There is a lot of misinformation and disinformation—if not outright, unwarranted hysteria—concerning the potential risks of a low-carbohydrate, fat-based, ketogenic diet. Some of this popularized hysteria borders on the absurd.
– Nora Gedgaudas
We’re at right about the halfway point, and I’m sure you have a lot of questions swirling around the back of your mind about ketosis and ketogenic diets. Before we continue sharing about the tremendous health benefits of going keto, let’s take a moment to answer a few of the most common questions.
Is ketosis a natural state for humans to be in?
The human body will naturally and wonderfully create ketones when carbohydrates are restricted, as long as there isn’t an overabundance of dietary protein.
– Dr. David Perlmutter
Absolutely. Ketosis is simply the state of burning fat for fuel. Ketones are produced in the body as an alternative fuel source when there is a lack of glucose. Once you’re on a ketogenic diet—one with substantially lower carbohydrates, a moderate amount of protein, and high fat—ketone production can begin in just a few days, but it may take a few weeks or more in some people. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors survived and thrived on ketones between their big animal kills. It was most certainly a natural state for them. Modern-day humans have basically the same genetic makeup as our Paleolithic forefathers, so we can do perfectly fine in a state of ketosis.
What role does fiber play in ketosis?
|I encourage the consumption of vegetable carbohydrates from mostly dark, leafy greens for their high fiber and nutrient content.|
– Stephanie Person
When people think of fiber, the first thing that usually comes to mind is whole grains. After all, we’ve been told they are healthy by all the dietitians and health experts who are supposed to be in the know about this stuff. But grains, processed or whole, are not a part of a healthy ketogenic diet and will kill your ketone production very quickly. So is consuming fiber impossible in ketosis? Not at all.
Non-starchy and green, leafy vegetables, like broccoli and spinach, are a rich source of fiber that should not decrease your ketone production. The best thing you can do is try them and see how your body responds. Keep in mind that we’ve suggested counting all carbohydrates, including fiber, when you are determining your carbohydrate tolerance. This is the only way to be honest with yourself about how your body responds to certain foods and whether or not higher quantities of fiber are good for you.
I’m constipated on my ketogenic diet. What can I do about that?
Getting adequate sodium, potassium, magnesium, and water will help you avoid many of the short-term side effects of being in ketosis, including lightheadedness, headaches, muscle cramps, and constipation.
– Dr. Keith Runyan
This one is related to the last question in the minds of most people because they think they need fiber in order to prevent constipation. If you are constipated on your ketogenic diet, try adding more of the green, leafy vegetables we described above. It will also help to eat more saturated and monounsaturated fats; drink more water; get adequate levels of sodium, potassium, and magnesium; and even consume a piece or two of sugar-free chocolate, candy, or gum with sugar alcohols like erythritol, sorbitol, or xylitol (which can induce a bowel movement). Staying well-hydrated and eating plenty of fat tends to take care of this problem as well.
Is there any health advantage to cycling in and out of ketosis periodically?
I believe a well-designed ketogenic diet can overcome a lot of the negative effects people experience while eating a low-carb, high-fat diet. One such strategy some people may want to use is cycling in and out the various macronutrients, just as would have happened naturally in an ancestral diet.
– Bryan Barksdale
Physicist and researcher John Kiefer, author of The Carb Nite Solution, suggests eating one “cheat” meal every seven to fourteen days (less often for people who are especially metabolically damaged). Kiefer has found that people can shed more fat, get leaner, create more muscle mass, and enjoy some of their favorite foods time and again using this approach—which is sometimes called “carb cycling” —to go in and out of ketosis. However, although this idea has become more and more popular in recent years, it may not be an appropriate strategy for people who are looking for the therapeutic effects that ketosis has to offer.
Again, test it for yourself to see how it works for you. Eating a ketogenic diet during the week and then raising your carbohydrate and protein intake on the weekends may be desirable for some people, but it may be counterproductive, since getting back into ketosis can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Figure out what works for you to keep you optimally healthy and do that. If cycling in and out of ketosis periodically gives you the results you desire, then go for it. If not, then there is certainly no downside to staying in a constant state of ketosis.