UNITED STATES—A keto or ‘ketogenic’ diet is one that is low enough in carbohydrates to cause the body to go into a state called ‘ketosis’, where fat is metabolized for energy instead of glycogen. There are a lot of advocates of the keto way of eating, and unlike many fad diets, keto does have enough of a history that the claims about how it works and the results of people who have used it can verify that it does work for weight loss. Keto is also recommended under medical supervision for the management of some conditions it has been shown to help, including epilepsy.
While it does have some potential negative effects, such as a greater likelihood of kidney stones, it is generally considered to be safe to follow a ketogenic way of eating, even long term, and is also widely thought to be an effective option for weight loss.
However, one of the most important things with keto is that it needs to be done properly, with the dieter understanding how it works and how to follow the diet. People who misunderstand keto and try to follow a low carb diet without doing the research can often end up doing things like not eating enough fat, due to preconceptions that any weight loss program should keep fat consumption low, which is actually very dangerous while not eating carbs.
Most people, after a period of learning and adjusting to the diet do find it easy to stick to, and it tends to suppress the appetite and completely remove cravings for sweet foods after just a short time on the diet. This makes it easy for people who think they won’t like a way of eating that is low on sugar to follow it. There are also some great options these days to support people embarking on a ketogenic diet with planning their meals, such as keto meal delivery services – read more here.
Is Keto the Same as the Atkins Diet?
The Atkins Diet became very popular in the ‘90s and early 2000s, though it had actually been around for a lot longer than that. The Atkins diet is a program that does include a ketogenic phase (called ‘Induction’), but then over the long term transitions to a maintenance diet that has a moderate carbohydrate intake and does not keep the body in a ketogenic state. It could be said then that the Induction phase of Atkins, which is the phase most people know about, is basically the same thing as keto, but usually, when people talk about keto, they are talking about sticking to a ketogenic diet as their long term way of eating, rather than just for a couple of weeks, as with Atkins induction.
Other Types of Ketogenic Diet
There are other types of ketogenic diet programs, too, including cyclical ketogenic diets, where one remains in ketosis for some of a weekly cycle but loads up on carbs during another part of the cycle. These are usually designed for people who are also concerned with sports performance, and who want to have glycogen available in their muscles for their most intense training days. Keto gives you plenty of energy so it is still possible to do all the sports you usually do without adding carb-loading into the mix, but performance can suffer a bit due to energy uptake from glycogen being faster for the muscles, and so people who train or compete at high levels often choose cyclical keto solutions to keep their body fat down while also being able to perform at their best.
Ketogenic diets that are recommended not for weight loss but for things like epilepsy may also be different from the typical keto diets people use, as these may be modified to actually avoid weight loss if the patient is a healthy weight or underweight.
If a ketogenic diet is followed properly, then the long term experience is usually reported to be a beneficial one, with people having more energy, consistent energy levels throughout the day, sleeping better and even feeling positive effects on their mood (some people even experience a slight euphoria during the first weeks of the diet, as well as an abundance of energy). However, these effects don’t kick in until the body is used to ketosis, and the first few days when the body transfers over from burning glycogen to burning fat can be unpleasant, with many people experiencing ‘keto flu’ – a sense of general sluggishness, often accompanied by headaches and other inconvenient but tolerable symptoms. These usually only last about three days, and are worth pushing through, but it can be a good idea to plan starting keto when you don’t have anything important planned where you need to feel your best for a few days.
Keto is something that has had a positive effect on a lot of people’s lives, and while it can take some research and planning to get started with, it can be well worth giving it a try to see if it suits you if you’re looking for a weight loss approach.