If you’ve ever found yourself overwhelmed by the amount of health advice out there—from getting eight hours of sleep to boosting your mood with superfoods—you’re not alone.
A ketogenic lifestyle, including a low-carb diet, is an effective strategy when it comes to losing weight, but what else can it do for your health? If you’re interested in ketosis as a weight-loss tool, you might be wondering about the effects it can have on your energy levels, mood, attention span, and sleeping habits as well.
Perhaps you’ve got firsthand experience when it comes to the drastic and damaging effects of a low-calorie diet. From mood swings and brain fog to exhaustion and insomnia – cutting calories can wreak havoc on your sense of well-being. Most low-calorie diets simply aren’t realistic. Who wants to go around feeling hungry and exhausted all the time? That’s a recipe for giving up.
But going keto can have a different – and desirable – effect on your health. It’s the polar opposite of an “extreme” diet.
Most people question just how that’s possible. After all, it does sound a tad too good to be true. But the many benefits of a keto diet—including improved focus, sleep, mood, and energy levels—have to do with ketosis, the metabolic process that you trigger when you start using fats and protein in the place of carbs.
Ketosis is characterized by the presence of natural compounds called ketones. When your liver starts producing ketones, you’ll notice all kinds of wonderful changes in your mental health, hunger levels, sleep, and digestive system.
Read on for a breakdown of some of the brain and body benefits you might not have expected from a keto diet. In addition to helping you shed a few pounds, this is what a ketogenic lifestyle can do for you.
One of the most pervasive myths about ketosis is that it triggers insomnia. But in fact, it may just be that people don’t require as much sleep on a keto diet. It’s important to take the time to understand how your body responds to carbohydrates, fats, and proteins before jumping to conclusions about how a keto diet will affect your sleep.
You might be surprised to find out that insulin and sleep are closely related. Insulin is the hormone that helps your body use glucose—aka, carbs. Insulin resistance, a feature of diabetes, has been shown to have a detrimental effect on sleep. By removing carbs from the equation, the keto diet lowers your insulin levels. Basically, when you’re not taking in carbs, your body doesn’t need to produce insulin and your blood sugar levels stabilize. For a lot of keto dieters, this actually means better sleep.
Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that eating anything right before bed means putting your digestive system to work. Fats and proteins generally take longer to process—that’s why they’re more filling—which may keep you awake.
If you’re worried about falling asleep, try to avoid eating an hour before you go to bed.
ADDED BENEFIT #1
INCREASED ENERGY LEVELS
First-time keto dieters are often shocked at the change in energy levels that ketosis activates. This has to do with the fact that your body has recently switched from burning carbs to burning fat as its main source of energy.
What’s the difference? Fats are more efficient.
Think of your body as you would a car. If you put premium gasoline in your fuel tank instead of regular gasoline, you can expect your car to run more efficiently—not only in the short-term, but also in the long-term. In the same way, relying on fats instead of carbs as your main source of fuel is more efficient, which equals more energy.
ADDED BENEFIT #2
AN ARRAY OF BRAIN BENEFITS
There’s a reason why keto diets have been so effective in treating brain-related diseases such as epilepsy.
But again, the reasoning behind these benefits is complex. While it’s true that your brain needs glucose to function, your liver will synthesize glucose from proteins when you don’t take in carbs—a natural survival mechanism that has evolved over time in human beings.
Many parts of your brain can also burn ketones, which are formed in the liver when carbohydrate intake is low.
Where brain function is concerned, ketones have a variety of protective and beneficial effects. The diet has been used to treat epilepsy among children for more than half a century. It’s especially effective among children who don’t respond well to drug treatment.
In one study, over half of all children who participated experienced 50% few seizures on a keto diet. What’s even more noteworthy, is that the researchers reported 16% of those children on a keto diet did not experience any seizures at all. Imagine!
It’s no surprise that scientists are working frantically to try to understand the many other brain benefits—among the improvement of focus and increased concentration—associated with very low-carb or keto diets.
Some evidence has even suggested that these diets can stave off neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
ADDED BENEFIT #3
One of the worst side effects of dieting is an obvious one: hunger. When hunger is your constant companion—as many of you have likely experienced on a low-calorie diet—life becomes miserable. This is arguably the number one reason why people give up on diets over time. They’re simply not sustainable.
With a low-carb diet, you can lose weight without hunger becoming a problem. When you go keto, you’ll notice an automatic reduction in appetite. In fact, studies have shown that people who cut carbs, instead relying on proteins and fats, actually end up consuming fewer calories over the course of a day.
Many keto dieters find they don’t even need to actively restrict a number of calories they take in. It’s enough to simply listen to your body and know whether you’re hungry or full.
ADDED BENEFIT #4
Researchers have found a strong link between a keto diet and mental health. A professor at the University of Louisville who specializes in bipolar disorder recently published two studies detailing findings that suggest going keto may be an effective way to treat mental illnesses.
Some people notice a marked difference in their emotional health within a day or two—as long as it takes to trigger ketosis. Considering the kind of positive impact a keto diet can have on individuals with epilepsy, it’s not altogether surprising that there may be others who can benefit from a ketogenic lifestyle. Indeed, many drugs used to treat bipolar disease and similar illnesses have anti-convulsive effects, and though scientists don’t yet know the exact mechanisms behind the keto diet’s mood-boosting effects, it’s clear that there’s a connection.
ADDED BENEFIT #5
GOOD NEWS FOR PEOPLE WITH GLUTEN SENSITIVITIES
If you have Celiac disease or a gluten allergy or sensitivity, you’re in luck. The keto diet is the perfect way to minimize or cut out gluten from your diet altogether, without relying on other, less-healthy gluten substitutes like white rice, or pricey (not to mention processed) gluten-free products. Keto diet foods—including meat, cheese, full-fat dairy products, nuts, eggs, and low-carb veggies—are all naturally gluten-free.
Some people have even become aware that they have a gluten sensitivity from going keto—and indeed you may notice a difference in your digestion when you cut out carbs like bread, pasta, and cereal.