You’ve decided to try out the keto diet and all is going well. Your weight is down, your energy levels are up, your blood/sugar levels are more stable and your mood has improved. Here we’ll take a look at a few short term effects before we talk about the Long term effects of the keto diet.
During the first week or two, many people will experience a few negative symptoms and worry that the diet just isn’t for them. The main short term side effect of the keto diet is the keto “flu”.
The keto flu is something that you could experience while your body is adjusting to the new way of eating, and change to the metabolic pathway of using fat for fuel. As your body begins to release stored fat from your cells, this process also releases a lot of water. Each gram of glycogen that your body is now using contains up to 3g of water. This extra water is flushed out of your body naturally. Unfortunately it this process can play havoc with your electrolytes and micro nutrients as they are also flushed out along with the water. Many people suffer from this keto flu for the first week or two on the diet.
If you find you’re feeling tired or weak with heart palpitations, aching muscles or a headache in the first few days, then you may well be going short of some vital micro nutrients as well as having an electrolyte imbalance. Certainly none of these symptoms are pleasant but they do normally reduce and then go away completely after the first week or so once your body is fully fat burning adapted.
Forward planning is everything
With some careful forward planning and knowledge about the process that causes the keto flu you can deal with the symptoms and lessen the effects, or even avoid it altogether. It does seem that some people have a genetic advantage and adapt to the keto diet more easily than others.
To help prevent the keto flu it’s very important that you make sure that you eat enough micro nutrients and correct the electrolyte loss you may be experiencing. Your also need to make sure that you avoid becoming dehydrated and drink plenty of water.
Make sure you take enough sodium, especially while you’re adapting to the diet. Sodium is one of the electrolytes often lost in the initial flush of fluids. Add salt to your food, bone broth is also a good source of Sodium.
Potassium levels need to be kept at normal too. Foods such as avocados, kale, mushrooms and spinach are all good sources of Potassium.
Magnesium is used for literally hundreds of important processes in your body. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of Magnesium as is spinach and Swiss chard. Your can of course use a Magnesium supplement, but you need to make sure it isn’t one that is going to cause you to have an upset stomach. Not all Magnesium supplements are equal. As with all micro nutrients, it’s always better to get these from your food.
Broccoli, almonds and Cheddar Cheese all contain good amounts of Calcium which is another micro nutrient that you’ll want to watch in the beginning.
With some thoughtful food choices and a little research there is no reason why you can’t make sure you have enough micro nutrients and electrolytes to avoid or minimize the keto flu.
I know that it’s easier just to go on a bacon and fried egg diet and hope for the best, and I suspect that a lot of people have gone down this path. Unfortunately, not only will you be going short of vital nutrients, but your health is going to take a big hit. Yes, weight loss is probably important to you, but you need to stay healthy too. Like all diets, the keto diet works best when your food is nutrient rich and contains plenty of micro nutrient filled vegetables.
I have already mentioned the need to eat healthy nutrient dense foods on the keto diet and this point can’t be emphasized enough.
Too many people are of the opinion that keto means endless piles of bacon, eggs and steaks. There’s nothing wrong with these foods of course, although as a processed food, bacon should be eaten in moderation. However, to gain the optimum health benefits of keto, you need to be eating a balanced diet.
I know that many people grow afraid of vegetables when they start the keto diet and in my opinion this is the reason that the keto diet has a reputation as being unhealthy in the long term. However, it is possible and necessary that you make vegetables an important part of your keto diet.
For example, and average avocado of 150g/5.3oz contains 240 calories and 12.8g of total carbohydrates. At first glance, that would seem like a carb count way to high to include in your keto diet. However, with some careful label reading you will see that not only is an avocado a healthy addition to your diet, it’s a great keto food too.
This avocado has 12.8g carbs. It also has 10g of dietary fiber, bringing it’s net carb count all the way down to nearly 3. It’s the net carbs you should be thinking about. Dietary fiber is very healthy, but is passed through your body and so you don’t need to count it.
On top of this, the avocado is packed with vitamins, minerals and healthy fats including omega 3 fatty acids. I eat at least one avocado every day, it’s a great addition to your diet.
Another example is cauliflower. Again, a 100g/3.4 oz serving of cauliflower is low in calories but looks high in carbs. This amount has only 25 calories but a big 5.3g of carbs for just a small serving. However, if we look at the label then once again it’s obvious that 2.5g are dietary fiber, leaving only 3.1g net carbs.
Cauliflower is one of the best nutrient rich foods you could eat, and definitely has a major role in all keto diets. It’s bursting with omega 3 fatty acids, nearly 80% of daily vitamin C, even in this small amount and many other vitamins and minerals.
Cauliflower is another vegetable that I eat very often. I love it fried, but there are dozens of different ways of enjoying it, and it should make a regular appearance on your plate too.
With seeds, nuts, healthy fats, meat and fish it is completely possible to spend a long time on the keto diet. The main problem is that people either get lazy or just don’t do their research first and they don’t do well. Your health is important, make sure you understand what to eat before you start.
Mistakes people make with the keto diet
Too much protein
The first mistake people make is believing that the keto diet is a high protein diet. It’s not, you should be eating the correct amount of protein for your body weight which is about 0.8g per kilo of body weight or 3.6g per pound.
This means that bacon and steak all day every day is not eating the keto way. As already said, you need to eat a well-balanced, nutrition dense diet.
Too few vegetables
If you do not eat a balanced diet it will not be healthy in the long run. This is the single biggest reason for health issues with the keto diet. Don’t be afraid of vegetables. Vegetables are packed with nutrients and also contain healthy dietary fiber. Both are necessary for good heath.
On the other hand, there are people who believe that the sky is the limit when it comes to chowing down on fat. Yes this is a high fat diet, but please! It’s supposed to be about 70% of your diet. A never ending supply of keto chocolate bars and keto chocolate puddings won’t do you too many favors. Be reasonable or your weight will go up instead of down and you certainly won’t be healthier.
That 70% refers a percentage of a normal diet, not an eating contest.
Its fair to say that staying on the keto diet long term has its opponents but there are an equal number of people who have stayed on the diet for months or years and have nothing but praise for it. Of course this is just anecdotal evidence but its certainly encouraging. Personally, I am healthier than I have been for years, with all the energy I could possibly need. My weight is within the healthy range and I even find time to exercise regularly – something I was never a fan of.
Naturally, anecdotal evidence isn’t science, but we will have to wait until there have been a few solid long term studies. Keto is a relatively new diet for many. I know, it’s been around for years with regard to treating children with drug resistant epilepsy, but it’s entry into the mainstream for health and weight loss has only happened in the past few years.
Many of the children previously mentioned, stayed on the keto diet for more than 10 years, and some groups such as the Inuit and Laplanders spent most of their entire lives in ketosis and remained healthy. This is of course all encouraging news.
With this lack of real science backed evidence, I have to suggest that you try it and see how you feel. If you like to see things more controlled then have some blood work done before you start and after a few months. If all your markers for good health are going in the right direction then you will know that the keto is working well for you.
In my opinion, it is possible to follow the keto plan and reap all the health benefits for as long as you want, and here’s how:
Make sure that you use your carb allowance wisely. Choose healthy vegetables and pay attention to their micro nutrients. I see too many people wasting their carbs on keto friendly breads or cakes. Now I´m not saying don’t ever eat them. I love cake from time to time, just don’t eat these sorts of carbs too often. Make cake, even keto friendly cake an occasional treat. Make sure the vast majority of all your food is nutrient rich.
Be careful to eat healthy fats, and the right amount of protein. Choose good quality meats, and avoid farmed fish. In a few words, don’t eat junk food or processed food whether its marketed as keto or not.
When anything is done in an extreme way, it tends to cause problems and eating healthily is one area where you definitely need balance. With thoughtful planning and an understanding of keto, there are many, many people who have enjoyed all the health benefits of this plan for several years. However, if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, visit a nutritionist who can work with you to make sure you implement the keto plan in a healthy way.
Finally, Choose real foods where possible. Supplements and powders can help, but your first choice should always be a whole food natural source for all your nutritional needs. If you do use supplements, do a little research and make sure that they are really needed and that they are free from any side effects that you might not enjoy.
So, even if the science is lagging behind with the long term studies, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy all the amazing benefits of keto right now.
I( and thousands of others) just went ahead and tried the keto diet for ourselves. Now, several years later I can definitely say its a choice I’m more than happy that I made. Like so many others, it has improved my health beyond what I thought was possible and my secondary goal of weight loss was reached without ever feeling hungry.