What’s a Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is simply a diet that sends your body into a state of ketosis. The diet has a meager amount of carbohydrates, high in fats with moderate proteins. Taking such a diet drastically reduces the amount of carbohydrates in the body while elevating the amount of fats.
In turn, this stimulates the body to burn fats to release energy. Under normal circumstances, most body cells prefer using blood sugar from carbohydrates (usually glucose) as the primary source of energy. A ketogenic diet has less of this carbohydrate, and so the blood has less circulating sugar.
When the body is devoid of circulating blood sugar from food, it begins to break down the stored fats into ketone bodies, a process called ketosis. At this stage, most of your body cells start using ketones to generate energy.
It takes between 2 to 4 days of eating less than 50 grams of carbohydrates to make your body shift from using blood glucose as a source of energy to using ketones. However, some people need a stricter diet to start producing ketones.
The idea of a ketogenic diet is for you to get more calories from fats and proteins as compared to carbohydrates. So if you cut back on easy to digest carbs like soda, sugar, and white bread, you may stimulate your body to enter into ketosis a faster rate.
The Types of Ketogenic Diets
Several forms of ketogenic diets exist. The most common ones are explained below.
The Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)
The standard ketogenic diet has very high-fat content (70 to 75%), moderate proteins (20%), and very low carbohydrate (5 to 10%). If you can translate this into a daily intake process, then you get: ( 1 )
- Carbohydrates: 20-50g
- Proteins: 40-60g
- Fats: no set limit
A ketogenic diet is highly individualized, and energy level requirements vary from one person to another. For successful ketosis, you shouldn’t limit the amount of fats you take.
A standard ketogenic diet can be a good regimen for people who intend to lose weight, improve heart health, and improve blood glucose levels. To get more benefits, you can add a generous amount of vegetables, in particular, those that are non-starchy.
Calorie-Restricted Ketogenic Diet
In this type of ketogenic diet, the amount of calories you take is restricted to a set amount. The reason for limiting the amount of calorie intake is because the ketogenic diets are always successful whether or not you limit the components of the diet. Essentially, eating fats come with a satiating effect, which, together with a state of ketosis, prevents overeating.
The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)
The cyclical ketogenic diet is also called the carb backloading. Typically, the methods involve alternating high carb days and ketogenic days. But, the number of ketogenic days should more than the number of high-carb days per week. The idea is to cycle in and out of ketosis while still eating a balanced diet.
For example, you might have two high-carb days, followed by five ketogenic days. Diet formulation is excellent for athletes. They may use the two carb days to replenish the glycogen they lost from their muscles during workouts. According to experts on your off days, you should eat wholesome carbohydrate-rich foods. Include fruits dairy products, starchy vegetables, and whole-grain instead of added sugar.
A typical plan is 75% fat, 15-20% protein, 5-10% carbs on keto days; 25% fat, 25% protein and 50% carbs on off days
The Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)
This ketogenic diet plan is similar to the standard ketogenic diet plan, but you consume carbohydrates around workout times, i.e., you consume carbs any day you exercise. The rationale behind this therapy is that any carbohydrates you consume before or after an exercise will be metabolized at a faster rate because the muscles will be in high demand for energy.
The regimen typically works well for active people or athletes who live in keto diet but need additional carbs. Participants get an extra 20-30 grams of carbs before and after workouts. This allows them to do higher-intensity exercises as well as enhance recovery. Total daily carb intake should be 70-80 grams.
High Protein Ketogenic Diet
This keto diet plan is similar to the standard, but it has a higher protein ratio, i.e., 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbs. According to research, this diet plan is effective in people intending to lose weight.
Most people find this type of keto regimen easy to follow as it allows you to eat more proteins than fats. However, this plan may not cause ketosis because proteins can be converted to glucose for energy production. The most notable thing is that this high-protein keto diet leads to weight loss.
Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCT) Ketogenic Diet
This type of keto diet follows the standard keto plan but focusses on using the medium-chain triglycerides to provide much of the fat content of the diet. The medium-chain triglycerides are common in coconut oils. Similarly, you can find them as MCT oil and MCT emulsion liquids.
It is worth noting that MCT usually produces ketones more quickly than the long-chain triglycerides (LCT) fats. Thus, it provides more ketones per gram. Besides, the MCTs don’t require carnitine to break down the fats into ketones. That implies that the MCT diet requires less total fat, which allows more carbohydrates and proteins to be included in the keto diet regimen.
You can consume MCT oil in various ways, including oral, e.g., coconut oil, Liquigen, and Betaquik. The two last products – Liquigen and Betaquik are used for children on a ketogenic diet as a treatment option for epilepsy.
While taking MCTs, to be cautious as it may cause stomach upset and diarrhea, when you consume it in large amounts. To avoid such a problem, you need to balance your meals between MCTs and non-MCT fat.
Benefits of the keto diet
Below are the benefits of the keto diet:
- Weight loss: turning fat into energy is more complicated than turning carbs to energy. Based on this, a keto diet speeds up weight loss and has the advantage of leaving less hungry due to the proteins.
- Reduces acne: A keto diet can be used to minimize acne that is related to diet and blood sugar. Processed food alters gut bacteria and may cause severe fluctuation in blood sugar, which influences the health of the skin. When you decrease the intake of carbs (keto diet), it may reduce some types of acne.
- Improves heart health: when you follow a proper keto diet, research shows that it will improve the health of the heart through reduction of bad cholesterol (LDL), and increasing good cholesterol (HDL) (4)
- May reduce the risk of cancer: studies show that the keto diet may complement cancer treatment options, especially chemotherapy and radiation, as it causes more oxidative stress in cancer cells than in healthy cells. Other theories suggest that the ability of a keto diet to reduce high blood sugar might reduce insulin complications that are associated with some cancers.
- Reduces seizures: an elevated level of ketones in the body (ketosis) can reduce seizures in epileptic people. The method is effective in children who have focal seizures.
- Protects brain function: according to some studies, the keto diet has neuroprotective functions, a state that may help to prevent sleep disorders, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases. Some studies have shown that children on the ketogenic diet are usually more alert and have improved cognitive functioning.
Side Effect of Ketogenic Diet
The side effects are grouped into short term and long term side effects.
Short-Term Side Effects of Keto
This type of symptom usually occurs at the begging of the therapy. The most common effects are hypoglycemia which is noticeable by the following sign:
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Sweating and chills
- Light-headedness and shakiness
- Confusion, anxiety, and irritability
You may also experience:
- Low-grade acidosis
These effects subside as the body gets used to the diet.
Long-Term Side Effects of Keto
Long term effects from keto diet therapy can be severe and life-threatening. They include:
- Kidney stones are common in children. However, the condition is treatable. The formation of the stones in kidneys is thought to be due to low urine pH that encourages the formation of crystals and eventually stones.
- Stunted growth: this is due to the low levels of hormone-insulin-like growth factor 1.
- Increased risk of bone fractures: this arises due to acidosis and alteration in the levels of insulin-like growth factor 1.
- Severe Weight loss in adults and muscle degeneration
- Increased levels of cholesterol and triglycerides
- Amenorrhea in women