Google has released the top search terms of 2016, and when it comes to weight loss, it turns out folks were especially drawn to the ketogenic diet. It was one of the 10 most-searched diets this year, landing halfway down the list (just a few notches below the taco cleanse!). But if you weren’t among the keto-curious in the last 12 months, you’re probably wondering now, Is this something I should try? (And what does ketogenic mean again?) Read on for a quick primer on the plan, and my bottom-line advice.
What is the ketogenic diet?
In a nutshell, it’s a high-fat, low- to moderate-protein, low-carb eating plan. On a ketogenic diet, roughly 75% to 90% of daily calories come from fat; 6% to 20% come from protein; and 2% to 5% come from carbohydrates.
It was originally devised as a tool for controlling epileptic seizures (though doctors aren’t exactly sure how it works) before there were drugs to treat seizures. In the past few decades, it has reemerged as patients and parents seek alternatives to pharmaceuticals.
But the ketogenic diet has also been adopted as a weight loss plan. The goal of the diet is to achieve ketosis, a state in which the body is using fat as its primary fuel, rather than carbs. After three to four days on a ketogenic diet, back-up stores of carbohydrates, called glycogen, become depleted and ketosis kicks in, triggering some weight loss and the appearance of a leaner physique.
But in terms of dropping pounds, the primary advantage of a ketogenic diet is that it doesn’t leave you hungry, since it involves eating a good deal of satiating fats, and the state of ketosis has been shown to reduce appetite.