Dieting has been in vogue for almost two centuries, and it shows no signs of going out of fashion. In fact, the only thing that seems to change about diets is how fast they claim to work. Nowadays, diets compete with each other to provide results that are faster and more extreme than others. Since people continue to live sedentary lifestyles and calorie-rich foods become more and more the norm, people are always on the hunt for new diets to help them slim down, and the result is that there are now hundreds and hundreds of different diets to choose from. One of the most popular in recent years is a diet you've probably heard of: the keto diet. Whether it's a friend, a personal trainer, or the diet gurus you see on tv, almost everyone it seems has heard of this diet. But not only are there misunderstandings about it, some of the very words associated with it can be confusing to some people, including the central word of the diet, the method of its action and the goal of all people on the diet: ketosis. What is ketosis, how do you get to it, and does it help you lose weight?
First, we'll mention something very upfront: the keto diet is extremely difficult, and is meant for those who have the discipline and self-control necessary to follow through with it. It is not for casual dieters - it's for those who are in it for the long haul.
Normally, your body breaks down carbs into glucose, which it then burns for energy. When your body has no glucose to break down, it resorts to breaking down fat cells into molecules called "ketones," which are then used for energy instead. Ketosis is, simply put, the state in which your body has a certain amount of ketones in the blood. A diet that induces ketosis was develped while trying to find a way to limit symptoms in children with epilepsy during a study conducted in the 1920s, but in the 1990s people started promoting it as a technique for losing weight.
That's it! Well, almost. See, it's one thing to know what ketosis is, and it's a very different thing to get to it. Now, we've all heard of low-carb diets like the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet, and others. These diets advocate restricting carbs for a number of reasons, from putting more focus on proteins and fats for their hunger-sating qualities (preventing you from being as hungry), to the idea that carbs uniquely make you more overweight and bloated. Whatever the reason, the thrust is that you should cut carbs largely out of your diet.
The keto diet takes this and dives into the deep end: you're supposed to have no more than 20 to 50 g of carbs per day. For reference, we've read that one standard banana alone contains 27 g of carbohydrates. That's intense! By starving your body of carbs, the diet forces your body to look for other sources of energy, and that's fat. The promise? You'll lose more body fat and weight more quickly than you would by just limiting your calories like any other diet.
Ketosis is not an easy place to be. There a lots of things that can go wrong if you're not careful. Because many carb-heavy foods contain vital minerals and vitamins like magnesium, potassium, zinc, and vitamin B, foods like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, followers of the keto diet who achieve ketosis may have a severe deficiency in any or all of these nutrients. That's why they need to take nutritional supplements, such as keto supplements, in order to make up for a deficiency in them. Another set of problems many people who get to ketosis face are the side effects: fatigue, mood swings, and general tiredness are common for people who follow a ketogenic diet. Some who want to offset these symptoms try and do it with exogenous ketones, ketone bodies that are synthesized in a lab and formulated for taking as supplements.
Everyone's looking for a magic bullet that will solve their issues with their weight and appearance, and to many, ketosis sounds like the answer. While ketosis and the keto diet have helped many people lose weight, it's not for everyone, due to the rigid and strict standards that must be followed in order to do it properly. But for those people who are dedicated and disciplined enough to follow it to the letter, get their daily carbs below 50 grams, and tough it out, ketosis may just be the way to lose weight quickly for those who have tried everything else, but come up short.
Ketosis isn't for everyone, but armed with the knowledge of what it is and what happens during it, you'll be more informed the next time it comes up.