You’ve probably heard of the keto or ketogenic diet recently. This feeding model it has become very fashionable in recent years within the nutritional community, despite the fact that it has been studied and practiced for decades.
The ketogenic diet has always been surrounded by controversy for its alleged associated problems and the difficulty of maintaining it in the long term. For this reason, in recent times it has become a broad subject of debate by the scientific and food community.
In this article we will delve into some of the most recurrent doubts around the ketogenic diet, we will tell you what it consists of and we will analyze the current evidence to know if it really is effective in losing weight.
What is and why does ketosis occur?
Before delving into the ketogenic diet and its direct applications, we must explain why and how ketosis occurs, the metabolic state that our body experiences when following a ketogenic diet pattern.
Glucose is the normal energy source for the human body. However, when there is no immediate glucose to produce energy, our body uses our glycogen stores located in the liver and muscles. However, once these reserves are completely depleted, our metabolism is forced to look for other alternatives to get energy. What comes into play is, therefore, an alternative route for obtaining energy through fat metabolism.
Ketosis – not to be confused with ketoacidosis – is that state that our body reaches when you don’t have enough glucose for energy synthesis. During ketosis, the liver makes compounds called ketone bodies from fatty acids that pass into the bloodstream. This is the metabolic process known as ketogenesis. Subsequently, ketone bodies will be used as an energy source in our metabolism in the absence of glucose.
What is the ketogenic diet?
Basically, a ketogenic diet is one where a limiting the intake of foods rich in carbohydrates, such as cereals, tubers, pasta, flour, legumes, and fruits, as well as the entire wide catalog of ultra-processed products full of simple sugars that we know too well, such as soft drinks and pastries, among many other unhealthy products.
As a consequence of this limitation, fats become the protagonists on a ketogenic diet, also counting on an adequate supply of protein that may be somewhat higher than usual. Contrary to what many believe, this doesn’t have to be a problem for our liver or kidneys as long as we plan it properly.
Also, we shouldn’t forget about vegetables, a food group that generally tends to shift in many ketogenic diets. However, vegetables are not incompatible with the ketogenic diet, since the net amount of carbohydrates they have is low, due to their high composition in water and fiber.
There is no single ketogenic diet
According to the current and style of the ketogenic diet, protein to fat ratio may vary. However, all styles share the inclusion of foods such as eggs, meat, and fish to meet protein requirements. This means that vegetable proteins have a lower presence, especially since they have a higher proportion of associated carbohydrates than animal protein sources. On the other hand, the usual fat sources of a ketogenic diet are seeds, olive oil, avocado and those nuts with a lower proportion of carbohydrates, such as almonds or walnuts.
How to get into ketosis to lose weight
Getting our metabolism into ketosis is easier than it seems to be. It is enough to eliminate those foods rich in carbohydrates and enhance the sources of fat and protein. Of course, they have to be of good nutritional quality. If we think about basic and common foods in our diet, some of those that we should eliminate are bread, chickpeas, beans and lentils, pasta, such as macaroni and spaghetti, any type of fruit and potatoes, for example.
Another important aspect is the correct replacement of mineral salts during ketosis since when the stored glycogen is used, electrolytes will also be lost. Therefore, correct hydration and adequate consumption of vegetables it is essential during the ketogenic diet.
The amount of carbohydrates necessary to enter ketosis is one of the biggest doubts among those who want to start with the ketogenic diet. The values are highly variable between individuals and can vary between 20-50 grams daily carbohydrates in most cases. However, individuals with high sports activity may be consuming higher amounts of carbohydrates and opening the doors to ketosis as well.
In addition, the time required to achieve the state of ketosis is also very different between individuals and can vary from a few days to several weeks. For all this, it is important to carry out the ketogenic diet properly and through the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist whenever possible.
Can the ketogenic diet be problematic?
This question becomes common when we talk about the ketogenic diet, and the short answer is yes. That is, the ketogenic diet could be problematic for your health just like any other model incorrectly applied power supply.
However, if we delve into the answer, we will see that scientific evidence increasingly yields more positive conclusions on the benefits of the ketogenic diet for weight loss. Various scientific studies have shown that the ketogenic diet is effective in reducing appetite and controlling body weight, which is why it is currently presented as a more than valid tool for the specific goal of weight loss in overweight and obese people. But be careful, this must be done under very specific conditions and under the supervision of a professional to avoid possible risks associated with poor planning.
The correct use of the ketogenic diet
Adherence to the ketogenic diet —that is, how easy it is for the user to follow this diet— seems to be one of its most difficult points. While some people tend to quickly become accustomed to carbohydrate deprivation in the diet, others often encounter great difficulties and they choose to reject this type of diet. Therefore, today we know that the ketogenic diet is not for everyone.
In addition, the ketogenic diet is not usually – and should not – be used as a permanent or long-lasting eating style, but rather as a pointed tool was to meet specific objectives. In fact, some nutritionists consider the temporary use of the ketogenic diet valid in those people who have more difficulty losing weight and who have already gone through other diets that have not brought them positive results.
We must consider the ketogenic diet as one more tool, aimed at weight loss, without classifying it as a definitive diet or miracle that promises results at all costs. Only in this way can we take advantage of its full potential with scientific evidence in hand.