When you set out to lose weight, you expect to give up a few of your favorite foods. Donuts? So long. Ice cream? Goodbye. Forgoing grains, fruits, and any sugars, real and artificial, is a whole new level of self-restraint, though.
But it’s par for the course for the ketogenic diet, a high-fat, low-carb eating plan attracting a lot of attention these days. “The keto diet is a calorie-reduced diet plan that focuses on eating most of your calories from fat, a moderate amount of protein, and only 20 or so grams of carbs per day—that’s about the amount in one apple,” says Julie Upton, R.D., a registered dietitian and co-founder of Appetite for Health.
Translation: You’ll basically avoid any food that’s high in carbs. Besides the obvious ones like pasta and dessert, this means you should also skip all fruits (except berries), low-fat dairy, snack/protein bars, alcohol, and sugary condiments and sauces.
As a result, the keto diet can cause some serious changes in your body, both positive and negative. From fatigue to muscle cramps, we talked to R.D.s to figure out what to expect.
Basically, the keto diet works by changing your body’s primary fuel source. “When you eat foods containing carbs, your body stores the excess carbs in your muscles as glycogen to use as energy, along with some extra fluid,” explains Victoria Lindsay, R.D., a registered dietitian in Washington, DC.
Then, when you greatly restrict your carb intake, your body dips into your muscles’ glycogen stores for energy. When those are used up, you lose the fluid that was stored along with the glycogen as well. That leads to pretty rapid fat loss at first—even though it’s mostly “water weight,” Lindsay says.
Find out what happened when one woman tried the keto diet:
As you continue to eat this way, your body will enter into ketosis, when you start burning stored fats as fuel, leading to further weight loss. But while you’re losing fat tissue, you will usually lose some muscle tissue as well. “This is because carbohydrate…
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