But beyond that, experts aren't convinced that the keto diet has any other scientifically-proven health benefits. In fact, it may have some distinct downsides. If you follow the keto diet incorrectly, for example (like by eating lots of saturated fats, versus healthy unsaturated fats), you're at risk of raising your cholesterol levels. “The best strategy to keep your heart healthy is to get as much fat as possible from unsaturated sources such as olive, avocado and canola oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives," says Ansel.
The aim is to find the level best suited for you. There are two ways to count carbs - you can either count total carbs or net carbs (net carbs are total carbs minus fibre). According to Volek and Phinney, you should not eat more than 50 grams of total carbs (25-30 grams of net carbs) on a ketogenic diet. If your aim is to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, eating 20-30 grams of net carbs (up to 50 grams of total carbs) is a great way to start. If you want to learn more about total vs net carbs, read this post.
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For example, if we told you to eat 50 total carbs rather than 20-30 grams of net carbs, you could be eating anywhere between 0 and 50 grams of net carbs. At 0 grams of net carbs, most people will get into ketosis within the first week and experience deeper levels of ketosis as the weeks progress. On the other hand, while eating 50 grams of net carbs per day, many people will struggle to get into ketosis and sustain higher ketone levels.
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Nutritionists, including the Good Housekeeping Institute's own Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, remain more skeptical. The diet's aim of inducing ketosis — a metabolic process where the body uses fat instead of carbs for energy — can backfire because this plan takes a lot of willpower. Plus, any weight you may lose while on it can return when you stop. RDs and other experts like U.S. News and World Report agree that Mediterranean-style eating plans have more research behind them and produce better, more long-lasting results.
Get Plenty of Sodium. This might sound counter to what you’ve been told before, but your body really needs sodium. It’s one of the ways that your cells transport nutrients in and out of cells. And when you stop eating processed grains and sugar, you often get much less sodium. So when you go keto, just be sure that you’re eating salt or sodium-rich foods. If not, you will often experience fatigue.
Surprised you can have hummus? After all, chickpeas are rich in carbs. But in small amounts, used as a “flavoring,” hummus can fit in a keto diet, says Kendra Whitmire, RD, a nutritionist in Laguna Beach, California, who practices functional and therapeutic nutrition and works with clients on the keto diet. Keep it to a tablespoon and dip in a half cup of bell pepper strips.
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Note: Are you a vegetarian or vegan and want to go on a ketogenic diet? It’s still possible! Just keep in mind that the dietary restrictions can sometimes be a little bit intense. Make sure to plan ahead and prepare to aid your success. To help out, we’ve published articles (with 7 day meal plans included) for both the vegetarian ketogenic diet and the vegan ketogenic diet.
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It has a large database and allows for barcode scanning or data input via text, voice or camera, which is a great feature. Tracking meals at restaurants seems to be simpler than with other apps, because of its large image library, and it’s always super easy to check your remaining net calories for the day – you can even see them in the notification bubble, if you wish.
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Adequate protein intake and developing ketosis are both critical for maximising fat loss and sparing muscle mass during the ketogenic diet. However, it will take up to 3 weeks before your body gets keto-adapted (in some cases even more). During the initial phase of the ketogenic diet, nitrogen losses may occur if your daily net carbs intake is very low. When your carbohydrate intake goes down, your body converts body protein into glucose. Since about 16% of protein is nitrogen, you may lose muscle mass which will cause a decrease in your metabolic rate. This could have a negative impact on fat loss. For example, if your carbs intake is close to zero, you you may have to eat more protein (aka protein sparing modified fast). Keep in mind this applies to zero carbohydrate intake which means it does not affect most people following the ketogenic diet.
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Lots of apps and websites offer keto diet challenges—basically, a blueprint for the keto diet with a fixed starting and ending point (they typically last for a week to a month, though some may be longer). Speaking of apps, plenty of keto-centric ones are right at your fingertips (a.k.a., your smartphone), like the KetoDiet app, which can help you calculate your macros and track your keto diet effectively.
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