The premise of the ketogenic diet for weight loss is that if you deprive the body of glucose—the main source of energy for all cells in the body, which is obtained by eating carbohydrate foods—an alternative fuel called ketones is produced from stored fat (thus, the term “keto”-genic). The brain demands the most glucose in a steady supply, about 120 grams daily, because it cannot store glucose. During fasting, or when very little carbohydrate is eaten, the body first pulls stored glucose from the liver and temporarily breaks down muscle to release glucose. If this continues for 3-4 days and stored glucose is fully depleted, blood levels of a hormone called insulin decrease, and the body begins to use fat as its primary fuel. The liver produces ketone bodies from fat, which can be used in the absence of glucose. 
Let’s face it: a ketogenic diet is not the easiest diet to follow — or understand! This is why we love books that simplify the process, like Keto Made Easy: 100+ Easy Keto Dishes Made Fast to Fit Your Life. You don’t have to miss out on your favorite foods with these easy-to-follow, easy-to-make recipes from this popular food blogger duo. It also has five meal plans for different kinds of keto diets, including vegetarian. A Bible for many keto dieters, Leanne Vogel’s The Keto Diet Book: The Complete Guide to a High-Fat Diet not only boasts 125 recipes but also is a great resource chock full of information to answer your every question about this sometimes perplexing diet. We love that it has five 28-day meal plans, taking the stress out of planning every meal for weeks or even months on end.
Cutting out a whole food group (or in this case, more than one) is a dietitian’s worse nightmare. It not only makes it a really hard diet to follow, but also stresses the hell out of your body and makes it work a lot harder to keep up. In a US News & World Report’s review of 2018 diet, the ketogenic diet came in last place as a sustainable means to weight loss because of its restrictive nature.
But for evidence of the Keto Diet’s more immediate effects, Noakes brings up South African athlete Bruce Fordyce, 60, who won the country’s biggest ultramarathon, the 56-mile Comrades, a record nine times. He ate high-carb his whole life, eventually putting on weight and becoming insulin resistant. Recently, though, he switched to a high-fat diet—and has regained his former waistline and dramatically improved his marathon times. Little by little, according to Noakes, we’re learning. “This is the single most important health intervention we can make as doctors,” he says. “And as nations.”
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The keto diet also has an impact on our hormonal levels. Many studies have looked at whether the state of ketosis suppresses our appetite through the actions of leptin and ghrelin. A 2013 study found that after patients lost weight on a keto diet, our hunger hormone (ghrelin) was altered and suppressed. A systematic review also concluded that the state of ketosis appears to be a plausible explanation for the suppression of appetite. So this the keto diet may be good for dieters who can’t stand the discomfort of hunger. Finally, the keto diet also may have an impact on our stress hormone, cortisol. This was demonstrated in a Harvard study where the keto diet resulted in an increase in cortisol in individuals following a very low carb keto diet. High levels of cortisol is associated with insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and may promote fat accumulation.
Secondly, glucose is not the only source of energy for your body. The entire point of the Keto diet is that the body can use fat as a fuel source. Yes, you’ll still need glucose for certain things, but you eat protein and a minimal amount of carbs. The great majority of your energy needs are met by ketones. I don’t dismiss the concerns about accessing muscle for glucose, and I’d be interested in studies involving low intensity weight training on Keto to see if it helps with muscle retention. I think you’d probably have to carefully manage your protein levels as well.
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Who are the healthiest people on the planet? Not those on Atkins diets, Keto diets, Paleo diets, Weight watcher diets or soup diets. As mentioned above, plants rule, and this is evident with communities who eat ‘carb dense’ foods, 90 -95% plants. They are often disease free, disability free and drug free. This is basedvon living an entire life this way – never dieting like we do.
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Great post, Abbey!! Thank you for taking the time to write this and share it with us! This diet may work in some cases as you pointed out but i find it very dangerous, eventhouh i’m not a dietician. I tried it and i felt horrible. I felt depressed, constipated, pain in my right side which i think was my gallbladder. Couldn’t sleep, terrible breath. AWFUL!!
So for all the dangers you listed on this, my dietician prescribes this diet to everyone who comes into his office looking for weightloss, he has a stack of packets with standardized information regarding the specific diet. For what it’s worth, most of the side effects you listed, I did go through, although the sugar withdrawal was the worst, but after a couple weeks, that passed too. Now I’m on the same 1200 calorie, <20g carb, 0 sugar diet, and it feels VERY sustainable. The only thing I really miss is pizza, and even then, there are keto friendly chicken based crusts that really hit the spot. I guess one thing that sticks out to me is my doctor told me that the human body doesn't need any sugar to survive, and while he makes the distinction between simple and complex carbs, still cuts them out in a normal keto diet style (no potatoes, corn, most beans in larger quantities, etc). Should I be concerned about my doctor? He came as a referral and has a large track record of long term success with his patients.
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I tried the ketogenic diet and it really helped me even out my energy levels and I don’t grave sugar anymore. I had issues absorbing my B vitamins. I had high candida and l-acidophylis levels. I was also addicted to sugar. I started this 3 years ago, and since about a year ago, I’ve added fruit. Now I enjoy a little rice and potatoes as well. I even had a bite of chocolate cake and didn’t die. I started out at 112, lost 10 pounds within a month and have slowly gained most of it back. I am happy I did it, but I will be more confident to add more carbs, although it will mostly be in the form of more fruit and starchy veggies. Thanks for your article.
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Bacon & Butter: The Ultimate Ketogenic Diet Cookbook turns these assumptions on its head by assessing how high-fat foods can be prepared in ways which are healthy and functional to one’s body. Hopefully, this book can subvert the myths around ketogenic diet and prove that eating healthy can consist of, as the title suggests, bacon and butter. But, let’s be honest, with a title like Bacon & Butter, it’s always going to appeal to a keto-er! Without a doubt, this is one of the best keto cookbooks on the market.
On a ketogenic diet, your entire body switches its fuel supply to run mostly on fat, burning fat 24-7. When insulin levels become very low, fat burning can increase dramatically. It becomes easier to access your fat stores to burn them off. This is great if you’re trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits, such as less hunger and a steady supply of energy. This may help keep you alert and focused.
Also, plan for modifications to the meals for other people in your home. You wonít be able to make totally different meals for yourself and your family for the long term. The best approach is to use the main meat dish for your meal for the entire family and then a carbohydrate side dish for your family. For example, if you are eating meatloaf you can add half a potato for the other members of your family.
So one study looked at the long-term effects of a keto diet in obese patients and after 24 weeks, patients lost weight, reduced their total cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides and increased their HDL. Another study conducted on 132 obese patients found that the low carb (keto) group lost more weight than the low fat group while improving biomarkers like decreased triglycerides, improved insulin sensitivity, and decreased fasting glucose. This all was confirmed in a 2013 meta-analysis, 13 RCTs (1,569 participants) found that patients assigned to a very low carbohydrate diet resulted in greater weight loss compared to those assigned to a low-fat diet.
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A huge concern with the keto diet is the maintenance and potential loss of muscle mass. Many people will just think: hey, dummy, then just eat more protein. However, some research has shown that even if your protein intake remains constant, a low carb diet may promote muscle loss. A study from the Netherlands confirmed these findings. In the study, participants were given three diets (high carb, moderate carb, low carb) and moderate protein. The study found that those following a low carb diet experienced increased muscle breakdown. This is because when we eat carbohydrates, we produce insulin which promotes muscle growth. This is why athletes depend on carbohydrates (along with protein) to fuel their performance. When we eat carbs, the insulin release “unlocks” our muscles to let the protein in so it can do its job at building our muscles. So, when we skip the carbs all together, muscle glycogen stores get depleted, we lose out on those muscle building opportunities. Forget about high intensity training. A depleted glycogen store also means our workouts will suffer because we just don’t have enough oil left in the tank. This was a again suggested in the recent review looking at many ketogenic studies. The studies found that there was greater lean body mass loss in the ketogenic groups compared to the other diets being studied.
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I have found eating low-carb, high-fat to be easier than other diets because I feel satiated, and I have good energy and feel warm (I usually feel cold in the winter). I can also skip snacking because I don’t get “hangry”. I totally understand if it’s not for everyone; people are different with different genetic expressions, and their bodies will respond in different ways. But if you’re going to give it a try, it make take a couple of weeks before your body is adapted to burning fat instead of glucose. Make sure to get enough salt, and eat lots of vegetables (if you don’t like spinach salad, roasted cauliflower or fired mushrooms, this diet may not be for you).
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With the high intake of fat, are we concerned about the high intake of cholesterol? YEP. A study using the keto diet as a form of treatment for epileptic seizures in children found that after 6 months of administering the diet, triglyceride levels increased, total cholesterol levels increased, and HDL and LDL increased. These results suggest that over time, a keto diet may lead to an increased risk of hypercholesterolemia and hypertriglyceridemia. In the same ten-year study, 40% of patients developed hypertriglyceridemia and 29% of patients experienced hypercholesterolemia. So, if heart disease runs in your family, you may want to bow out now.
Slow cooking is also great for those who aren’t comfortable using a stove or an oven as slow cookers typically need minimal preparation and food is all prepared in one pot. This is also a great alternative to other books which typically rely on standard cooking infrastructure such as a stovetop. So, if you are a fan of the crockpot or simply looking to expand your ketogenic cooking repertoire, this is one of the best keto cookbooks you will find.
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The low-carbohydrate diet options available in this book are also sugar-free, gluten-free, legume-free and in some cases dairy-free. While these may seem like restrictions on your diet, this book has so many delicious recipes to offer that you’ll not even miss carbohydrates or sugars, so often a major part of contemporary diets. This book also contains an in-depth list of foods which are suitable for eating when following keto. This ketogenic diet food list will help you stick to the diet while enjoying delicious food.
I also want to add that I absolutely agree with your verdict! As a type 1 diabetic who has experienced the sickening feeling of ketones’ presence, and known about the dangers of ketoacidosis since childhood, the concept of this diet for weight loss has always rubbed me the wrong way and struck me as a bit off (although I know ketosis is a different thing and is alright for the body, its extreme form is ketoacidosis, after all). I also have seen the diet, used for weight loss, cause dramatic results that then rebounded afterwards. I understand it is an incredible revelation in treating some epileptic individuals, and I see how it makes sense and can be helpful for type 2 diabetics or pre-diabetics. But as for a weight-management diet, like with everything else in life, I think we should strive balance. And enjoying summer peaches!
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Great article! anything that the sh** bomb in the first paragraph has to be good! Plenty of scientific studies, we can click on if we choose to, but this was simple and easy to understand. Don’t let the wiener-heads, who want to pick out one little thing and go to town with it, drag you down. I was looking for some easy to understand pros and cons of Keto and that’s exactly what you gave me. The best thing is it supports what I’ve been telling clients and my fellow meatheads at the gym all along. Like anything else in life, nutrition, work, exercise, family, marriage (God forbid I ever do that again) and so on, sustainability and success require balance. Personally, I’m a 40-40-20 hardliner, but only because that is what works best for me.
The ketogenic diet has recently become very popular, and many food companies want to cash in by putting a “ketogenic” or “low carb” label on a new product. Be very cautious of special “keto” or “low-carb” products, such as pastas, chocolate bars, energy bars, protein powders, snack foods, cakes, cookies and other “low carb” or “ketogenic” treats. Read all labels carefully for natural low carb ingredients. The fewer ingredients the better.
This article covers everything I’ve read about the diet. They’re still testing it on Alzheimer’s I believe so I’m interested in seeing complete results of that study as neurological diseases are somewhat like cancer in being able to find cures for them. I do believe our bodies genetic makeup has more to do with optimal diets. Though I wonder how many are doing keto thinking it will prevent disease? Because there are no studies on that from what I’ve seen, though prevention and diet seem to not have any long-term studies completed.
Another thing we know about diets and weight loss is that the results are not easily maintained. I’ve written about this in depth with regards to the participants on the Biggest Loser. This was evident in a study analyzing 31 long term studies on dieting, which found 2/3 of dieters put back the weight they lost. Other research has reported the failure rate may be as high as 95%. This isn’t specific to the keto diet but rather, any diet that is restrictive and unrealistic may be nearly impossible to sustain.
Once you know what you will be eating on keto, you will probably be wondering how much of you should eat for each meal. Since meal size depends on the individual and his/her goals, we recommend using a calorie tracking app and our carb tracking guide to help you figure out the macronutrient content of your meals. As you track your macros, you will be able to figure out what adjusts you need to make to your diet to reach your goals.
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While I admittedly struggled after going off the diet (they have some high protein, low carb,good tasting premade foods that I no longer had access to) with what to eat, I at least had better knowledges of HOW to eat and have been able to maintain my weight loss since. For the first time ever, I realized that I couldn’t eat the “food pyramid” suggested amount of carbs if I wanted to maintain a healthy weight. I even began running because I was thin enough to do so. What people who have never been fat before don’t understand is how much being fat holds us back from trying new things. If only there was a way to get people to quickly and easily lose the weight so they could be successful at dieting and discover such things (tongue in cheek).