The low carbohydrate-high fat (LCHF) keto diet is growing in popularity with a high number of health foods made specifically to cater to the demands of the lifestyle
So what is the Keto diet exactly and how does it help one lose weight?
We spoke to registered dietitian, Shelly Bowien, about how and why the keto diet could work.
Related: Is the keto diet sustainable?
What is the keto diet?
The keto ‘diet’ is best adopted as a permanent or long-term lifestyle choice rather than a weight loss diet as abruptly breaking from the keto diet or even taking ‘cheat days’ could be detrimental to your health.
The keto diet works by carefully tracking and balancing nutrients, maintaining a low carbohydrate intake (lower than 20g) and increasing the intake of healthy fats while meeting other specific nutrient and micronutrient requirements.
How is more fat good for weight loss?
At first glance the keto diet seems bizarre. While sticking to the traditional idea of keeping your eating low card, on the keto diet you increase your fat intake to lose fat.
The difference comes in with the type of fat you should be consuming.
“Intake of healthy fats helps with insulin control and stable insulin levels. Stable insulin levels are really important in weight loss because it allows your stored fat to become more easily available to be burned as energy, thus assists in stubborn weight loss and can help you reach your weight loss goals,” explains Shelly.
Related: What’s the difference between a low-carb diet and a keto diet?
Can you stay healthy on just 20g of carbohydrates?
Following the keto diet properly involves tracking your foods. Most people do this on tracking apps where you input your meal plan and the app shows you whether you’re meeting your nutritional goals.
With all your other national needs met, Shelly says the carbohydrate restriction in itself can be part of a healthy balanced diet.
“For a healthy balanced diet, we historically have based this on 45 – 50% of your energy intake to be carbohydrates. This equates to around 130g per day. The ‘recommended daily allowance’ for carbohydrates is 130g/day. This amount was established based on the average amount of glucose utilised by the brain. However, the brain can use ketone bodies as an alternative energy “fuel” source,” says Shelly.
Keto is a lifestyle and not a diet
While most restrictive diets allow for a cheat day or cheat meal, this is not advised on the keto diet nor is it advised to jump onto the keto wagon as a fad.
“It depends on how long you were on the keto diet for. If only for a short time (you would probably find a fast initial weight loss) then you would probably gain this weight back fairly quickly especially if abruptly stopping the keto diet. Your glucose stores (known as glycogen) became depleted on the keto diet, and glycogen holds quite a lot of water – for every 1 gram of glycogen, it holds 4 grams of water. Therefore, this weight could be gained back quite quickly,” says Shelly.
Disclaimer: please note that this is not meant to be used as individual dietary advice but rather general guidelines, if you have any further questions/experiencing any symptoms, please contact your doctor or dietitian.