Many well-known people, such as Kim Kardashian West and LeBron James, have been vocal supporters of the ketogenic diet as a method for weight loss. However, what precisely is it, and does the scientific evidence back up the hype?
The ketogenic diet, often known as the keto diet, places emphasis on foods that are high in fat and places severe restrictions on the use of carbs. According to Jason Ewoldt, RDN, LD, a wellness dietitian at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program, approximately 60–80 percent of calories you consume should come from fat (HLP). According to him, a genuine ketogenic diet also consists of consuming just moderate amounts of protein and less than 50 grams of carbohydrates on a daily basis.
The keto diet has been practiced for a considerable amount of time. According to Ewoldt, in the 1920s, physicians initially began using it as a treatment for epilepsy in children, and to this day, it is occasionally used for that purpose. However, it is becoming increasingly popular these days as a means of weight loss or as a means of fueling extreme endurance activities such as marathon running and triathlons.
How does the keto diet work?
According to Ewoldt's explanation, a normal American diet consists of carbs comprising at least fifty percent of the total, which the body transforms into glucose. That glucose serves as fuel for your cells to burn. However, if you convert to a diet that is very rich in fat and very low in carbohydrates, your body will be forced to stop using glucose as a source of energy and will instead turn to fatty acids and ketone bodies for fuel. This state, which is called ketosis, is where the diet gets its name from.
Does it really work for weight loss?
The answer is yes, but there is a caveat to that statement. After two to three weeks on the ketogenic diet, the body will begin the process of burning fat for fuel (ketosis). Therefore, do not anticipate seeing benefits immediately. Studies have indicated that adhering to a ketogenic diet that is either low in carbohydrates or very low in carbohydrates can help people lose weight.
Ewoldt offers some words of caution here: "This is a pretty limited diet, and it can be difficult to stick to it. The typical person is not going to be able to maintain this behavior over the long term. In addition, there is a large level of saturated fat, and only small amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are included in the dish, so it is not the healthiest option."
Why do some athletes follow a keto diet?
This is how Ewoldt explains it: "An athlete who maintains a healthy diet that includes carbs is able to store approximately 2,500 calories of glucose, which is the body's preferred source of energy if they do so. On the other hand, this athlete has access to around 40,000 calories worth of fat."
The theory behind this is that if one switches to a diet that is heavy in fat, eventually, the body will adapt to using fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. It seems to reason that endurance athletes, such as marathon runners and triathletes, would be able to compete for longer periods of time if they had access to a far larger quantity of fat. However, athletes need to consume some carbohydrates in addition to fat in order to meet their energy needs. According to Ewoldt, the process of transitioning your body from burning glucose to burning fat can take anything from several weeks to several months.