The ketogenic diet has come a long way from its humble beginnings.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the ketogenic diet. You might have even tried it. This low-carbohydrate diet is high in fat and protein, which sounds scary, but it’s been shown to be effective as long as it’s followed correctly.
Initially developed in 1921 by Russel Wilder to treat epilepsy, this diet is now experiencing a resurgence. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Lebron James, and Kim Kardashian have all gushed about the keto diet.
Like any plan that seriously reduces or completely cuts carbs, it’s not the easiest diet to stick to for a long period of time.
(Many people saw weight loss results in just their first week from following this “28-day Keto Challenge.”) Fortunately, you may not have to commit forever to reap the results.
We talked to experts to find out exactly how long you should follow the keto diet.
Remind me, what is the keto diet?
On the keto plan, your diet is composed of 70 percent fat, 25 percent protein, and 5 percent carbohydrates, says Samantha Lynch, R.D.N.
The goal of following a mostly fats diet is to put your body into ketosis. Studies show that it’s easy to get this wrong if you’re not following a proper plan. (Many have had success on this Keto plan here.)
When the body uses carbs as its primary source of fuel, it turns those carbs into a form of energy called glycogen. Ketosis slowly switches the body’s source of fuel from glycogen to ketones, thereby using fats as the body’s primary source of energy.
“When your body is relying on fat, there are a lot of ketone bodies—that’s the basic fuel source in the bloodstream—and the brain uses those very efficiently,” says Paul Salter, R.D., M.S., founder of Fit in Your Dress. As a result of this shift, the body enters a stage called ketosis. It now burns fat for fuel instead of carbs. The weight melts off quickly, and the results are often dramatic.
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How long does it take the body to get into ketosis?
Ketosis isn’t exactly easy to achieve. According to Salter, following the diet’s guidelines is paramount. This is because your body could snap out of its ketotic state at any point.
With the ketogenic diet, you have to meet these precise guidelines of eating—consuming this exorbitant amount of fat, a very small amount of carbohydrates—to actually see the benefits. If you do not eat to the guidelines, you actually don’t induce the state of ketosis to experience those benefits,” he says.
In order to see your body shift to ketosis and start experiencing benefits, you have to allow an adjustment period of a few weeks.
“The first two to six weeks are virtually the ketogenic adaptation phase, where your body is going through the adaptation of switching to relying primarily on fat versus glucose or carbohydrates,” Salter says.
He adds that to really see results, you should follow the diet for a minimum of three months.
Mark Sisson of The Daily Apple says there are four indicators that you’ve gone into ketosis:
- Higher energy levels: Without carbohydrates, your body now has a “super fuel” that makes you feel more energetic.
- No more cravings for sweets: Carbs are addictive, and if you’re eating them daily, you’ll continue to crave them. Once you eliminate them from your diet, you’re likely to find that you no longer desire them the way you once did.
- “Keto breath”: You might notice a hint of metal on your breath, which is also described as a “sweet rotten apple” scent. It’s subtle and may not last long, but in the meantime, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to flush out any odors.
- Testing: To find out if you’ve entered ketosis, you can use urine test strips, a breath test, or a blood analysis.