All things keto have been taking the diet world by storm lately. It’s become a popular way to lose weight and improve overall health through intermittent fasting, and while fasting isn’t a brand new approach, you might be wondering if the keto diet is safe to try. Of course, you should run any major overhaul in your diet by your doctor before you begin. But in the name of research, let’s take a look at some of the potential benefits and pitfalls of going keto.
Before we get into the potential downsides of following a keto lifestyle, let’s start with some keto diet benefits.
Potential weight loss is one of the main reasons people get excited to adopt a keto diet. An Italian study of nearly 20,000 obese adults reported that participants who followed a keto diet lost an average of 12 pounds in 25 days.
The reason weight loss can happen so quickly is because carbs retain more water than protein and fat. So when you cut them from your daily intake, all that extra H2O gets eliminated through urine, clearing the way for pounds to drop. But don’t get too excited! The jury’s still out when it comes to whether or not the pounds will stay off over the long-term, and more research needs to be done on the topic to reach a definitive answer.
Acne sufferers may find the keto diet a win for their skin. Eating excess sugar and empty carbs is notoriously problematic for your complexion. One study recently found that in young men ranging from age 15 to 25, their acne cleared up after following a low-glycemic diet for 12 weeks.
Brain fog is a catchall terms for general confusion, disorientation, and confusion that can be caused when your blood sugar spikes and dips. Eating lots of refined carbs like white pasta, bread, and sugar may contribute to this phenomenon, so when you eliminate these ingredients from your diet, you’re more apt to experience steady levels of energy—plus fewer cravings to boot.
Is the keto diet safe for diabetics? According to a scholarly review, a keto diet may help control A1C levels (average blood sugar levels), and potentially reduce the need for insulin. As always, speak with your doctor about whether trying a keto diet is right for you—and never go off your meds (for diabetes or any condition) before doing so.
Based on the list of benefits above, there’s a lot to love about this way of eating. But in the interest of offering a balanced review, let’s take a look at the potential pitfalls, too. Not everyone will experience the same side effects (or any), but it’s best to know what you might be getting yourself into, right? Here are some of the most common side effects that have been reported when switching to a keto diet.
It’s not the actual flu, but the “keto flu” is named for its list of uncomfortable symptoms like fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, headaches, and diarrhea. It’s thought to be brought on by the big transition that takes place when your body begins to start using fat, rather than carbs, as its primary energy source. It can take a week or two to adapt to the new source of fuel, but until then, be prepared.
When it comes to metabolizing protein, your kidneys do lots of the work on your behalf. Although the keto diet aims to be higher in fat than protein, some dieters load up on more meat (or other protein sources) than they really need, putting a strain on these organs. The amount of protein you need varies depending on a number of factors, so one way to help mitigate the effects is to talk with a doctor or nutritionist to come up with a protein plan that’s right for you.
It’s not always the worst thing to feel less hungry, but it might make sticking to your daily meals a challenge. One meta-analyses points to 26 studies that have reported people feeling less hungry on the keto diet. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus as to why—more research is required—but one theory is that going low-carb may simply suppress your hunger hormone.
Feeling parched? The keto diet may be to blame. Because you’re secreting extra water while eliminating all those carbs, be sure to drink as much as possible, especially when you’re just starting out with keto. If your urine is clear or pale yellow in color, it’s a good sign you’re well-hydrated.
Constipation is common issue with low-carb eating. Extra water, plus a bit of fiber from keto-friendly foods like nuts, non-starchy veggies, and avocado is a great place to start to keep things moving.
For more, check out our ultimate guide to the keto diet!
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