Switching to a ketogenic diet has become a trend among people who want to achieve a quick and dramatic weight loss.
This diet trend can be considered quite extreme considering the diet your body will be on—very low carbohydrate, high fat, and moderate protein. People who promote this lifestyle attest that it’s totally safe and possible to make your body a fat-burning machine to lose weight rapidly.
However, not everyone is keen on putting your body into ketosis. Critics argue that this diet is an unhealthy way to lose the excess weight and can be dangerous instead of beneficial.
Before delving deeper into the question of whether ketosis is safe or not, let’s first learn about ketosis. Ketosis happens when your body is deprived of carbohydrates and is only given moderate amounts of protein.
Using fat and fat stores, the liver releases ketones for the body to utilize. “Keto” is from the word ketones, which are small fuel molecules that the body produces as an alternative fuel when blood sugar or glucose is in short supply.
Ketosis as a fat-burner
People who are trying to lose weight can maximize the body’s capacity to burn fat while in ketosis. When you’re in a state of ketosis, your entire body relies on fat to be the major source of fuel. Your body’s insulin levels are very low and you significantly burn fat at a faster rate. Even stored fats are easily accessed to burn off.
Fasting can get your body into ketosis quickly, however, it’s not possible to fast forever because your body needs the nutrition it gets from food. Being on a ketogenic diet solves this problem; your body gets the benefits of fasting without actually fasting.
Ketosis vs. ketoacidosis
There are many misconceptions about inducing ketosis. Ketosis is a mild form of ketoacidosis; some experts also say that it’s a normal metabolic process that the body undergoes to keep working when it feels that there’s a short supply of carbohydrates.
On the other hand, ketoacidosis is a dangerous medical condition that commonly happens to people affected with type 1 diabetes when they don’t take insulin.
It is a severe malfunction of the body that happens when ketone production is severely uncontrolled. Initial symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and stomach pain can lead a person with ketoacidosis to being confused and worse, fall into a coma.
Ketosis, in general can become dangerous when excessive ketones build up in your blood stream. However, induced ketosis caused by restricting your carbohydrate intake usually does not go higher than 3 millimols or so.
If your body goes for a week without any food, ketone levels may go as high as 6 or 7; for your body to be in a state of ketoacidosis, levels have to be 10 or above. According to experts, people with a healthy and functioning pancreas produce insulin, which makes it hard for the body to induce ketoacidosis. Your body has a safety net, if it feels that you’re making too much ketones, it releases insulin to halt further ketone production.
If you are new to advanced methods of dieting like the ketogenic diet, it’s best to seek the advice of your practitioner before going through with the diet, to ensure that your body can handle it. When you start off with the diet, a step-by-step guide is also useful to help you through the transition.
A comprehensive beginner’s guide like The Keto Beginning is a great resource to have when it comes to anything keto. It’s a program that promotes nutritional ketosis to help you achieve goals such as weight loss, ending food obsessions and many more.
What’s great about this guide is that it not only helps you understand what your body will go through in ketosis, it also assists you to in reaching a state of nutritional ketosis by providing you with information such as ketogenic diet advice, meal plans, recipes, and even shopping lists to make it easy for you to change your diet.
Common side effects of ketosis
Restricting carbohydrates in your diet to prompt ketosis does not happen instantly. Your body will first have to adapt to the change and this can take some time. During this induction phase, you may experience temporary side effects, collectively this is known as the “keto flu.”
- Leg cramps—This can occur in the morning or at night. It’s a common indication that your body lacks magnesium
- Constipation—Since ketosis has a diuretic effect, dehydration is the most common cause of constipation
- Heart palpitations—Dehydration and lack of salt intake can also cause this. Consuming lots of coffee can also be the reason behind your increased heart rate
- Bad breath—Having a “fruity,” slightly sweet breath is common during ketosis. You can also smell this from your sweat and urine. This is caused by acetone, a byproduct of fat metabolism. Since blood acetone levels are elevated during ketosis, some of it escape through your breath
- Increased urination
These are just some of the potential side effects that you can experience while your body adapts to the change. These should go away after some time. To minimize these effects from happening, you can help your body by doing the following:
- Increase your water intake. Your body will lose a significant amount of water weight during the beginning phase of ketosis. Make sure that you drink 2 liters of water per day, or even more if you can to keep yourself well-hydrated
- Adequate salt intake. When you restrict your intake of carbohydrate, large amounts of sodium, an essential electrolyte, is excreted out of your body. To solve this deficit, add salt to your food. Drinking bouillon or broth can also help
- Don’t forget your micronutrients. Aside from monitoring your macros (fat, protein, and carbs), you should also keep track of your micros (vitamins and minerals). Common issues experienced by people starting out on a ketogenic diet are caused by either dehydration or lack of micronutrients. There are many low-carb vegetables that are good sources of these nutrients plus fiber; always include these when you eat.
- Try a moderate-carb diet initially. Before making the shift to a keto or very low-carb diet, make your body adapt slowly by starting on a moderate-carb diet. When you feel that your body’s able to take on the challenge, you can try recipes from The Keto Beginning. They’re not only low-carb but delicious as well