October 13, 2021

7 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Going Keto

Posted by Jessica Penner

Picture of multiple ketogenic foods, including fish, read meat, avocado, oil, and zucchini

The keto diet has taken our world by storm over the past five years. From keto bars to crackers to jam, you’re likely seeing a slew of new keto products throughout the grocery store!

But is the keto diet safe, and could it help improve sleep for people with obstructive sleep apnea?

What is the keto diet?

The ketogenic diet (keto for short) was first developed in the 1920s as a medical diet for children with epilepsy. It wasn’t until more recently that it gained popularity as a weight-loss diet that takes advantage of your body’s energy mechanisms.

Your body’s typical and preferred energy source is glucose. This simple sugar is formed when your body breaks down the food you eat.

If your body doesn’t get enough glucose, it will switch over to an alternate fuel source, by breaking down fat into ketone bodies. This is called ketosis. Essentially, the keto diet tricks the body into thinking it’s starving so that it will use primarily fat for energy (either stored up in the body or consumed in food).

In order to switch over to ketosis, carbohydrate and protein intake must remain low. The standard ketogenic diet is mostly fat, with a medium amount of protein and a tiny amount of carbs. Compare that to a standard diet, which is half carbs, with a medium amount of fat and protein.

 Standard DietKeto Diet

How does the keto diet affect sleep apnea?

Since the keto diet has only recently gained widespread popularity, there aren’t any studies that have specifically looked at its effect on obstructive sleep apnea.

However, in studies conducted on people without sleep disorders, those following a keto diet appear to see benefits in their sleep structure. This study showed improvements in daytime sleepiness, and this one found more time spent in stage four deep sleep.

Why are some people taking on the keto diet for weight loss?

Aside from it being an effective weight loss regime, here are some benefits one might experience:

  • Improved blood cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and better blood sugar control
  • Despite consuming fewer calories, people don’t report feeling hungry

Questions to ask yourself before adopting the keto diet

You might be thinking… “this sounds great! No hunger? Better blood lab values? Sign me up!”

Before you dive right in, there are some things you need to know first.

The keto diet is not for the faint of heart!

Can I handle a lot of restrictions? The keto diet is very restrictive: most grain products (bread, pasta, rice), fruit, pulses (chickpeas, lentils), and some veggies and dairy products are too high in carbohydrates to fit into the tight keto restrictions.  

These restrictions can be difficult to follow, especially if other household members are not also adhering to the diet, or if you do a lot of travelling or socializing.

Am I okay with taking nutritional supplements? The keto diet may not be nutritionally adequate. Each food group provides its own unique set of nutrients. Grain products, fruits, and most dairy products are completely eliminated in the keto diet. You may need to supplement certain key nutrients so that your body’s stores don’t get depleted.

Can I afford it? The keto diet can be expensive. A grocery cart full of low-carb veggies, avocados, meat, eggs, and butter can add up at the register!

Can I tolerate the side effects? The transition to ketosis can be difficult. It’s called “the keto flu.” The process to enter ketosis can take several days, and is often marked by symptoms such as headaches, brain fog, constipation, fatigue, and…. difficulty sleeping! While the symptoms typically resolve once full ketosis is achieved, these can be very challenging days to get through.

Am I currently getting adequate sleep? The keto diet requires a good night’s sleep. If obstructive sleep apnea or other factors are causing you to have a short or disruptive night’s sleep, the keto diet may not be appropriate for you. Restorative sleep is necessary to prevent muscle wasting.

What will I do after keto? The keto diet is short-term. It’s not recommended to remain in ketosis for an extended time. After a maximum of 6-12 months, you’ll need to transition back out of ketosis. At this point, you’ll need a plan for adopting a sustainable healthy eating pattern, or you risk regaining the lost weight.

Am I able to consult with a Dietitian? Transitioning off the keto diet needs to be done safely. A life-threatening situation called refeeding syndrome could occur if carbohydrate intake is increased too quickly. It’s strongly recommended that the entire keto diet process be done in careful consultation with one’s physician and a registered dietitian.

After considering all of the above, if you feel like the ketogenic diet is the right plan for you, your next step will be to get medical approval from your physician, and chat with a Registered Dietitian to tailor a plan for you!

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