This is adapted from a really good write-up on reddit.com/r/soylent – If you want to know more about why Ketogenic Diets work, check out my review of “Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It.”
The aim with nutritional ketosis is to get under a certain threshold of carbohydrates so your body is forced to start burning stored fat. There are some other benefits too, especially for people with metabolism problems and issues with insulin; most people use it for sustainable weight loss. To achieve ketosis you have to stay under 30-50 (depending on metabolism) grams of carbohydrates per day which can be difficult some times, especially when you are first starting keto and aren’t sure what you can and can’t eat. Using a ketogenic complete meal replacement like Keto Chow makes hitting your net carb goal much easier while assuring you’re getting all the vitamins, minerals and other essentials. It’s also usually less expensive than subsisting on bacon and cheese.
Being in nutritional ketosis has a bunch of benefits:
- Your blood sugar stabilizes a lot, only going up and down a bit in response to protein. This will also cause changes to how your body uses insulin (plus it needs far less insulin). Along with all of this your body stops producing as much hunger hormones like Ghrelin.
- With the change in blood sugar and insulin, your fat cells are switched from a “gotta catch ’em all” state of hoarding to releasing stored fat for energy.
- Your tissues store glucose coupled with water (glycogen). Often when first starting keto and those reserves are depleted and the water comes out you’ll lose a bunch of weight – though it doesn’t happen to everyone.
1 and 3 makes sticking with the diet easier. The abrupt loss of a bunch of water weight can really get people to stick with it (personally I lost 4 pounds my 4th day). Less hunger hormones gives you more will-power. In my own experience and in that of many others it makes dieting far more enjoyable – instead of “I’m always hungry all the time and am about to die!”
1 and 2 makes it easier to eat with a caloric deficit even if you have no will power.
2 gets your body burning fat stores, which is kinda the point right?
Now for the disadvantages:
- There is a change-over period (4 days, more or less) where your body is going to revolt a bit. You’ll likely have cravings for carbohydrates and you will likely feel hungry quite a bit. Soon, however, your body will give up and switch to ketosis. After a while the desire for carby food may completely disappear. I recommend starting Keto Chow at a higher calorie amount (2000 or so depending on your needs) so you can concentrate on kicking carbs. As time goes on you can lower the calories.
- During this same transition period, if you don’t watch your electrolytes you may feel weak, disoriented or light headed. It’s often called the “keto flu” because it can feel like you have the flu. Your body needs more electrolytes in ketosis and it’s even worse while you are burning up that glucose+water reserve and dumping electrolytes. This additional requirement is why the Sodium and Potassium levels in Keto Chow are so high. Easy fixes: chicken broth or pickle juice.
- Keto Chow has a lot more fiber in it that many people are accustomed to. It’s probably a wise idea to take a pro-biotic (I use this one, also available at Costco – works great). There’s a chance you may have some loose bowels at the very beginning. This guy has a useful tip: “I found quickly that an Imodium took care of that problem and because you aren’t taking in tons of food mass you don’t have to worry about backing up if it works too well.”
- “Bursty” muscle action like lifting weights or sprinting often takes a hit with less glucose available. The upside is that endurance for other activities (after about 2 weeks) will go through the roof. It’s one of the reasons Ketogenic diets are fast becoming a preferred diet for competitive marathon runners.
If you can get past these hurdles, your body will adjust and you’ll actually have more energy losing weight with fewer calories than they did eating normally – at least in my own and many other’s experience.
Do you have to only eat Keto Chow? No, but you do need to stick to high fat, moderate protein, low carb foods. If you “cheat” you’re actively sabotaging your progress. Got the hankering for some cake? eat some bacon. A single slice of wonder bread is enough to erase several days worth of progress. Seriously: go grab some string cheese, some pork rinds or anything else that is keto friendly if you absolutely need to snack. Here is a handy guide to what you should and should not eat