“Eat fat to lose fat!”

It sounds too good to be true, but when Kim Kardashian starts flaunting her bikini body just a few months after giving birth and attributing her impressive body composition to the keto diet, it’s understandable how everyone suddenly wants to jump on the keto bandwagon. But just what is this keto (or ketogenic) diet, anyway?

Normally, our bodies use glucose for energy. But when there’s not enough of it around – such as when we are on very low-carb diets, or when we’re starving — then the body looks for an alternative energy source and tells the liver to produce ketones instead from fat.  In this state of ketosis, the body can learn to prefer fat for fuel. 

The ketogenic diet started as a way of treating epilepsy in children. Over the years it has been shown to benefit patients with other brain disorders and mild cognitive decline. For otherwise healthy people, the benefits can come in the form of rapid weight and fat loss, better athletic performance and sustained energy levels.

It all sounds really good, I know. But as with all diets, it’s best to understand what you’re getting into before jumping in. Here are a few tips:

  1. It takes some discipline to get into ketosis, and it can be easy to slip out of it. Carb intake needs to stay below 50g or even less, if you’re a smaller person. Any more than that and ketone production stops. Too much protein can also knock you out of ketosis.
  2. Beware the keto flu. Many people experience carb withdrawal symptoms which can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. Symptoms include brain fog, headaches, or a lack of energy. Time your start date so that it doesn’t coincide with critical decision-making. Be patient and push through this temporary setback!
  3. Water weight can come off pretty fast, and electrolytes along with it. Drink plenty of fluids and take in sodium, magnesium and potassium from sources like leafy greens, salted nuts and avocados.
  4. Not all keto diets are the same. While it’s possible to achieve ketosis by eating nothing but bacon for 30 days, you’ll also lose out on lots of nutrition. Avoid processed food, choose good quality fat sources, and load up on non-starchy vegetables.
  5. Keto need not be long-term. 4 to 6 weeks should be enough time for you to reset and remove processed food and added sugars from your diet. You can also get rid of gluten, dairy and any suspected allergens, then reintroduce them slowly into your diet to see if you are sensitive to any of them.

Finally, as with any restrictive diet, pay close attention to how your body responds to all the change and reach out to your doctor, nutritionist or health coach if you have any questions. 

So…are you ready to go keto?