It seems like everyone is talking about the keto diet — the high-fat, low-carb eating plan that promises to turn your body into a fat-burning machine. For that reason, keto has surged in popularity over the past year as a lose-weight-fast strategy. Thank Hollywood A-listers and professional athletes like Halle Berry, Adriana Lima, and Tim Tebow who’ve publicly touted the diet’s benefits, from shedding weight to slowing down aging. Here’s everything you need to know about going keto.
As for the mantra? Turoff thinks they are good words to live by, saying, “I kind of like it — it’s a pretty good description of balance, and people should include fun foods in their diet.” Also, Turoff adds, it’s a much better line than what model Kate Moss once said: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” (Though Elle has since reported that the veteran model now regrets saying that.)
The keto diet changes the way your body converts food into energy. Eating a lot of fat and very few carbs puts you in ketosis, a metabolic state where your body burns fat instead of carbs for fuel. When your body is unable to get glucose from carbs, your liver converts fatty acids from your diet into ketones, an alternative source of energy. Burning ketones in place of glucose reduces inflammation and spurs weight loss.
More good news: Snacks are totally allowed (and I'm not just talking about carrot sticks). There are plenty of packaged options out there designed for keto fans. FATBAR is one of them. These snack bars have 200 calories, 16 grams of fat, and four grams of net carbs. They're also plant-based and are made with almond or cashew butter, cocoa butter, coconut, pea protein, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds.
“When we put limits on our food consumption, it’s like we’re putting our whole being on alert that this is a different experience,” says Gregory. “It’s like you’re going on a private retreat, and during this time you’re operating differently. Food is such a primary part of our daily lives that when we’re eating differently, it calls us into a different way of living.”
Whether you're heading off to spin class, boot camp, or any other exercise, it's always important to hydrate so you can stay energized and have your best workout. Electrolyte-loaded athletic drinks, though, can be a source of unnecessary calories, so "drinking water is usually fine until you're exercising for more than one hour," says Newgent. At that point, feel free to go for regular Gatorade-type drinks (and their calories), which can give you a beneficial replenishment boost. But worry not if you like a little flavor during your fitness: There are now lower- cal sports drinks available, adds Newgent, so look out for 'em in your grocery aisles.
But beyond that, experts aren't convinced that the keto diet has any other scientifically-proven health benefits. In fact, it may have some distinct downsides. If you follow the keto diet incorrectly, for example (like by eating lots of saturated fats, versus healthy unsaturated fats), you're at risk of raising your cholesterol levels. “The best strategy to keep your heart healthy is to get as much fat as possible from unsaturated sources such as olive, avocado and canola oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives," says Ansel.
The guidelines are extensive, but you do not need to meet every recommendation all at once. To establish a healthy eating plan, the goal is to begin to make gradual changes to your eating and activity. You can select one or two guidelines a week or month to focus on. Over time, you will be able to make most, if not all, of the guidelines a part of your life.
One downside to a ketogenic diet for weight loss is the difficulty maintaining it. “Studies show that weight loss results from being on a low-carb diet for more than 12 months tend to be the same as being on a normal, healthy diet,” says Mattinson. While you may be eating more satiating fats (like peanut butter, regular butter, or avocado), you’re also way more limited in what’s allowed on the diet, which can make everyday situations, like eating dinner with family or going out with friends, far more difficult. Because people often find it tough to sustain, it’s easy to rely on it as a short-term diet rather than a long-term lifestyle.
Many diet plans cut out entire food groups, which can create nutrient deficiencies as well as health problems. For instance, if the diet is very low in carbohydrates and you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, it’s probably not a good fit. And if it’s too restrictive and you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s not a good idea, either. Keep in mind that pregnancy is not a time for weight loss. Speak with your doctor before making any changes to your diet if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
"Drastically limiting your intake of glucose, the usual energy source for your cells, reduces insulin secretions in your body. Since low levels of glucose are coming in, the body uses what is stored in the liver and then the muscles," says Rania Batayneh, MPH, the author of The One One One Diet: The Simple 1:1:1 Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss. After about three or four days, all of the stored glucose is used up.
Minerals are another component in a healthy diet. There are two categories of minerals: major minerals and trace minerals. The difference between each of these is the amount that is needed each day. The major minerals are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur. The trace minerals are iodine, iron, zinc, selenium, fluoride, chromium, and copper.
Early studies reported high success rates; in one study in 1925, 60% of patients became seizure-free, and another 35% of patients had a 50% reduction in seizure frequency. These studies generally examined a cohort of patients recently treated by the physician (a retrospective study) and selected patients who had successfully maintained the dietary restrictions. However, these studies are difficult to compare to modern trials. One reason is that these older trials suffered from selection bias, as they excluded patients who were unable to start or maintain the diet and thereby selected from patients who would generate better results. In an attempt to control for this bias, modern study design prefers a prospective cohort (the patients in the study are chosen before therapy begins) in which the results are presented for all patients regardless of whether they started or completed the treatment (known as intent-to-treat analysis).
If you're losing weight but not as fast as you'd like, don't get discouraged. Dropping pounds takes time, just like gaining them did. Experts suggest setting a realistic weight loss goal of about one to two pounds a week. If you set your expectations too high, you may give up when you don’t lose weight fast enough. Remember, you start seeing health benefits when you've lost just 5%-10% of your body weight.