The ketogenic diet, also known as keto, is a low carb, moderate protein, and high-fat diet which puts your body into a metabolic state known as ketosis. Its more than just a trendy fad diet as its been around since the 1920s.
Its one of the best ways to lose weight, increase mental focus, and just feel happier about life.
The idea behind the ketogenic diet is that when your body enters ketosis, the liver begins to produce an energy source known as ketones. These ketones are used to fuel your body and help to provide a consistent source of energy unlike glucose (carbs).
So what makes this diet so awesome and why is everybody talking about it? Because it completely resets your body and has it working the way it was intended.
Its whole premise is based on the idea that your body runs more efficiently as a fat burner than a sugar burner.
When you eat something that is high in carbs (which usually means its extra delicious) then your body will simply convert it into glucose and insulin.
Now, Im not going to expect you to understand either of these things so lets break them down a bit further:
When you put things like this, it seems like being a sugar burner is the way to go. Your body processes things efficiently and you get to do what you want.
The problem with this route is that when glucose is used as the primary energy source, then your body has no need for fats. It doesnt get rid of them (that would be great), instead it stores them because it never knows when they will be used.
Also, your body doesnt keep the extra glucose around for when you decide to run to your mailbox. Instead, it converts that into fat and stores it as well. Almost everything seems like it gets converted into fat and stored.
You can start to see why you might adding those love handles you never expected.
The average persons diet is based heavily on glucose and therefore most people are storing fat. When your body runs out of glucose it doesnt immediately start to use the fat for energy. Instead, it tells you that you need MORE glucose so go and grab that cookie.
Hopefully, by now you can begin to see how this cycle continues and unless you are really active, the fat begins to build up and produce a body that you dont want.
If your body doesnt have extra glucose to store then it cant be converted to fat. If your body begins to understand that it cant rely on glucose as an energy source then it turns to fat.
That is why the ketogenic diet is so successful.
Your body stops being a sugar burner and becomes a fat burner.
When you lower your intake of carbs (low carb diet) then your body knows that it must find an alternative energy source and fat is the next best thing. However, fat itself cant be used by your organs so the fat needs to be converted into ketones.
When your body is running efficiently and converting fat into ketones this is known as ketosis.
Its important to understand that ketosis is a natural process and is the reason why you can go weeks without eating. Most of us have enough fat stored in our bodies to last us a good while (sad but true).
One of the questions you might be asking now is why doesnt the liver constantly break down fats into ketones? You have to remember, your body is a pretty efficient machine so if it has an easier energy source to process (glucose) then its not going to bother producing another.
Thats why you need to deprive your body of one energy source so that it can start to create another.
Insulin is another big reason why your liver cant do what you want it to do.
Insulin is a hormone that plays a huge role in preventing fat cells from entering the bloodstream. If fat cells cant enter the bloodstream then they cant enter the liver and be converted into ketones.
When you lower the number of carbs you eat, then glucose and blood sugar levels drop which in turn decreases the need for insulin. When the insulin levels drop enough, the fat cells begin to release the water they are storing. This is why people usually have a sudden drop in weight when starting keto.
They are losing water weight (which is what is supposed to happen).
When the water is released, it shrinks the size of the fat cells allowing them to enter the bloodstream where they can then enter the liver and be converted into ketones.
This is the end goal of the keto diet. You dont enter this state of ketosis by starving yourself.
Starving is never a healthy diet or a way to live. Instead, youre just simply eating less of the stuff that prevents fat cells from entering your liver.
You enter ketosis by starving your body of carbohydrates, not food.
Now that you understand the science behind the ketogenic diet lets talk about its benefits.
Often youll hear people say that keto changed their lives and this isnt an exaggeration. While weight loss is the obvious benefit of the ketogenic diet, its not the one that keeps people around.
You can only lose so much weight!
Its the other benefits that make people say its a lifestyle and not a diet so lets dive into the benefits of the keto diet.
Again, this is the obvious one. Rarely do people want to change lifelong eating habits to gain weight.
Because keto is meant to help you burn fat and use it as an energy source then it makes sense that it is a good diet to help you burn fat.
Starve yourself of carbs which lowers insulin levels which in turn allows fat cells to enter the bloodstream which in turn allows them to be converted into ketones.
A truly efficient fat burning machine.
Many people around the world suffer from diabetes. Diabetes is caused by your bodys inability to handle insulin. Because keto naturally lowers blood sugar levels, your body produces less insulin.
Keto has been shown to have huge benefits for people that are pre-diabetic or have Type II diabetes.
Because keto helps to maintain your blood sugar levels and keep them more consistent you find that you have more control of your everyday life. This is a huge benefit.
You wont be able to read minds or anything but its amazing to feel like nothing is clouding your brain. Apparently, carbs can make you feel foggy and if youve been on carbs long enough then you just dont notice it anymore.
However, when you switch over to keto youll notice that you can concentrate on single tasks better. You dont get distracted as easily and you think with a lot more clarity.
Again, you wont be able to read minds but your mental performance will definitely improve and if you want to know a reason why its because when your body is using ketones as an energy source, that proves to be a consistent energy source.
When your body depends on glucose, energy levels fluctuate because the amount of glucose in your body is constantly changing. However, with ketones, your body is able to produce a consistent level (depending on your needs) so your brain doesnt have to go through fluctuations of fuel.
No more feeling groggy or wanting to take an afternoon nap.
When your body has consistent energy then that means consistent performance throughout the day.
Who knew that you were supposed to feel fine throughout the day and not just during certain moments?
Because your body can only store so much glucose that means its fuel source is limiting unless youre able to constantly replenish it.
Carbs can also cause spikes in blood sugar levels and you know what happens when those levels suddenly drop: you crashhard.
Ketosis helps to provide your body with a reliable energy source throughout the day so you can just keep on chugging along.
Its one thing to be on a diet and starve yourself and its another thing to be on a diet and just not be hungry at all because your body is doing just fine.
But thats what happens on keto.
People find that one of the hardest things about the diet isnt sticking to it, its reaching their daily macros because they have no urge to eat.
If you arent hungry, you arent hungry.
When your diet is filled with carbs youll often think that you are hungry when in fact, your body is simply craving more glucose.
Another plus about the ketogenic diet is that because youre loading your body up with healthy fats you end up feeling naturally satisfied. This leaves your body in a satiated state for much longer.
No more random cravings. No more feeling like youre going to collapse if you dont eat something immediately.
In fact, you wont even think about being hungry which will allow you to focus on other things.
Studies have shown that the ketogenic diet can help to improve both triglyceride levels and cholesterol levels.
Why is this awesome?
Because it means that there is less toxic buildup in the arteries which allows blood to flow more freely throughout your body. Exactly as it should be.
Low carb and high-fat diets show a dramatic increase in HDL (this is the good cholesterol) and a decrease in LDL (this is the bad cholesterol).
All of this helps with improved blood pressure. This is no surprise considering that most blood pressure issues arise from being overweight and since the keto diet helps with weight, an obvious benefit is a decrease in blood pressure.
Type II diabetes occurs when your body cant handle the insulin that it produces.
Because the ketogenic diet helps to lower insulin levels to healthy ranges, many people find that they are no longer on the cusp of getting diabetes.
Because a lot of skin issues are related to hormones and keto helps to balance all hormone levels in your body, you end up with better skin without any additional creams or medications.
This is one of those things that you would never think about but I dont think anyone is going to argue against having better skin.
The keto diet was originally created in the 1920s for sufferers of epilepsy and it has been used ever since and is still one of the most widely used treatments for children suffering from uncontrolled epilepsy.
Keto is great for epilepsy because it reduces the amount of medication epilepsy sufferers need to take which is always a good thing.
If youre looking for more awesome things that keto brings to the table then check out What is Ketosis where we do a deeper dive into what ketosis is all about and how it can benefit you.
Now that you understand the benefits of keto youre probably wondering what you should eat when doing keto.
Im not going to pretend that the keto diet is one of those diets that allow you to eat anything that you want while also making you secretly train for a marathon.
While there are a ton of keto recipes for you to choose some, there are limits to what you can eat.
Keto food is delicious. If you think youre going to miss out on sweets then dont worry because keto fat bombs will make sure your sweet tooth is satisfied.
Its important to understand what you can eat on keto because you can easily knock yourself out of keto if you munch on something that you believe is safe like a bag of carrots.
Thankfully, most of the foods that you need to avoid are pretty obvious.
If your diet consists of most of these things you might think that there is nothing left. For instance, if you cant eat bread then what do you do?
You turn to some form of keto bread.
Love fruit? Well, there are some fruits you can eat on keto but they probably arent the ones that youre thinking of.
Generally, you shouldnt feel yourself being left out of good food.
Now, lets talk about the foods you can eat.
As you can see you arent really limited on food options. You can make a ton of different keto snacks along with delicious keto meals.
If youre looking for an easy to read list of keto-friendly foods then check out this keto shopping list which will help you for any time that you go shopping.
Now that you understand what foods you can eat does this mean you get to eat all of the food that you want? Unfortunately, no.
You need to figure out your macros and use those as a guide. What the heck are macros? Lets find out.
Any weight loss diet begins with the premise that you need to put yourself in a caloric deficit. What does that mean? It means you are burning more calories than you are consuming.
This is why people get so caught up in calorie counts but they arent really something you need to track on keto as long as you know your macros.
Macros are going to be your main source of calories. The macros that you need to keep an eye on to be successful with the ketogenic diet are:
Because the ketogenic diet is a high-fat diet, that means the majority of your calories need to come from fats. Makes sense right?
The general ratio of macros to follow is 70% fats, 25% protein, and 5% carbs. If that seems confusing to you then this is how it would break down if your daily calorie limit was 100 calories (nobody is this low):
Remember, these numbers are all lower than what youll eat in a day because we are working off of a 100 calorie day.
When talking about carbs I shouldve been more specific. Instead of 1.25 grams of any carbs a day, you are allowed to consume 1.25g of NET CARBS.
What are those?
Its important to understand that not all carbs are created equal. Some carbs are derived from fiber which doesnt present any harm to your body. Because of this we can subtract the amount of fiber from the total amount of carbs to get the net carbs.
On a nutrition label youll see Total Carbohydrates and two things underneath it: Fiber and Sugars.
To calculate your net carbs you simply use this equation:
Total Carbohydrates Fiber = Net Carbs
If there are 25g of total carbohydrates in something and 7g of fiber then the net carbs for that something is 18g.
Because the keto diet is based around the concept of eating a small amount of carbs a day its important that you keep an eye on the amount of carbs you consume.
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