Most ketogenic diet guidelines recommend limiting your total carbohydrate intake to 15-30 grams or 5%-10% of your total calorie intake a day. Eating more than 50 grams of carbs may disrupt ketosis.
With keto diets, however, carb restrictions vary from person to person. Some people can eat more and still stay in ketosis, whereas others may need to restrict their carb intake more in order to stay in ketosis.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic process that helps the body survive when it doesn’t have enough carbs to burn for energy.
Normally, your body converts carbs or glucose into energy and produces insulin to process the glucose in your bloodstream. When glucose is used as the primary energy source, fats remain unused and are stored in the body, contributing to weight gain.
The keto diet aims to put your body in a state of ketosis by restricting the amount of carbs your body can use for energy. Instead of using sugar or glucose from carbohydrates, your body will break down ketone bodies—a type of fuel produced by the liver from fat. The result is that your body burns stored fat for fuel.
Studies show that ketosis takes about 72 hours to kick in.
Why does eating too many carbs disrupt ketosis?
Not following accepted ketogenic diet guidelines can disrupt ketosis because carbs are the body's preferred energy source. If your carb intake is too high, carbs may be used for fuel instead of ketone bodies, which is the main source of fuel during ketosis.
The keto diet flips the balance of carbs and fats that are traditionally recommended for good health:
- USDA Guidelines
- 55% carbs
- 20% protein
- 25% fat
- Keto diet
- 5% carbs
- 20% protein
- 75% fat
What should you eat to avoid disrupting ketosis?
Keto is all about carbohydrate deprivation rather than calorie restriction. As a rule, focus on naturally high-fat foods and avoid highly processed foods labeled trans fats as much as possible. Foods that can disrupt ketosis pretty quickly include:
- Sugar and sweetened beverages
- Too much fruit
- Processed meats (these often have hidden sugars)
- Fat-free and low-fat dairy (too much lactose, which is a dairy sugar)
- Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, and some winter squash
- Too much alcohol
Some people believe that to achieve ketosis, they can’t eat carbohydrates at all, or that if they are not in ketosis 100% of the time, it will not work. None of those statements are correct. A typical keto diet may include:
- Grass-fed and free-range pork, chicken, beef, and eggs
- Vegetable protein sources such as soybeans
- Nuts and seeds
- High-fat dairy products such as cream, whole butter, and hard cheese
- Leafy greens
- Fish and seafood
- Olive oil, coconut oil, and vegetable oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids
What are the pros and cons of following a ketogenic diet?
- Curbs cravings: Some studies report that people feel less hungry while in ketosis, and many people lose weight while on the keto diet.
- Controls sugar levels: Research suggests that ketosis may help in controlling blood sugar and improving insulin sensitivity.
- Promotes brain health: Ketones have a protective effect on the brain, which is why they can help with seizures. They reduce oxidative stress and improve brain mitochondrial function. Researchers are now investigating the keto diet in the treatment of various brain conditions.
- Boosts energy: Ketones are a more efficient energy source than glucose. They have more energy per weight and require less oxygen to be metabolized.
- Helps prevent cancer: Cancer cells cannot thrive in the presence of ketones. As a result, researchers are looking into ketones and ketogenic diets as adjuvant cancer therapy.
- Reduces inflammation: Ketones have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Inflammation is a major cause of many diseases.
- Eliminates processed foods: This diet eliminates almost all processed foods, which is always beneficial to overall health.
- Constipation: Because you'll be eating far fewer carbs than you're used to while on a keto diet, you'll also most likely be eating less fiber. This can cause digestive upset like constipation.
- Low energy: Many metabolic changes occur in your body before you can switch to using fat for fuel from glucose. During this time, it's normal to feel tired, weak, and foggy because your body conserves energy for metabolic processes.
- Nutrient deficiency: Avoiding whole grains, beans, fruits, and many vegetables can result in nutrient deficiencies.
- Short-term side effects: Fatigue, headache, brain fog, and upset stomach, also known as “keto flu,” are common short-term side effects.
- Long-term health risks: Kidney stones, osteoporosis, and liver disease are among long-term health risks. Other risks are unknown because no long-term studies have been conducted.
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The Nutrition Source: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/
Ketogenic Diet: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/
Ketogenic Diets and Chronic Disease: Weighing the Benefits Against the Risks: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2021.702802/full
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