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If you’re looking to lose weight or push past a weight loss plateau, you’ve probably heard the hype surrounding the ketogenic diet. In a nutshell, keto is a high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carb diet. At first glance, this buzz-worthy diet seems too good to be true: Go ahead, order that hamburger and add cheese, it fits keto diet! But the keto rules are actually quite strict if you really want it to be effective. You’ll need to remove the bun (and even the ketchup) on that aforementioned cheeseburger. Plus: to get this diet right, you can’t simply indulge in all the steak and bacon you want. Leafy greens are the key to weight-loss success. Otherwise, your cholesterol will shoot through the roof and your primary care provider will not be happy when they review your annual bloodwork. So, how exactly does keto work? The goal is to deprive your body of carbs so that you stop burning glucose for energy and rely instead on fat as your fuel. As you shift your metabolic state, the diet requires some serious willpower. You can’t bank on a "cheat day" to satiate your carb cravings because you need to diligently keep your body in the fat-burning state of ketosis. For most people, eating more than a half of a plain hamburger bun would be enough to disrupt the ketosis. If you’re thinking about giving keto a test run, here are 5 things health experts say you really need to know.

1. You will need to count your macros

Research shows a macros ratio of 75 % fat, 20 % protein, and 5 % carbohydrates has been tied to successful weight loss, and specifically weight loss from fat rather than muscle. Always consult with your physician or nutritionist before starting a new diet plan. This is especially important for keto because the macros are so precise. For example, not hitting your protein macros could translate to muscle mass loss. Muscle mass is key to health and longevity.

2. You may come down with "keto flu"

Some people who are new to keto experience unpleasant side effects. The term coined “keto flu” is used to describe the headaches, nausea, fogginess, muscle cramping, and fatigue that oftentimes occur in newcomers who are trying the diet for the first time. Many of these symptoms can be remedied by getting enough water and electrolytes. Even as an experienced dieter, many of these symptoms can still occur during the process of your body switching into ketosis.

3. You may lose a lot of weight in the first week or so Seeing the scale move in the direction you want it to go in can be motivating. But, a lot of the weight people lose in the first week or so of keto is actually water weight. Expect frequent urination in the first few days following the keto diet. Why the water loss? Our bodies break carbs down to glucose, converting them to glycogen. For each gram of glycogen, the body stashes three to four grams of water. Without the glycogen reserves, your body starts releasing water weight. Constipation and muscle cramps can then become a problem with the loss of the water weight.

4. Your breath and body odor may change A new term you have have heard as “ketosis breath” is a real thing. Those on the keto diet may notice their breath and urine begins to smell fruity or even similar to nail polish remover. The reason for this is because a ketone body known as acetone is leaving your body through your breath, skin pores and urine. This can be a source of insecurity for some people.

5. You may lose your hair

Several aspects of ketosis can trigger hair loss and a change in the health of your hair. Two of the most common reasons include:

  • Fewer nutrients. By decreasing your intake of carbohydrates, including some fruits and vegetables that have higher carbohydrate content, you may be reducing the variety of micronutrients your body typically needs for healthy hair. This could cause you to lose more hair than normal, or for your hair growth to slow down.

  • Your body’s response to cutting calories. When you reduce your calorie intake, your body responds by making sure the energy that’s available goes to the most important functions first. This includes things like cell growth and the functioning of your heart, lungs, and other organs. This means there may be less energy for hair growth.

6. It can be really tough to sustain

The keto diet can be very tough to maintain. It’s hard to avoid carbs altogether, especially in social settings. Plus, once you start eating carbs again, you’re likely to regain the weight you’ve lost. Before you start the diet, ask yourself if it’s something you truly can maintain. So, do you think the keto diet is a fit for you? If you want more help trying to figure out the best weight loss approach for you, click here to schedule your free consultation with a nutrition professional so we can come up with a strategy customized for you.

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