Want to eat less sugar, lose weight, and change your metabolism? The ketogenic or keto diet might work for you. Or not. Some say it’s not sustainable in the long-term. Others praise it as a weight loss solution like no other. If you’re not afraid of eating more fat and don’t mind the side effects, giving it a try probably won’t hurt you.
We’ll give you all the facts and crush some of the myths surrounding the keto diet, such as whether or not you can exercise on this diet (page 7) and why it isn’t actually as dangerous as some people believe (page 10).
1. Not all fat is ‘good’ fat
- You can’t just fill your plate with bacon and butter.
Put simply, following the keto diet involves eating mostly high-fat foods. But this doesn’t mean you can eat more fast food and dessert. Foods like avocados, eggs, and nuts count as optimal fat sources on this diet. Butter, cream, and other high-fat dairy and meat products do not.
Next: There’s a huge misconception about the role protein plays in this diet.
2. It isn’t a high-protein diet
- You’re only supposed to consume 20% of your calories from protein.
On average, experts say protein should make up about 20% of your daily calorie intake. Recommendations don’t change on keto. Instead, you’re supposed to dedicate 75% of your calories from fat, 20% from protein, and only 5% from carbohydrates.
Next: Will this diet help you lose weight? That depends on your actual goal.
3. You’ll probably lose weight — at first
- Keto isn’t a viable long-term option for many dieters.
One dietitian tried the keto diet herself after more clients started asking about it. She said that even though effects like weight loss are certainly possible in the short-term, researchers aren’t sure the same thing frequently happens in the long-term. Not many people stick with it that long.
Next: Going keto doesn’t give you as much freedom as you’ve been told.
4. You can’t actually eat as much as you want
- A diet won’t work if you still eat too much of the wrong foods.
The keto diet forces you to cut back on many of the snack foods, desserts, and other high-carb options that could have made weight loss difficult for you in the past. But that doesn’t mean you can eat infinite amounts of bacon and coconut oil. Consuming more calories, whether healthy or not, doesn’t work.
Next: Can you fast while on this diet? Maybe. Maybe not.
5. You shouldn’t fast on the keto diet right away
- Those just starting out shouldn’t try making too many changes too quickly.
When you first start the keto diet, your body won’t quite know what’s happening. It’s best to make sure you’re eating enough to properly adjust to the upcoming metabolic shift before making any more major changes.
This doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate methods like intermittent fasting into your diet once your body adjusts to ketosis. Just don’t rush into it.
Next: The good news is, you don’t technically have to give this up.
6. You’re allowed to drink alcohol
- Low-carb booze exists — and you can have it.
Most alcoholic drinks are a low-carb dieter’s worst enemy. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up drinking entirely if you’re on a keto diet.
Dry wines and light beers fall into the low- or no-carb category — you can have them as long as you drink responsibly. You won’t lose weight if you spend all your calories on booze.
Next: Experts have debunked this keto-exercise myth.
7. You don’t have to stop exercising on keto
- You’ll just have to change the way you work out.
Whether this is good news to you or not — yes, a diet that discourages exercise IS too good to be true — you shouldn’t avoid creating a workout schedule. Working out on this diet can be completely safe, as long as you keep them short, don’t exert yourself too much, and switch things up from day to day.
Next: Not everyone can handle the side effects.
8. Keto isn’t the best weight loss diet for everyone
- The diet’s side effects — often called the “keto flu” — aren’t easy to overcome.
When Kirkpatrick tried the keto diet, she too experienced flu-like symptoms, which isn’t an uncommon side effect when going on such a drastic diet. Chances are, you’ll feel fatigued, you’ll crave sugar obsessively, and you’ll get a little “hangry.” Headaches and nausea are also possible downsides.
Some dieters can’t make it past these hurdles, and go back to their former eating habits.
Next: Some people confuse this keto side effect with a dangerous health issue.
9. Keto forces your body into a state of ketosis …
- Ketosis and ketoacidosis are not the same thing.
When your body enters a state of ketosis, it burns fat as a primary energy source instead of carbohydrates. That’s why you have to eat more fat and fewer carbs to reach this point. Ketosis is different from ketoacidosis — a life-threatening condition some people with diabetes develop.
Next: Keto doesn’t always come with the level of risk most people think.
10. … but the diet isn’t ‘dangerous’
- As long as you follow a few simple rules, the diet probably won’t hurt you.
One of the most important things you have to do on the keto diet — especially when you first start — is stay hydrated. Dehydration can lead to headaches, kidney stones, and other devastating health issues. You also have to make sure you’re eating enough fat, protein, and carbs — not too much or too little of any nutrient.
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