Eating fat makes you fat, right?
If that were precisely true, Tim Tebow would be riding the bench and Adriana Lima would be no Victoria’s Secret angel… they both credit a keto diet for their svelte physiques.
The reality of the fat fallacy is a little more nuanced.
There Are Good Fats and Bad Fats
A standard ketogenic diet is comprised primarily of healthy fats followed by protein and low-carbohydrate vegetables.
When fats make up most of your diet, it is incredibly important to focus on the type and quality of those fats.
Ideally, you want to tip the scale toward omega-3 fatty acids as opposed to the omega-6 that are abundant in our steaks, burgers, and bacon. And you want to avoid highly processed fats as much as possible.
You can tip the balance of omega-3’s to omega-6’s in the right direction by switching out your cooking oils.
Cooking fats to avoid: Sunflower oil, corn oil, soy oil, cottonseed oil, margarine, and canola oil plus ALL TRANS-FATS (any partially hydrogenated oils, like shortening) should be avoided like Chuck-E-Cheese during Spring Break.
Trans fat raises your LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowers your HDL (good) cholesterol, and that actually does clog your arteries.
Wait a minute… so butter and lard are good for you?
The fact is, trimming the fat off your steak isn’t as important as once thought. New studies have found that saturated fats such as butter are not associated with risk of cardiovascular disease or premature death (source).
Typically, it’s the processed or high-carbohydrate food the fat is paired with that’s the culprit in amping up cholesterol and blood pressure.
Does The Ketogenic Diet Have Any Immediate Side Effects?
Although the ketogenic diet is safe for healthy people, it can cause some unwanted side effects during the period of adaptation to the diet.
This period is called keto flu. This one lasts for a few days. The possible side effects include:
- Lack of energy
- Sleep pattern disruption
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Decline in sports performance
You might also experience some bad breath caused by a switch to burning ketones for fuel, skin conditions as your body detoxes, and sugar cravings.
To minimize the side effects in the early stages of the diet, try starting with a low carbohydrate diet first. Your body can then learn to burn more fat until your carbohydrate intake reaches its fat-burning threshold, which is about 20-40 grams per day. At that point, you’re in ketosis and burning fat like a machine.
A ketogenic diet can also disrupt the water balance in your body, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of pure, filtered water and also getting enough potassium and magnesium.
Especially during the first days of the ketogenic diet, it is important that you eat until you are full without paying too much attention to calories. As long as you’re eating the foods from the keto-friendly list (found here), you’ll drop fat without worrying about restriction.
There are numerous advantages to the keto diet, including weight-loss and mental clarity, but you want to know, what are the risks?
Possible Dangers Of The Ketogenic Diet
The keto diet, like any other diet, has some possible drawbacks that you should be aware of before you start.
You may lack energy during the first few days of the ketogenic diet. You may feel tired and apathetic (this is called Ketogenic flu).
This is not surprising, since the body must adapt to this diet composed almost exclusively of lipids and proteins.
It’s a giant shift. You’re switching over from grabbing quick glucose-fuel to digging deeper into your fat stores. Your body can take up to 2 weeks to fully tap into its new fat energy source.
Recovery for Athletes
People who participate in high-explosive sports, such as weightlifters, can suffer from poor muscle recovery when they swtich to a standard keto diet.
If you’re an athlete, you might want to try a cyclical keto diet, wherein you cycle healthy carbohydrates (like sweet potatoes), in after heavy workouts to replenish muscle glycogen.
The keto diet can cause constipation. This typically occurs when you’re not consuming enough fiber, salt, or water… which means you’re doing it wrong. You should be eating nearly-unlimited amounts of the green veggies on the keto shopping list, drinking water, and even adding a pinch of good quality salt to your foods.
Not everyone suffers from constipation on keto– in fact, a lot of people say that the keto diet really gets them “moving.”
It’s amazing what happens when you take all of the crap out of your diet (no pun intended), and add in veggies and water!
Losing Water Weight
You might see your weight drop drastically in the first few days to a week of the keto diet. That’s because carbohydrates lock the water in.
Get rid of the carbs, drop the water weight.
But that means when you decide to grab a bag of fries, the water weight will jump back up. So be careful of that cheat meal.
It also means you’re going to have to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated.
Start your morning with a room temperature glass of water before anything else goes in your body. Keep water bottle with you at all times, and remember… if you feel hungry, you might actually just be thirsty.
So, drink up!
Who Shouldn’t Do Keto?
Just like undies, no diet plan is a one-size-fits-all. There are certain circumstances where eating keto might not be beneficial.
If you have pre-existing conditions, especially if they’re pancreatic, kidney, liver, or thyroid-related, you’ll want to check with your doctor before embarking on any major lifestyle change.
Keto dieting might not be good for anyone recovering from an eating disorder, simply because food restriction of any kind can promote the habits they’re trying to break.
If you’re pregnant or nursing, you’ll want to consult with your doctor just to make sure you’re getting all of the nutrients you need for you and growing baby.
Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes could require special attention. The plan has proven effective for both, but should be carefully supervised.
If you have any questions or concerns, it’s always a good idea to touch base with your health care professional. You only have one body, so it’s better to be cautious.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is, often people are afraid of the unknown and the new.
The good thing is that keto eating isn’t really new, only the “buzzword” is new. This is pretty much the way our ancestors ate as they hunted bison, speared fish, foraged for roots and seeds, and nibbled veggies and berries.
They fasted periodically… because sometimes there wasn’t any food. They ate seasonally, and they certainly did not run to Krispy Kreme for donuts. They didn’t even eat grains, let alone refined sugar.
It’s just been since industrialization and the agricultural revolution that we’ve been eating grains and processed food products. Interestingly, the rates of chronic disease have skyrocketed. Hmmm…
So, if you want to step away from the Standard American Diet to get your physical and mental health on track, keto might be the plan for you.
If you give it a shot, let us know how it goes. Drop a comment below. And if you come up with some yummy keto recipes, please share.
We like food.
Find out more about Melinda and see more of her posts here.