The ketogenic diet has become one of the hottest trends in weight loss, health and athletic performance. And it is not because of clever marketing or multi-million dollar ad budgets. Keto is popular because it works!
Countless people have achieved better (and faster) results on keto than anything they have tried before. And the benefits extend from better brain function, reduced cancer risk, more energy, fewer cravings, less hunger… and rapid fat loss.
If you’re interested in the benefits of the ketogenic diet, keep reading to understand how it works and how to achieve the health and metabolic advantages keto can provide.
The Path from Sugar Burner to Fat Burner
Your body is an amazing machine…
Like a hybrid car, it can use various fuels to power your muscles, organs and brain. Your two primary sources of fuel are sugar (glucose) and fat. But there is a catch. You cannot burn both at the same time.
That’s because excess sugar in your bloodstream can be very damaging – even deadly. So when sugar is present, your metabolism is hardwired to burn it first. Fat burning is put on hold. And any sugar that remains after your caloric needs are met is converted into triglycerides and stored as body fat.
When you consistently consume excess carbohydrates, your body has no choice but to burn sugar and store fat. And after a period of years or decades, you become very proficient at burning sugar… and very inefficient at burning fat!
But you are not meant to be a Sugar Burner!
Back to the analogy of a vehicle – sugar is a “dirty” fuel. Consuming and burning sugar creates widespread inflammation, oxidation and glycation – the three pillars of aging and disease. It’s also an inferior energy source that burns out fast.
You also have a very small gas tank for storing carbohydrates (your glycogen stores). That’s why Sugar Burners need constant fill ups. Burning sugar puts your mood, energy levels and appetite on a constant roller coaster that revolves around when you can get your next carbohydrate fix!
Healthy fats, on the other hand, are your factory-specified fuel. They burn clean and slow and produce FAR more energy than sugar. What’s more, the human body has almost unlimited capacity to store fat. Even a person of average weight has enough body fat to power their metabolism for months.
Your body is designed to be a Fat Burner!
The great news is that by adding the right fuel to your vehicle, you can transform your “metabolic machinery” back to its factory setting. And that’s exactly what the ketogenic diet can do for you!
What is Ketosis?
The Ketogenic Diet is a way of eating that is rich in healthy fats… moderate in protein… and very low in carbohydrates. It is designed to put your body in a state of ketosis.
Ketosis is the natural metabolic state where your energy needs are met by the healthy fats you consume and by the unsightly flab stored on your belly, butt and thighs. In fact, even the dangerous visceral fat that surrounds your organs is broken down and turned into energy.
The ketogenic diet is different from most diets, because it specifies the amounts and ratios of macronutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrates) you should consume. We call these the Magic Macros – and what’s magical is how quickly and effectively this way of eating can transform your body and health!
In general, on a caloric basis, the keto diet should be comprised of:
- 65% – 80% Fat
- 15 – 30% Protein
- 5% – 10% Carbohydrate
That is a fairly wide range of flexibility. It reflects the fact that we are all unique. We have different responses to fat, protein and carbs. We all have different activity levels. And as we become fully fat adapted, we may be able to tolerate more carbohydrates – and still remain in ketosis.
You will achieve the greatest success and fastest results by limiting your carbohydrates to around 5% of the calories you consume. For most people, this means between 20 and 50 grams of carbs per day.
By restricting carbohydrates – and filling your plate with healthy fats and protein – you compel your body to find another fuel source. Continue this process for a few weeks, and you can transform your metabolism from a lifelong sugar burner to a highly efficient fat-burning machine!
As fats are broken down, they are converted into clean-burning ketone bodies by your liver. Ketones are the highest quality fuel you can burn. Not only do they produce long-lasting energy, they even help convert cellular waste, junk proteins and damaged or mutated cells into fuel!
A Few Words for the Doubters: Ketosis is Natural & Healthy!
There is a good chance you’re familiar with the doubters and naysayers, who say that it is “unhealthy” to abstain from carbs or that “forcing” your body into a state of ketosis is unnatural.
What is truly unnatural is how the vast majority of the population eats – where more than half of their calories come from grains, starches and sugar!
It is important to understand that not only is nutritional ketosis the healthiest metabolic state for most people – it is also perfectly natural.
Newborn babies enter ketosis within 24 hours after birth. And it is their mother’s fat-rich milk that helps them rapidly grow and thrive. Our ancient ancestors also thrived on ketones, during the winter months when high carbohydrate foods weren’t available.
In fact, ketones are what allowed our hunter gatherer ancestors to remain sharp enough to complete a successful hunt – even after days without food. In our modern world, many indigenous cultures consume diets that closely match the macronutrient ratios of keto… as they have for thousands of years, without experiencing any of the health complications so common in our modern world.
The human race simply would not have survived without the ability to utilize ketones.
If you are already following a Paleo / ancestral framework, it should be very easy for you to transition to a ketogenic diet. You will likely need to reduce carbohydrates, while increasing your consumption of healthy fats.
In addition to fatty cuts of meat like ribeyes and pork shoulder, I like
to cook above-ground vegetables (like broccoli, cabbage, collards) with a healthy serving of butter, pastured lard, tallow or duck fat. This is a delicious way to increase your consumption of satiating and healthy fats… without adding too many carbs to your diet.
In my next articles, I will cover how to achieve the metabolic state of ketosis as quickly as possible… how to maintain it with the least effort… and how to avoid common side effects experienced during the first few weeks.
See more of Kelleys Health & Wellness articles on the Discover Blog.
Grab a copy of Kelley’s new free book, Instant Pot Keto Dinners, where you’ll learn how to make 7 delicious, whole-food meals your family will love. Get your free copy here.
i Vidalia S, Aminzadeha S, et al. Mitochondria: The ketogenic diet—A metabolism-based therapy. The International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology. Volume 63, June 2015, Pages 55-59
ii Hasan-Olive MM, Lauritzen KH, Ali M. A Ketogenic Diet Improves Mitochondrial Biogenesis and Bioenergetics via the PGC1α-SIRT3-UCP2 Axis. Neurochem Res. 2019 Jan;44(1):22-37. doi: 10.1007/s11064-018-2588-6. Epub 2018 Jul 19.