Keto diet risks and rewards

Say goodbye to sugar and hello to a keto diet with these helpful tips

Say goodbye to sugar and hello to a keto diet with these helpful tips.

Flat out – it may seem like a fad but it’s a diet with a high success rate for weight loss and improved health. A ketogenic, or keto, diet as it’s called, is similar to the Atkins diet and other low-carb, high-fat diet plans. This one either works for you or it doesn’t – there is not much middle ground.

Just like all diets though, they are built for everyone and you should focus on a diet that works for you, your guts, your family, your budget and your lifestyle because the best diet out there is the one you can FOLLOW!

Contrary to diets of the past, the keto diet requires you to consume high-fat foods and eat as few carbs as possible on the road to weight loss. Sound intriguing?

If you’re wondering how keto diets work, if they’re safe and whether they cause any negative side effects or come with any health risks, you’re reading the right article.

Ketosis defined

Carbohydrates are used by the body for energy. But what happens when you don’t eat carbs, only consume small amounts of protein and eat a lot of fat instead? The liver turns fat into ketones, molecules that provide energy for the body and brain. In the process, your body goes into ketosis, a metabolic state in which your body begins burning fat stores for energy. (The body will also enter a state of ketosis if you don’t eat any food, but you’d be starving yourself to lose weight – not fun)

A diet like this can be highly beneficial for people with diabetes, as it causes a significant decrease in insulin and blood sugar levels. When insulin levels are low, you can burn a lot more fat stores while keeping your muscle.

What to eat

Unlike diets that restrict calories, a ketogenic diet allows you to eat plenty of high-fat foods for energy and satiety. The goal is to eat fewer than 50 grams of carbs a day. After three to four days, you should reach ketosis.

Remember: the fewer the starchy carbs, the better. On the keto diet, you’ll fill up on foods such as fish, meat, eggs, vegetables, cheese, olive oil and butter. Sugar, starch, fruit, bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, beer and sodas are off limits.

Possible risks

While studies show the benefits many people experience on a keto diet (weight loss; diabetes control; and a lowered risk for heart disease, certain cancers, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and metabolic syndrome), there are possible risks and negative side effects associated with the diet plan you should know about before going full keto.

The first common issue is known as the “keto flu.” When adhering to the keto diet, as many as one in four people experience fatigue, nausea, and gastrointestinal problems during the first days of reaching ketosis.

Diarrhea is another big complaint among keto dieters. This is the result of increasing the amount of fat in your diet, which causes your gallbladder to work overtime to produce the bile necessary to break down fat. You’ll also be eating fewer whole grains and possibly more dairy or artificial sweeteners, all which can cause diarrhea. Make sure you are drinking lots of water, take some fiber supplements and even some digestive enzymes if need be.

Like so many other such restrictive diets, it’s not easy to live on a keto diet for months or years. Because it’s so restrictive, it can’t be sustained forever. While you’re on the diet you’ll lose weight, but when you return to a normal way of eating, the pounds will pile back on.

While a low-carb, high-fat diet may help you lose weight and improve certain areas of your health, many of the foods people eat on a keto diet aren’t healthy.

Processed meats, high-sodium foods and foods high in saturated fat are associated with cancer, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Overindulging in these can be a recipe for disaster. Just because they are “keto friendly” doesn’t make them good for you or healthy. Use you judgment.

A keto diet is particularly risky for nursing mothers. Because ketosis increases your risk of dehydration, breastfeeding women ought to reconsider whether to follow a keto diet.

While most risk factors of a keto diet aren’t too severe, one of them is especially dangerous. The greatest risk of following a ketogenic diet is known as ketoacidosis. This dangerous condition occurs when ketones build up, turning the blood acidic. Untreated, ketoacidosis can damage the liver, kidneys or brain and can ultimately be fatal. Diabetics on a keto diet are at the greatest risk for ketoacidosis and should therefore keep a close watch on their glucose and ketone levels throughout the day.

Well, these are just some of the pros and cons behind keto!

Again, just like any diet though, they are built for everyone and you should focus on a diet that works for you, your guts, your family, your budget and your lifestyle because the best diet out there is the one you can FOLLOW!

Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and the owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.

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