I’m always on the lookout for what the diet market has to offer. Not that I can stick to diet plans, but still it feels good to be doing something about all that weight that prohibits one from looking fabulous in their favorite clothes. Whenever someone thinks of losing weight the first way to achieve it that comes to mind is giving up on food. While that might achieve some results, it’s actually a very unhealthy way of dropping those extra kilos. Every diet plan needs to be coupled with exercise. But that is not all. Not everyone has the will to cut on their food consumption. I for one have a very hard time sticking to low food intake.
However, many diet plans in the recent years are based on a more structured intake of food and not cutting it out completely. One such plan that I came across on the internet lately is the Keto Diet. While some of you might have heard of it, the rest can read more about it in this blog on “A Beginner’s Guide to the Keto Diet”.
What is Keto?
The term “Keto” is derived from the small fuel molecules produced in our body called ‘Ketones,’ that the body uses when glucose molecules are short in supply. To summarise the Keto diet in one line it can be understood as the diet for high-fat and low-carbohydrate intake. We are trying to lose weight here. How does increasing the fat consumption help? Well, this is where the science kicks.
Carbohydrates consumption leads to the production of Glucose and Insulin in our body. Glucose, being the simplest energy molecule in the body, is chosen above all others to be broken down for fulfilling the body’s energy needs. Insulin assists the processing of Glucose in the bloodstream by taking it around for a field trip around the body. When carbohydrates provide the simplest energy source for the body, lazy as our systems are, they go only for glucose to fulfill all the energy requirements. This leaves the fats stored off, leading to those extra kilos on the weighing scale.
In the absence of Carbohydrates, and thus, glucose, the body enters a state called ‘Ketosis’ to meet its energy needs. Ketosis is when the liver starts producing ketone molecules by breaking down the fats in our body. This is also what happens when you fast. The difference between giving up on food entirely and the Keto diet is that in the latter you can actually eat a proper diet. The only thing you need to give up on is food rich in carbohydrates.
The end goal of the Keto diet is to bring the body into the state of Ketosis. During this process, the body depends entirely on the fats in our body to meet its energy needs. As the Insulin levels drop, fat burning increases dramatically. Not only does this help you lose weight, but also gives a constant supply of energy and makes you less hungry.
What to eat on the Keto Diet?
All these diet plans from the West sound really good. But how can someone living in India incorporate them into their daily diet? You already know the underlying principle: reduce the carbohydrates, increase the fats. The efficiency of the Keto diet depends largely on what you eat. Sounds like the plan, right? What I mean is that the weight loss begins only when you enter Ketosis. Your body will not give up on burning Glucose molecules till they are available for sacrifice. Consuming less than 20g of carbohydrates a day is the ideal goal to achieve ketosis faster. The problem, however, is that that in itself is the biggest challenge of all.
Carbohydrates are present in almost everything that we eat. One needs to be very specific and count every gram of carbohydrate that they consume. This is especially difficult for those who have a sweet tooth. Once you do get in the habit, your sugar cravings will drop simultaneously. The challenge of reducing the carbohydrate intake is even tougher in India for our cuisine is heavily dominated by carbs. That doesn’t mean we lack the right food to be substituted if one plans to go on a Keto diet.
Keeping the considerable amount of white butter, paneer, gram flour, fish, chicken, local vegetables like spinach, bottle gourd, Indian round gourd, brinjals, and beetroots, in the diet makes for the ideal Keto diet plan. Not only are these food items nutritional but also control insulin levels. Your breakfast can easily be planned with eggs and paneer. Vegetable soups, salads, stir-fried vegetables and the like can help in the remaining meals of the day. Try avoiding bread, chapattis, rice, as much as possible for grains are rich in carbohydrates as well.
The required amount of carbohydrates in the body can be received from green leafy vegetables and fruits, so keep their intake moderate. Avoid sugary and starchy food, like, potatoes, pasta, soda, alcohol, etc.
Simply increasing your fat intake and reducing carbohydrates is not enough to enter the state of ketosis. Many other factors contribute towards maintaining and enhancing the speed of the process. To begin with control your carbohydrate intake to 20 grams a day. Measuring the number of carbohydrates, you consume every day, is not an easy task. Thus, the steps that follow will help ensure your success. Controlling the protein intake to below 1 gram of protein per day, per kg of body weight, is ideal to maintain the right Keto diet to enter Ketosis. This is because an excess of protein gets converted to Glucose by the body.
Increasing your fat intake does not mean you eat more fat than necessary. Eat satisfactorily. That is the key difference between starvation and Keto diet. While the former makes you feel tired and eventually turns you back to consuming carbohydrate-rich food. The latter helps ensure a constant supply of energy. But then again excess of everything is bad. Eating for fun is not going to help you achieve your goal because there is only so much fat that your liver can convert to ketones. Excessive fat will get stored and contribute to weight gain.
If you need to lose weight dramatically, skipping a meal each day and reducing your food intake to some extent will become necessary. You might even want to look into One-Meal-a-Day type diets, which may help you lose weight by eating just one meal a day. Most important of all is the fact that you need to exercise. The liver should have the need to break the fat into ketones. That need arises when you put your body to work. Exercise is not necessary to enter ketosis, but it will help speed up fat burning. Finally, make sure you get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to increase in stress hormones and thus the blood sugar level. This affects both ketoses as well as weight loss. At least seven hours of sleep per night on average is required for ketosis to set in properly.
It is important to note that Keto is not a one-time, permanent solution to your weight loss problems. Once your target is achieved, stay on the right diet which can include carbohydrates. That coupled with the required amount of exercise can help you maintain your ideal body weight.