If you haven’t seen someone being picky about food at a restaurant or say ‘I am on ‘keto’, you are probably living under a rock. The ketogenic diet or more commonly known as the keto diet is the new Atkins and has taken the fitness industry by storm. It was the biggest weight loss trend of 2017 in the rest of the world and has finally made its way to Pakistan too. Everywhere you turn, people are still talking about the high-fat, adequate protein and low-carb diet.
Interestingly, the diet is not a new diet and has existed since ages; it just got popular all of a sudden. In the early days (back to 500 BC), fasting and several other diet regimes were used to treat epilepsy. The ketogenic diet was introduced to mimic the concept of fasting by modern physicians to treat epilepsy in the 1920s. Who knew a diet introduced back then would become so popular all of a sudden today?
Essentially, the ketogenic diet is one where you introduce high fat, adequate protein and less than 25 to 30 grams of carb/sugar in your diet. When you turn 70 per cent of your food intake fat, 25 per cent protein and 5 per cent carbs, the body gets into a state called ‘ketosis’, where it starts turning fat into energy instead of glucose. It takes a few days to get into ketosis; for some people it’s 2 to 3 days and can take up to a week for others. The part where one’s body is getting into ketosis can be slightly difficult to bear with because that is the only time when the body experiences some side effects like nausea, short term fatigue, problem with sleeping, stomach pain, irritability and poor focus. However, once you bear with these symptoms for a few days and your body successfully enters ketosis, you actually feel happier, fuller with a suppressed appetite, clear skin and better sleep. What more can one really ask for?
The keto diet is interesting but very hard to explain to relatives – like you can consume butter and cheese but can’t have an apple because fruits turn into glucose once they enter your body. With exception of berries and peaches once in a while. Also, it sounds great that one can consume cheese or olive oil and butter but at the same time, weekly cheats are not allowed. Once you get your body out of ketosis, it takes 4 days to a week of getting it back to the fat burning mode so it’s best not to cheat for at least a month.
Adopting a keto lifestyle in Ramazan
The keto diet works best with the concept of ‘Intermittent Fasting’, which is eating during a slot of 8 hours and staying hungry for the remaining 16 hours. Does this ring a bell? It is basically what fasting in the month of Ramazan is. Well, as they say, there is virtue in every obligation of Islam, the concept of fasting is basically intermittent fasting, which helps people lose fat, gain muscle and live healthy. This is also one of the reasons why two to three weeks before Ramazan begin is the most appropriate time to start keto but it is never too late. People are trying to figure out how they can eat healthy during Ramazan and not gain weight. The easiest way to begin is to cut carbs and sugar and introduce healthy fats to your diet. A cheese omelet with keto lemonade (water, lemon and sea salt) or Greek yogurt with chia seeds makes for sehri. The best thing about Greek yogurt and chia seeds is that they keep you full throughout the day and don’t let you feel thirsty either. Normal yogurt is not allowed and even though Greek yogurt is an acquired taste, everyone gets used to it in a few days. The iftar meal may require a little more effort but just a little meal prepping is all that is needed. For iftar you can have a portion of salad with keto lemonade and for dinner, one can easily pick from butter chicken, cheese with spinach (palak paneer), chicken with cashew nuts, pesto chicken, stir fried spinach with chicken, beef kebabs, fish, capsicum with mince meat, chicken roast, stir fried lady finger or anything else that is keto-friendly i.e. extremely low on carbs and high on fat or protein. Just make sure everything you cook is either cooked in butter or olive oil. It is really not as difficult as it may seem and one can easily loose at least 7 to 8 pounds in a month if not more. Just make sure to be taking sea salt for electrolyte balance and taking in potassium and magnesium so you don’t feel too tired.
The one thing that makes most people uncomfortable is the amount of fat that is to be required on the keto diet. However, interestingly that is also a myth. The human body will get into ketosis with or without fat as long as sugar, starch and carbs are cut from the diet. As long as there is fat on the body to lose, you don’t need to consume high amounts of fat according to some health professionals. There are obviously other opinions as well. The bulletproof coffee in the keto diet is also not crucial. Also, you can’t consume any type of fat – just healthy fats like butter, olive oil, coconut oil and organic cheese ideally. The brain can’t function without carbs so taking in 15 to 25 grams of carbs is also crucial. This is within the allowed limit and must be utilized.
It’s really not that difficult, is it? Adopt a keto-friendly lifestyle this Ramazan and continue it in the months to follow to see how your body transforms.