The keto diet has greatly increased in popularity, becoming one of the most Googled diets. While many are now experimenting with the diet, the truth is they may not know the science behind the approach. To start with, the keto diet is very low in carbs, high in fat, and moderate in protein. By removing carbohydrates, and subsequently glucose – your body shifts into a metabolic state known as nutritional ketosis. Fat becomes your main source of fuel, rather than carbs. Keep in mind that this is a very general definition. To truly understand the keto diet, you must understand how exactly the body uses energy – at the most rudimentary level.
In a normal American diet, carbohydrates are consumed in abundance. Once eaten, carbs turn into glucose. Glucose can be thought of as the simplest form of sugar, and it is easy for the body to convert and use as your primary source of energy. Thus, glucose is your main source of fuel – at least when consuming the standard American diet.
Insulin and Glucose In The Keto Diet
It’s important to understand what glucose and insulin are, in order to improve your health and diet. While normally discussed in conjunction with glucose, insulin is actually a hormone, made by your pancreas. The reason it is frequently mentioned with glucose, is that insulin processes the glucose in your bloodstream. Insulin then transports glucose throughout the body, distributing it where it’s required. This all sounds well and good, but the problem occurs when there is already enough energy in the body, as then insulin converts glucose into fat (or adipose tissue). Fat is essentially stored energy, but too much becomes unsightly. Excess fat also greatly increases your risk for developing a variety of conditions.
As has already been stated, glucose is the main energy source in the standard American diet. A huge intake of carbs, which is standard in the western world, means an abundance of glucose will circulate throughout the bloodstream. When you shift into a lower carbohydrate diet like keto, your body first relies on stored glucose. This is stored by the body as glycogen. When that runs out, the body shifts to burning body fat. Remember, fat is essentially stored glucose. As such, there is excess energy in our body if we are overweight. At this point, without consuming any carbohydrates for one to two days, the body starts to produce an alternative energy source known as ketones. Essentially the body recognizes it is running out of energy and starts making a backup source. During the process of ketogenesis, our liver breaks down fat rather than carbohydrates. This is where the idea of a ketogenic diet being ‘fat burning’ comes from. As soon as ketogenesis kicks in, ketone levels begin to rise, and the body is formally in ketosis.
How to Start Ketosis
There are a number of different ways for the body to enter ketosis. One popular method is by fasting. In fact, fasting is a way to kickstart your way into ketosis, as it is the fastest method that produces ketones. Since the body thinks it is starving, it begins to produce ketones as a backup form of energy. It starts decreasing its use of glucose, and begins to rely on ketones for energy.
Another approach to entering ketosis is to cut your daily carbohydrate intake to 20-50 grams. If you are extremely active and have a bigger frame, you may be able to enter ketosis while still consuming a slightly higher amount of carbs. On average though, the keto diet consists of only about 5% carbohydrate intake. The majority of your calories should come from fat, with protein rounding out the ideal ketogenic macronutrient ratio.
Three Easy Steps to Enter Ketosis
Beginning a keto diet is actually very simple. The key when beginning is not to overthink things, and to be sure to eat enough. Lowering your calorie intake drastically will not help burn fat, as the keto diet itself will naturally lower your hunger levels.
- Cut out the carbs (should be about 5% of your caloric intake).
- Drastically increase your fat (to be about 80% of your caloric intake).
- Make sure you consume healthy proteins, for the remaining 15% of your daily calories.
As you begin to stop using glucose and shift to ketosis, your level of circulating ketones will increase. As ketosis kicks in, steady and quick weight loss usually follows. This continues indefinitely, as your body starts burning away stored body fat.
Health Benefits of a Keto Diet
Surprisingly, the ketogenic diet has been practiced for almost 100 years. It’s actually about the furthest thing from a fad diet. Initially conceived as a way to combat epilepsy, its popularity has greatly increased over just the last 5 years. This is due to a number of positive scientific studies, as well as an increasingly large body of anecdotal evidence. The keto approach actually helps with several problems related to weight gain. This includes high blood sugar, hormone imbalances, and hyperinsulinemia. Perhaps most interestingly, the keto diet has even been linked to positive benefits in those with neurological disorders. While the research is still being conducted, an increasingly large body of scientific evidence points to improvements in those with amyloid plaque buildup, as well as better outcomes for those with neurological dysfunctions.
Keto and Weight Loss
Unlike a traditional high-carb diet, the keto approach actually lowers hunger levels and speeds up weight loss. This is mainly due to positive hormonal changes. Insulin and glucose are kept under much better control when eating low carb. With insulin and glucose lower, our bodies are much less likely to store excess energy as fat. And when circulating insulin is lower, it is much easier to tap into our stored body fat for energy. By consuming lots of healthy fats and moderate amounts of protein, our hormones are much better regulated. This increased hormonal balance makes it easier to eat less, and also reduces cravings for sugary foods.
Keto’s Impact on Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Another key benefit of the keto diet is lowered cholesterol and blood pressure. Increases in both of these biomarkers has been a major cause of health problems for decades, so the improvements from keto rightly receive a lot of press. The scientific research specifically shows a lowering of the bad cholesterol (LDL), and a vast increase in the good cholesterol (HDL). This is in direct contrast to the traditional high carb diet. The results are actually fairly shocking, as most of us were led to believe the exact opposite was true – that a high carb diet is better for our cholesterol. Additionally, high blood pressure is closely linked with carrying too much body weight, and weight loss is another area that a keto diet can help with.
Keto Helps Control Blood Sugar
As mentioned previously, a keto diet helps keep our blood sugar and insulin regulated. This lowered release of insulin means keto may help reverse conditions like pre-diabetes or insulin resistance. The most definitive studies have shown that a ketogenic diet may help reduce HbA1c levels – which is an indicator of long-term blood sugar levels. This also means that those suffering with type II diabetes may see improvements by adopting a ketogenic diet. However, you should always speak with your doctor before changing your diet, especially if you are on any type of medication.
Keto Helps Fight Neurological Disorders
Since the keto diet began as a possible treatment for epilepsy, it should come as no surprise that neurological disorders may be helped by lowering your carbohydrate intake. Your body starts producing ketones during a low carb approach, and research shows that this state may be beneficial for your cognition. In some studies, there have even been small reversals of neurological disorders. With cognitive impairment, the brain often has trouble using the standard cellular energy pathways. Since ketones use other energy pathways, this explains the uptick in neurological performance. One study of people with epilepsy showed a 50% reduction in seizures, and 16% going seizure-free after adopting a ketogenic diet. As a result, there are an increasingly large number of studies being performed, especially in people with Alzheimer’s and other cognitive impairments.
What Are The Different Types Of The Ketogenic Diet?
There are multiple iterations of the keto diet, including:
Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)
The most well- known keto approach, this is very low in carbs, high in fat, and moderate in protein. This diet stays the same, day to day. Typically, the macronutrient ratio is 75% fat, 5% carbs, and 20% protein.
Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)
Similar to the standard ketogenic diet but including refeeds with more carbohydrates. Typically, a ‘5 days on, 2 days off’ approach is used. You will be kicked out of ketosis on the higher-carb days, hence the ‘cyclical’ name.
Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)
Very similar to the standard keto diet, but with more carbs added around your workout window. This is commonly used for high-level athletes that are competing in endurance sports.
High-Protein Ketogenic Diet
This approach is nearly identical to the standard ketogenic diet but adjusts the macronutrient eatio to allow for more protein. The adjusted ratio is usually 5% carbs, 60% fat, and 35% protein.
What Foods Should I Avoid On A Keto Diet?
Overall, following a keto approach is fairly easy –any food with a substantial amount of carbohydrates needs to be eliminated. However, it is very important to eat high quality foods when following a ketogenic diet, as well as hitting the right macronutrient ratio. The following is a helpful list of foods, which should be avoided, or eliminated, when you want to begin a keto diet.
- Sugary Foods: Soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy.
- Grains or Starches: Wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal
- Fruit: All fruit (except small portions of berries).
- Beans or Legumes: Peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas.
- Root Vegetables and Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips.
- Diet Products: These are highly processed and are usually high carb.
- Some Condiments or Sauces: These often contain sugar and unhealthy fats.
- Unhealthy Fats: Limit your intake of processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
- Alcohol: Many sweeter alcoholic beverages can take you out of ketosis.
- Sugar-Free Foods: Highly processed, and the sugar alcohols may kick you out of ketosis.
What Foods Should I Eat On A Ketogenic Diet?
An ideal keto meal will contain mostly healthy fats. Some of the best choices are olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, palm oil, avocado, tree nuts, seeds, fatty cuts of wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, bison, and free-range poultry. If you have the choice between a lean cut of meat and a fatty cut – always opt for the fatty cut. This is because your body needs lots of fat to make ketones, which is your only source of fuel when eating low carb. If you attempt to do a keto diet by only lowering your carbs, but not upping your fats – you will end up weak, tired, cranky, and fatigued. This is because your body won’t be getting the raw materials it needs to make energy. It is also critically important to consume plenty of vegetables on the keto diet. Specifically, look for non-starchy choices. Some of the best choices are: zucchini, cucumber, broccoli, leafy greens, spinach, kale, and asparagus.
A ketogenic diet is great for nearly everyone. Whether you want to lose weight, manage diabetes or epilepsy, or just want to improve your overall health, keto is likely to help you reach your metabolic goals. Consistency and compliance are also keys for long term success with the keto approach. Numerous scientific studies have shown that a keto diet may help with neurological conditions, blood sugar control, and overall body composition.
The Best Way to Measure Your Ketones
When you are following a keto diet, you will want to know what level of ketones you are producing. But until now, there has not been a convenient and reliable way to check your ketones. That’s why we invented Biosense, the first and only clinically-backed ketone breath monitor. By simply breathing in our device, you will have a reliable measurement of your current ketone levels. And it takes just seconds. No more urine strips, no more pricking your finger — just a fast, easy, and reliable breath test. You can bring our device with you to the office, take it to the gym — you can truly check your ketones anywhere. Unlike previous devices, which were often poorly made, unreliable, and not backed by clinical research — our ketone breath monitor is patented. This means no other device is legally allowed to use our exclusive technology. Whether you are brand new to keto and want a convenient and reliable way to check your ketone levels, or you’re an elite biohacker, Biosense is the perfect way to measure your ketones.
You don’t need to worry about continually buying strips, continually pricking your finger — we have all you need, in one device. One of our favorite features is the personalized insights you get with the device. Every time you measure, your results are graphed and stored, so you can easily track your progress. Until now, there has not been an easy and convenient way to check your ketone levels — which has made many people give up on the keto diet entirely. But that outcome is no longer necessary, as we’ve made a device that does all the work for you. Just simply take one breath into the device, and within seconds you’ll know your ketone level. Whether your goal is to burn fat, lose weight, or improve your blood sugar — we have the answer.
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