The Keto (or Ketogenic) Diet is an extremely low-carbohydrate diet designed to increase fat loss and improve your body composition.
It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate consumption, and replacing it with fat. The reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.
What is the Keto Diet?
Low-carb diets, in one form or another, have been around for several decades now. But, recently, several programs have appeared that all fall under the specific category of ketogenic or keto diets.
What is the keto diet? What is it supposed to do? Does it work?
Interestingly, the ketogenic diet was originally used as a treatment for epilepsy in the 1920s and 30s. Although doctors had known for centuries that fasting helped to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures, it was unclear why. Plus, fasting is hard.
But, in the early 1900s, researchers found that specific chemicals – called ketone bodies or ketones – were produced both during fasting and during low-carb diets.
So, restricting carbohydrate intake to about 50g per day, produced the same effects as fasting. The truth, though, is that most people who follow a ketogenic diet now aren't doing it to treat epilepsy; they're interested in weight-loss.
The Weight Loss Debate
And, generally, the ketogenic diet is incredibly effective when it comes to rapid – and sometimes dramatic – weight loss. Despite these results, though, the diet remains fairly controversial.
Proponents of the keto diet for weight loss assert that it's the ketogenic compounds themselves that trigger the loss of body fat, largely by training you to use up those stores for energy instead of relying on carbs. And, while it is true that your body does start to use up fat for fuel, much of that fat is already present in your blood rather than being pulled from your reserves.
The primary disagreement among experts, then, is whether those ketones are causing weight loss. There are other aspects of the keto diet, however, that are most definitely effective for reducing body weight.
The first – and the reason that people lost so much so fast when they first begin the diet – has to do with the connection between carbohydrate and water retention. Each gram of glycogen that gets stored in your body requires an additional 4g of water to be brought along with it.
That means you could be carrying at least five pounds of water around on your frame at all times. By reducing your carb intake and forcing your body to tap into its glycogen stores, then, you rapidly shed that water weight.
And then there's the fact that a low carb diet will quickly become a high protein diet. Not only does protein stimulate and increase your metabolism, but it also reduces your hunger and makes it easier for you to eat less.
What You Should Know
So, the keto diet does have some potential to encourage fast, dramatic results.
But, exactly how it does that is still being debated in the research. Either way, lots of people have done it successfully. It's important to know, though, that the ketogenic diet is not easy. It requires planning and discipline.
Likely for these reasons, many people struggle to stick to the diet and regain any weight they managed to lose when they break their low-carb routine.
If you're thinking of giving keto a try, be sure to check out our printable keto foods list.