The Ketogenic Diet follows the principle of “eat fat to lose fat”. This diet is high in saturated fat and devoid of carbohydrates. Our bodies normally convert glucose into energy. When glucose becomes scarce (as when on a low-carb diet), it looks for an alternate source of energy, and the liver now begins to produce ‘ketones’ by burning fat instead, making it effective for weight reduction. It was devised initially as a method of treating epilepsy and is known to also benefit those suffering from neuro-degenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. For healthy people, benefits include rapid weight loss, sustained energy levels and increased athletic performance.
This is what you need to know before starting a Ketogenic diet.
Planning and Timing
Timing is a crucial factor when starting this diet. Avoid periods when you are over-worked or over-stressed. You will be getting accustomed to new types of food and preparation methods, and this may disrupt your normal routine for a while.
Planning is everything. Begin by reading up on new recipes and stocking up on foods needed such as butter, fatty fish, meat, diary and greens. Invest in a ketone or glucose meter to strategically monitor progress. Handy kitchen tools like a blender, steamer and frying pan will make for easy cooking.
Hire a Professional
Several precautions need to be taken before you begin, in order to ensure best results and avoid unwanted side-effects. Micro-nutrient deficiencies are a common result of this diet, and you also run the risk of over-exercise and burn-out. Exercises that demand glycogen should be removed from your routine if looking to effectively use the Ketogenic approach. A professional will help you chalk out a meal plan best suited to your body’s needs, and tweak the diet in case of any health conditions or medication.
Increase Your Water and Salt Intake
While in Ketosis, your body tends to rapidly shed electrolytes such as Sodium from the kidneys. Unless forbidden by your doctor, replenish the salt reserves by incorporating pink Himalayan salt and rock salt into your meals. Feast on leafy veggies, salted nuts and avocadoes as well.
Carbohydrates help store water, so less carbs means less water stored in the body. Be sure to increase your water intake to roughly 3 liters per day on an average.
The ‘Keto Flu’
This is a temporary setback, so don’t be alarmed. As the body switches from burning sugar to burning fat, many experience ‘carbohydrate withdrawal symptoms’ such as lack of energy, headaches and brain-fog. Effects may last from a few days to a couple of weeks. Be patient, remain determined, and get plenty of rest till it passes.
Blood Tests and Checkups
Before you begin, it is highly recommended that you take a few basic health checks and blood tests. This is a precautionary measure, as your health practitioner will need to adjust your diet in the event that you suffer from any health conditions.
Common tests to go in for are: Hemoglobin, kidney/liver function tests, Lipid Profile and Thyroid. Your doctor may also prescribe some multivitamins to supplement your diet.
Being on this diet does not mean you ought to load up on unhealthy, processed fats. Stick to non-processed, natural fats such as eggs, fatty fish, full-fat dairy, nuts, avocadoes, coconut oil and olive oil. Processed meats and cheeses should be avoided at all costs.
Additionally, control your protein intake. Too much protein may cause the body to convert excess amino acids to sugar, which triggers the release of insulin, leading to fat gain.
It’s a gradual process
Your new slogan should be ‘Start Slow; Start Gradual’. In the heat of the moment, inspiration and determination might be soaring and you might be willing to do what it takes. But keep in mind that this is a radical transition for your body. Drastically decreasing your carb intake will make you lethargic, dull and depressed. Adopt a realistic approach and cut back on carbohydrates gradually, over a period of days and weeks, to ensure it’s not too big a shock.
So, ready to finally take the leap? Good luck and happy feasting!