Bikini season is just around the corner once again, which means that women everywhere are searching for the latest ways to lose weight so that they can look good in the two piece swimsuit they just bought on sale.
It seems like dieting has been around since the dawn of time, and as such there are literally hundreds of different diets for you to choose from. Today we’re going to be talking about ketogenic diets specifically, but if you’re not interested in limiting your intake of carbohydrates or if you just don’t think that ketosis is a state you’d like to be in (after all, it can cause some pretty gnarly breath), click here to see what other types of diets we’ve reviewed in the past.
What Is A Ketogenic Diet?
A ketogenic diet is a diet that forces your body into ketosis (where fats are burned for your body’s energy as opposed to carbohydrates). Generally, a ketogenic diet will recommend that you ingest a high fat content and adequate amounts of protein, but that you should be limiting your carb intake to almost nil (depending on the diet you’re on as well as your body’s ability to process them, but we’ll get to that more later).
When we’re not restricting our carbohydrate intake, our bodies convert those carbs into glucose and that’s where we get our energy from. When we’re restricting our carb intake however, our livers are forced to break down our stored fat cells into fatty acids and ketones so that we can draw our energy from there instead.
How It Works
Just like with most other diets, the ketogenic diet requires you to keep track of the calories you consume. By limiting the amount of calories you’re putting into your body, you create a caloric deficit (meaning that your body will be burning more calories than it’s taking in).
If you want to be successful with ketogenic dieting, you’ll need to learn to properly balance your macronutrient ratios – Generally, you’ll want to be getting about 40-60 % of your calories from fats (good fats like olive oil, avocado, and real butter, not a burger), 35-40 % from good quality proteins (think grass fed livestock and poultry as opposed to sauce-drenched buffalo wings), and the remainder (10-25 %) from carbs.
One of the main complaints I hear about ketogenic diets is that some people feel like they’re starving because they’ve chosen to follow a ketogenic diet with a fasting rule, but here’s the thing – It doesn’t matter if you eat once, twice, or twenty five times a day when you’re on a keto diet, as long as you’re making sure that you’re getting your macronutrients and drinking lots of water, you’re good.
While there are surely multiple diets out there that seem to follow ketogenic rules (and if you’re not happy with any of them, it would be super simple to put your own together), they all fall into one of the four following categories:
The Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)
The standard ketogenic diet is by far the most common type of ketogenic diet on the list, likely because of how simple it is to follow – To follow the diet, you’ll be eating the minimum amount of carbs at all times (5-10% average depending on your needs). If you’re familiar with the Atkins diet and have followed it before, you should have no problem at all following this one because it’s very similar to the induction phase in that you’re only allotted 20-50 grams of net carbs per day (Net gram = grams of carbohydrates minus grams of fiber, sugar alcohols, and/or glycerin). You’ll have to steer clear of most fruits and starchy vegetables when you’re following this diet – They can eat up your net carb amount in almost no time at all (no pun intended)!
This is a great diet to follow if you’re looking to lose a few pounds by counting calories and keeping track of everything. Because there are almost no carbs allowed on the SKD, you might want to skip it altogether or choose another type if you’re fairly active and/or play sports regularly – If that’s the case, you’re going to need those carbs!
The Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)
There are actually two forms of this diet, some people prefer to still use the old approach, while others opt for the new one. I figured I’d list both here and let you decide for yourself which one (if either) is best for you:
The Old Approach
The old TKD approach allowed you to eat 25-50 grams of net carbs 30-60 minutes before working out (to ensure that you worked off everything you ate and didn’t disrupt your state of ketosis for a long period of time). It dictated that those carbs were to be highly digestible and have a high glycemic index such as fruit to avoid upsetting your stomach. With this diet, your post-workout meals should be high in protein and low in fat (You should consume 30-40 grams of protein immediately after training to help repair muscle tissue, anyway, whereas –even good – fats can hinder muscle recovery and nutrient absorption).
This form of the diet was generally recommended to those that live a fairly active lifestyle and/or perform high-intensity exercises (such as HIIT) on a regular basis. Everything can be improved on though, and the TKD is no different, which brings us to…
The New Approach
While chowing down on carbs prior to working out might help you get through the workout a little easier (and you might work out a little harder to get rid of the extra calories), there seems to be some debate as to whether or not the pre-workout meal is absolutely necessary. Hence, the new approach was created.
The new approach works the same way as the old one essentially, aside from the fact that you won’t be eating the extra carbs. If you want to be able to put something in your body prior to working out but you’re not too keen on the idea of it being carb-oriented, try downing a spoonful of coconut oil – The medium-chain triglycerides will help boost your ketone count and the fat will help give you the energy to get through the workout.
The Cyclic Ketogenic Diet (CKD)
This form of the diet is more directed towards body builders and marathon trainers, but since those people do in fact exist I feel that a brief description bears repeating.
The CKD alternates days of ketogenic dieting and carb loading (days of exceptionally high carb consumption). The carb loading seems to typically last from 24-48 hours, and during that time your net carb intake will shoot from 50 grams per day to 400-600 grams.
Serious athletes can benefit from this type of diet because it allows them to maximize their fat loss while continuing to build lean muscle mass. For the average person though, this diet won’t work – It’s far too all over the map, and the average person doesn’t get enough physical activity to get rid of all the extra carbs and calories.
The Restricted Ketogenic Diet
This is probably the least-common version of the ketogenic diet, mainly because it’s usually used for therapy as opposed to weight loss. As it turns out, being in a constant state of ketosis could actually be beneficial in the treatment of brain cancer – I mentioned above that our bodies generally obtain energy from glycerin, right? Well, healthy cells can get energy from ketones, and cancerous ones can’t, therefore they literally starve to death when your body is in ketosis.
This study says that when the ketogenic diet is combined with calorie restriction, your body becomes effectively inhospitable to cancerous cells. Does that mean that going on a ketogenic diet is a miracle cure for cancer? Of course not. But a healthy immune system and optimal nutrition are a great start, and an even better defense.
Now that you know a little more about the diets themselves, here’s a basic rundown of the benefits you can expect from choosing to go on one:
The Benefits Of Being On A Ketogenic Diet
– Controlled blood sugar and restricted insulin spikes.
– Less hunger overall due to the lack of insulin spikes.
– A diet that is satiating.
– Feeling full longer (fats and proteins will do that).
– Relative freedom in food choices.
– Decent variety.
As you can see from the chart above, you’re going to be eating a lot of vegetables on this diet, but hey – Vegetables are good for you!
How To Tell If You’re In Ketosis
It might take up to a month for your body to enter ketosis (depending on various factors), so how will you know when you’re finally there? There are actually sticks that you can purchase at your local pharmacy strictly for this purpose. You might have to ask the pharmacist for them – Where I live, they actually keep them behind the counter (although I’m not exactly sure why? Who’s going to steal pee sticks?).
Once you’ve figured out that you’re in ketosis and you’re comfortable with whatever version of ketogenic diet you’ve decided to go with, you can start to up your carb intake little by little until you reach your ‘sweet spot’ if you’re dying without your morning bagel.
Is It Safe?
If you follow any one of these diets correctly, you shouldn’t have any problem with them. That said, it can be really difficult to get the proper macronutrients if you don’t know what you’re doing and it’s really easy to become exceptionally unhealthy if you let a poorly followed diet go on for too long.
Because of that, it probably wouldn’t hurt to go to your doctor or naturopath and get a blood work up done before starting one of these ketogenic diets (or any other type of diet, for that matter).
Does It Work?
A quick search on your internet browser will bring up tons of success stories in regards to ketogenic dieting, and if you’re someone that requires structure and calorie counting to help you lose weight, it might not be a bad idea to give one of these a shot. That said, no diet is ever going to become a replacement for healthy and holistic eating – If you fall off the ketogenic bandwagon and begin eating carbs again, you’re very likely going to gain any lost weight back, whereas a lifestyle change as a whole can go a whole lot further (in my personal experience, anyway).
Have you ever tried a ketogenic diet? What was your experience with the limited intake of carbs (hats off to you for being able to do it – I just like my bagels far too much)? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!
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