Will cutting carbs help speed up my Dubai Fitness Challenge goal of getting healthy and happy? Image Credit: YZ

Day 5 into the Dubai Fitness Challenge and I have great news. Yesterday I exercised and I ate clean! Yay!

By ‘eating clean’, I mean that I’ve been on a Ketogenic diet. I know many people might think that it’s a fad… but guess what… it works! We’ve done so many articles on Gulf News about Keto success stories and one of these very specific success story sits right in front of me this very minute. My colleague Dona, who lost 7kgs in the last 6 weeks. Throughout the the last month and a half, her skin cleared up and she stopped feeling bloated. All achieved by cutting out carbs, sugar and increasing her fat intake. A diet that involves butter, cream and cheese? Count me in!

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A couple of days into the diet and I realised how hard it is not to eat carbs, sugar or even fruits. I realised that I had to plan my meals and snacks. I had to be calculated and focused. It’s been a tough four days, but I haven’t felt as hungry as I thought I would feel. The fat in my diet has kept me full. The last three days of my keto diet were pretty strict, my first two days weren’t so strict to be honest. It was the weekend after all!

I still haven’t lost any weight, but I feel less bloated and sort of more energetic. I look slimmer, but the number on the scale hasn’t budged yet. Still stuck at 77kgs. One of the benefits of a keto diet, is that it doesn't slow your social life down. You can still eat out and enjoy fat and cream and butter. 

But on the other hand, I’ve heard some mixed reviews about Keto. Most people say it is life changing, while others say that cutting out food groups can only do more harm than good. I’m ready to give anything a try if I can start to burn fat, instead of carbs for energy.

Just to explain:

■ The Keto diet is low carb diet; so low that the body switches from carbs and sugar to fat for fuel.

■ The Keto diet is not only lower carb, but also it is high fat and moderate protein.

■ Simply put, it means no sugars, processed food, rice, pasta, wheat, fruit, starchy veggies, alcohol and fruit juices.

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Just to really get the facts, I spoke to a nutritionist about her opinion on Keto. Tanya van Aswegen is a registered Dietitian at Valiant Clinic in Dubai. Here's what she said about Ketogenic diet.

 A ketogenic diet is based on a high fat diet (more than 80 per cent fat), moderate protein and extremely low carbohydrates (a 20g) intake. All grains, dairy, most fruit, some vegetables, certain nuts and legumes and pulses are usually not consumed on a ketogenic diet.

Keto is actually not a new thing, it was developed as a method of treatment for children with refractory epilepsy as early as 1920, and it is very effective for that purpose. In the modern world, there are however a lot of claims about the benefits of a ketogenic diet, ranging from weight loss, to antiaging, cognition (or mind clarity) and prevention of certain diseases.

What are the benefits of the Keto diet?

What is positive about a ketogenic diet is that is does discourage the intake of alcohol and refined carbohydrates, and emphasises the intake of non-starchy veggies and good fats, which we can all benefit from.  It has also been shown to be effective in terms of early weight loss and some people use it for reaching their initial goals, but in terms of long term weight maintenance (>12 months) it has not shown to be effective as most people struggle to maintain the keto-lifestyle. 

What about the drawbacks?

The most common initial side effects of a ketogenic diet is often referred to as “keto flu” where people experience (initially) tiredness, headaches, dizziness, nausea, irritability, hair loss, bad breath and constipation while your body adjusts.  The main drawback is that we are simply not sure at this stage what the long-term effects of a ketogenic is on metabolic health and gut health. 

The only longer-term studies that we have was done on epileptic patients which showed risk factors such as Osteopenia (brittle bones), kidney stones, cardiomyopathy and iron-deficiency anemia, but this is clearly a specific patient population. People who embark on ketogenic diets usually have to take specific supplements to off set some of the deficiencies in the diet, most commonly magnesium, potassium and calcium.

I think I'm going to give Keto a serious try. I definitely don’t think that I could last longer than one month on this diet. To be honest, I don’t think I want to.

I love carbs and I believe that eating a small amount every day won’t be so bad. But right now I am ‘Dubai Fitness Challenge’ Yousra, not just regular Yousra. I’m staying on the diet, just to see what happens in the next few weeks. 

Will I lose 10kg in one month? I doubt it... but I'd be really happy with just five. 

Stay tuned!