You’ve tried all the popular diets: Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, shake replacements. The options are endless, but it doesn’t mean you have found the right fit for your body. With a little homework, a ketogenic diet could be the key to a healthier you with the added bonus of a full night’s sleep.
Studies from National Institutes of Health show ketogenic diets can drastically lower blood sugar and improve insulin resistance, helping to improve diabetes and prediabetes. It can also improve heart disease including the lowering of blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. And keto is being used—and increasingly studied—as a dietary therapy for epilepsy, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
With all the health benefits, what exactly is keto? Today we are going to share the terminology, provide food options to get you started, and discover how it helps you sleep better.
What is keto?
According to Diet Doctor, the “ketogenic diet comes from the fact that it allows the body to produce small fuel molecules called ketones. This is an alternative fuel source for the body, used when blood sugar (glucose) is in short supply.” How does it break down you are asking?
- The normal keto diet consists of 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein, and 5 percent carbohydrates. A modified, high-protein version of keto adjusts the fat-protein ratio: 60 percent fat, 35 percent protein, and 5 percent carbs.
- Ketones are produced if you eat very few carbs (that are quickly broken down into blood sugar) and only moderate amounts of protein (excess protein can also be converted to blood sugar).
- The liver produces ketones from fat. These ketones then serve as a fuel source throughout the body, especially for the brain.
- Your entire body switches its fuel supply to run mostly on fat, burning fat 24-7. When insulin levels become very low, fat burning can increase dramatically. It becomes easier to access your fat stores to burn off lower insulin levels; hence faster weight loss, fewer hunger bouts, more energy, and alertness.
What do I eat on keto?
Most diets require a lot of fruits, a lot of veggies, and a lot less red meats. But on keto, the body enters ketosis by eating healthy fats; the more avocado, for example, the better. Net carbs are key in ketosis and are easy to calculate with an app like Carb Manager. Or you can calculate on your own taking the carbs minus fiber. Start with some basics for your first grocery trip:
- 0 net carbs: natural fats (butter, olive oil); fish and seafood; meat
- 1 net carb: eggs (any style), cheese (avoid processed or shredded)
- Drinks: water, coffee, and tea (0 net carbs) while avoiding sodas and juices
- Veggies: stay above ground (spinach, lettuce, asparagus, avocado, cabbage, cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, peppers, kale, broccoli, cauliflower)
- Fruits: stay in the berry family but limit the intake due to sugar contents
- Avoid: bananas, potatoes, bread, pasta, rice, and sweets (candy, donuts, snack cakes, or chocolate bars)
While eating healthier fats, ketogenic dieters quickly find the first benefits: water flushing, less bloating, and staying full longer. You no longer crave the unhealthy once you enter ketosis and maintain the lifestyle while your body adjusts. This leads to less snacking at night for a tummy free of food at bedtime.
How can I avoid imbalances while adjusting to a ketogenic diet?
Water makes up 50 percent of your body and that doesn't change in ketosis. As the most basic necessity to the body, drinking enough water is critical to stay hydrated to help with constipation or dehydration that can occur when switching to a ketogenic diet.
A drastic health change like eating fewer carbs produces less insulin in your body. Electrolytes are flushing from your body at a higher rate when in ketosis so you need to replenish your body daily. The kidney starts excreting more water than retaining it which helps early in keto with water weight or bloating. Muscle cramps or hyperactivity could occur along with insomnia if electrolytes deplete too low. The best medicine is a no-calorie zero Gatorade or Powerade. You can read more about electrolytes during the keto diet from Bodyketosis here.
The four basic electrolyte minerals are magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium. And each is needed to properly balance your body for survival and maintenance. Here are some easy ways to supplement during ketosis:
- Himalayan salt helps supplement the sodium to retain water in the body. It is also important for muscle and nerve function. One way to add Himalayan salt is to add a bit of water for a quick drink or regularly drinking bone broth.
- Potassium is best replaced in ketosis with salmon, avocado, nuts, leafy green veggies like spinach, and mushrooms. This is why you will notice a lot of keto recipes with these options. As you maintain ketosis, you also will help maintain healthy blood pressure, regular heart rate, and proper fluid balance with potassium.
- We all know milk does the body good but it also contains a lot of sugar. Instead try supplementing with unsweetened coconut or almond milk, vitamin D, fish, cheeses, broccoli, or leafy greens.
- Magnesium helps your body's immune system among other muscle functions. Most doctors and keto plans recommend 500 mg per day of magnesium which could start with leafy greens and nuts or a keto greens powder.
Due to eating healthier, drinking more water, and adjusting your body to crave food less, your sleep cycle improves in ketosis. Though some battle some issues at the beginning while adjusting electrolytes and minerals, the change to keto increases the REM cycle. A few studies have shown a significant reduction in daytime fatigue in obese patients switching to a keto diet while teens were studied in a similar study where the REM cycle increased.
Of course like any health change and diet adjustment, the ketogenic diet is not for everyone. Starting with your physician is important to make sure keto is right for you. If you have tried keto and still have not seen the benefits of a restful night's sleep, the Alaska Sleep Clinic provides free consultations. The underlying issue may be apnea or another sleep condition which can be tested in an overnight study.