The keto diet has blown up as an ultra-low carb eating plan that can help you drop pounds fast—but its effects on your body go beyond weight loss.
A typical keto diet is comprised of 80 percent fat, 15 percent protein, and a mere 5 percent of calories from carbohydrates. If you consume 2,000 calories a day, that means just 100 of them are coming from carbs—including healthy carbs like fruits and vegetables. When you eat this way, it triggers ketosis, which means your body has burned through all its carbs and needs to begin burning fat for energy.
It’s true: Following a strict high-fat, low-carb regimen can help move the number on the scale, but there might be some other keto diet side effects that you aren’t aware of. Some of them are positives, but a few could be unpleasant—or even dangerous. Here’s what you should know about keto diet dangers before you decide to try it for yourself.
You might get hit with the “keto flu.”
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Keto flu is a real thing. Cutting your carbs to the bone and going into a state of ketosis (where your body burns fat for energy) can bring on a cluster of uncomfortable symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea. The side effects are the result of your body transitioning to using fat as its primary source of energy instead of carbs, explains Kristen Mancinelli, MS, RDN, author of The Ketogenic Diet. Once it adapts to the new fuel source (usually within a week or two), you’ll start to feel better.
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Initial weight loss could come back.
The keto diet is notorious for delivering a quick initial slim down. That’s because carbs hold on to more water than protein or fat, says Becky Kerkenbush, RD, a clinical dietitian at Watertown Regional Medical Center. So when you stop eating them, all that extra H2O gets released through urination. As a result, the scale might read a few pounds lower, and you may look a bit leaner.
That first drop might be mostly water weight. But research suggests that the keto diet is good for fat loss, too. An Italian study of nearly 20,000 obese adults found that participants who ate keto lost around 12 pounds in 25 days. However, there aren’t many studies looking at whether the pounds will stay off long-term, researchers note. Most people find it tough to stick with such a strict eating plan, and if you veer off your diet, the pounds can easily pile back on.