Food Freedom Friday Edition 109 - Ready To Keto?

So, as it turns out, that swanky outfit you are wanting to wear to an upcoming holiday parry just will not do up. You try struggling with it, but to no avail. Dismayed, you give up. You may also find yourself feeling slightly less than great, a little low on energy, a few aches and pains, some brain fog or just regular digestive discomfort of sorts. Time for some damage control! Luckily for you, there are a wide range of eating plans and diets out there which promise to help get you back in shape and feeling your best. You know from past experience that results, if any, are often temporary at best and downright harmful later on. A ketogenic eating plan is different.  It has proved efficacious in helping people achieve their ideal weight, thus gaining tremendous popularity. The research is also solid on the health benefits of following this lifestyle – yes, it is a long term lifestyle plan, not a quick fix solution (even though many results do occur in a short timeframe) But hang on-here are a few things to keep in mind before jumping on the band-wagon:

What is Keto?

The Ketogenic Diet follows the principle of ‘eat fat to lose fat’. This diet is high in all types of (well-sourced) fats and limited in carbohydrates. Your body normally converts glucose into energy. When glucose becomes scarce (as when reducing carbohydrate consumption), it looks for an alternate source of energy, and the liver now begins to produce 'ketones' by burning fat instead, making it effective for weight reduction. It was devised initially as a method of treating epilepsy and is known to also benefit those suffering from neuro-degenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. For healthy people, benefits include rapid weight loss, sustained energy levels and increased athletic performance.

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Planning and Timing

Timing is crucial when starting something new and different from your usual routine. Avoid periods when you are over-worked or over-stressed. You will be getting accustomed to new types of food and preparation methods, and this may disrupt your normal balance and structure for a while.

Planning is everything. Begin by reading up on new recipes and stocking up on foods needed such as butter, fatty fish, meat, dairy and greens. Invest in a ketone or glucose meter to strategically monitor progress. Handy kitchen tools like a blender, steamer and frying pan will make for easy cooking.

 Hire a Professional

Several precautions need to be taken before you begin, in order to ensure best results and avoid unwanted side-effects. Micronutrient deficiencies are a common result of oversight when following a ketogenic plan. One can further run the risk of over-exercise and burn-out. Exercises that demand glycogen should be carefully monitored and removed during the initial phase of the plan if energy and recovery are compromised. A professional will help you chalk out a meal plan best suited to your body's needs, and tweak the diet in case of any health conditions or medication.

Food Quality Counts

A ketogenic meal plan rich in fats, some protein and vegetables not mean you ought to load up on unhealthy, processed foods, fats and seemingly approved products. Stick to non-processed, natural fats such as eggs, fatty fish, full-fat dairy, nuts, avocadoes, coconut oil and olive oil. All proteins should be well-sourced from humanely raised animals and wild-caught seafood. Processed meats and cheeses should be avoided at all costs.

Additionally, this is a moderate protein rather than a high protein meal plan. Too much protein may cause the body to convert excess amino acids to sugar, which triggers the release of insulin, leading to fat gain.

Increase Your Water and Salt Intake

While in Ketosis, your body tends to rapidly shed electrolytes such as Sodium from the kidneys. Unless ill-advised by your health professional, replenish the salt reserves by incorporating pink Himalayan salt and rock salt into your meals. Feast on leafy vegetables, salted nuts and avocados to nutritionally restore and maintain electrolyte balance.

Carbohydrates help store water, so fewer carbohydrates mean less water stored in the body. Be sure to increase your water intake to roughly 3 liters per day on an average.

Expect the ‘Keto Flu'

This is a temporary setback, so do your best to work through it and not to be alarmed. As the body switches from burning sugar to burning fat, many experience 'carbohydrate withdrawal symptoms' such as lack of energy, headaches and brain-fog. Effects may last from a few days to a couple of weeks. Be patient, remain determined, and get plenty of rest till it passes.

Blood Tests and Checkups

Before you begin, it is highly recommended that you take a few basic health checks and blood tests. This is a precautionary measure, as your health practitioner will need to adjust your diet in the event that you suffer from any health conditions.

Common tests that give a good indication of overall health include fasting glucose, triglycerides, Hemoglobin, kidney/liver function tests, cholesterol profile and thyroid. Your doctor may also prescribe some multivitamins to supplement your diet.

Advanced Strategy: Implement Fasting

Skipping a meal or extending your overnight fasting period from its usual 9-10 hours to 14- 16 hours will not only get your body to become better and quicker adapted at utilizing and burning fat for fuel, but will kick start any weight loss goal you may have as well as give the body some time and space to deal with any issues it may be challenged with.

Although not a necessary part of a ketogenic lifestyle, many find implementing occasional or daily intermittent fasting or reduced eating windows (eating between certain times only) is an effective addition to their program. The higher fat consumption which is an integral part of a ketogenic plan has powerful hunger suppressing effects and going without food for extended periods of time becomes easier as the body becomes ore adapted to fueling in this manner.

Baby Steps

Your new slogan should be 'Start Slow; Start Gradual'. In the heat of the moment, inspiration and determination might be soaring and you might be willing to do what it takes. It is important to keep in mind that this may be a radical transition for your body. Drastically decreasing your carbohydrate intake may result in your temporarily feeling lethargic, dull and depressed. Adopt a realistic approach and cut back on carbohydrates gradually, over a period of days and weeks, to ensure this program is do-able and sustainable.

So, ready to finally take the leap? Good luck and happy feasting!

Michal Ofer