The ketogenic diet is perhaps one of the most popular diet regimens out there. It’s a low-carb, high-fat diet that offers many health benefits. And many studies have shown that the keto diet can help you lose weight and fight diseases.
In this ultimate guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the keto diet and how sticking to it can improve your health.
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
The keto diet is a diet that is very low in carbs and high in fats. It was formulated to drastically reduce the intake of carbs and replace it with fat. Such reduction puts your body into a state called ketosis, in which the body burns fat for energy.
In addition, the process turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can provide energy for the brain. As a result, keto diets can significantly reduce blood sugar and insulin levels.
Ketosis is a very good way to lose weight as it induces the metabolism of starvation. The body stops trying to burn sugars for energy and starts burning fat stores instead. It also affects your nervous system, elevates your mood and suppresses appetite.
Many studies show the health benefits of a keto diet. One study points out that this low-carb diet leads to weight loss and favorable changes in serum triglycerides and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Another study suggests that mild ketosis can cure diseases related to insulin resistance, free radical damage and hypoxia.
Is It The Same As The Atkins or Paleo Diet?
Not really. In general, keto diets are diets that result in being in a state of mild ketosis most of the time.
The Atkins diet starts in ketosis and remains in ketosis until you have lost a fair amount of weight. This is also called the “induction” phase of the diet. After this phase, you then slowly introduce carbs back into your diet, and keeping it at low levels. Junk and processed foods are avoided.
The Paleo diet isn’t always a keto diet. It often focuses on whole foods and avoids any cultivated and processed foods. For example, if you consumed only meat and potatoes, then you’re having a Paleo diet. But not necessarily a keto diet. The reason is that the starch from the potatoes keeps you out of ketosis.
What Are the 3 Main Types of Keto Diets?
The 3 main types of a keto diet are the Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD), Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) and the Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD).
SKD is the type that’s most familiar to people. It’s low in carbs, moderate in protein, and high in fat. Typically, an intake of 30 grams or less carbs will induce ketosis. The carbs of choice are leafy green vegetables, as they have low glycemic indexes and have the least effect on insulin release.
CKD is a version of the diet where refeeds, or periods of higher carb eating, are implemented usually once per week. The refeeds provide the body with the muscle glycogen needed for high intensity workouts.
The principle behind TKD is similar to the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet. People on this version of the diet refeed with higher carb intakes before and after every workout. This version of the diet would be ideal for athletes who want to perform at their highest intensity levels.
What is the Difference Between Ketosis and Ketoacidosis?
Ketoacidosis is a complication of diabetes. It’s a life-threatening condition that results from very high levels of ketones and blood sugar. This combination makes the blood too acidic, which can change the normal functioning of internal organs like the kidneys and liver.
On the other hand, ketosis is the mere presence of ketones. And it’s not harmful. This state is achieved if you’re on a low-carb diet or fasting. You’ll have a higher than usual level of ketones in your blood or urine, But it’s not high enough to cause acidosis.
Setting Up Your Keto Diet
First, you take your lean body weight and multiply it by one. That number will be the total number of grams of protein that you need to eat per day. Next, multiply this number by 4 to calculate the total calories that come from protein. The rest of your daily requirement will come from fats.
You don’t need to calculate carb grams because by default, you’ll likely reach your 30-50 grams per day. This can be done by simply including green vegetables and the carbs that come from your fat and protein sources.
To figure out your fat grams, take the total number of calories it takes to maintain your body weight. Typically, it’s around 14-16 calories per pound of body weight. Subtract your protein calories from that number and then divide by 9. This will give you the total fat grams you need per day.
Lastly, divide these numbers by the number of meals you wish to eat per day.
What Do I Eat on a Keto Diet?
Fats will be the majority of your daily calorie intake. This will be a combination of saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats. Good sources of fat are fatty fish, animal fat, avocados, egg yolks and olive oil.
When it comes to proteins, you should balance it out in your meals with fattier side dishes and sauces. You can have fish, whole eggs, beef, pork and poultry as protein sources.
Vegetables are an important part of a healthy keto diet, and the best ones are those high in nutrients and low in carbohydrates. Anything that resembles spinach or kale will be a good choice.
What Foods Should I Avoid?
Avoid sugar at all costs. It’s not wise for you to consume processed drinks like soda, juices and sports drinks, as well as chocolate and ice cream. Grains and wheat products also contain lots of carbs, so you should beware of pasta, cereal, cakes and pastries.
Vegetables like potatoes and yams, because they contain a lot of starch, should be avoided entirely. Also avoid any large fruits like oranges, bananas and apples because they’re high in sugar. Eat berries in moderation.
How Does a Keto Diet Work?
Your body adapts to the nutrients that are put in it. It processes different types of nutrients into the fuels that it needs. Carbs, fats and proteins can all be processed for energy. These are broken down into glucose, which is needed to create ATP (energy molecule).
Glucose is our main source of fuel for most people, and it’s obtained mainly from carbs. But what happens if your carb intake is low? Ketosis will kick in and your body will use your stored fat as energy.
This is how a keto diet works. Ketosis happens when your body has no more glucose to use for energy. The body has no access to excess carbs. Thus, the body will burn fat and create ketones, which are then used as fuel for the body.
Ketosis is an amazing process. Studies show that the body, particularly the brain, actually prefers using ketones. It is 70% more efficient in using ketones for energy.
Can I Lose Weight on a Keto Diet?
Absolutely! There is solid evidence that keto diets are very effective for weight loss.
One study shows that people on a keto diet lost 2.2 times more weight than those on a typical low-calorie, low-fat diet. The participants also had improved triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels.
Another study found that people on a low-carb diet can lose as much as 15.2 lbs, while people on a low-fat diet lost only 4.6 lbs. Over 3 months, a low-carb diet can cause 3 times more weight loss.
Here’s how a keto diet promotes weight loss:
– Higher protein intake
– Food elimination
– Converts protein and fat into carbs for energy
– Suppresses appetite
– Improves insulin sensitivity
– Decreased fat storage
– Increased fat burning
A keto diet is a great option for people who don’t like to count calories, because you can simply eliminate certain foods.
How Does it Affect My Physical Performance?
Much research has been done on the use of fat as fuel in sports and other types of physical performance. When you exercise, fat gives more energy at lower intensities, while carbs give more energy at higher intensities. This is also known as the “crossover effect”.
One experiment was done to see if a low-carb diet could reverse this crossover effect. The researchers found that athletes on a keto diet burned mostly fat at up to 70% of maximum intensity. But despite these findings, it’s still possible that the body cannot burn fat fast enough to meet the demands of muscles.
Regardless, some studies show that low-carb diets can help prevent tiredness during prolonged exercise. Such diet may still help you lose fat without compromising the intensity of your exercise.
A keto diet can teach your body to burn more fat, and this will help you preserve muscle glycogen during exercise.
How do I Test my Ketone Levels?
There are three types of ketone bodies we can test: acetone, acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). Acetone is released through the breath, while acetoacetate is released in the urine. BHB is measured in the blood.
You can test your ketone levels in 4 ways:
1. Blood Ketone Meter
This measures BHB and is considered to be the most accurate way to measure ketone bodies. These can determine the precise ketone level in your blood. However, the blood ketone meter is invasive and expensive.
2. Breath Testing
This is a non-invasive and cheaper way to measure acetone levels. Studies show that this technique is very accurate in testing for nutritional ketosis. One thing to remember: breath ketones don’t always reflect blood ketones.
3. Urine Ketone Strips
The most common way to test ketone levels is through the urine with ketone strips. It’s commonly used because it’s easy and cheap. However, they are not as accurate and reliable. One reason is that the body will naturally excrete more ketones once you start on a ketogenic diet.
4. Check How You Feel
This is subjective, but important regardless. When you are in ketosis, you should feel mentally sharp and relaxed. You’ll feel you have energy throughout the entire day. You won’t have cravings and rarely think about food.
Pros and Cons of the Keto Diet
The keto diet offers a lot of benefits. On top of helping you lose weight, it helps lower the risk of diseases like cancer and stroke.
Here are 7 great things a keto diet can do for you:
1. Faster Weight Loss
Low-no carbs means your body is burning fat for fuel.
2. Better Brain Function
The keto diet is high in healthy fats – these are crucial for better cognitive function.
3. Reduced Risk of Metabolic Syndrome
Low-carb diets, particularly the keto diet, highly effective at reducing risk factors of metabolic and heart diseases.
4. Reduced Risk of Diabetes
Studies have shown that you can treat diabetes by adopting the keto diet. It helps normalize blood sugar levels and insulin production.
5. Helps Fight Cancer
Sugar feeds cancer cells, helping them grow and spread faster. The keto diet is a natural cancer treatment as it dramatically cuts down sugar intake.
6. Less Craving for Food
The keto diet switches off ghrelin – the “hunger hormone”. More healthy fats and proteins means feeling more full, having less cravings.
7. Better Digestion
Healthy fats, proteins and veggies help nourish the digestive tract and reduce the potential for disease.
However, it also comes with certain disadvantages:
1. One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Each person reacts differently to various diet plans. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
2. Health Concerns
Before going on a keto diet, people should consider his age, level of activity, body weight.
3. Unwanted Side Effects
Low-carb diets might increase fatigue and irritability in some people.
4. Muscle loss
A keto diet can also affect your physical performance. When ketosis occurs, it might cause loss of muscle tissue.
Is a Ketogenic Diet Safe?
Experts say that while a keto diet promotes rapid weight loss, you should also consider the risks of losing weight too quickly. Many studies show that people also tend to regain weight that they have lost on keto diets, because it’s hard to maintain weight for a long time.
Also note that a keto diet depletes carb stores in the liver and muscles. Before you jump in this diet, it’s recommended that you seek advice from a licensed professional.
Who Shouldn’t Go On A Ketogenic Diet?
There are certain safety issues to consider. Here’s a list of people who shouldn’t go on a keto diet:
1. Pregnant women
2. Breastfeeding women
4. People with a very low body-mass index (BMI)
6. People with gallstones or those who have undergone gallstone removal
Should You Go On A Keto Diet?
Taking the leap into a keto diet can feel like a big, drastic change. To know if you should go on this diet, perhaps it’s best to ask yourself what you want to achieve with it. Is it for losing some extra pounds? Or is it to control blood sugar? Or is it to lower your risks of metabolic and heart diseases?
It would also be helpful if you consider the pros and cons. See how each benefit and risk will affect your lifestyle, and if you are able to cope with such changes. But if you can, it’s ultimately one of the healthiest diets in the world and there have been countless scientific studies which have proven its benefits for various aspects of your health.
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