Let me begin by saying that I find it very hard to stick with any diets.
Constant calorie counting takes the joy out of food as an everyday experience and turns it into a chore for me, making it very difficult to not give into my cravings. Diets are about constraints and I grew up not knowing what that means when it comes to food – I was a skinny kid. I was extremely active, ate copiously and lived a healthy life.
So, in my adult life when I gained 15 kgs in a year, I didn’t know what to do, where to begin and how to stop it. My brain and body were not used to this new truth and couldn’t recognize the dangers of it. After a 3 year long struggle, I am finally on a path that works for me and that has given me a new understanding of health and nutrition.
I have been experimenting with ketogenic diet since September 2016 and I have lost 10 kgs since then.
I also added a 5-day exercise routine to my life and started spending more time studying food and health as well as checking nutrition labels before purchasing any groceries. This blog post is not only about the basics of a ketogenic diet but also what are the things we should be thinking about when we think about healthy eating.
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
A ketogenic or keto diet is a low carb, high fat and moderate/adequate protein intake diet.
When we are eating a normal, balanced diet, carbohydrate is used by the body as the major source of fuel. Keto diet restricts the amount of carbohydrates consumed and as the body runs out of carb reserves in the liver and muscles (called glycogen), it metabolizes fat that we eat as well as body fat to provide energy (rather than carbohydrates), a process known as ketosis, resulting in weight loss.
Glucose is replaced by ketones as an energy source when your body is in a state of ketosis.
The reason a low-carb or a low glycemic index or a keto diet works is that it helps restrict energy-dense and nutrient-poor, sugar-laden, highly processed foods. To be able to follow any of the above diets or to bring a healthy change to your eating habits, you need to know two things –
- How the body produces usable energy
- The role of macronutrients
I have written a separate blog post on energy and nutrition and I highly recommend that you read it before starting any diet for weight loss or for any other dietary reasons.
What can you eat in a keto diet?
One of the most important things when you are getting started with a keto diet is to change your mindset about food. We have been conditioned to believe that fat is bad and that we need high amounts of protein. Therefore, shifting to a high fat, adequate protein diet feels a little hard in the beginning.
Also, when your body starts to go into ketosis, with steady carb withdrawal, you will experience something called the keto flu; it is nothing to be scared about and keep at it! Additional reading: https://www.ruled.me/keto-flu-remedy/
Here is a comprehensive list of keto-friendly foods.
When you are starting off, it’s good to stick a print out of this on your refrigerator to stock up on the good stuff and watch what you are eating.
What are the benefits of following a keto diet?
Most people start to notice changes within the first 5 days of starting a keto program.
Weight loss, of course is the most noticeable. You do need to know however, that the first 2 – 5 kgs of weight loss experienced in the first week is typically because the diet causes you to initially release a lot of water weight (not fat) from cutting your carb intake. It is a sign that your body is working its way into ketosis: fat burning mode. Over time, you will notice actual changes in body fat.
Another major benefit of a keto diet is improved energy levels and mood stabilization. BHB (a major ketone) may be a more efficient fuel than glucose, providing more energy per unit oxygen used. Ketone bodies, in general, have been shown to be beneficial in stabilizing neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine resulting in better mood control.
Other benefits include lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol profile and stabilized blood sugar. A month into keto, I got my complete blood work done and my numbers had never looked better in my life! I recommend that you do the same to keep track of the results.
I’ve had to deal with ulcerative colitis since I was 23 years (a decade now!) and I’ve had my battles with chronic fatigue, anxiety and episodes of depression. Within a few days of starting my keto diet, it felt like a brain fog lifted! I’ve never felt better in my life – my energy levels are up and steady through the day. I have always thought myself to be lazy person, not really understanding the complex consequences of chronic fatigue. For the first time in a very long time, I felt like I could get out of bed without any excuses. My health had conditioned me to lead a lazy lifestyle and keto has indubitably changed that for me.
Ketogenic diet also has plenty of solid research backing up its benefits.
In fact, it has been found to be better than most diets at helping people with:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- Fatty Liver Disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Chronic Inflammation
- Heart Disease
Additional Reading: https://www.ruled.me/benefits-ketogenic-diet/
What should you read next:
- Energy & the role of macronutrients
- Healthy fats to include in your keto diet
- Keto Meal Plan and Recipes (Customised to an Indian palate)
- My favourite keto products
Read all my keto related posts here: Keto Diaries