Certainly you’ve heard the saying “before you (perform a certain activity), consult with your physician.” That’s very applicable with many different types of diets. As a general consideration, Straight, No Chaser tries to offer understanding of the principles behind the activities you engage in, the illnesses you have and those you are attempting to avoid. So as an example, today we look at the ketogenic diet – but not with an eye toward teaching you how to start it but more so to understand what it is, what it attempts to do, how it may work and what risks it presents. Apologies are offered (to those who need them) for attempting to make this overly simplistic.
Let’s talk about normal first…
Remember food is fuel for your body. Different foods and parts of foods work more or less efficiently in fueling your body. Normally, carbohydrates (carbs) within your food are your body’s preferred energy source, as they are most easily broken down into the glucose (blood sugar) your body uses as fuel. When you eat approximately less than fifty grams of carbs a day, your body is highly likely to not have enough glucose to use as immediately accessible fuel. When this occurs, the body responds by breaking down the protein and fat in your food, and then if necessary, it breaks down the protein and fat your body is storing for energy. This results in weight loss because it takes more calories to change fat into energy than it does to change carbohydrates into energy.
Now about ketones…
If there is insufficient carbohydrate in the diet, your liver will convert fat into fatty acids and substances called ketone bodies (ketones). Ketones are meant to replace glucose as an energy source but are much less efficient at it. An elevated level of ketone bodies (ketosis) in the blood is a useful marker for the depletion of carbohydrates within your body.
About the diet…
As noted above, you can approximate the goal by carb counting and staying below fifty grams of carbs per day. This is most easily done by cutting back most on the most easily digestible carbs such as white breads, pastries, sodas, sugars (and sweeteners), potatoes, pizza and snack foods (cookies, cakes, chips and candies).
If you’re gong to be precise, there are ketone monitors that can be obtained, but after several days, the scale does a pretty good job of telling you if your activity is being productive.
For whom might this not be safe…
First of all, you should never try this type of activity without first getting a clean bill of health. The presence of ketones could be devastating to diabetics (particularly type 1) and others with certain health issues. Low-carb diets have about a 30% rate of causing constipation, and other side effects could include indigestion, low blood sugar or kidney stones.
Ketogenic diets do have actual medical indications, most notably including being part of the treatment of seizure disorders since the 1920s. However, be mindful that whenever you’re attempting to force the body to do something other than is naturally intended, there will be risks and occasional consequences. As a rule, the best diet remains a healthy diet, meaning portion control and adherence to the healthy food plate.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
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