Chances are you’ve heard of the keto diet. For those still in the dark, the ketogenic diet, or keto as it’s known, is an ultra-low carbohydrate diet that can help you lose weight and improve health.
Most low carb diets allow for about 100 grams of carbs a day, but traditional keto followers set the ceiling at 20 grams per day. It’s a harder diet to follow simply because it’s quite restrictive. Sound miserable? Well, I tried it so you don’t have to.
First you need to know some metabolism 101. The body’s primary fuel source is glucose, which it has near constant access to through our Standard American Diet full of sugar, refined carbs and the like. If you can constantly burn glucose you’ll never tap into your fat stores.
If your body cannot access glucose, however, it will tap into said fat stores and produce ketones for fuel. Hello, fat burning mode!
Most websites I turned to for keto information recommended a blood sugar and ketone monitor. I ordered one from the internet and began educating myself on exactly which building blocks comprised my food. I learned pretty much everything has carbohydrates.
Since I’m into new diet, health-promoting fads, I spoke with Gillian Arathuizk, a Registered Dietitian at Lahey Outpatient Center, Danvers and co-author of the 2011 book “Flat Belly Diet! Diabetes: Lose Weight, Target Belly Fat, and Lower Blood Sugar with This Tested Plan from the Editors of Prevention” for an article on Intermittent Fasting. During our conversation she told me that cutting back on carbohydrates indeed helps with weight loss. It’s sticking with a restrictive diet that is the challenge.
“Restrictive diets can be good for certain people but for the majority of us they’re incredibly hard to maintain over time,” Arathuzik said.
The keto diet is similar to paleo, which is restrictive in different ways. Both diets push lean meats and vegetables, but on keto you should try to stick to leafy green vegetables or cruciferous vegetables because their carb count is very low. Fruits are not restricted on the paleo diet like they are on keto. Also worth mentioning is that keto allows for some wine — about two or three glasses a week.
I started testing my blood sugar and ketone levels. At first, my ketones didn’t register on the monitor because I had none in my blood. It took a solid week before I reached ketosis, the metabolic fat burning process.
It’s important to note you should always be eating the 20 grams of carbs because a complete restriction can lead to ketoacidosis, a sometimes fatal condition when the blood becomes too acidic.
“You should always talk to a health care provider first before changing your diet in any substantial way,” Arathuzik said.
I maintained the diet for six weeks, no cheating. But as a knowledge-worker in an office setting, the Halloween candy got the best of me. It was a slippery slope from that point. In six weeks I lost eight pounds, was sleeping much better and felt more rested during the day. I wasn’t relying coffee to fuel my mornings.
What I’ve taken away from it, however, is a better understanding of diet. It’s worth knowing what makes up your food and the effects those building blocks can have on the body.