Should You Try KETO?

Literally everyone has hopped on the keto bandwagon this year. If you're not doing keto, you must be living in a cave and eating toads and lichens.

People who were completely committed to other eating plans--doctors, big names in the Paleo movement, Atkins fans--have all made the switch to eating keto. Why is everyone ditching their old ideas and throwing their hat into the keto ring?

First, maybe we need to get up to speed on the ketogenic diet. Is this some new fad?

No. Keto has been around for about a hundred years! Doctors discovered, back in the 1920s, that a ketogenic diet helped with epilepsy. Originally, doctors used fasting to stop epileptic seizures, then found that a ketogenic diet had the same effect while allowing patients to continue to eat.

What is keto? In an overly simplified nutshell, keto means burning fat instead of sugar. Our bodies are built to do both. We have two pathways for creating energy. Whenever sugars are present and available for burning, our bodies will always burn glucose. But when glucose is absent--because we have restricted our intake of foods containing carbohydrates--our bodies switch over to burning ketones, which come from fat. This is fantastic for people who have lots of excess fat to burn!

On the ketogenic diet, carbs are kept very low. Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, kale, and swiss chard are all fine. Root vegetables contain too much sugar. As far as fruit goes, only small amounts of berries fit into this plan. Protein is also kept fairly low because protein can be converted into glucose. The main component of the diet is fat. This fat can come from animal products like butter, lard, egg yolks, cheese, fatty meats and fish. The fat can also come from plant foods like olives, nuts, seeds, and avocado, but these also contain carbs so keep the amounts in check. Calories are also kept fairly low.

Why are so many doctors recommending keto to their obese patients? Because it works.

Is keto for everyone? No. Those who are still growing should not restrict protein. So keto is not for children or teens. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also get ample protein, so probably want to avoid keto. If you're already lean and lifting heavy weights in order to build muscle, keto might not be the best choice. If you're not sure if it's right for you, ask your doctor.

If you decide to try keto, you'll need to commit to eating this way for at least a month, preferably longer. It can take a month or more for your system to become fully adapted to burning fat. At first, you might feel weird, tired, hungry, and irritable. Be sure to drink plenty of water and get your electrolytes. Once your body adjusts, you should feel great: energized, clear-headed, happy, and calm.

Do you have experience on the ketogenic diet? Please share your thoughts!