Keto Diet: Basic Principles of a Low-Carb Diet

Keto Diet: Basic Principles of a Low-Carb Diet
Picture: Vasiliy Budarin | Dreamstime
Victoria Mamaeva
Pharmaceutical Specialist

In search of the perfect diet for weight loss, we can increasingly find information about the ketogenic diet, also known as the keto diet, which, despite its former fame, has recently begun to gain popularity again.

Is the ketogenic diet really the perfect solution for shedding extra pounds?

What is a ketogenic diet?

The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet.

The initial condition of the diet is the maximum reduction of carbohydrate intake during the day to about 10% of the total amount of food consumed, which in practice is usually less than 50 g per day. At the same time, this way of eating also involves maximizing the proportion of fat while maintaining an appropriate proportion of protein.

The main principles of the diet are to switch the body to the absorption of energy from fats, and not, as usual, from carbohydrates (mainly glucose), which, due to their maximum limitation, is clearly not enough.

A few days after the start of the diet, the body begins to slowly enter a state of ketosis, in which ketone bodies are produced, which help it get energy from the metabolism of fats.

keto diet
Picture: Oleksandra Naumenko | Dreamstime

The state of transition of the body into this special, unnatural state, as dieters often experience it as the flu – it is associated with muscle pain, severe weakness and headaches. However, after 1-2 days, the so-called Keto flu wears off, and ketone levels can be easily checked with ketone strips, which work just like pregnancy tests.

The strips show the level of ketone bodies in our body. If it is high enough, then we have just begun to function in a state of ketosis. Thus, it is a diet that, by bringing our body out of its natural state, supports the digestion of fats around the clock. That’s why it’s been so popular lately.

Green tea – a drink that prolongs life
Green tea – a drink that prolongs life

On the menu of the ketogenic diet, we can find almost everything that is fat and rich in protein, and at the same time, almost nothing that contains carbohydrates.

  • Fatty meats, as well as meat products such as sausages, ham, etc.
  • Fish, seafood
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts, seeds
  • Fats.

Does the keto diet reduce appetite?

A high-fat diet may reduce appetite due to its stimulatory effect on the secretion of the hormone cholecystokinin. The release of cholecystokinin is a signal to the brain that the stomach is already full, which in turn reduces the feeling of hunger and increases the feeling of satiety. However, it has not been established to what extent and how long this effect lasts.

keto diet
Picture: Anyaivanova | Dreamstime

However, it’s undeniable that simply consuming a huge amount of fat – for example, 1 piece of deep-fried meat has 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a whole avocado – makes us feel full for a long time.

At the same time, you should also remember that the keto diet does not involve strict calorie restriction, so in principle you can eat “what you want and how you want” as long as it fits the diet. However, it is clear that it is impossible to eat 5 meals a day, each of which will be equal to the main meal. Therefore, due to its structure, keto gives the effect of rapid weight loss and a significant decrease in appetite.

Is the ketogenic diet the perfect way to lose weight?

People who start a ketogenic diet can quickly notice the first effects in the form of weight loss. Why is this happening?

On a ketogenic diet, the amount of carbohydrates consumed is reduced to about 10%, which reduces the amount of glycogen stored in the liver and muscles. When following a keto diet, glycogen stores can be significantly depleted in just a few days. The important information is that glycogen binds to water – about 4 grams of water per gram of glycogen.

Celery is a super vegetable
Celery is a super vegetable

Liver glycogen alone is about 100 g, combined with about 400 g of water can lead to a weight loss of about 0.5 kg. By combining this with muscle glycogen, we can achieve significant weight loss in a very short time. However, remember that if you deviate from the diet in the form of additional carbohydrates, they will be noticed very quickly by weight (glycogen replenishment = more water), and it will also be necessary to “introduce keto” because the body can come out of this state and return to main method of obtaining energy.

In answering the question is the ketogenic diet really the ideal way to lose weight, it is worth quoting a 2012 study that looked at 4 different diet options:

  • Proteins and carbohydrates
  • Protein and low carbs
  • High in protein and carbohydrates
  • Low Carb, High Protein

It turns out that the best results were achieved by diets with a high protein content – regardless of the amount of carbohydrates. The authors correctly noted that it is the high protein content, and not the low carbohydrate content, that is responsible for the effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets.

Cashews are a delicious and nutritious nut from South America
Cashews are a delicious and nutritious nut from South America

Currently, there is no clear evidence that the ketogenic diet is more effective than conventional diets for weight loss. However, it is known that the number of organisms, so many preferences and what can cause inconvenience to some people (refusal of carbohydrates), can suit others and simply positively affect their general psychophysical state.

However, you should also be aware of the negative effects that always come with any improperly balanced diet.

Risks to be aware of

A diet high in fat can cause high cholesterol levels and premature atherosclerosis. Therefore, the lipid profile should be systematically monitored. However, the most common problem is intolerance to this type of food.

keto diet
Picture: Nina Firsova | Dreamstime

Abdominal pain, acid reflux (heartburn), vomiting, gas, and constipation may occur. An indispensable element of this diet is also to support digestion and reduce the acidity of the body with a daily dose of hot water with lemon and the like.

A small percentage of people using this diet may experience long-term and much more serious side effects:

  • electrolyte disturbances and micronutrient deficiencies (supplements needed)
  • hypoglycemia
  • flaws and swelling
  • damage to the kidneys and liver (especially due to interactions with antiepileptic drugs)
  • and even damage to the heart, that is, cardiomyopathy.
Нow to lose belly fat – expert advice
Нow to lose belly fat – expert advice

In addition, nephrolithiasis and gout are relatively common and require prophylactic urinary alkalinization, copious hydration of patients, and follow-up ultrasound examinations.

All of the above threats make the ketogenic diet, on the one hand, very effective, and also the most risky among the known and widely used diets in the world. From this it clearly follows that this diet should be used under the supervision of a nutritionist and a doctor, with regular health checks and biochemical tests.

In the event of deficiency symptoms, it is necessary to replenish the missing elements. It is important to note that the keto diet should not be used by people with kidney, liver, or pancreatic disease.

Conclusions

On the one hand, the ketogenic diet is a “magic” way to lose extra pounds, and on the other hand, it carries a significant risk of health problems associated with its use.

Figs are one of the most ancient cultivated plants
Figs are one of the most ancient cultivated plants

You should also remember that you can’t be on a keto diet all the time, so you’ll eventually revert back to your old eating habits, which can lead to a yo-yo effect. Therefore, it is better to focus on a conscious diet based on the correct distribution of micro and macro elements, as well as on a healthy, even energy balance.

However, if we decide to implement this particular diet model, let’s try to make the products we use as healthy as possible. First of all, do not forget to regularly check the results of the tests and consult with a nutritionist / physician.

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