If you’ve spent any amount of time on lifestyle blogs in the last couple of years, chances are you’ve encountered the keto diet. Keto dieters swear by the its potential to promote a healthier, more energetic lifestyle. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow are keto practitioners. Some even theorize that keto can have an ameliorating effect for patients with cancer. As the keto diet continues to surge in popularity, one of the most common questions asked is “how exactly do I track my fat loss?” Since the ketogenic approach dips into your fat stores to help you quickly shave off the pounds, it’s crucial to continually keep track of just what progress you’ve made.
If you’re new to the keto diet, this step is especially critical, as you want to be sure you’re following the approach properly. Just like you can track your steps on an Apple Watch, we developed the first clinically-backed ketone breath monitor – so you can see just how many ketones you’re producing, at any point throughout the day. But how does this futuristic-sounding food strategy work? Well, it’s pretty simple, and it actually has to do with humanity’s past.
Keto, Ketosis and Ketones
The keto diet basically works by training your body, through a high-fat and low-carb diet, to burn fat for energy instead of the glucose acquired from carbohydrates. This metabolic form of energy consumption is called ketosis, and the keto diet succeeds by maintaining your body’s state of ketosis. The good news is this is achievable through a change in diet. The bad news, especially for those with a voracious sweet tooth, or bread lovers, is that it requires the dieter to stop eating sugars and carbs. Abstaining from these seemingly ubiquitous nutrients means your body will use up its stored glucose, which lowers your blood sugar and insulin. This triggers your body into looking for a new energy source: fat.
Now that your body is burning fat, it’s also producing ketones (hence, ketosis). Ketones basically fuel your metabolism in absence of glucose, and both are the only forms of energy our brains derive from food. Your body produces ketones by breaking down fat via an enzyme called lipase. Lipase releases stored triglycerides — just the scientific word for “fat” — which are ultimately converted to ketones after being processed through your liver.
Ketones can be broken down into three types, or bodies:
Acetoacetate: The first ketone created by the body’s conversion of fat for energy.
Acetone: As acetoacetate breaks down, it begins producing acetone.
Beta-hydroxybutyrate: Also known as BHB, this is actually a molecule that still plays an integral part of the ketogenetic process. Your liver creates BHB by cultivating it from acetoacetate. It makes its way to the mitochondria, where it’s then turned in adenosine triphosphate, aka ATP aka energy for your cells. What makes BHB particularly useful is that it can traverse your body via your bloodstream, meaning it’s one of the molecules that can actually reach the mitochondria and bestow you with energy.
Keto: A Link to the Past
Keto as a biological process is not a recent discovery. Remember the part about ketosis being part of humanity’s past? Well, the keto diet has an evolutionary component. Early man, during its hunter-gatherer stage, didn’t have the luxuries of on-demand or easy-access food like we enjoy today. Our ancestors’ diet was dictated by food source availability. And with unpredictable variables such as natural disasters and migration changes, hunter-gatherers could not always expect to hunt and gather. This meant that pre-agricultural people fasted regularly, with the unintended effect of limiting their carb and sugar intake. The earliest practitioners of the keto diet were, in fact, just waiting for some wooly mammoth to appear!
Early man may not have had a test for when they’d entered ketosis, but we do. Both acetoacetate and acetone exit the body through your urine and breath. Thus, testing through either a urinary sample or breathalyzer can confirm whether your body’s achieved ketosis. You normally enter a state of ketosis when your body engages in an activity that uses up glucose, such as fasting or exercising. Now that we know how, why and when ketosis works, why would you want to do it?
Keto and Weight Loss
If you’re in the neighborhood for a new weight loss program, you might want to look into the keto diet. One of keto’s more common uses is increasing weight loss and fitness levels by burning body fat and reducing hunger. But there other dietary benefits to be gained:
- Increased mental and physical stamina
- Improved mood
- Heightened energy levels
- More reported physical activity
- Controlled food cravings
- Stabilized blood sugar levels
- Healthy triglyceride and cholesterol levels
- For people experiencing menstruation issues, keto helps to adjust hormone regulation
And, for some, the best part of keto is:
- Clear skin
To successfully diet with keto, you need to limit your carb intake to less than 5-10% of your daily caloric intake. Your body enters ketosis with that sort of diet because it offsets the lack of carbohydrates by increasing fat intake to around 70-90% of your daily calories. By measurement, that’s 155 to 200 grams of a daily 2,000-calorie diet. Protein, on the other hand, requires 20% of your caloric intake, which comes out to 100 grams per 2,000 calories. Generally, eating less than 50 grams of carbs should put most people into ketosis.
The general method behind weight loss is simple: Eat less calories than you use up in your daily activities. This is also known as a calorie deficit. Keto helps you achieve this by reducing your hunger levels. Biologically, ketosis decreases your level of ghrelin, a hormone associated with hunger and the appetite. This may cause one to eat less throughout the day, which contributes to losing weight. Scientists, through obesity studies, have observed the keto diet minimize food and alcohol cravings while associating it with a positive effect on the number of calories burned. While it’s important to note that keto’s relationship with weight loss is still not totally understood, these results are encouraging, and should aid in most weight loss plans.
The other major thing to keep in mind when using the keto diet is that you still need to take care of your body. Sleep and exercise are crucial components of any dietary plan. Sleep helps regulate hunger hormones so as not to increase the appetite, while physical activity enhances the effects of ketosis, and both help prevent binge eating. A fitful night’s rest, some sweat-inducing physicality and adherence to the keto diet is a TKO for weight loss.
What To Eat on Keto
One of the most intimidating parts about any new diet is learning the ins and outs of what should be going in your mouth. Seriously committing to the keto diet means thinking about food in a different way. For many this will mean a radical change in diet. If you prefer eating out, this might even mean cultivating a new hobby: cooking. Since a ketogenic diet demands natural foods that have been touched as little as possible —unlike, say, processed meat like sausage and cold cuts —some keto dieters prefer making their own food to ensure its freshness. Some people give up entire food groups. Cutting out carbs means not eating popular grain-based items such as bread and cereal. Even popular fruit such as the noble banana doesn’t make the cut because of its high sugar content. Remember, the best keto food is:
- High in fat
- High (or adequately high) in protein
- Low in, or does not contain, carbohydrates and sugars
Here’s a quick list of what you should and should not eat while on keto.
These foods provide your body with a rich source of fats and proteins, while providing additional support through other nutrients.
- Seafood such as clams, mussels, octopi and fatty fish like salmon
- Unprocessed meats
- Non-starchy vegetables, such as cauliflower, zucchini and squash
- Cheese (including cottage)
- Coconut or olive oil
- Nuts (in moderation)
- Plain yogurt
Keto Foods To Avoid
Coupling these foods with keto will lower the diet’s efficacy. A successful keto dieter should avoid:
- Grains such as bread, bagels, cereal, crackers, rice, oatmeal, pasta etc.
- High-sugar alcoholic beverages
- Legumes like beans, peas and lentils
- Starchy vegetables, particularly potatoes
- Sugary fruits, including apples, oranges, peaches, grapes, and their corresponding fruit juices
- Low-fat and fat-free dairy products
- Trans fats such as margarine
- Additives like coffee sweetener
- Sugars and sweets
Actually, since sugars and sweets are excluded from the keto diet, you could argue keto has a peripheral positive effect on your teeth.
Having trouble sticking to a pure keto diet? Check out these over-the-counter supplements that aid your body in maintaining ketosis.
Digestive Enzyme: Since keto is a high-fat diet, some users experience gut issues like inflammation. Adding digestive aids to your keto diet helps to offset some of these uncomfortable side-effects by more effectively breaking down the fats you consume.
Electrolytes: Water weight loss is common during the starting stage of a keto diet. And with water goes the electrolytes. These supplements will ensure you still have a reserve of important regulatory electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium.
Exogenous Ketones: The ‘exogenous’ simply means these ketones are produced from an outside source, versus your bodily-produced ketones. Exogenous ketones add to the ketones already traveling in your blood, helping to extend your body’s ketosis time. In fact, one study found that exogenous ketones may aid in weight loss since they further reduce your body’s ghrelin levels.
MCT Oil: Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oils add more fats in a keto diet, giving the body energy and keeping it in ketosis.
Protein Powders: Low-carb powders help keep your body in check while aiding in your diet. If you’re diet includes a low amount of protein, this is an efficient way of making up for the difference.
Supplements aren’t for everyone though, and some people might feel more comfortable sticking with just keto friendly foods.
Caring About Keto
Following a keto diet successfully means you will get skilled at monitoring how your lifestyle choices make your body feel, and you will start to think about the practicalities of adopting a new way of eating. For example, paying attention to the many carb foods that could easily, mistakenly find their way into your gullet. Managing the general tribulations associated with starting a new diet such as mood swings and routine adjustment. And then there’s the question of affordability and accessibility, which present themselves differently depending on your budget and where you live.
Given that keto is, effectively, a lifestyle change, it goes without saying there are certain emotional factors you must weigh before committing to it. Here are some questions to ask yourself before going on the keto diet:
- What do I want to achieve out of a keto diet (for example, weight loss, or a change of routine)?
- What does my weight loss diet look like now?
- What foods will I have to give up and add on the keto diet?
- What do I want to achieve out of a keto diet?
- What do people who’ve already used this weight loss diet have to say about it?
Once you’ve navigated those question marks, here are some tips on how to optimize your keto diet:
Join a message board: There are plenty of food, weight loss diet and fitness message boards out there that are a treasure trove of keto advice and personal experiences. Plus, joining a forum also helps build a support network you can turn to if you encounter any obstacles on your keto journey.
Learn new recipes: Learning new keto recipes expands your meal options while letting you learn new ways to prepare food. Plus, it’ll help break up any monotony you might feel when starting a new diet and eating the same food every day.
Count your carbs: With a diet as specific as keto, it’s worth tracking the amount of carbs you consume, especially when dealing with foods containing hidden carbs.
Drink water: This is just general good life advice, but a low-carb diet means you retain less water. Which means you must drink a lot of H2O.
Fast intermittently: This will cause your body to ramp up your body’s ketone production while minimizing the odds of you binging on food.
Speak to professionals: As with any new diet or lifestyle change, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the risks and expectations of your body with specialists. If you can, consult your doctor or a nutritionist on your plans to go keto.
What Is the Best Way To Track Your Ketones?
To allow for an effortless, accurate, and non-invasive way to measure ketosis, we invented the first and only clinically-backed ketone breath monitor. Our device is accurate enough to replace invasive blood measurements. By simply breathing into our device, you will have a reliable measurement of your current ketone levels in seconds. You will know your fat burning levels instantly. 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 level biohacker – Biosense is the perfect way to measure your ketones.