The Very Low-Calorie Ketogenic Diet (VLCK) is being increasingly adopted to fight obesity in the healthiest way possible.

Bengaluru-based Udit Kumar was just 26 when he knew he had a problem. At his age, the young man weighed a whopping 348 lbs. After being a sportsman in his school days, a sudden lifestyle change led to steady weight gain. that included eating high-calorie processed foods and a sedentary lifestyle led to steady weight gain. Additionally, he was plagued by weight-related issues like breathlessness, pain when walking or climbing stairs, and low stamina. Mentally, he lost confidence and became a social recluse as no amount of dieting helped. 

That’s when he decided to adopt the ProGen Method, successfully losing 123 pounds in five and a half months. Apart from losing weight, his fat percentage dropped from 38.2 to 31.6, visceral fat fell from 29.5 to 19 percent, and his muscle percentage increased from 54.63 to 66 percent.

So, what diet did Kumar follow? The Very Low-Calorie Ketogenic Diet (VLCK).

The Specifics Of The Keto Diet

The Very Low-Calorie Ketogenic Diet (VLCK) consists of an active intake of fewer than 800 calories per day. This is distributed among carbohydrates (<50 grams), as a carb-deficient food intake is necessary to enter ketosis; fats (<10grams), which is the minimal requirement for a body of essential fatty acids to carry on its fat-dependent metabolism; and adequate proteins (0.8-1.2 grams per 2.2 lbs. of your ideal body weight), that are of high biological value to help preserve muscle mass during active weight loss. 

“Other keto diets which are usually high on fat consumption do not produce the desired results that are seen in the VLCK Diet because people consume more fats, which makes it difficult to lose weight. Hence, they are not using their body-stored fats to generate energy. In the VLCK Diet, due to the low intake of carbs and fats, the body’s dependency on energy moves towards burning the stored body fats. As a result, people who do the VLCK Diet lose an average of  22 lbs. of body weight (specifically fat) while the muscle mass is preserved,” explains Dr. Joan Fondevila, Founding Partner, ProGen Weight Management. 

Diet Diaries

VLCKD is increasingly becoming a way to achieve significant weight loss in a shorter time. Shweta Mahadik, Clinical Dietitian and certified national diabetic educator, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan, Mumbai says, “VLCKD is known for its capacity to do weight reduction. Scientific studies have shown that the use of this diet can be helpful in treating obesity. The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate, and minimal-protein diet designed to mimic the fasting state.” This happens as this kind of diet increases the body’s reliance on fatty acids rather than on glucose for energy.

The ketogenic diet is based on the brain’s ability to obtain 30 to 60 percent or more of its energy during fasting from serum ketone bodies derived from beta-oxidation of fatty acids. 

Fasting lowers serum glucose concentration, resulting in a low insulin-to-glucagon ratio. Decrease in this ratio and changes in other hormones, such as epinephrine, stimulate lipolysis in adipocytes. The free fatty acids released into the blood cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. This makes them unusable in sustaining brain metabolism. Instead, fatty acids are converted by the liver to ketone bodies. The ketone bodies can cross the blood-brain barrier and serve as a major energy source for the brain.

How To Do VLCKD The Right Way

If you’re switching from a normal diet or from a standard ketogenic diet to VLCKD, you need to gradually cut down the daily calories by 250-300 per day. Remember to have a positive fluid balance in the diet to avoid adverse effects like dehydration and tiredness.

Rihana Qureshi, founder of Get Fit with Rihana, an online nutrition and training consultancy, opines:

Generally in a Keto/VLCK diet, one would consume 70 to 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein, and around 5 to 10 percent carbs. There are a few other variations of Keto such as High-Protein Keto where one would consume 35 percent protein, 60 percent fat, and 5 percent carbs or MCT Keto where most of the fats are MCTs (Medium Chain Fatty Oils) such as coconut oil.

However, the VLCKD diet is not for all. If you are:

  • underweight
  • dealing with an eating disorder
  • under 18 years old
  • are pregnant or lactating,
  • recovering from surgery

this diet is not for you. The VLCKD requires the guidance of a multidisciplinary expert team of doctors, dieticians, personal trainers, and psychologica and lifestyle coaches.

Protein Fix

Biological Value (BV) is a measure of the proportion of absorbed protein from food that becomes incorporated into the proteins of the organism’s body. High Biological Value (HBV) proteins are developed from natural sources such as soy, milk, beans, and eggs. These proteins are specifically chosen to preserve quality muscle mass during weight loss and maintenance. 

Dietary habits of vegetarians and non-vegetarians vary and, in most cases, vegetarians lack the options for good protein. Non-vegetarian food has a wider option of protein sources. But this can be a drawback during weight loss since food sources can be high in fat and calories.

For example, a person who needs 75 grams of protein a day should consume around 12 eggs to meet the requirement. This will not keep the calorie deficit under 800 Kcal. But this can be solved by including HBV protein in each food serving. 

Weighing The Pros And Cons

The main advantage or result of VLCKD is fat loss, as well as other benefits such as regulating hormones (especially insulin), regulating sugar levels, improving healthy HDL cholesterol, and helping in the reversal of lifestyle disorders like type-2 diabetes and PCOS.

On the flip side, a rise in LDL (low-density lipoproteins) cholesterol levels has been reported in a few people. However, it is more of the fluffy LDL particles (Pattern A) which are relatively less harmful with respect to heart disease risk, particularly when compared to the atherogenic small, dense type Pattern B. 

Fondevila adds,

The body gets its energy from carbohydrates when there is an excess of carbohydrate in a diet which is more than required. That excess carbohydrate is stored as fat. When you restrict the intake of both carbs and fats, the amount of glucose required for energy is reduced, to compensate for the lack of energy the body instead shifts towards sourcing its energy from the stored body fats. Due to the protocol of the VLCKD, your body enters a state of ketosis in 3-5 days.

A regular keto diet can start ketosis in as soon as two days.

Eating Right

VLCKD is like a standard ketogenic diet, except that calories are confined to a set sum. “Examination shows that ketogenic eating fewer carbs will, in general, be fruitful whether calorie admission is limited or not. This is because the satisfying impact of eating fat and being in ketosis will, in available assistance, forestall overeating,” says Ackshay Jain, Co-Founder of The Healthy Company. One must take adequate proteins, more specifically high-biological value protein foods in VLCKD, and focus on healthy eating. 

In addition, to achieve maximum results for weight loss, the dieticians also provide you with a list of vegetables. These fall into two groups. Both are low in carbs and in restricted quantities to ensure you are consuming less than 800 calories.

Group A category should be consumed in moderation and includes vegetables such as cucumbers, spinach, zucchini, bottle gourd, and radish. Group B category should be consumed in limited quantities (100gm/day). It includes vegetables such as beans, cabbage, broccoli, mushroom, and capsicum. It is advisable to avoid onions, starchy vegetables, beetroots, and carrots. 

With studies indicating that moderating food intake in the lines of the VLCKD helps sustained weight loss, it is time to check this diet out for yourself.

Bindu Gopal Rao is a freelance writer and photographer based in Bengaluru, India. She writes across a variety of topics and documents her work on BinduGopalRao and on Instagram @bindugopalrao

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