Although most dieters use the ketogenic diet as a a temporary diet to lose weight, it’s really more of a lifestyle change where you drastically reduce the amount of carbohydrates you eat. This not only makes your body burn fat for energy, but also helps you develop “carb awareness”, which is a realization of just how many unhealthy carbs most of us usually eat in a day.
The word ketogenic is made up of the words keto- and -genic.
“Keto” is short for ketones and “genic” means the same thing as genesis, “the creation of something”. So ketogenic actually means the “creation of ketones”.
Ketones are created when your body breaks down fat for energy because it didn’t get enough carbs. When your body is creating ketones, it is said to be in “ketosis“, a state where fat is used as the main source of energy rather than glucose (sugar).
Ketosis can be achieved by several different methods, but we’re going to focus on how to create that state by strictly limiting carbohydrate intake. A general limit is about 25-50 grams of net carbs (net carbs is carbs minus fiber) a day, much lower than the usual 200-300 grams most people ingest. We replace those carbs with healthy fats.
It can take a few days for ketosis to occur because you have stored glycogen to get through. Exercise can burn the stored glycogen and help you reach ketosis faster.
Being in a state of ketosis has been shown to:
- Help with metabolic syndrome, obesity, and preventing diabetes
- Increase meal satiety and appetite blunting, which can help avoid over eating
- Increase the rate of fat loss due to state of ketosis (burning fat) rather than glycolysis (burnuing glycogen)
- Reducte or eliminate Type-2 Diabetes
- Reducte or eliminate hypertension
- Improve lipid fat profile
- LDL (the bad cholesterol) particle size increases–a good thing
- The size of LDL particles may be more important than concentration of LDL cholesterol.
- Recent studies have shown independent relationships of levels of LDL size to risk of heart disease
- Prevent of various cancers and reduce cancer growth
- The mitochondria of cancer cells 200x the normal amountes of glucose to replicate at rapid rates
- Cancer cell can’t use ketones and can’t survive in ketosis without the presence of excess glucose
- Possible treatment for Alzheimers
- Possible treatment for Parkinsons
- Improved memory for older adults
- Reducte or eliminate chronic systemic inflammation
- Can have anti-inflammatory effects
- Improve cardiovascular health
- Induce a high muscle-sparing effect (you lose fat, not muscle)
- Treat epilepsy more effective than current medications without the side effects
While there isn’t a single, perfect diet, this diet has been proven to provide benefits in up to 70% of people.
Weight loss is not guaranteed. You still need to watch your total caloric intake and tracking calories and macros is still a good idea. Many experienced keto dieters find this easy because once they get used to it they are able to maintain the diet and weight without calorie counting.
What are carbohydrates?
Carbs are sugar. Sugars are carbs. There are simple carbs (monosaccharide) and complex carbs (polysaccharide). There are also sugars found naturally in foods and extra sugars added artificially to foods.
In the context of the ketogenic diet, they’re all treated the same because the body eventually breaks them down into their simplest forms.
Your body uses carbs for energy first because they are easiest to break down. Many people think carbs are essential, but they actually aren’t.
Some athletes think performance will degrade if they don’t get enough carbs. Also not true. Although it can take several weeks, after you become adapted to the ketogenic diet, you become very efficient at burning fat for energy.
Foods high in carbs include grains/bread, rice, pasta, cereal, starchy veggies, potato chips, vegetable chips, pita chips, cookies, crackers, ice cream, pudding, cakes, donuts, soft drinks and fruits/fruit juices (except berries and avocados). Yeah… all the fun stuff to eat.
When it comes to diet, it’s all about finding what works for you. I know people on the keto diet who improved their sleep, maintained good recovery between training sessions, and felt a state of mental focus they didn’t have when they were eating a lot of carbs.
So it might be worth looking into the ketogenic diet to see if it’s right for you.