Forget boot camps and CrossFit programmes, the new buzzword spreading like wildfire across the world is the Ketogenic diet.
Keto diet (Ketogenic diet): This new ‘fad’ has become a way of life for many – either as a weight loss strategy or to support health-related goals. With all the back and forth between critics and supporters of this dietary regimen, how can you safely decide whether it’s the right choice for you?
(Already know about the Keto Diet but curious to find out what a typical Keto Meal Plan looks like? Then scroll down to the bottom of the article, because we have a Keto Meal Plan for you!)
What is the Keto diet?
Eliminate carbohydrates or extremely limit their intake (20 to 50g per day), and you end up forcing your body to go into a state of ketosis. With sugar levels also dropping as a result, the body begins breaking down fat to use as energy. Because of the loss of energy from cutting out carbs, the Keto diet necessitates eating good high-fat foods such as avocados and protein-based meals as compensation.
Many people have questioned its similarity to the famous Atkins diet as both focus on a low carb approach. However, the Keto diet requires measuring food and tracking ketone levels whereas Atkins has an easy-to-follow approach – eat unlimited amounts of protein and fat and stick to under 50g of carbs per day. It is for this very reason many experts have rejected the diet as it causes great health risks and may not bring any long-term health benefits as the Keto diet promises (explained below).
Click here for a Keto diet meal plan.
Short-term solution or a lifestyle choice?
Ardent supporters of the Keto diet believe you need to try the diet to understand its benefits. For the more passionate ones, it has become a healthier lifestyle choice instead of a weight-reduction plan.
Faizaan Adamjee, who trains in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (a form of martial arts) five times a week at the Karachi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy, has been on the Keto diet for 9 months.
“I feel better in every sense: my digestion is better, and my sleep is on point. I’ve stopped suffering from lethargic spells during the day or fallen ill as I used to often before.”
According to Adamjee, his cardio, strength and speed have benefited immensely and aided in his Jiu Jitsu training, a sport which is physically demanding and hard on the body.
If you’re on the Keto path, his advice is to understand what works and what doesn’t work for you. Cheating by consuming foods that are in the no-go zone, you’re simply breaking the state of Ketosis and losing out on the benefits.
“If you manage to get through the first week, the diet stops feeling like a struggle. Overtime, your appetite shrinks, you’re back to eating normal portions and you lose your cravings.”
Him, and others who believe this is a new way of life, feel uncomfortable going off the diet and eating rice and bread – they’ve now understood their bodies and most importantly, how each item of food affects how they feel.
Are you just being lazy?
Calisthenics athlete Gul Muhammad Taherani, who shares his own fitness journey on Instagram to inspire people, is not convinced.
“I don’t have anything against people going down the Keto path, although I do think it’s a fad. The only thing that grinds my gears is that they don’t understand exactly why the Keto diet is working for them.”
According to Gul and other experts, people fail to understand the concept of calories and macronutrients. Otherwise known as macros, these are what make up the caloric content of food.
Turns out, it doesn’t matter how many calories are in your food, but what kind of calories you might be consuming. You could be eating that Snickers bar you’ve been eyeing, as long as you fit it in your macro allowances for the day.
“For some people, counting how many calories they are consuming doesn’t work out as they may be making many mistakes when tracking their intake. And plus, some people just want a simpler way to lose weight; they don’t want to think about weighing out their meals or logging them into apps such as MyFitnessPal. If it were up to me, I’d take tracking my calories and macros over eliminating sugar and carbs any day!”
His advice to us: “Stay consistent and be patient with whatever you do because short cuts aren’t long-term solutions. Whether your goal is to lose fat, build muscle or gain strength, make sure you understand that these things take time, but are well worth the effort later down the line.”
What To Eat?
Avoid These Foods…
Is it safe?
Anyone starting the Keto diet is bound to feel sluggish in the first week – this is what’s known as the Keto Flu. Many have even complained of dark circles, nausea and dizzy spells. Since you are losing water and minerals initially, you are advised to take supplements to compensate for the loss. And continue with these later down the line because if you’re not making sure all your meals have enough nutrients, you’re going to suffer from deficiencies – some have complained of extreme cases of hair loss, bad breath and reduced strength.
Having said that, the Keto diet appears to be tailored for people with certain medical concerns such as PCOS and Diabetes.
Anum S. Ahmed, a Singapore-based Pakistani, said she got her first regular period for the first time in almost two years after being on the diet for almost a month.
“I started off as a UK 20 and now I’m close to squeezing into UK 16,” laughed Ahmed. “However, you do need to keep a track of your hormones, uric acids, cholesterol etc. This diet requires people to fully educate themselves and to make sure they consult with their doctors first.”
She does warn that if you’re planning on coming off the Keto diet, make sure to take in small quantities of carbs to avoid stomach problems such as painful bouts of constipation.
What’s healthy and sustainable for one person may not necessarily be the right choice for another.
But if you’re thinking of making a drastic lifestyle choice, consult with your doctor first. You can also find support via the Ketogenic Diet Pakistan Facebook group or food delivery services such as KEATO on Facebook (available in Karachi only), to get Keto meals delivered to your house daily.
Keto Meal Plan
(Drink 3-5 litres of water throughout the day)
Mariam holds a BA (Hons) in Broadcasting & Journalism from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in Malaysia. She is presently employed as Commissioning Editor at Culture Trip.
‘Ever since I was little, I’ve found writing to be my tool for self-expression. FUCHSIA is the perfect outlet to inspire myself and others through words.’ Says Mariam. But writing is not ALL she’s about! Mariam also loves playing football, travelling, scuba diving and wildlife.
Mariam is married and presently lives in the UK. She is an ardent dog lover and confesses to ‘Facetiming’ with her pet dog in Pakistan almost every weekend. She plans to write a novel one day and become a better football player!
Mariam aims to do more good through volunteer work. She lives by the motto: No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up, and never give up!