There is no doubt that the Ketogenic Diet is a highly effective method to lose weight fast, however it also has some disadvantages you definitely want to be aware of before getting started, these disadvantages are commonly referred to as side effects.
The majority of these side effects are not that dangerous and can be avoided easily just by making a couple adjustments in your lifestyle while doing keto, however there is one that you really need to pay attention to as its consequences can be serious
And when we say serious we literally mean deadly serious!
This side effect is known as ketoacidosis and it can make your blood to become so acidic that leads to kidneys, liver or brain damage and if left untreated it may even lead to death.
Then if staying healthy while losing weight is something you are interested in, please keep reading
Ketosis vs Ketoacidosis
Let’s start by making the difference between Ketosis where your body becomes a fat burning machine and Ketoacidosis where your blood becomes acidic at a risky level.
There are a lot of scientific terms and definitions we could use to explain the differences between Ketosis and Ketoacidosis but let’s summarize and say that everything is about the amount of ketones in your bloodstream.
When done properly, a low-carb diet, such as Keto will make your body enter into a metabolic status known as Ketosis, in this status your body starts using fat instead of carbs as its energy source, making you lose weight in consequence.
To trigger Ketosis you need to increase the amount of Ketones in your bloodstream to anywhere between 0.6mmol to 3.0mmol, which is the optimal range for a person doing Keto.
But what happens when you go over the 3.0mmol level?
Taking your ketone levels beyond the healthy range could trigger Ketoacidosis also known as Diabetic Ketoacidosis but make no mistake, although Ketoacidosis is more commonly found in people having Diabetes it can happen to anybody who doesn’t follow a well-balanced Ketogenic Diet.
Who can get ketoacidosis?
Besides people having Diabetes anybody following a Ketogenic Diet can get ketoacidosis when certain conditions come to place, including:
– Starvation and abuse of alcohol.
– The abuse of alcohol on its own.
– Urinary infections.
– Some types of medication that inhibit the proper use of insulin hormone.
– Having a stressful life.
If we take a closer look to this list it becomes obvious that you cannot keep some of them from happening, but you definitely can take care of them by visiting your doctor frequently and making sure you follow a healthy Ketogenic Diet.
But what exactly is considered a healthy Ketogenic Diet?
To answer this question it is really important to remember that not every Keto Diet is created equal, in fact there are different types of Ketogenic Diet and making a good choice from the very beginning can definitely make the difference between failure and success.
That being said there are some characteristics that must be present no matter the type of Keto Diet you decide to follow for it to be considered healthy. Some of them are:
– It helps you achieve Nutritional Ketosis:
As I said earlier, Ketosis is the metabolic status where your body starts burning fat instead of carbs for fuel. However the term Nutritional Ketosis refers to a Ketosis status where you are not starving or lacking important nutrients to keep your body functioning properly.
– It helps you maintain body mass and physical performance:
Is your Keto Diet making you feel tired? Do you find yourself losing a significant amount of muscle? Then you are probably following and unhealthy low-carb diet and some things need to be fixed in your weight loss plan.
– It helps you effectively replace electrolytes and keeps you hydrated:
Losing electrolytes and water during Ketosis is perfectly normal, in fact, the first few pounds you lose when doing keto will come from water, however not replacing electolytes and water puts your health at risk and a well-balanced Keto Diet will definitely take care of this.
– It is mainly focused in fat:
Any healthy Keto Diet is mainly focused in increasing your fat consumption while lowering your carbs intake; just remember that when we say “fat” we really mean healthy fat.
– A healthy Ketogenic Diet promotes whole food eating:
Yep, I know many people out there claim that you can eat a lot of highly processed foods and still lose weight on keto, and being honest you definitely can eat some bacon here and there.
However a really well-balanced Keto Diet will never promote a high consumption of such highly processed foods.
Conversely, a well-managed Ketogenic Diet will have you eat low-processed whole foods most of the time so you can know exactly what you are eating in terms of carbs, protein and fat.
There are many other things you can look at when making sure your Ketogenic Diet is helping you instead of harming your body, but the previous ones give you a very clear idea of what to expect.
Moving forward there is a very common question among Keto Diet beginners that I would like to address in this post and it has to do with the use of exogenous ketones.
Can exogenous ketones trigger ketoacidosis?
Before answering this question let me briefly explain what exogenous ketones are for those of you who may not know.
In simple terms, exogenous ketones are supplements that help you keep your ketones at a certain level after you eat something that is not keto-friendly.
This doesn’t mean that you can eat whatever you want and take exogenous ketones to lose weight in autopilot. In fact, exogenous ketones won’t make you lose weight on their own, they are just one more supplement.
I personally find very few advantages of using these supplements to support your Keto Diet but some people may find them useful.
For me, after looking at their price (about $50 for a 2-week supply) I consider that my money could be better spent in buying healthy foods and exercising.
Now, to answer the question about exogenous ketones and ketoacidosis, technically it is possible to take your ketones to a risky level by taking exogenous ketones but it would be really hard in real life because you will need to consume a lot more than the recommended dose to go beyond the healthy ketone levels.
According to most manufacturers, every time you consume exogenous ketones your ketone levels increase up to 0.7mmol, so as long as you follow the instructions, the risk of getting ketoacidosis is pretty low.
Ok, we have talked a lot about how to identify a healthy Ketogenic Diet and the difference between Ketosis and Ketoacidosis but how you actually know if your body is getting into this risky condition?
The main symptoms of ketoacidosis
Besides measuring your blood ketone levels (more on that later), there are some very clear symptoms you should pay attention to in order to determine whether you are in Ketosis or getting Ketoacidosis.
Please take this list as a general basic guide and don’t make any decisions or changes in your diet without asking your doctor first.
That being said, some common symptoms of Ketoacidosis include:
– Unusual urination frequency.
– Feeling extremely thirsty no matter how much water you drink.
– Nausea and stomach pain plus vomiting.
– Bad breath (some describe it as a fruit-smelling breath)
– Feeling extremely tired all the time.
– Feeling confused frequently.
This applies to almost everybody but is even more important for diabetics who definitely need to see a doctor at the very moment they identify any of these symptoms.
To finish this post let’s talk about measuring your Ketone levels
How do i determine my ketone levels
When you are in Ketosis, most of the ketones in your bloodstream will be used to burn fat, however any unused ketones during this process will spill over your breath, urine or remain in your bloodstream and those are the ones we will measure with the tests described in this section.
The first method to determine your ketone levels is called Urine Testing.
As its name suggests, here we will determine the amount of ketones in your urine by using urine strips you can find at any pharmacy.
This method is really affordable and you determine your level of ketones by reading the color of the strip after peeing on it according to the instructions in the box.
This method however is not that accurate as strip readings are almost always affected by other factors.
Anyways, this method is good enough if you are just getting started and just want to know whether you are in ketosis or not.
The second method is called Blood Testing, this one is very accurate but may be costly for some people as you need to invest in a Ketone Meter plus the strips that may cost up to $10 each.
Finally we have Breath Testing, as with Blood Testing, Breath Testing uses a ketone meter but has no more associated costs.
The only disadvantage here is the accuracy which is similar to the Urine Testing Method.
If you want a personal recommendation, I think that buying a breath meter is the best option in terms of cost.
As long as you make sure you follow a well-managed Ketogenic Diet, I think is not necessary to have very accurate results when measuring your ketone levels.
Now, let me clarify that this recommendation does not apply if you have diabetes or the risk of developing it. If this is your case please always ask your doctor for advice.