Author: Stephanie Lodge of The Athlete’s Kitchen
With the new year starting, most people are looking for new diets and tricks to help stick with their new year’s resolutions. Maybe you’re looking to drop a few pounds or maybe you’re looking to completely transform your lifestyle and eating habits. Either way, the ketogenic diet could be just what you need.
“Keto” seems to be the new buzzword in the media as of late, but what is the ketogenic diet exactly?
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a diet that consists of high fat, low carbohydrate and moderate protein intake. With the high fat content, your liver begins to produce ketones that your body will use for fuel instead of carbohydrates. Essentially, your metabolism will be completely altered to run off of fats for energy rather than carbohydrates.
When you consume a high amount of carbohydrates, your body produces glucose and insulin. Once your glucose levels are increased after you eat, your cells release insulin into your blood. Once your body uses the energy it needs, the leftover glucose is stored in your liver and muscles as glycogen.
Glucose is your body’s favorite fuel source, but once your body is deprived of it, it looks for its second favorite source for energy — fat. This is the start of ketosis.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is the biological process in which your body starts to seek out and rely on fats for fuel instead of carbs or glucose. This is when the liver converts your fat into ketones to be used as fuel. While it may seem like a somewhat new concept, ketosis is actually a natural process that occurs when your body is searching for fuel when food intake is low.
However, with the ketogenic diet you’re starving your body of carbohydrates, not food intake in total. This has a similar effect on the metabolism.
How Are Ketones Formed?
We know that ketones are produced by the liver from fatty acids. This process is called ketogenesis. During this process, one ketone in particular — acetoacetate — is formed. From here it is converted into two types of ketones, (1) acetone and (2) beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB).
Two to three weeks after your body has entered ketosis it will start to produce more BHB. Studies have shown that the body and brain prefer using BHB and acetoacetate for energy because the cells can use it 70 percent more efficiently than glucose.
Pretty cool, huh?
One thing you have to be careful of when starting the ketogenic diet is that you have a moderate protein intake. This usually means no more than about one gram of protein per body weight in pounds. If your protein intake is too high, gluconeogenesis can occur.
You may be thinking, “what the heck is gluconeogenesis?”
Gluconeogenesis occurs when you’re depleted of carbs but are still consuming a high amount of protein. This happens because your body will still be looking for glucose for energy, so it will convert any excess protein into glycogen to keep you in a glucose-burning state.
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of the ketogenic diet, let’s get into all the benefits it can offer.
Some Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet Include:
- Improves blood sugar levels
- Helps improve healthy weight loss
- Improve cognitive function
#1: Improves Blood Sugar Levels
The foods you eat have a direct correlation to your blood sugar, with some types of food having a greater impact than others. Processed foods and even high-starch foods can cause a rather quick increase in your blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels are associated with a reduction in blood flow, increase in heart attacks, increase in strokes, nerve damage and even kidney failure.
With the keto diet, all of the foods you will be eating will not only prevent a rapid increase in blood sugar, but will help control it and keep it at a healthy level.
#2: Helps Improve Healthy Weight Loss
The keto diet can be extremely effective in the increase of weight loss, especially for obese or overweight individuals. The keto diet has been one of the most studied strategies in weight loss in recent years. With a high-fat, low-carb diet, less insulin is released, which means less energy is stored in the form of fat for later use. This means energy can be pulled from pre-existing fat stores.
#3: Improve Cognitive Function
It turns out, the body isn’t the only one that can benefit from running off of fats for energy — the brain is significantly affected by your diet as well. The keto diet has even started being used in therapeutic practices for a number of neurological disorders including epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, sleep disorders, neurotrauma, autism and multiple sclerosis[*].
What Does a Ketogenic Diet Include?
When you’re on the keto diet, you should stick to a macronutrient intake of around 70 percent fats, 25 percent protein and five percent carbohydrates.
Keto Friendly Foods
- Proteins/meat: grass-fed beef, lamb, poultry, fish and whole, cage-free eggs
- Greens: kale and spinach
- Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli and cauliflower
- Dairy: grass-fed butter, grass-fed cheese, grass-fed cream
- Oils: coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil
- Fruits: avocados
Foods to Avoid on the Ketogenic Diet:
- Grains: wheat, rice, cereal, corn, etc.
- Sugars: honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.
- Fruits: apples, bananas, oranges, etc.
- Tubers: potatoes, yams, yucca root, etc.
Now, this is not to say that the ketogenic diet is for everyone. However, there are an astonishing amount of benefits to the ketogenic diet. If you’re feeling lost with how to take control of your health, give the ketogenic diet a try and start gaining all the benefits from this low carb diet today.
About The Author:
Steph is a writer, competitive weightlifter and nutritional consultant with a passion for health and wellness. She is the founder of The Athlete’s Kitchen, a website dedicated to providing its audience with articles, recipes and the latest nutritional information on their favorite foods. Find her on instagram @stephrlo or at https://www.TheAthletesKitchen.com