The ketogenic diet is a diet rich in lipids that has been particularly fashionable for some years. However, it has been used for almost a hundred years to treat certain pathologies, including epilepsy. This diet aims to significantly reduce the consumption of carbohydrates in favor of lipids to cause a state of ketosis. Beyond the important weight loss, it would have many health benefits.
Characteristics of the ketogenic diet:
- Very high lipid consumption (75% of intakes)
- Protein intake unchanged
- Considerable reduction in carbohydrate intake
- Causes unpleasant symptoms in the first weeks (ketogenic influenza)
- Fast weight loss
The state of ketosis would have many health benefits (increased energy, protection against certain pathologies, etc.)
The main principles of the regime
Originally used in children with epilepsy to reduce seizures, the keto diet was developed in the 1920s. This diet first demonstrated anticonvulsant effects in epileptics. Then, the keto diet gained popularity in recent years as a quick method to lose weight. It is also used to improve symptoms of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
How does the ketogenic diet work?
The ketogenic diet for weight loss is characterized by the consumption of:
- 50g of maximum carbohydrates per day. This represents about 5% of the total calories consumed during the day. A normal diet usually provides between 45 and 65% of our calories as carbohydrates, 75% of lipids and 20% in protein.
- This diet completely reverses our traditional food pyramid and its main principles.
How does the ketogenic diet lead to weight loss?
Usually, the body gets its energy from the carbohydrates consumed during the day and which are necessary for the proper functioning of the body. In the ketogenic diet, carbohydrates are extremely limited, the body begins to tap into its stores of carbohydrates stored in the muscles and liver called reserves of “glycogen”. As each gram of glycogen is bound to 3-4 g of water in the body, the significant weight loss at the beginning of the ketogenic diet is largely a loss of water. When glycogen stores are depleted, the body naturally begins to use lipids or fats to produce energy. When the body uses lipids in the absence of carbohydrates, it produces waste called ketone bodies. Then, the ketone bodies begin to accumulate in the blood and their smell, similar to that of the nail polish, becomes perceptible in the breath. This is the main indicator that the body is in a state of “ketosis”. It usually takes 2-4 weeks to reach this state. The status of “ketosis” can be verified by purchasing urine test strips from a pharmacy.
This state of “ketosis” causes a marked decrease in appetite which helps to reduce the amount of food consumed. This condition can also lead to nausea and fatigue. Although this diet does not focus on calorie counting, those who follow it actually absorb fewer calories because they are not hungry and this leads to weight loss.
How long does the ketogenic diet last?
The ketogenic diet specific to weight loss has no time limit. it’s more of a lifestyle than a fixed-term diet. When practiced in the therapeutic field, the ketogenic diet has a variable duration from a few weeks to several years depending on the expected results.
Foods allowed in the ketogenic diet
The foods allowed in significant quantities in the ketogenic diet are:
- Vegetal oils
- Lemon juice
- Vegetables low in carbohydrates (spinach, lettuce, kale, etc.)
- Hard cheese (100 g per day)
- Authorized foods, but to consume with moderation, are:
- Whole milk
- Whole milk yogurts
- Vegetables higher in carbohydrates (except carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, peas and corn)
- Strong alcohol
- Coffee without sugar
Since a lot of fat is ingested every day, it’s important to worry about the type of fat you eat. It is advisable to limit the intake of omega-6 fatty acids which in excess, have a pro-inflammatory effect. The main sources of omega-6 are soybean, corn, safflower, grape seed, sunflower and wheat germ oils. It is therefore necessary to limit the consumption of salad dressings, vinaigrettes and mayonnaise made with these oils.
The consumption of monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts) and saturated fats (cuts of fatty meat, high-fat dairy products) is more advisable. The use of coconut oil is recommended because it contains fats that are easily converted into ketone bodies. Finally, the consumption of Omega-3 contained in oily fish, rapeseed oil and linseed, nuts or seeds of chia, flax or hemp must be sufficient.
The ketogenic diet is relatively restrictive, many foods are prohibited because they prevent the body from staying in a state of ketosis:
- Sweet products
- Fruits (except berries)
- Sweet vegetables (beets, corn, carrots, etc.)
- Soft-paste cheese
- Dream cheese
- Soft drinks
- Honey, jams, syrup
- Juices and vegetables
- Sweet sauces
- Milk or yogurt made from vegetable milks (soya, almonds, etc.)
- Flavored yogurts
- Sweet fruit compotes
Recommendations and precautions to take
What are the dangers of the ketogenic diet?
In the first weeks, very unpleasant effects can occur. We are talking about ketogenic flu. It is a transitional period almost always accompanying the passage of the body in a state of ketosis. Switching to a very low-carb diet is a major change, and your body may need time to adapt to this new way of eating.
For some people, this transition period can be especially difficult.
Signs of the keto flu may start popping up within the first few days of cutting back on carbs.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe and vary from person to person.
While some people may transition to a ketogenic diet without any side effects, others may experience one or more of the following symptoms (4Trusted Source):
- Muscle cramps
- Poor concentration
- Stomach pain
- Muscle soreness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Sugar cravings
Caution, some side effects seem to persist even after the transition period such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), dehydration and increased risk of urinary stones or kidney stones and constipation. A supplement of fiber and vitamins is recommended when you want to follow this diet, probably due to the low content of fruits, legumes and whole grain products that are very good sources of fiber and micronutrients.
Cancer, epilepsy: what are the therapeutic indications of the ketogenic diet?
Beyond weight loss, the ketogenic diet is used in the treatment of various pathologies: epilepsy, cancer, inflammatory diseases, etc. This is why it was originally created in the 1920s. In the therapeutic field, the interest of ketogenic food is still to be proven.
Is this diet compatible with bodybuilding and sports?
Yes quite. Some studies even show the benefits of the ketogenic diet that would allow for a better performance, a reduction of the recovery time and which would facilitate the effort. In recent years, this diet has also been very popular in sports.