What is the Ketogenic Diet and is it right for you?
A brief look into the Ketogenic diet
Ketosis is a natural process the body initiates to help us survive when food intake is low (specifically carbohydrates). During this state, we produce ketones, which are produced from the breakdown of fats in the liver.
The end goal of a properly maintained keto diet is to force your body into this metabolic state. We don’t do this through starvation of calories but starvation of the carbohydrates.
When you eat something higher in carbs, your body will produce glucose and insulin.
Glucose is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy so that it will be chosen over any other energy source.
Insulin is produced to process the glucose in your bloodstream and utilize it as necessary.
Since the glucose is being used as a primary energy, fats and proteins are not as needed and are therefore stored. Typically, on a normal, higher carbohydrate diet, the body will use glucose as the main form of energy. By lowering the intake of carbs, the body is induced into the state known as ketosis.
Our bodies are incredibly adaptive to what you put into it – when you overload it with fats and take away carbohydrates, it will begin to burn ketones as the primary energy source. Optimal ketone levels offer many health, weight loss, physical and mental performance benefits.
Benefits (just to name a few):
The ketogenic diet essentially uses your body fat as an energy source – so there are obvious weight loss benefits. On keto, your insulin (the fat storing hormone) levels drop greatly which turns your body into a fat burning machine.
Control Blood Sugar
Keto naturally lowers blood sugar levels due to the type of foods you eat. Studies even show that the ketogenic diet is a more effective way to manage and prevent diabetes compared to low-calorie diets.
Many people use the ketogenic diet specifically for the increased mental performance.
Ketones are a great source of fuel for the brain. When you lower carb intake, you avoid big spikes in blood sugar. Together, this can result in improved focus and concentration.
Increased Energy & Normalized Hunger
By giving your body a better and more reliable energy source, you will feel more energized during the day. Fats are shown to be the most effective molecule to burn as fuel.
What should the diet look like you ask? Ultimately, the carb intake does not need to exceed ~25g carbs within daily intake. This low amount ensures that one remains in a ketogenic state. Furthermore, they would come from vegetables. Try to remember that keto is high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbs. Your nutrient intake should be something around 75% fats, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrate.
Do Not Eat
- Grains– wheat, corn, rice, cereal, etc.
- Sugar– honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.
- Fruit– apples, bananas, oranges, etc.
- Tubers– potato, yams, etc.
- Meats– fish, beef, lamb, poultry, eggs, etc.
- Leafy Greens– spinach, kale, etc.
- Above ground vegetables– broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
- High Fat Dairy– hard cheeses, high fat cream, butter, etc.
- Nuts and seeds– macadamias, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
- Avocado and berries– raspberries, blackberries, and other low glycemic impact berries
- Other fats– coconut oil, high-fat salad dressing, saturated fats, etc.
Overall, if you consult your physician and he/she says you have a healthy enough liver to undertake the ketogenic diet (due to the increased workload of ketone breakdown, etc.), it seems obvious why someone would want to switch over to this diet. It seems very manageable for most and with significant health benefits. If you struggle with weight issues, diabetes, or other health issues, you may want to give this a shot!
John Hornung, MS, CSCS, SCCC