Should You Try the Keto Diet?

The most significant trend in the world of diet and nutrition is the high-protein, low-carbohydrate Keto diet. It is similar to other low-carbohydrate diets like Paleo and Atkins, but this one focuses on fat first. A ketogenic diet works by putting the body into ketosis, which is efficient at burning fat. It can be an attractive solution to lose weight.

But a ketogenic diet is an extreme approach to nutrition and may have other health consequences for some individuals. Before deciding if the keto diet is a good fit for you, let’s talk about some of the risks.

How a Ketogenic Diet Works

A ketogenic diet works by depriving the body of quick-fuel sources like sugar and carbohydrates. Doing this forces the body to burn fat to produce the energy needed for metabolic processes. A typical keto diet includes less than 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates like those from fruits, vegetables, and grains

Most of the calories consumed with each meal come from fat. A ketogenic diet encourages high-fat foods like coconut oil, lard, butter, nuts, and avocado. After fat, the next most important nutrient is protein. 

However, eating too much protein can interfere with ketosis. Most diets focus on lean proteins like chicken breast, but keto encourages saturated fats, so red meats are an acceptable protein. Each meal can be filled out with leafy greens like spinach, chard, kale, and small amounts of berries.

Risks of a Ketogenic Diet

There are plenty of risks to consider before beginning a keto diet. As much as it is an excellent solution for short-term weight loss and those who suffer from seizures, it can be unsafe if you are not informed about the risks.

For one, a diet high in saturated fats is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Labwork has confirmed that those who use ketogenic diets long-term have higher bad cholesterol levels, which is also a risk for heart problems.

Other common problems associated with keto diets include:

  • Nutrient Deficiencies
  • Liver Problems
  • Kidney Problems
  • Constipation
  • Brain Fog
  • Mood Swings

The significant restriction on fruits and vegetables takes away primary sources of nutrients like magnesium, selenium, and some vitamins. You may be able to offset this risk of nutrient deficiency by taking a supplement.

The high fat and protein content in the diet may also cause problems for the liver and kidneys. The liver metabolizes fat, and the kidneys help metabolize protein, so if you have existing conditions, they may worsen as these organs are overtaxed with higher demands.

Constipation may be a problem for some due to the lack of fiber in the diet. Balancing meals with a lot of leafy greens can help this condition. Unfortunately, as you deprive your body of quick-fuel sources like sugar and carbohydrates, your brain will respond in kind (that you are depriving it.) This often comes in the form of fatigue and mood swings which can be especially severe when you first begin a ketogenic diet.

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Types of Ketogenic Diets

There are a few different iterations of ketogenic diets that are used for different purposes. For example, an overweight person looking to drop some weight will have different nutritional needs than a bodybuilder looking to turn fat into muscle.

Standard Ketogenic Diet

The typical keto diet is high in fat, moderate protein, and low in carbohydrates. A standard ketogenic diet typically falls in the range of 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbohydrates.

Cyclical Ketogenic Diet

The cyclical keto diet is a variation of the standard keto diet that alternates periods of low-carb intake with periods of higher-carb intake. People on a cyclical diet tend to follow the low-carb keto guidelines for five days and then increase carbohydrate intake for two days.

Targeted Ketogenic Diet

A targeted diet is used by some athletes that have intense workout periods. These individuals will follow a ketogenic diet with the addition of carbohydrates targeted around their high-intensity workouts.

High-Protein Ketogenic Diet

Like a standard ketogenic diet, the high-protein version still focuses on high-fat and low-carbohydrates but allows for higher protein intake. Individuals on a high-protein keto diet might consume 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbohydrates.

Why Ketogenic Diets are Good for Fat Loss

Ketogenic diets have been proven to help individuals lose more fat than low-fat diets. The biggest draw to these diets is that the high-fat content is filling, so it is unlikely to overeat and unlikely that you will feel unsatiated, leading to higher success rates.

Despite the risks of nutrient deficiencies or liver and kidney problems, ketogenic diets can improve some conditions. Keto diets are effective at stabilizing blood sugar levels and improving insulin resistance. It is also linked to lowering triglycerides and blood pressure.

The Bottom Line

Ketogenic diets are good for weight loss and have a positive effect on many health conditions. However, these diets are extreme and are not without their own set of risks. Ultimately your doctor will consider your individual health history when determining if a ketogenic diet is appropriate for you. 

It is not unusual to experience mood swings and brain fog when beginning a ketogenic diet. Some people refer to this period as the ‘keto flu,’ which usually passes within a few days. What you are experiencing is your body acclimating to the deprivation of easy energy as you eliminate sugar and carbohydrates. For most people without underlying conditions, a ketogenic diet is an effective way to burn fat.

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The Best Activities for Losing Weight

The media is chock-full of stories about how obesity and resulting healthcare costs are both skyrocketing. Losing weight is a top to-do list item for nearly half of the population worldwide. Losing weight is good for our health and self-esteem. It takes dedication, a focus on nutrition, and a good amount of physical exercise.

The best activities for losing weight get your heart pumping. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. There are different types of exercise, and each has its place and purpose. Aerobic exercise increases heart rate and gets the blood pumping. Strength-training exercises build muscle. Yoga enhances flexibility, mindfulness and improves posture. All three types belong to your routine.

Walking

Walking is a low-intensity aerobic exercise. It is the most popular exercise for beginners and those who are significantly out of shape because it does not require learning new skills, and it does not put stress on your joints. 

Walking is probably already a big part of your daily routine. To see weight loss, try for thirty minutes of moderate-intensity walking at least every other day (or 3-4 days per week.) You can use a treadmill for indoor walking or peruse your neighborhood or local hiking trails. You can increase your activity level by adding minutes, speed, or elevations to your walks.

Plus, if you are walking outdoors, this is a good time to bond with your dogs or soak up some vitamin D. An outdoor walk can make you feel good because the exercise releases endorphins, and time spent outdoors fulfills your instinctual need to connect with nature. 

Related: How to Juice While Staying in Ketosis

Swimming

If you are looking for other low-impact alternatives, swimming is an excellent choice. Water has more resistance than air with the added benefit of adding buoyancy, making it easier to perform certain aerobic activities without injury.

Aerobic swimming can mean different things, including swimming laps using the breaststroke or treading water in the pool’s deep end. Sixty minutes of swimming at least three times per week are effective in helping middle-aged women lose weight and lower their risk of heart disease.

Water Aerobics

Water aerobics is a form of swimming where you use the natural resistance of the water to build muscle and burn calories. It is a great alternative for ultra-low-impact workouts that present no risk of falls. These workouts are good for people of all ages but especially helpful for aging adults who need help with flexibility and range of motion.

Cycling

Cycling is another low-impact option that engages the whole body. You can take advantage of this workout by buying a bicycle and taking a ride around town or joining a spin class at the gym. Cycling is aerobic, burning between 400 – 1000 calories per hour depending on the intensity, and it builds muscle. 

Cycling requires more skill than, say–walking. It takes some practice to negotiate turns, descents and climbing. But with a little practice, you can enjoy a practical exercise that can replace your morning commute.

If you are new to cycling, consult a bike shop to choose a good bicycle and get outfitted with the right gear. Then, start small. Go for a couple of short, leisure rides in your neighborhood. When you feel good with those distances, begin adding more. Cycling is a total body workout, and it is easy to overdo it, especially in nature with plenty of hills.

Interval Training

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has become the new norm in aerobics workouts. This type of interval training rotates between periods of high-intensity active workouts and periods of low-intensity recovery. Interval training may be responsible for burning up to 25 – 30% more calories per minute than traditional aerobic workouts.

Interval training is often touted as the most effective workout for losing body fat. And, it can be combined with other forms of aerobic exercise like walking/jogging, swimming, and cycling. However, it is important to note that interval training – specifically high-intensity workouts are not safe for everyone. If you have range of motion deficiencies or are new, you should use caution with these types of workouts. Most trainers or studios will provide modified moves to aid with this.

There are different levels of HIIT workouts available. If you are a beginner, try ramping up your intensity for as little as 20 to 30 seconds between recovery periods. Focus on performing what you can and build your strength towards adding more intensity. 

Yoga

Yoga improves flexibility, mental health, and physical fitness. While not as intense at burning calories as aerobic exercise, yoga offers multiple benefits that make it an attractive option. For one, it promotes mindfulness which may be linked to improved self-control when it comes to food choices.

Different types of yoga vary in intensity; even restorative yoga can burn calories. And the stretching poses help build flexibility which improves the range of motion. Both direct and indirect benefits of yoga help support weight loss.

Before you go to a class, spend some time getting familiar with different types of yoga. Some are more intense, and others are more spiritual in nature. Choose a type of yoga that fits your needs and start with some beginner poses at home. When you have built up some confidence, go to a yoga class at a gym or yoga studio.

If you are struggling to lose weight or are interested to know which activities burn the most calories, there are several good options to choose from. Simply incorporating more activity throughout the day will lead to fewer pounds on the scale for many people.

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