If you’ve never heard of the keto or ketogenic diet before, the word means “creating ketones.” Ketones are byproducts that show up when your body starts tapping fat molecules for energy. It follows this process when glucose, your body’s normal energy source, is in short supply. Your body can convert fat into glucose and back again, but the body makes ketones when it has no time to spare and you need energy now.
Keto diets make use of this process to give you dramatic results quickly. Almost every low-calorie and low-carbohydrate diet makes use of ketone production, but a keto diet gets to the heart of the matter. Still, taking this route can be hard on your body, so it’s important to know a few essentials about the diet and what to do before you begin.
Expect to Lose Water Weight
A keto diet can be a quick way to lose weight, and never does that point seem truer than in the first week or so of the diet. However, you should understand that you aren’t burning fat yet: You’re burning your glucose reserves. Your body keeps a store of extra glucose in a form called glycogen, and glycogen storage uses up water.
As you run your glycogen reserves down, you also drop the water it was using, and this drop can show up on your scale as 5 to 10 pounds or more of water weight loss. However, you can expect this weight to come back when you reach the maintenance stage of your diet and you start eating carbohydrates again. If you want to track actual progress, you should start with your weight monitoring about a week into the diet.
Prepare for the ‘Keto Flu’
Another common stage that happens after your glycogen reserves are depleted is something called “the keto flu.” Marathon runners and endurance trainers will sometimes run into the same problem, and it happens when your glycogen supply runs dry. Symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and a lack of energy may hit you hard, but as your body becomes used to burning fat instead of glucose, you’ll eventually get your energy back and the symptoms will fade.
Keto Diets Are Long-Term Commitments
A keto or low-carb diet isn’t some type of one-week fad diet. It’s a long-term commitment to losing pounds and keeping them off, and that commitment means changing your eating habits and finding healthy, low-carb sources of nutrients such as barley grass powder. It also means paying close attention to the maintenance diet phase and stepping down the fats you eat when you start eating carbs again.
Keto and low-carb diets work, but you need to be strict about following their diet guidelines. You also need to remember that what you’ll experience during the first few weeks isn’t what you’ll experience once the diet gets going. If you can commit to that first period, you can start seeing some actual results as your body burns fat directly and produces ketones. You can keep that weight off if you take care with your diet and keep exercising.