Here’s Why Keto Isn’t Sustainable Long-Term

Here’s Why Keto Isn’t Sustainable Long-Term

Those of us who have no problem accessing food go for some pretty incredible diets. No carb, low carb, all protein and more—we manage to eat a lot of things we need and none of the ones we don’t when it comes to weight loss. But are our diets sustainable? Can the keto diet really help you lose weight, and will it be sustainable over the long term?

You might be familiar with the keto diet thanks to Dr. Atkins, the man who proposed a keto diet for a very strict two week period. If you’re familiar with the Atkins diet, surprise—it’s actually keto! This was meant to jump-start the body into burning fat and getting rid of excess fat tissue.

Can you extend the Atkins diet or keto beyond a two-week period? Does it matter? And is there a better way to lose weight? Researchers are torn—so here are the facts.

What is keto?

The keto diet aims to keep your body in ketosis—a period of famine. Instead of breaking down the type of food that you might normally eat, you are in a constant state of ketosis—your liver breaks down ketones (molecules that build up as a result of fat intake) instead of sugar and glucose, which come from carbohydrates.

That’s good stuff if you’ve got a lot of fat built up, but can you live on this diet long-term? Exclusively eating meat, cheese and all of our other favorite indulgences sounds like a great way to live one’s life, but is that really enough to sustain a healthy diet?

The “keto flu”

The “keto flu” occurs when you start the keto diet. Your high-in-fat, moderate-in-protein and extremely low-in-carbs diet forces your body to burn excess fat tissue as you eliminate carbs.

A ketogenic diet burns a lot of fat in the early stages, but also comes with side effects. The keto flu—not to be confused with actual influenza, which is also not to be confused with COVID-19—comes with a whole host of side effects that may dissuade people from trying the diet—and with good cause. If you switch to the keto diet suddenly, you could experience:

  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Cravings (specifically, sugar)
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Poor concentration
  • Stomach pain

Obviously, any time you switch to a certain diet you will experience some sort of cravings, whether that’s for a Double-Double or an ice cream sundae. However, the more serious symptoms can be very difficult to cope with, and might not be sustainable long term. Most of these problems come from dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

To be fair, the keto diet has been successful in reducing weight in a number of severely overweight patients, and it is actually effective in treating children with epilepsy—for reasons researchers are not completely familiar with.

The problem with keto

One of the major problems with the keto diet is that it’s incredibly expensive to maintain over the long term. Meat, dairy, nuts and seeds are all delicious, but keeping those in stock can be a strain on the budget. These foods might be staples of a healthy diet, but when you start trying to sustain yourself on those—and nothing else—it starts adding up.

You also need to avoid keto if you have kidney issues. Switching to ketosis causes the blood and urine to become more acidic, thanks to excess calcium in your urine. You might experience increased kidney stones.

And, of course, if you take comfort in bowel regularity, keto has the opposite effect. Fruits and vegetables might be high in carbohydrates, but they’re also high in fiber, which is necessary for a good bowel movement. We all know that having a healthy gastrointestinal system is key to health and happiness (or at least less inflammation and occupying the bathroom), so the keto diet isn’t your best bet when it comes to all-around great health.

The bottom line

Keto is a great diet when you’re looking to lose a lot of weight, fast—but it’s probably not your best bet long-term. Not only are you incredibly limited in what you can eat, but the stress it places on your digestive system, kidneys and intestines are nothing to sneeze at.

Talk to your doctor before going on any major diet, and remember that once you lose the weight, there are healthy ways to incorporate indulgences into everyday life.

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