Is it really possible (or beneficial) to switch your body to fat-burning mode? Find out the facts

When it comes to healthy eating, we’ve all heard that cutting down on foods high in fat is a great place to start. But let's introduce you to the keto diet, which flips this theory on its head.

Keto diet 101

Short for ketogenic, the keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb (no more than 50 grams per day), moderate protein diet that aims to trigger your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.

Ketosis is where your body burns fat, rather than glucose (a sugar found in carbohydrates) for fuel. By cutting down on the amount of carbohydrates you eat, your body’s next option is to burn fat instead. It also allows fat to be transformed into ketones in the liver to supply energy to your brain.

For this reason, the keto diet has become a popular diet choice for those looking to lose weight.

It’s worth noting, however, that your body takes a few days to switch from choosing to burn glucose to fat, so results aren’t instant.

Learn which foods you can eat on a keto diet.

Is the keto diet safe?

A keto diet may be safe, but you need to ensure your body is getting all the nutrients it needs. This means you’ll have to be very careful about what you eat.

Like with any diet, it will suit some people and won't suit others. Those it’s not appropriate for include:

• Pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding

• Children

• Anyone with a low BMI

• Anyone with pre-existing medical conditions that interfere with normal protein and fat metabolism, particularly kidney and liver disease

If you’re thinking about trying out the keto diet, you should speak to your GP to make sure it’s right for you and that you have all the information you need.

Are there any side effects to the keto diet?

When adapting to the keto diet, you may experience a collection of side effects known as ‘keto-flu’. These can include:

• Feeling tired

• Bad breath

• Leg cramps

• Dizziness

• Cravings

They tend to go away after a few weeks of following the diet.

What are the pros & cons of the keto diet?

The biggest pro of the keto diet is that it can help with weight loss. It’s important to remember, though, that it should be a short-term approach to dieting that’s planned carefully. Evidence of the long-term safety and efficacy of the keto diet is lacking.

For many, the ‘keto flu’ side effects at the start of the diet are hard to deal with. It can be a difficult diet to stick to as it’s restricted and can lead to nutritional deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals, and fibre. It takes careful planning to ensure you get all the nutrients you need.

Because the keto diet cuts out a number of foods, you may choose to supplement these with specific nutrients. Find out more about keto supplements.

If there are people around you that seem to be loving the keto diet, it doesn’t mean it will also work well for you. Always talk to your GP before starting any weight loss plan, especially if you have a medical condition, want to lose a large amount of weight, or you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

What should I do if I’m struggling to lose weight?

A healthy, balanced diet is fundamental for wellness. For a weight loss diet to be effective, it needs to be nutritional, support a calorie deficit and be sustainable over time. The NHS recommend other methods of weight loss, including eating a calorie-restricted healthy diet with at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, taking regular exercise, drinking plenty of water, eating high fibre foods, using a smaller plate and cutting down on alcohol.

For some people, diet and exercise may not be effective on their own.

If you would like support to help lose excess weight, the Boots Online Doctor – Weight Loss Treatment service* may be able to help by offering expert, confidential advice and prescribed treatment where appropriate.

*Access to prescription only medicine is subject to a consultation with a clinician to check suitability. Charges apply.