These days, one cannot get away without seeing a keto section in the supermarket or a keto selection on the menu in the restaurant. There’re even establishments just dedicated to serving the growing number of people following this way of eating. So if you haven't heard of the keto diet yet, where have you been? This diet has been around for a while and it has recently skyrocketed in popularity.
So what is this hype all about? Is it just another fad or can we really benefit from following a ketogenic lifestyle?
Well, here're your answers to what you need to know if you’re trying to make sense of the keto diet or wanting to embark on it. The ketogenic lifestyle guide here is made up of three primary categories - its definition, why people follow it and how they do so.
1. What is keto? (short for "ketogenic")
The keto diet is a low-carbohydrate, high fat and moderate protein diet that allows the body to enter ketosis (a metabolic state where the body uses fat as its source of energy instead of carbohydrates).
2. Why it's popular right now
This change in eating habit has been gaining popularity recently because:
1) It can be used for weight loss and/or weight maintenance by helping the user feel more satiated without eating too much, and thus causing less of an urge to snack or eat between meals. This makes following this lifestyle easier - you won't be hungry!
2) It also helps reduce risk factors associated with diabetes such as insulin resistance, glycemic control and fasting plasma glucose (Sacks, Lichtenstein et al. 2009).
3. How do I follow a ketogenic lifestyle?
A keto diet typically involves minimizing carbs and upping your consumption of healthy fats, such as:
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Cheese and other dairy products (butter and cream)
- Nuts and seeds
- Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel
The general rule of thumb for keto dieting is to consume less than 50g of carbs per day (the lower the better, ideally below 20g/day which will mean removing all sources of carbs from sweetened beverages like starches (rice, pasta, noodles), starchy vegetables (potatoes), sugar foods (soft drinks, juices, desserts, sweets etc.) and more than 70% of your calories from healthy fats.
4. Transitioning into the keto lifestyle
Beginners may experience a lack of energy and feel more tired than usual at the beginning of this, this is normal as your body adapts to ketosis. You'll probably be very hungry at first but that feeling will eventually become less and less frequent so don't worry!
Your breath might smell bad since ketones are excreted through urine and breath (acetone), this usually fades after a while though so don't worry about it too much!
Here are some ways to make that transition smoother:
1) Get your body into ketosis faster through intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting usually follows the format of fasting for 16 hours (including sleeping) and eating within an 8 hour window.
2) Gradually reduce your carbs intake by switching to lower carb versions of your favourite foods (substituting bread with lettuce wraps or cauliflower rice instead, for example)
3) Increase your consumption of healthy fats (olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, etc.) to also feel fuller.
4) Buy keto-friendly snacks that contain high amounts of fatty acids like raw nuts or seeds (no added sugars or preservatives), dark chocolate (70% cocoa or more), or avocado
5) Drink more water! This will help keep you hydrated while also helping you feel fuller longer.
6) Keep an eye on your protein intake - too much protein will cause the body to turn some of it into glucose (which defeats the purpose of keto). Try to experiment with different types of meat alternatives such as pork rinds or tuna salad made with mayonnaise instead of regular mayonnaise.
7) Eating enough vegetables is definitely recommended as well to make this a balanced and fulfilling diet. But take note of carbohydrates, especially of root vegetables.
Don't be afraid that you're not getting enough carbs for energy because fat is what makes up most of the keto diet! You can get away with eating 20 grams of carbs per day when on keto vs. the 225 to 325 grams on average recommended daily by health experts.
Keep in mind that keto is not a long term diet, but rather something you are following for 2-4 weeks to achieve short term goals. However, some people do choose to follow this lifestyle more permanently because it works well with their body chemistry or face a health condition requiring them to keep to this diet.
5. Keto snacks
Eating on keto doesn't have to feel boring or restrictive at all! There are many snacks that you can purchase from your local health store or supermarket that are high in fat and low in carbs such as:
- Pork rinds
- Nuts and seeds (without added sugar or low-sugar)
- Vegetables sticks with nut butter
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Unsweetened yogurt with berries
- Meat jerky
Tip: Pili Pushers Pili Nuts are the perfect keto snack with the highest fat and lowest carb of any nut.
You can also make keto snacks at home yourself, such as:
- Cauliflower pizza crust (just pop it in the oven for 15-20 min with some cauliflower, mozzarella cheese, oregano and basil!)
- Keto cookies made with nut butter or coconut oil instead of regular butter! There are tons of keto recipes online that will show you visually how to easily create your own snacks. Just search "keto recipes" on Pinterest for inspiration!
6. Exercises to do while following this diet
There are many exercises you can do while following this way of eating! Remember that you're following a low carbohydrate diet and it's likely you're not consuming too many calories while on keto. This makes it an ideal lifestyle for weight training so get yourself to the gym!
Best exercises to do while on a keto diet include:
1) High intensity interval training (HIIT). This involves alternating between periods of intense physical activity followed by a period of low intensity activity, such as walking or jogging etc within a short period time.
2) Weight training is great for maintaining good metabolic health and keeping your muscles in shape.
3) Endurance exercises like cycling or running are also great for maintaining your cardiovascular health and can be done particularly on a ketogenic diet because they use carbohydrates for energy. The afterburn effect will then increase your ketone levels even more!
While not necessary to do them while following this lifestyle, it's always better to do some sort of cardiovascular exercise in order to stay healthy. Just make sure you keep track of your heart rate so you don't overdo it with the intensity or time spent exercising! [Tracking is recommended. A resting heart rate is between 60-100 bpm.]
Keep in mind that if you decide to follow keto long term, you may have slightly lower energy levels when working out since the body is used to producing energy with carbohydrates. However, it's important not to lose hope! It's totally possible to work out while on keto; the key is adjusting your workout for this particular lifestyle.
Followers of keto usually say that they feel more satisfied, have less cravings and are able to be fully active despite following this particular lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with snacks and small meals throughout the day as this helps keep you on track with your goals and makes it easier to transition into keto. Remember that if you're not used to eating a certain way, there may be an adjustment period where you feel sluggish or tired; however, according to the National Institutes of Health's website, such side effects usually go away within 2-3 weeks.
If you take care of yourself while following keto by keeping track of your pulse during exercise, keeping hydrated and limiting your portion sizes, then you will successfully achieve what you've set. The results are definitely worth it: increased mental focus, a healthier weight, and more energy during workouts.