Weekly Wellness: The Ketogenic Diet
COLUMBIA — The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that forces the body into a state of ketosis, where fat is burned for fuel instead of carbohydrate.
The ‘classic ketogenic diet’ (used originally for the management of drug-resistance seizures) is a 4:1 ratio of fats to protein and carbohydrates.” That equates to about 80–90% fat, 5–15% protein and 5–10% carbohydrates. For weight loss, this diet is typically modified to allow a more liberal consumption of protein (20–30%) with the same carbohydrate restriction.
Advocates of the ketogenic diet are quick to point out many of the benefits this diet can have for those looking to lose weight. Rapid weight loss, a decrease in hunger, lower blood glucose levels, an increased sensitivity to insulin, a decrease in inflammation, and reduced triglyceride levels while raising HDL cholesterol are all benefits that have been seen.
While experts agree that this diet can promote weight loss, research also shows that people tend to regain weight after going off of the diet because low-carb diets are difficult to maintain long-term.
The ketogenic diet cuts or severely limits food choices such as fruits and whole grains. Also, please note, that low-carb diets deplete carbohydrate stores in the liver and muscles. Since these carbohydrate stores are bound tightly to water, you can expect the majority of weight lost during the first week of a ketogenic diet to be water weight.
Proponents of ketogenic diets agree that this form of weight loss is not appropriate for every individual. Persons with liver cancer or elevated liver enzymes, pancreatitis, fat malabsorption issues, lipid metabolism disorders, gall bladder removal or obstruction, or those taking a drug such as a steroid which may elevate blood glucose levels and inhibit the ability to achieve ketosis should refrain from following a ketogenic diet.
The ketogenic diet has served as a dietary strategy that may be beneficial for those with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Duke University found that individuals with Type 2 diabetes who followed a ketogenic diet lowered their A1C level, a long-term indicator of blood sugar control, by 16% along with a 6.6% reduction in total body weight. For anyone with diabetes considering a ketogenic diet, it is recommended that you discuss this dietary strategy with your medical team before proceeding.
Before making any major, long-term changes to your current diet, check with your physician or a registered dietitian. If you still want to give the ketogenic lifestyle a try, here are a few tips to get you started:
- Adjust your macros. To achieve nutritional ketosis, adjust your MyFitnessPal macronutrient goals to achieve a daily intake of 70–75% fat, 15–20% protein and 5–10% calories from carbohydrates.
- Anticipate a temporary drop in energy. Transitioning to a ketogenic lifestyle can be a bit challenging in the beginning. Low energy, crankiness and foggy thinking may last from a few days to a few weeks; however after it passes, many individuals report an improvement in energy and mood, as well as clearer thinking.
- Check your urine for ketones daily. An optimal amount is 40mg/dL, but even a range between 5–15mg/dL indicates a state of accelerated fat burning. (What are ketones? The human body normally runs on glucose that’s produced when the body breaks down carbohydrates. But when your body doesn’t have enough glucose or insulin to use the glucose, your body starts breaking down fats for energy. Ketones are byproducts of this breakdown. Those with type 1 diabetes are especially at risk for making ketones.)
- Moderate your protein intake. Remember that a ketogenic diet is not a high-protein diet. Consuming too much protein may shift you out of a state of ketosis, as the body can convert excess protein into carbohydrates.
- Eat a variety of fats. Make sure your intake of fat is balanced between plant-based sources and animal fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, coconut, along with fatty fish. This will not only help to improve overall health, but it will add variety to your meal plan as well.
- Know it’s not a quick fix. As with any weight-loss plan, the goal is not just to lose weight but also to keep it off. Before you transition to a ketogenic way of eating, ask yourself whether you can make this a long-term lifestyle change and not just a quick fix that could lead to a cycle of yo-yo dieting.
When followed properly, ketogenic diets have been shown to be safe and effective for weight loss and may provide other health benefits including better blood sugar control, a decrease in inflammation and improved triglyceride and HDL counts. However, in order to achieve ketosis, one must consider this a long-term lifestyle change and follow a very specific eating plan to maintain weight loss over time. As always, consult your doctor or a registered dietitian before making any major dietary changes.