Does the keto diet actually work? Is it safe? Since this diet has started gaining more popularity recently, these are questions that experts and dieters are asking themselves all the time. Celebrities might be using keto plans left and right, but reports like the 2018 U.S. News & World Report on diets might have left more in doubt than before. In reality, there might not be a one-size answer that fits everyone.
How the Ketogenic Diet Works
Unlike other popular diets out there, the ketogenic diet does actually have good scientific reason behind why it works. Basically, it works because it sends the body into a metabolic state called ketosis.
How do you reach that state? It’s the low-carb, high-fat meal plan that does the trick.
After several days of nixing carbs in your diet, your body no longer has the choice of fueling itself with glucose. Then, since you’re feeding it mostly healthy fats, you’re essentially forcing your body to burn fat first. And you can only guess what kind of effect that might have on your weight loss goals.
On the flip side, many people are wondering if it’s really safe to cut out all those healthy carbs while eating mostly animal protein. Protein doesn’t have all the essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to keep a strong immune system and fight off disease. Can a diet this restrictive be safe to follow?
Indeed, many people who try it end up with side effects like headaches, nausea or disrupted digestion. Others have little to no side effects and attest that the diet makes them feel leaner, more energetic and stronger than before.
Here’s one woman’s outlook on the ketogenic diet after a short trial:
What It’s Like to Keto
Alyssa Sparacino is a healthy, fit young woman who decided to trial the ketogenic diet to see what it was about. After a 2-week period, she told the world via Shape Magazine what her experience was like.
Normally, Sparacino follows a flexitarian diet, eating little meat and many healthy carbs throughout the week. For her, the restrictive trial would be a stark change from her usual relaxed eating style.
Unlike the majority of Americans, though, Sparacino enjoys cooking and works out on a regular basis. No stranger to good health, she opted to work with an alternative doctor who could answer her questions and keep her on the right track during her trial period.
Then, she started by getting educated on the keto diet and making a plan with her doctor that fit her lifestyle. For instance, Sparacino knew that she would want to eat out for lunch to ease prepping all the food.
Next, the determined dieter picked up what she needed at the grocery store and journaled her experience. Like most others who use the keto diet, she felt the normal ups and downs, including some lethargy within the first few days.
However, her already healthy and strong lifestyle likely kept her body from severe side effects. In the end, Sparacino lost 4 pounds in 2 weeks and said that she felt strong and lean with energy to spare during hard workouts. Albeit, by the end, she was definitely craving some carbs.
Her mostly positive experience, though, might encourage others to trial the diet as well.
Warnings for the Keto Diet
Experts go back and forth about how effective the keto diet is for several reasons—and there are a few warnings you should look after carefully.
- It’s restrictive.
First, many people will have a difficult time following the ketogenic diet because it’s so restrictive. Even many healthy foods are scratched off the list due to their high-carb content.
Because of this, not only could it cause you to feel discouraged and limited, but excluding food groups should make any doctor concerned about your health. You might not be getting all the nutrients your body needs.
2. It might not help you lose weight long-term.
Second, you might have the chance of gaining back the weight you lost once the keto period is over. Most people on the keto diet do not participate in it year-round. They may try the diet for a few weeks or months to lose weight and then cycle on and off the diet later.
However, experts have questioned other quick dieting methods because people might binge or try to make up for weeks they’re not allowed to eat certain foods. You may have the same risk here, although research hasn’t confirmed that the keto diet is ineffective for weight loss.
In one preliminary study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers found that its overweight participants did lose weight on the ketogenic diet. However, researchers noted that not much of this weight loss was from fat.
The researchers compared these results with the effects of a high-carb baseline diet on 17 men. Of course, due to the small size of this study, more research is needed to judge its accuracy.
Another concern about the quick weight loss is that you may be simply losing water weight. Again, water weight can easily return once you’re using your normal eating habits again.
3. You could end up with ketoacidosis.
If your keto diet is not managed properly, you could build up too many ketones in your body. When you have too many ketones, your blood turns more acidic, causing problems in a variety of areas. Ketoacidosis is a life-threatening condition and needs immediate attention.
- extreme thirst
- shortness of breath
- stomach pain
Should You Follow the Ketogenic Diet?
Because of the level of controversy surrounding the diet, using it is often a judgment call on your part. However, if you have other health conditions, you should clear the diet with your doctor first. In some cases, you should avoid this restrictive diet entirely.
For example, if you have type 1 diabetes, your body already has a difficult time producing insulin and maintaining blood sugar. Creating a diet imbalance would be too risky for you since it may increase your chance of getting ketoacidosis. For type 2 diabetes, consult your doctor.
Also, realize that you may have a more difficult time adjusting if you usually eat a carbohydrate-rich diet. Before using the keto diet, you may want to slowly reduce your intake to recommended levels while eating healthy carbs.
In addition, if you do use the keto diet, you can safeguard yourself by following Sparacino’s example. Work with a nutritionist to guide your meal planning. That way, your nutritionist can warn you of habits that could harm you during your dieting period.
Overall, the people who will benefit from this diet the most are those who may want to lose weight but have strong motivation and dedication. You might find it easier if you have the support of a diet partner to help you through. Also, you should be in fairly good health otherwise. Always consult your doctor before attempting restrictive diets like this one.
Among a slew of fad diets that are popular today is the ketogenic diet. Many celebrities swear that it’s made them healthier and stronger, and you may be curious to try it yourself. However, you should understand the dangers involved and work with a professional whenever possible. In the end, this diet is not for everyone—and your doctor should be involved in helping you make that call.