What Is a Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is high in fat (consisting about 80 percent of your daily calories), low in carbohydrates (less than 5 percent of your calories), and moderate in protein (typically 15 to 20 percent of your calories). This is a pretty drastic departure from the generally recommended macronutrient distribution of 20-35% Protein, 45-65% Carbohydrates, and 10-35% Fat.
The most important component of the keto diet is a natural and normal process called ketosis. Normally, bodies run very well on glucose. Glucose is produced when the body breaks down carbohydrates. It's a very simple process, which is why it's the body's preferred way to produce energy.
When you cut back on carbs or have been fasting, your body looks for other sources of energy to fill the void. Fat is typically that source. When your blood sugar drops because you're not feeding your body carbs, fat is released from your cells and flood the liver. The liver turns the fat into ketone bodies, which your body uses as its second choice for energy.
A typical Keto diet consists of high fatty foods such as
- Low carb veggies
- Heavy Cream
- Olive oil
- MCT oil
The ketogenic diet has been shown to produce beneficial metabolic changes in the short-term. Along with weight loss, health parameters associated with carrying excess weight have improved; such as insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol and triglycerides.
How the body adapts
From The Cell’s Point of View
Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source. When its consumption is restricted, the body reacts as if it is fasting. This stimulates new energy pathways to provide energy for the cells. One of these energy pathways is called ketogenesis, and the result of ketogenesis is an alternative fuel source called a ketone body.
These ketones bodies can be used by almost every cell in your body for fuel (except for the liver and red blood cells). However, sugar and ketone bodies affect the body in many different ways.
For example, burning sugar for fuel creates more reactive oxygen species. These reactive oxygen species cause damage, inflammation, and cell death when they accumulate. This is why consuming too much sugar is known to impair brain function and cause plaque build up in the brain.
On the other hand, ketones provide a more efficient energy source and help protect neuron cells in the brain. This is partly because burning ketones for fuel decreases the production of reactive oxygen species and enhances mitochondrial function and production.
The healthy cells that are struggling to survive are helped by the carbohydrate restriction as well. Without access to carbohydrates, a cellular process called autophagy is activated. This process up-regulates many factors that improve cell health and resilience, clean up the cell from damage and illicit anti-inflammatory processes.
The combination of autophagy and ketone burning are essential in helping people with cancer and brain disorders like epilepsy, migraines, and Alzheimer’s.
From The Body’s Perspective
Now, let’s zoom out and look at how the ketogenic diet changes the body. It all begins with a change in insulin levels.
By restricting carbohydrates, we take the biggest stimulator of insulin out of the diet. This decreases insulin levels, increases fat burning, and reduces inflammation. The combination of these three changes addresses the primary drivers of many chronic diseases — insulin resistance, inflammation, and fat accumulation.
Benefits of a Keto Diet
There is a ton of hype surrounding the ketogenic diet. Some researchers swear that it is the best diet for most people to be on, while others think it is just another fad diet.
To some degree, both sides of the spectrum are right. There isn’t one perfect diet for everyone or every condition, regardless of how many people “believe” in it. The ketogenic diet is no exception to this rule.
However, the ketogenic diet also has plenty of solid research backing up its benefits. In fact, it has been found to be better than most diets at helping people with:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Type 1 Diabetes
- High Blood Pressure
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Chronic Inflammation
- High Blood Sugar Levels
- Heart Disease
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- Fatty Liver Disease
Even if you are not at risk from any of these conditions, the ketogenic diet can be helpful for you too. Some of the benefits that most people experience are
- Better brain function
- A decrease in inflammation
- An increase in energy
- Improved body composition
From a mechanistic level, here is why the ketogenic diets can lead to benefits that reach beyond caloric restriction
On a cellular level
- Ketones burn more efficiently than sugar.
- Carbohydrate restriction triggers autophagy and anti-inflammatory processes.
- Burning ketones for fuel creates less reactive oxygen species.
- Ketone usage enhances mitochondrial function and production.
In the body
- Insulin levels decrease because dietary carbohydrate isn’t stimulating its release.
- Fat burning increases because the body needs to use alternative fuel sources.
- Inflammation is reduced because inflammatory fat levels decrease and less reactive oxygen species are formed.
The combination of the cellular and bodily effects of the ketogenic diet provides us with a basis for why they may be useful in the treatment of the conditions we mentioned earlier. However, this is only biochemistry. We will be focusing more on weight loss related benefits of Keto. So does Ketosis help with Fat loss? Read below to investigate.
Can the Keto Diet Help with Weight Loss?
This is one of the keto diet's main selling points and a primary reason it's so popular: keto diet proponents say you can drop a lot of weight in a relatively short period of time. But is that too good to be true?
A number of studies, including one meta-analysis, have found that patients assigned to a very-low-carbohydrate diet (like the keto diet) had greater weight-loss outcomes compared with those eating low fat. Promising, right? Well, weight loss is only good if that momentum is sustainable long-term, and it's not clear that that's the case.
A study found that while low-carb dieters tended to lose more weight than low-fat dieters at first, the differences disappeared by the one-year mark. It seems that there may be an early difference, but it might all wash out the same in the end.
Still, let's look at some reasons why keto may work for some as a weight-loss tool.
- Calorie Restriction: When you severely restrict your food intake by cutting out many categories of food, you're quite likely to lose weight.
- Water Loss: There is some evidence that higher-protein diets like the keto diet do have some weight-loss benefits, partially because both fat and protein are satiating so you don't feel hungry, but also because of the loss in glycogen stores. Glycogen is the body's glucose storage that is bound up with water, so when we deplete the glycogen, you also deplete your water storage. Lose a ton of water, and you're going to drop weight fast.
- Appetite Control: In addition to the satiating capabilities of fat and protein, research suggests that the keto diet may help suppress the hunger hormone, ghrelin.
Potential Downsides of Keto
Unfortunately, like any diet there can be some downsides. Here are some potential challenges and dangers of eating keto.
Athletic Performance Impediments: For those people who train heavy and hard, going keto might cramp your style. As important as protein is for muscle growth, carbs also play an equally critical role by releasing insulin to drive that protein into muscles faster. It also helps us build up glycogen stores for longer training sessions, runs or hikes.
Keto "Flu": Your body isn't accustomed to using ketones on the regular, so when you make the switch, you tend to feel unwell. The keto diet also influences electrolyte balance, resulting in brain fog, headaches, nausea and fatigue. This usually goes away on its own around day 3-7.
Constipation: No one likes to feel backed up, and sadly if you're not careful about your diet choices when going keto, it could become a regular concern. One 10-year (albeit small) study looking at the effects of a keto diet on young children found that 65 percent experienced digestive woes. Thankfully, going keto is not a life sentence for problem bowels. Since you're cutting out whole grains and fruit (two of the most common sources of fiber), aim to consume around 25-38g of fiber a day.
Nutrition Deficiencies: As with any super-restrictive regimen, when you cut food out, there's a good chance you'll be missing something big. An easy way to solve this problem is to consume healthy greens that are fairly low in carbs. Pick and choose from the list below.
- Brussels Sprouts
** It’s important to understand that all of these vegetables have carbs. They just have a lesser amount than other foods so as long as you aren’t eating a whole field of them you should be okay.**
How Many Carbs can you eat a Day?
Most Ketogenic guidelines recommend 30-60g per day. This amount also includes dietary fiber and the carbs included should have low glycemic (GI) of 50 or less. However, depending on the person carbs can be limited to as little as 10-20g per day.
As you can see carb intake on a keto diet is not strictly determined. Still, it needs to be low in order for you to reach ketosis. To make things a bit simpler, most keto dieters simply eat less than 50 grams of total carbs per day or 30g of net carbs per day. This golden rule seems to work well on everyone. Total carbs are all carbs in food, including the fiber while net carbs are carbs minus the fiber.
How to reach optimal Ketosis
Getting into ketosis is not a black or white thing. It's not like you’re either in ketosis or out of ketosis. Instead, you can be in different degrees of ketosis, as this chart demonstrates.
*The numbers below refer to values when testing blood ketone levels*
Supplements that help you reach Keto:
(click highlight to view product)
How to measure Ketones in the body
Currently, there are three main ways to measure ketosis available to consumers
- Blood testing kits
- Urine testing kits
- Breath testing devices
Is The Ketogenic Diet Right For You?
We are all biochemically unique, which is why I recommend people work with their favorite dietician to ensure they are following a safe ketogenic diet, especially if you have metabolic conditions where medications are concerned.
If you are interested in experimenting with the ketogenic diet, try it for a couple of weeks and see if you notice a difference in your health. We all have different metabolic types, and some of us will feel better than others on a high-fat diet.
At Platinum Supplements we carry a large variety of keto friendly supplements, to help you in the process of attaining ketosis. For more information about Ketosis, Nutrition, Training, and Supplementation, visit us in-store or contact us via Facebook, Instagram or give us a call.