The ketogenic or "keto" diet is a high-fat, low carbohydrate lifestyle currently on the rise as being recognized for its benefits for reaching both health and fitness goals. You might be wondering, “What is the ketogenic diet all about, and can it work for me?” Well the good news is all your questions are about to be answered, but first lets dig into the science behind it.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis, or “keto", is a natural state for the body in which it becomes almost completely fueled by fat through eating a diet low in carbs, moderate amounts of protein, and lots of healthy fats. This diet is referred to as the ketogenic diet. Ketosis is also a natural survival function of the body. It helps your body function on fat when food is not readily available. We can dip into a state of ketosis when we enter prolonged periods of not eating, or fasting, including while we are asleep. It is highly likely that you wake up in a ketogenic state! And if you are still not convinced...as babies, we are all born in a state of ketosis and remain that way until we begin eating solid foods (breast milk is almost entirely fat!)
While in ketosis, the body is producing ketones. These small molecules are used as fuel when we have depleted our glucose or known as blood sugar supply. Ketones are produced in the liver from fat, as we eat very few carbs and a moderate amount of protein. The entire body, including the brain, consumes ketones as fuel.
How it works
When you eat a diet rich in carbohydrates, your body converts those carbs into glucose. This causes an “insulin spike,” as insulin carries the glucose to your bloodstream for a burst of energy, spiking your insulin levels and then crashing later. Glucose is burned up quickly, leaving the body depleted of energy while leftover glycogen stores itself in the liver, or as triglycerides in fat cells. When glucose is present, your body will burn it before burning fat. In other words when the hormone insulin is present your body can not enter a fat burning state!
Ketones provide sustainable energy, unlike carbohydrates. Without carbs, the body will quickly deplete its glycogen and will begin using fat for energy. Fat comes from the foods we eat as well as the stored fat - the triglycerides - in our cells.
Those of us who follow a ketogenic lifestyle switch our fuel sources back to the way we were born: we run almost entirely on fat. Insulin hormones dip to low levels and we rapidly burn stored fat for fuel. Outside of weight loss, you will also experience sustained energy, mental focus, exercise endurance, reducing inflammation and many other health beneﬁts such as preventing, treating, and curing chronic illness and life-threatening disease.
How does one eat on keto?
Your macro-nutrient breakdown will be as followed:
Calories from carbs: 5-10%
Calories from protein: 20-25%
Calories from fat: 75-80%
This is a general range, although numbers can vary slightly depending on each person’s needs and goals on the diet. For example, say someone requires 1,800 calories per day and is eating 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs. That would come out to 1,350 calories/150 grams of fat, 360 calories/90 grams of protein, and 90 calories/23 grams of carbs. This person would need to make sure they stay at or below 25 grams of carbs each day.
How many carbs can I eat?
We recommend that you try to stay under 25g of net carbs per day to stay in ketosis. When it comes to a keto diet it’s important to note that every person’s body is different. And therefore each person will have a slightly different net carb intake to reach ketosis. Very active people might maintain ketosis if they consumer higher net carbs 35+ grams.
Net carbs are not the same as total carbs. While fiber is considered a carb, our bodies cannot digest fiber. So those carbs need to be subtracted from total carbs. Same goes for sweeteners such as sugar alcohols and allulose.
NET CARBS = TOTAL CARBS – FIBER – SUGAR ALCOHOLS
Can I eat too much fat on a keto diet?
You can definitely eat too much processed and unhealthy fat on keto. But when it comes to healthy fats you do want to be mindful and not eat unlimited amounts. Technically you can still maintain a state of ketosis, but you may struggle with weight loss considering the calorie intake. Fats are 9 calories per gram. If you would like to track your macros we can suggest a macro nutrient calculator to help get you started on what your daily nutrition should look like. https://www.ruled.me/keto-calculator/
Foods to eat and avoid
In summary, eat real low-carb foods like grass-fed meat, wild caught fish, pasture raised eggs, organic vegetables and natural fats like grass-fed butter, nuts and healthy oils such as coconut, avocado and olive oil. As a basic beginner’s rule, stick to foods with fewer than 5% carbs.
Please remember that keto is a high-fat diet, not high protein, so you don’t need huge amounts of meat. Excess protein (more than your body needs) is converted to glucose, making it harder to get into ketosis. A normal amount of meat is enough.
Here’s what you should avoid eating on a keto diet – foods full of sugar, starches, grains, gluten, legumes, seed & vegetable oils and also alcohol.
How to know if you are in ketosis
Dry mouth and increased thirst. Unless you drink enough and get enough electrolytes, like salt, you may feel a dry mouth. Try a cup of bone broth or two daily, plus as much water as you need.
Increased urination. We you cut back on carbs, your body produces less insulin and glycogen stores are depleted. For every gram of glycogen three grams of water are stored as well. As that storage is depleted, our bodies (kidneys) go from retaining water to urinating more frequently. On a positive note we look drop the water weight and look more thin, however with this flush we loose important minerals as well so make sure to drink an electrolyte supplement.
Keto breath. This is due to a ketone body called acetone escaping via our breath. It can make a person’s breath smell “fruity”, or similar to nail polish remover. You may also experience a metallic taste in your mouth. All this is often temporary.
Other more positive signs include reduced hunger or cravings and increased energy!
If you are interested in learning more or have any questions feel free to post a comment.