Recent years have seen a rise in the popularity of the keto diet, with celebrities like the Kardashians and Katie Couric praising its advantages. While you may be familiar with keto as a “weight-loss wonder,” many dieters also report feeling satisfied for longer periods of time, having more energy, and having less cravings. There is a responsible way to go keto, but you should be informed of a number of unusual side effects, including “keto flu,” before you start.
Keto differs from other low-carb diets in that it emphasises fat instead of protein, like Atkins and South Beach do. In a normal keto diet plan, only 5% of your daily calories are provided by carbohydrates, which is 40–60% less than the average recommended dietary allowance. Instead, fat can make up as much as 80% of your daily calories. 100 of your daily 2,000 calories, including the 100 from healthy carbs like fruits and vegetables, must come from carbohydrates. When you eat this way, it causes ketosis, which means your body must start burning fat for energy because it has used up all of its carbohydrate stores. The main goal of the strict keto guidelines is to make your body use a new kind of fuel.
Losing weight quickly can be accomplished by sticking to a high-fat, low-carb diet. But there are difficulties with the keto diet, just like with any other eating plan. While some of these side effects are advantageous, others may be unpleasant or even harmful. As you choose whether or not to try the keto diet, you should be aware of the following side effects.
Brace yourself for the “keto flu”
Keto flu really exists. Going into a state of ketosis, where your body burns fat for energy, and drastically reducing your carb intake can result in a number of unpleasant side effects, including headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea. The Ketogenic Diet author Kristen Mancinelli, M.S., R.D.N. explains that the side effects are the result of your body switching from using carbohydrates as its main source of energy to using fat as its main fuel. You’ll begin to feel better once it adjusts to the new fuel source, which typically takes a week or two.
Your mood can fluctuate
According to Laura Iu, R.D., a registered dietitian and nutrition therapist certified intuitive eating counsellor based in New York City, when you’re on a low carb diet you may not be getting the carbohydrates needed to produce serotonin, a brain chemical that helps regulate mood, as well as sleep and appetite—two other factors that can mess with your disposition.
Initial weight loss might not stick
The keto diet is renowned for producing an immediate slim down. According to Becky Kerkenbush, R.D., a clinical dietitian at Watertown Regional Medical Center, carbohydrates retain more water than protein or fat. Therefore, all that extra water is released through urination after you stop eating them. As a result, you might weigh a few pounds less and appear a little leaner.
It’s possible that the first drop was mostly water. However, research indicates that the keto diet is also effective at reducing fat. In a study conducted in Italy on nearly 20,000 obese adults, those who followed the ketogenic diet lost about 12 pounds in just 25 days. Researchers point out that there aren’t many studies examining whether weight loss will be sustained over the long term. Most people find it difficult to maintain such a strict eating regimen, and if you stray from it, the weight can quickly creep back on.
Constipation could be just around the corner
A common side effect of low-carb diets, including the ketogenic diet, is constipation. According to Ginger Hultin, M.S., R.D.N., a Seattle-based nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, severely reducing your carb intake means saying goodbye to high-fiber foods like whole grains, beans, and a significant portion of fruits and vegetables.
You could end up with clogged pipes if you combine that with the fact that your body is excreting more water. According to David Nico, Ph.D., author of Diet Diagnosis, you can keep things moving by consuming some fibre from keto-friendly foods like avocado, nuts, and small portions of non-starchy vegetables and berries. Increasing your water intake also helps.
Or, diarrhea could be just around the corner
“Our liver releases bile into the digestive system when we consume foods that are high in fat to aid in digestion. A high-fat diet like keto requires the liver to release more bile, and since bile is a natural laxative, too much of it can cause diarrhoea by loosening your stools and accelerating the rate at which they pass through your system.
Keto breath may have you reaching for breath mints
Your body will begin to produce ketones as soon as it enters the ketosis state. This includes acetone—yes, the same chemical found in nail polish remover, which, according to a 2015 review of the research, your body actually naturally produces. Exhaling is one way the body releases ketones, and the breath typically has a distinct smell that differs from the typical bad breath caused by a buildup of bacteria in the mouth, according to Iu.
Your cravings could intensify
When we don’t get the carbohydrates our bodies require, this chemical builds up and can intensify cravings, which can increase the risk of developing disordered eating patterns like binge eating, according to Iu. Cutting out carbohydrates can also cause the brain to release a chemical called neuropeptide-Y (NPY), which tells the body that we need carbs. It has more to do with the body’s biological reaction to deprivation, she claims, and has nothing to do with a lack of “will power.”
You’ll need to drink a lot more water
When following the keto diet, don’t be shocked if you start to feel dehydrated. Excreting all that extra water will probably increase your thirst, so Mancinelli suggests drinking plenty of fluids. The amount of water you should consume while following a ketogenic diet is not set in stone. But in general, try to consume enough liquids to make your urine clear or light yellow. Increase your intake if it becomes any darker.
And you may develop clearer skin!
Having acne problems? If you were a former sugar addict, the keto diet may cause you to start noticing changes in your skin. According to a review published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eating a lot of empty carbs is associated with worse acne, in part because these foods cause inflammation and signal the release of hormones that increase the production of pore-clogging oils. According to some research, reducing your carb intake may be able to help with these issues and enhance your skin as a result.
Brain fog can clear up as well
It is well known that carbohydrates, particularly refined ones like sugary cereals, white bread and pasta, or sweet drinks, cause blood sugar to rise and fall. So it stands to reason that consuming fewer of them can maintain order and balance. Mancinelli explains that for healthy individuals, this may translate to more consistent energy, less mental fog, and fewer sugar cravings.