The ketogenic or “keto” diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet designed to promote your body’s metabolism running on fats and ketones rather than carbohydrates and sugars. Ketones are the byproduct of lipolysis, the breakdown of lipids (fats).
2. Brief History
In 1921 endocrinologist Rollin Woodyatt discovered ketone bodies found in the liver following periods of starvation or while consuming a diet rich in fats. Russell Wilder continued this research in the early 1920s and found that this “ketogenics diet” was beneficial in the treatment of epilepsy and it gained popularity as an epilepsy therapy during the early 1900s.
3. Fat burning
Sticking to a keto diet can help your body become a fat burning machine. The keto diet provides benefits similar of those experienced while fasting, weight loss as one example, without actually fasting! The magic happens in your liver, it converts this new steady supply of dietary fats into ketones to fuel your body and brain and in the process, your liver accesses your stored body fat and burns that as well.
4. Stabilizes blood sugar
Following a ketogenic diet lowers blood sugar and the associated insulin levels. Without the constant peaks and troughs of blood glucose and the release of insulin, your body will become more insulin sensitive and responsive to “normalized” levels of insulin.
5. Reduces Sugar Cravings
Your body will adapt to the ketogenic diet and once used to being in ketosis, it will begin to “prefer” ketones over sugars and glucose. This is a good place to be, with your body no longer craving sugar and now preferring protein as a fuel source.
6. Controls Hunger
Many who follow the ketogenic diet specifically for weight loss report that once in a ketogenic state they feel significantly less hungry, making it much easier to stick to your diet. Eliminating hunger pangs and cravings can help avoid those things that most often derail your best efforts.
7. Improves Mental Focus
A body fueled primarily by our modern diet high in sugars, grains, and processed foods will over produce glutamate, a leading cause of brain fog and bad focus. The ketones provided by the ketogenic diet provide an alternate source of brain food and promote a balanced neurotransmitter production resulting in better mental focus.
8. Types of Ketogenic Diets
Ketogenic diets are divided into three basic types determined by their ratio of fats to proteins and the caloric needs of the user. You may see a ratio of 4:1 (4 to 1) or 2:1 (2 to 1) where the first number refers to the total fat compared to the total protein and carbohydrate combined in each meal.
Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)
The SHD is tailored for those individuals who lead a sedentary lifestyle. Carbohydrate intake is limited to 20-50 grams of carbs. Most fruits or starchy vegetables are restricted. In order for any of the keto diet plans to be effective, they must be strictly followed. SKD uses oils, butter, vegetable oil and cream to replace many carbs in the diet.
Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)
The TKD is less strict than the SKD and allows slightly more carbs though only in strict portions or amounts that will not prevent ketosis. The TKD diet is designed for those who are moderately active.
Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)
The CKD is designed for a more active lifestyle, those who weight train or perform intense exercise. CKD is NOT for beginners and requires strong will power as it requires five days of SKD followed by two days of carbohydrate loading. To be successful, the CKD dieter must follow the 5 days on 2 days off regimen and have the commitment to return to 5 more days of SKD after 2 days of carbs.
9. Safety and Precautions
The normal state of ketosis and the resulting excess ketones are generally not harmful to your body. Under normal conditions, any ketones that your liver produces which are not needed as fuel or for brain function will simply be excreted harmlessly through your urine. You can in fact, easily check your state of ketosis using inexpensive urine testing strips each morning.
That being said, there are one or two possible complications that you should know about. Ketones are acidic and too high a blood ketone level can result in ketoacidosis and organ failure. A normal healthy body will adjust its acidity by producing more bicarbonate to buffer the acid. Your risk for kidney stones increases following a ketogenic diet, drink plenty of water and ensure adequate hydration. You may also be at risk for constipation as you are eliminating many fibrous carbohydrates. Constipation can be avoided by increasing fluid intake and adding medium-chain triglyceride oil or MCTs to your diet.
All diets reduce or manipulate the intake of either proteins, fats, or carbohydrates to achieve their weight loss effects. Supporters of ketogenic diets believe that carbohydrates are the reason why people gain weight. Carbs cause unstable blood sugar levels due to their rapid absorption into the bloodstream followed by an overproduction of insulin.
The ketogenic diet and resulting ketosis produce energy without the production of insulin as the body rather burns fat deposits for energy. Reducing carbs reduces insulin production but also forces the body to burn its own fat deposit for energy, making the ketogenic diet a powerful way to achieve rapid weight loss.