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Keto diet / No carbs For Weight loss

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Keto diet / No carbs For Weight loss

Overweight overview:

Being overweight or obese is a medical condition characterized by having an excess amount of body fat that is not considered normal or healthy for an individual’s height. It can increase the risk of developing many health problems such as heart diseases, diabetes, and hypertension.

The BMI (Body Mass Index) is a great tool used to assess the body composition and measure weight in comparison to height. Accordingly, you can know if you are overweight or not.

A BMI of 25 is the threshold for obesity. When an individual has a BMI above 25, that person is considered overweight or obese. 

The human body stores an average of 1,400 to 2,000 calories of carbohydrates and an average of 50,000 to 80,000 calories of fat. This means that people have huge fat stores in their bodies, and if they don’t burn fat properly, they can end up gaining a lot of weight. 

Since people began to follow the new modern dietary pattern, known as the Western pattern diet (WPD) or standard American diet (SAD), obesity is now more prevalent across communities and has become a serious health issue.

The WPD or SAD incorporates a high amount of fast food, processed meat, high sugar products, refined grains, and other food items into one’s diet. These foods are unhealthy because they contain a high number of calories and have less nutritional value compared to other foods. 

The Keto Diet perspective: what causes weight gain

Our diet has changed drastically over the past years. Based on the current guidelines followed, the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for carbohydrates is between 45% to 65%. This is considered a high percentage which indicates that the food we consume is quite rich in carbs.

This excessive carbohydrate consumption can lead to weight gain for the following reasons:

1- Hunger: carbohydrates are digested much more quickly than proteins and fats. This means that they pass quickly through the digestive system, leaving the individual feeling hungry because there is no feeling of satiety. 
Hence, this results in additional calories consumed, and more weight gain eventually.

2- Body doesn’t burn fat: when carbohydrates are consumed, the body automatically uses them as a primary source of energy because they are the easiest to access and metabolize compared to fat.

Subsequently, when people follow a high carbs diet, most of the energy they need is easily converted from carbohydrates. Hence, there’s no real urge for the body to burn fat and use it for energy. 
As a result, fat stores remain untouched, and people will start gaining extra weight. 

3- Bigger appetite: eating carbs causes an increase in insulin levels which makes you feel hungry. Accordingly, the person will feel the need to eat again. And when you eat again more food with carbs, this will trigger an additional insulin spike that will open your appetite to eat once more. 
This leads your body to get into a vicious circle. Subsequently, fat will start accumulating in the body, and people will start gaining more and more weight.

4- High insulin: when we consume lot of carbohydrates in the diet, insulin hormone production is increased. Nevertheless, a high insulin level prevents the body from breaking down fat for energy. 

Subsequently, by following a high carbohydrates diet, fat molecules remain stored in the body and start accumulating. Eventually, this leads to more weight gain. 

5- Insulin resistance: consuming carbs normally prompts the pancreas to secrete insulin to help control glucose in the blood and move it into the cells to be used for nutrition and energy. However, for insulin resistance people, the body’s response to insulin does not allow sugars to enter the cells. This impaired response will make people experience what is called “insulin resistant hunger”. 

This means that rather than being actually hungry, people will have a distressing desire to eat. Accordingly, if people don’t consume a balanced diet consisting of proper amounts of proteins and fat, the person will continuously crave for carbs. This will result in additional weight gain. 

How the metabolism works:

Our body uses nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) for growth, development, and energy so it can function properly. While carbohydrates and fats remain the main sources of energy, proteins are mainly used to support the body’s growth, repair tissues, maintain muscles, and fight diseases.

Compared to fat molecules, carbs burn much faster and can be easily converted into energy. That’s why carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy. They are broken down into glucose by the liver, and they enter the blood stream to deliver proper energy and nutrition to various tissues and organs. 

The Keto Diet science: when the body starts burning fat

As long as carbs are available in abundance, the body will keep using them for energy. Based on the keto diet theory, the body will starts burning fat for energy only when glucose reserves become low or depleted. 

In the absence of carbohydrates, the body can’t produce enough glucose to generate the required energy to fulfill its functions. Subsequently, the body is forced to find an alternative source of energy to keep the system functioning. 
Fat stores are the only alternative source of energy available.

Hence, the body will be forced to turn to fat and start burning it to produce energy. This would hence result in weight loss.

The other scenario in which the body will turn to fat burning is when we get into intense physical activity. This is because when we work out, we put our body under excessive physical stress that requires more energy than normal. 

It is believed that the body starts burning fat after 15 to 20 minutes of workout. This is the initial time required for carbohydrates stores to start getting exhausted. Hence, they would not be enough to provide all the required energy. 

Accordingly, the body will need to turn to fat burning to get a higher percentage of energy.

Why Keto Diet helps for Weight Loss:

The keto diet is a regimen that restricts the consumption of carbohydrates to trigger weight loss. It is based on the science suggesting that when carbohydrates are made unavailable, the body needs to find an alternative source of energy to survive. 

Given that fats are the only other alternative source of energy available, the body becomes forced to use fat to produce energy when carbohydrates are depleted. Hence, this is believed to reduce weight as it makes the body get rid of the fat stores. 

With time also, the body starts becoming more and more efficient in burning fat. This would lead to more and more weight loss and provide long lasting energy. This can even help people overcome the problem of stubborn fat that remains stacked in the fat cells, which is usually a very difficult problem to overcome. 

An additional reason why keto is believed to help further in losing weight is because the diet consists mainly of fats that provide satiety when they are consumed compared to carbohydrates that trigger hunger. 

Accordingly, this will reduce the calories intake and result in further weight loss, especially compared to high carbs diets that trigger insulin spike. 

How Keto Diet works for Weight Loss:

The keto diet is a regimen that requires consuming 70% to 80% of fat, 10% to 20% of protein, and around 5% of carbohydrates only (less than 50 grams per day). Accordingly, it uses a mix of high fat, moderate protein, and very-low carbohydrate.

By restricting carbohydrates, the body will be depleted from carbs reserves in 3 to 4 days. Hence, this will deprive the body from its primary source of energy: glucose.

Faced by this situation, the body can’t get the required energy anymore from glucose. Hence, it will need to look for an alternative source of energy for it to survive.

The only alternative source of energy currently made available is fat. The body will need to go into a metabolic shift and start using it to generate energy.   

Given that the body is not normally used to burn fat, this will create some challenges at the beginning. In many cases, the keto diet also might result in an accumulation of fat in the first week or so. However, with time, the body starts learning more and more how to burn fat and becomes efficient in it.

People will then start seeing huge weight loss benefits.
This metabolic shift will push the body in a state known as ketosis in which the liver starts turning fats into acids called ketones instead of glucose that was mainly produced from carbohydrates. 

These ketones will become the new source of energy for the body. As they are sent into the blood stream, the brain, muscles and other tissues can start using them for fuel. They are believed to have tremendous health benefits, and can provide the body with long lasting energy.

Keto Diet program guidelines for Weight Loss:

The ketogenic diet suggests consuming 70% to 80% of fat, 10% to 20% of protein and around 5% of carbohydrates only (less than 50 grams per day). 

There are no specific guidelines about the duration of the diet. However, it is generally recommended to follow it for at least three months. 

Currently, there’s not enough data related to the long-term effects of the keto diet. Accordingly, it is not agreed yet whether this diet can be adapted as a lifelong eating plan or it should be applied only for specific durations.

It is recommended also to consume enough proteins to preserve the tissues and muscles. However, it is important to maintain the protein amounts within moderate limits of 20%. Any excess of protein can be converted into glucose in the body. Hence, this would push the body out of ketosis. 

What are macros:

It is very common to encounter the word “macros” while reading about the ketogenic diet. This term is short for macronutrients that include carbohydrates, fat and protein. These three substances provide our body with energy (calories) when we eat. 

Accordingly, if you wish to follow a ketogenic diet and make sure to maintain the “state of ketosis”, it is imperative for you to understand what are these macronutrients, and what you should do to balance them properly. 

Below is a brief explanation about each macronutrient and its main functions:

Carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates are made up of sugar and starches, and they are the body’s first source of energy. However, it is possible to survive on minimal quantities since fat and protein become the sources of energy when carbohydrates are not available. 

It is important to count net carbs as the total carbohydrate intake. Net carbs or impact carbs are common terms used in the ketogenic diet. It is the amount of carbs directly absorbed by the body that will contribute to calories, while indigestible (unabsorbed) carbohydrates that we know as dietary fiber, are subtracted from this amount.  In other words, the amount of net carbs is the total amount of carbohydrates minus the dietary fiber.

1 g of carbohydrates = 4 calories

Protein: 

Proteins have many important functions in the body since they play different roles as antibodies, enzymes and hormones. They are needed for immunity, growth, tissue repair and to preserve lean body mass.

Amino acids are what makes proteins and they are known to be the building blocks of proteins. There are twenty amino acids, nine out of them are considered to be the essential ones. These are not produced by the body, instead they come from the food we eat. 

Any deficiency in proteins intake may lead to several health conditions. That’s why the ketogenic diet requires to consume enough protein in order to preserve lean body mass. 

The general requirements are 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight to preserve muscle mass and 0.8-1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight in order to gain muscle mass. It is important to note 0.8 g/kg is the minimal requirement to maintain good health.

1g of protein = 4 calories

Fat:

Fats provide energy for the body and support cells growth. They help the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E, K) and nutrients. They also help protect the organs and keep the body warm.

Fats are made up of fatty acids and glycerol. There are two essential fatty acids called linoleic acid and linolenic acid (omega 3 and 6) that the body cannot produce. Accordingly, these should come from the food we eat. 

Consuming fats is also known to influence satiety as it gives a feeling of being full for longer.

1 g of fat = 9 calories

Keto Diet Macro Calculator:

1-    Calculate your BMR ((Basal Metabolic Rate): The Mifflin equation

The number of calories required by the body per day is called the Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TEE). This is equal to the sum of the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the number of calories the body needs to function at rest, plus the amount of physical activity achieved daily.

To maintain your current weight, you should fulfill your TEE needs. In order to lose weight, you should subtract calories from your calculated TEE. Make sure to always check with a health professional regarding the number of calories you can reduce from your diet.

The Mifflin equation is used to calculate the BMR. It works as such:

Women
BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) = (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) -161

Men
BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) = (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) +5

2-    Calculate the TEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure):

To calculate the TEE, the activity level should multiply the BMR.

Activity Factor

Definition

1.2

Very little exercise. Desk job

1.375

Light exercise. 1-3 days per week

1.55

Moderate exercise. 3-5 days per week

1.725

Hard exercise. 6-7 days per week.

1.9

Extreme exercise on a daily basis.

3-    Calculate your macros:

Once the TEE is determined, the macronutrients can be calculated accurately.

Example of macronutrients calculation: 

TEE = 1,600 for a woman.

Fat = 75 % = 1,200 cal = 133.3 g (each gram of fat is 9 calories)

Protein = 20% = 320 cal = 80 g (each gram of protein is 4 calories)

Carbohydrate = 5% = 80 cal = 20 g (each gram of carbohydrate is 4 calories)

This is a typical example of how many grams should be consumed daily depending on the TEE and percentage requirement of each macronutrient. The goal is to be able to choose foods properly that meet these needs.

Keto Diet food types for Weight Loss: 

The various food types incorporated in the keto diet are high in good fat and very low in carbohydrates. Maintaining the proper proportions is critical to maintain the state of ketosis. Proportions should be done as per the macro calculation provided in the diet structure section. 

Below is a list of the various food types for Keto diet: 

- Healthy fats: incorporate healthy high fat foods daily such as some oils (coconut, olive), avocados, nuts (macadamia, walnuts, almonds, pecans), and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, flax). 

- Meat: it is suggested to consume grass-fed beef instead of grain-fed, and free-range poultry because they contain higher amounts of omega-3. Pork, bacon and organ meats can be consumed in moderation.

However, it is important to avoid eating too much meat in order to maintain the protein restrictions. It is also important to note that processed meats like sausages and cold cuts contain added carbohydrates. You should avoid them.

- Dairy: some dairy products are allowed such as butter, high fat cheese, and high fat yogurt, because of their low lactose content. Low fat dairy products should not be consumed as they tend to be higher in carbohydrates.

- Fish: it is suggested to consume fatty fish like salmon, wild-caught fish being the best option. Avoid breaded fish because it contains carbohydrates. 

- Non-starchy vegetables: non-starchy vegetables (low carb) include leafy greens (kale, Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce), cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, bell peppers, onions, garlic, mushrooms, cucumber and celery. Mostly, all vegetables that grow above the ground are lower in carbohydrates, and hence can be consumed.

- Fruits: fruits that are low in net carbs such as berries are allowed. 

- Nuts: nuts can be consumed in moderation as a snack. Avoid cashews and peanuts since they are high in carbohydrates.

- Dark chocolate: 90% dark chocolate and cocoa powder are allowed. Only higher than 70% dark chocolate can be consumed. For example, one ounce (28 grams) of unsweetened chocolate (100% cocoa) has 3 grams of net carbs.

- Drinks: water is the best choice in order to stay hydrated since it has no carbohydrates. Unsweetened coffee and tea can also be consumed. It is critical not to add any sugar. For example, 1 teaspoon of sugar is equivalent to 4 grams of carbohydrates. Hence, this will make it so difficult to remain within the recommended carbohydrates amount if you add any sugar.

Keto Diet recommendations for Weight Loss:

- Always check food labels: some hidden carbs may be present in spices, vegetables, and drinks. Always read food labels carefully before you buy any product.

- Always stay hydrated: make sure you always drink enough water to stay hydrated. Carbohydrates retain water in the body, so a low-carb diet can lead to dehydration and constipation.

- Consume enough salt, electrolytes, and magnesium: minerals can be lost along with water while following a keto diet. It is important to consume enough salt and take electrolytes or magnesium if necessary.

- Restrict your calories consumption: always restrict your diet within the allowed daily calories requirements. Do not exceed the recommended calories, otherwise this will result in weight gain.

Keto Diet for Weight Loss: what you should avoid

- Limit grains and starches: avoid wheat-based products like rice, pasta and cereals since they are high carbohydrate sources. 

- Limit sugary foods: avoid soda, beverages and juices with added sugars, smoothies, cake, and candies.

- Limit fruits: avoid fruits that are not considered low net carbs and all fruit juices because they are high carbohydrate sources.

- Limit beans and legumes: avoid eating beans, lentils and peanuts because they have high carbohydrate content.

- Limit root vegetables: avoid potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and parsnips because they are high in carbohydrates.

- Limit high lactose dairy: while dairy can be high in fat, most are also high in lactose sugar. Be aware of the amounts of carbohydrates present in the dairy products consumed. 

Avoid highly processed dairy such as ice cream because they are higher in sugar content.

- Avoid low fat or diet products: pay attention to low fat products because they are usually high in carbohydrates.

- Limit unhealthy fats: while a high fat diet is recommended, avoid consuming too much bad fat found in processed vegetable oils and mayonnaise.

- Limit alcohol: avoid full carbohydrates wine, beers, and cocktails with added sugars.

- Avoid processed food: processed foods should be avoided even if they are low in carbohydrates. They are composed of bad fats and increase the risk of several diseases.

- Be aware of sweeteners and sugar: sugar is naturally present in fruits and dairy, and hence these should be consumed in limited amounts. Watch out for sweeteners as well, and go instead for keto-friendly sweeteners or Stevia.  

- Avoid eating farmed fish: While eating fish is great for keto but you should avoid eating farmed fish because of the fewer benefits they might have and the chemical additives they might contain. Check out this video about farmed fish.

Keto Diet benefits:

The ketogenic diet includes many benefits besides its ability to reduce weight. For instance, the diet is known for its ability to control blood sugar, increase mental performance, increase energy, reduce blood pressure, and reduce cholesterol. The diet can also help in epilepsy treatment, Alzheimer, type 2 diabetes, and solving acne problems. 

Below is a list of the keto diet various benefits:

- Heart disease: the diet can protect against heart diseases by reducing the risks factors associated with heart diseases such as overweight, triglycerides, hypertension, and blood sugar levels. The diet can also increase the good cholesterol (HDL) in the body and lower the bad cholesterol level (LDL). This would balance the cholesterol ratio in the body and help further in reducing the risks of heart disease. 

- Triglycerides: the diet reduces drastically the triglyceride levels found in the blood. High levels of triglycerides are associated with heart disease.

- Cholesterol: the diet increases the level of good cholesterol called HDL and reduces bad cholesterol. High levels of HDL cholesterol lower the risk of heart diseases, because it helps in balancing the cholesterol ratio. 

- Blood pressure: the diet may also decrease blood pressure levels. Hypertension is associated with many diseases such as heart disease and kidney failure.

- Blood sugar: the diet lowers the level of sugar found in the blood. This is especially useful in patients with diabetes. 

- Alzheimer’s disease: the diet can reduce symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. This is mainly due to the ketones that can be used as an alternative source of energy and nutrition for the brain.

- Epilepsy: the diet reduces significantly seizures in epileptic patients, especially children. Studies have shown that a keto diet can reduce epilepsy, 50% among adults, and 90% among children.

- Improve physical performance: the body has large amounts of fat stores that are not used effectively. However, when the body starts burning fat efficiently for energy instead of carbs, it can benefit from large fat fuel reserves available. Hence, a long-lasting energy burning process. Accordingly, this diet can sustain improved energy and physical performance. 

Other conditions: following a keto diet has also shown to have beneficial effects for other conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, acne, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). However, more research and findings are needed in order to support these statements further.

Keto Diet precautions for Weight Loss use:

Before you start your keto diet, it is important to take some precautions in case you are taking some medication or if you have any medical condition. Always consult with a health expert especially if you have any of the following conditions or you are taking any medication.

- Blood-pressure: a combination of blood pressure medication and a low carb diet is risky because there’s a possibility of decreased blood pressure from the diet. Low blood pressure may occur within the first days and sometimes might take months to happen. If low blow pressure occurs, it is important to contact a doctor.

- Diabetes: the keto diet will reduce blood sugar levels due to the reduced carbohydrate intake. If you are taking any diabetes medication such as insulin to reduce blood sugar levels as well, it is important to discuss this with your doctor before starting the diet to avoid any possible complications. 

- Pregnancy / breast feeding: it is not advised to restrict any food groups if you are pregnant or breast feeding. A balanced diet is highly required for developing babies. Since the keto diet eliminates completely some food groups, this can be risky for them. Always make sure to discuss this with a specialized nutritionist before starting any diet to make sure you avoid any sort of nutrient deficiencies. 

- Nutritional deficiencies: it is important to watch out for any possible nutritional deficiencies since the keto diet does not include all food groups. Other reasons that may lead to deficiencies are fewer calories that are consumed because they are subtracted from the TEE in order to promote weight loss or because less food is consumed due to increased satiety. Always make sure to follow up with a nutrition expert before starting this diet.

Keto Diet side effects for Weight Loss use:

The ketogenic diet is mainly safe, however there are some side effects that need to be taken into consideration:

- Keto flu: the keto flu is a series of symptoms such as fatigue, headache, nausea and cramps that are experienced by some people following the keto diet. These symptoms are quite common especially at the beginning of the diet. However, this problem will be resolved in few days by the time the body starts adapting to lower carbohydrate intake and starts burning fat properly. To avoid these symptoms, it is recommended to reduce carbohydrates gradually out of the diet so that the body gets used to this gradually.

- Cramps:  leg cramps are common with the keto diet. It’s an indication of mineral deficiency, mainly magnesium. This is because carbohydrates retain water in the body. Hence, less carbs mean less water retention, resulting in fewer electrolytes as well. It is important to stay hydrated and consume enough salt as this helps retain magnesium in the body.

- Constipation:  the main cause behind constipation is dehydration, due to less water retention from the reduced carbohydrates intake. It is important to drink enough water while making sure the vegetables consumed contain some fiber.

- Heart palpitations:  during the transition period, the heart may beat faster and harder. This is quite common especially because of dehydration and lack of salt. Accordingly, you should always make sure to have enough water and salt. This should usually solve this problem. However, if this situation continues, you should immediately seek medical assistance. 

- Fatigue: at the initial stages of ketosis while the body is shifting to using fat for energy instead of carbohydrates, people would feel tired. Their physical performance might be affected as well. However, this should be resolved once the body adapts to the new process and starts burning fat properly to produce the required energy.

- Ketoacidosis: this happens when the buildup of ketones results in higher levels of acids in the blood (byproduct of burning ketones). Ketoacidosis can affect the livers, kidneys, and the brain.

Ketoacidosis can occur for people following a low carbohydrates diet, though it is very rare. However, this can be a more common problem for people that suffer from diabetes. Accordingly, if you have diabetes, it is important to contact your doctor before starting the keto diet. 

- Hypoglycemia: this is when glucose levels become very low in the blood. Accordingly, people might experience blurred vision, headaches, and confusion. This might become dangerous if left untreated as it can cause seizures. In some cases, it can even be fatal. Hypoglycemia happens mainly because our bodies are not used to run on ketones from fat instead of glucose from carbohydrates, this might lead in some cases to hypoglycemia.

Published September 2020

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