The keto diet which lets you gorge on fats like butter and cheese while staying clear of carbs is helping some Indians shed the kilos.
Going on any diet is a test of will power. But the ‘Nos’ of the ketogenic diet (KD) make you wonder if this is what J K Rowling’s Dementors eat -no sugar, no bread, no rice, no fruit, no dal, no onions… all high-carb stuff that defines comfort food. What you get to eat instead is fat.
Eating fat to cut the fat? If that seems illogical, it seems to work. Shriyam Bhagnani, 23, came down from 95 kg to 75 kg in nine months by following the keto diet. “I limit my carb intake to just salads. At home I cook my own food according to the diet guidelines.When I am travelling I usually eat omelettes and kebabs, and carry protein shake powder,” says Bhagnani, a social media consultant in Mumbai. She pairs the diet with weight training as it enhances the outcomes.
Normally, we meet 45-65% of our calorie requirement from carbs; keto cuts it to just 5-10%. You are not allowed to consume more than 20 gm of carbs a day but eat more fat – 70% of calorie requirement. The diet trains the body to derive energy from fats instead of carbohydrates. Glucose from carbs has been linked to obesity, diabetes and cardiac diseases. But when fats are metabolized they create ketone bodies or ketones, which can be used as fuel, just like glucose, by human cells. The name ‘ketogenic’ comes from ketones.
Standup comic Tanmay Bhat weighed 250 kg in February 2015. With some basic workout and controlled eating he got the scale down to 150 kg, and in January this year he started on the keto diet and vigorous weight training. “Now he is down to 120 kg and aiming to knock off another 20kg,” says his coach, Ranveer Allahbadia, who shares videos of keto recipes on his YouTube channel, Beerbiceps.
Most trainers say it works best with a daily workout but Priya Dogra Aurora, 39, is relying purely on keto without having stepped inside a gym. “I have been on keto since January last year. At the time I used to weigh 100 kg and now I am 62 kg,” says Aurora, who lives and works in Shimla. She researched the diet online and created recipes that can be made using local ingredients. “Keto is a western diet and relies heavily on non-veg food items and special ingredients like heavy whipped cream, which are not easily available in India,” says Aurora, who shares her recipes on her website, ketoforindia.com.
However great it may sound, keto is a controversial diet. The initial transition period, when the body is getting used to metabolizing fats for energy instead of carbs, can leave some dieters low in spirits and energy, with brain fog and nausea. These symptoms, called the ‘keto flu’, last for a couple of days. Because fruits are off-limits, dieters may also face constipation and certain nutrient deficiencies.
Drawing lessons from his own experience with keto, Allahbadia doesn’t recommend it to everyone, and only to those who have failed to lose weight by traditional workouts and diets.
NOT JUST A FAD
Long before weight watchers discovered it, KD was being used to treat epilepsy. The diet was developed in the US in the 1920s. In India, Mumbai-based neurologist Dr Janak Nathan has been using it since 1996. “We have used this in uncontrolled epilepsy in over 370 children, infants, adolescents and adults till now. The rate of success is around 60%, having more than 90% control of seizures. We use it as a treatment option only in cases where standard medicines have failed to help,” says Dr Nathan.
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