Many of us will have tried a low carb diet in the past and some may have found it worked well for them and others not so much. Despite Atkins dieting now being less on trend, a ketogenic diet is still one that some people are taking on and Jodie Brandman, in the Huffington Post has explained more about it.
The diet aims to get your body into a state of ketosis. This is where the bosy burns fat rather than sugar. In a diabetic, this is a really dangerous state to be in as it means that blood sugar levels have dropped dangerously low and they could be about to have a hypo, however, it seems to be felt that it is safe for non-diabetics to get into this state. In fact the diet has been used for treating medical ailments such as epilepsy, cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.
It is thought that as your body learns to burn fat for fuel, it does this more automatically and improves your metabolism as well as helping weight loss. In order to get the body to do this the person has to fast, usually 12-18 hours a day so they have to time their meals correctly. This eating their evening meal very early, perhaps before 6pm could easily have breakfast at 7am and have fasted 13 hours, but as most people eat later and like to fast a bit longer they will tend to skip breakfast. It is thought that by fasting, cells repair themselves as this takes less energy than making replacement cells and that it is easier for the body to deal with stress.
Meals should be made up of 70% fat, 20% protein and 10% carbs so lots of oily fish, seeds, avocados, nuts, olives, butter or coconut oil with meat, fish and eggs with a few non-starchy vegetables such as greens. It can take the body a few weeks to get used to these changes and it can even make you feel quite ill. The lack of fibre can sometimes have a bad effect on some people too. It is advised that you should continue with the diet for 4-6 months and then have some carbs again, particularly as it is recommended to have two portions of whole grains a day to prevent some diseases such as cancer. You will also be very restricted in what vegetables you can eat and cannot have fruit and so this means that it will be hard to have the big variety of colours in your fruit and vegetables that are promoted as giving you a big range of nutrients as well as providing essential fibre and water into the diet.
It has been found that this diet does not suit some people at all. People that suffer a lot of stress or insomnia could find it does not work and those with particular health issues such as thyroid problems, adrenal fatigue or pregnancy. It is therefore always wise to check with your GP before starting such an extreme diet. You may find it healthier if you adapt it slightly, perhaps not skipping breakfast but eating earlier in the evening so you still get a fast period, having carbohydrate in the day but not in your evening meal to help the fast be more effective or even fasting for a longer period but less often.
As with many of these diets it is about seeing whether it suits you and making changes to it until it does. You may know that certain foods work better for you than others, that certain times of eating are better for you or that your health needs certain foods. It is good to think about how a diet like this works and whether you think that might be something that will work for you. Some people find fasting relatively easy but others can find it extremely difficult. Some people enjoy eating a high fat, met and fish rich diet but others do not. If you are vegetarian, for example, then this will not be suitable for you. Trying to adapt it by replacing the meat and fish for dairy, tofu or meat substitutes may just not work as well, due to the fact that they are usually lower in fat and higher in carbohydrates. If you are a vegan, it would not work at all as vegans need to have grains in order to make sure that they get all of the necessary protein groups to balance their diet.
As a short term diet, it could be beneficial but the fact that it is not recommended to do in the long term, means that you could find that you will just put the weight back on again as soon as you get back to your old eating pattern. This means that you will need to be really careful. You could continue with the fasting and just slowly introduce some carbs back in. You will need to cut down on the fat so that you can allow for the calories in the carbs you are eating. Go for wholegrains and just eat small portions. Add in a bigger variety of vegetables and bring back fruit as well. Be careful with fruit as it can contain a lot of sugar, particularly dried fruit, although it can make a good alternative sweetener in baking. You could always return to the diet for a few weeks every three months in order to boost your metabolism, but it is wise to experiment and see what works for you. Like any diet, you will need to give it a fair trial and some people find, that because they really enjoy meat and fish and are not big fans of grains, fruit and vegetables, it can be a really easy diet for them to stick to. However, if you like grains, fruit and veg and do not eat much meat or fish then you may find that you will not enjoy it and therefore find it harder to stick to.