The Complete Guide To The Ketogenic Diet
The Keto diet is essentially a low carb diet. Whenever you consume a meal that is high in carbs, your body produces insulin and glucose. Glucose is the body’s preferred energy source as it is the easiest molecule to convert into energy while insulin is released to process the glucose. Since our bodies prefer to utilize glucose as the main source of energy, fats are usually stored as adipose tissue. When you lower your carb intake, you induce your body into a state of ketosis.
Ketosis is the body’s mechanism of self-preservation when there’s low food intake. At this state, the liver breaks down fats to produce ketones, which become the source of energy. This means the extra fat that you are carrying around is what gets broken down to fuel the body. As such, the goal of a ketogenic diet is to induce your body into this state. However, instead of starving yourself, you just limit the amount of carbohydrate intake. While in this state, you will experience raised ketone levels, which offers the body a lot of benefits.
Benefits of Keto Diets
There are many benefits to being on this kind of diet. The following are some of the more significant ones:
Since ketogenic diet induces your body into a fat using state, it means that you are going to lose weight. While on keto, your insulin (fat storing hormone) levels plummet, which causes your body to become a fat furnace.
Controlling Blood Sugar
Keto diets will naturally lower your blood sugar levels due to the types of foods you are consuming. Studies have shown that these diets are even better than diets that have an overall low-calorie count when it comes to diabetes prevention and management. Thus, you have type-2 diabetes or are pre-diabetic, ketogenic diets will greatly aid you in your blood sugar control efforts.
There are people who are primarily on this diet due to the enhanced mental focus it gives them. a ketone is a great fuel source for the brain. Additionally, eating high-carb foods usually causes lethargy. So, when you avoid sugars and are in a state of ketosis, you will benefit from raised levels of focus and concentration.
Studies have also shown that increasing your fatty acid intake will help boost brain function.
Normalized Hunger and Increased Energy Levels
When your body is utilizing fat as its primary energy source, you will feel energized throughout the day. Glucose is the easiest molecule to burn while fat is the most effective molecule to use as fuel. Moreover, when you take a meal that is high in fats, you will feel more satiated and less prone to hunger throughout the day.
Ketogenic diets have been widely utilized since the 1900s in the treatment of epilepsy. It still remains one of the most effective therapies in the management of uncontrolled epilepsy in children today. This is because it offers excellent control while limiting the number of medications used.
Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Studies have shown that these diets decrease triglyceride and cholesterol levels which are commonly associated with arterial buildup. These diets are also more effective at blood pressure control than other diets.
Unmanaged insulin resistance is among the leading causes of type-2 diabetes. A lot of studies have revealed that low-carb diets help lower insulin levels to optimal ranges. Moreover, even if you are athletic, insulin optimization will also benefit you because your energy levels will be better controlled.
It is no secret that most people experience skin improvements as soon as they switch to a keto diet. Studies show that there is usually a drop in skin inflammation and lesions as soon as you switch to a diet that has low carb levels. Another study revealed that there is a probable connection between high-carb foods and increased acne.
What to Eat on a Keto Diet
When starting on any of the ketogenic diets, it is imperative that you plan ahead. This means having a practical diet plan. How fast you get into a ketogenic state depends on what you eat. Hence, the more carbohydrates you restrict, the faster you will get into ketosis.
As such, you want to limit your carbs, and get them mostly out of dairy, nuts, and vegetables. Also, do not consume any refined carbohydrate such as wheat (pasta, bread, cereals), or starch (legumes, beans, potatoes). The only exceptions to this rule are star fruit, avocado, and berries.
You Should Not Eat
Grains – corn, wheat, cereal, rice, etc.
Sugar – maple syrup, honey, agave, etc.
Fruit – bananas, apples, oranges, etc.
Tubers – yams, potato, etc.
What You Should Eat
High fat dairy.
Seeds and nuts.
Berries and avocados.
Healthy oils such as coconut oil and olive oil.
What Percentage of Carbs Should You Eat?
What is important to remember is that a ketogenic diet is very low in carbohydrate content, moderate in protein, and high in fat. Thus, your nutrient intake should look something like 5% carbohydrate, 25% protein, and 70% fat.
On a typical day, ensure that your total carb intake is between 20 and 30 grams, even though the lower you go the better the results will be.
Also, ensure that you consume your proteins as required with fats filling the remainder of your daily calorie requirements. And if you find yourself constantly hungry during the day, snack on peanut butter, cheese, seeds, or nuts to curb the hunger. Snacking, however, might slow down weight loss.
Veggies on Ketogenic Diets
The best vegetables are those that are dark green, and leafy. Moreover, most of your meals should comprise of veggies, protein, and fat. For instance, steak with a butter topping served with spinach that has been sautéed in olive oil. Another meal would be chicken breast that has been basted in olive oil, with cheese and broccoli.
Achieving this state is not as complicated as it might sound. Here is what you need to do:
- Restrict Your Carb Intake: To reach this state fast, try and limit your total carb intake to less than 35g per day.
- Restrict Protein Intake: A lot of folks who switch from an Atkins diet to keto diets usually do not want to restrict their protein. Nevertheless, a lot of protein might inhibit your ability to achieve optimal ketosis. Thus, if you are in it to lose weight, consider limiting your protein intake to 0.6g and 0.8g per pound of lean body mass.
- Do Not Worry About Fats: Like we said earlier, fat is what we use as energy when on keto. Hence, you must ensure that you are feeding your body with enough of this molecule. The goal is not to achieve weight loss through starvation.
- Drink Lots of Water: Make a goal of drinking at least a gallon per day. Constantly hydrating yourself not only helps with vital body processes, but it also helps control your hunger.
- Cut Down on Snacking: A weight cut goes better when you do not have a lot of insulin spikes. Therefore, by constantly snacking, you will only be slowing down your progress.
- Fast: Fasting is a great way of enhancing ketone levels during the day.
- Exercise: You already know that exercising is healthy for you. However, if you are looking to get the most out of this diet, consider including a 20 to 30-minute exercise routine to your day. A mere brisk walk is enough to help you with your goals.
- Consider Supplementation: There are supplements that can be of vital aid to your journey. Talk to your physician so they can guide you to which supplements are best suited for you.
How to Tell You Are in Ketosis
Here are the most common signs of this state:
Urinating Constantly: These diets are natural diuretics. As such, you will be going to the bathroom more and more.
Dry Mouth: Because of the increased bathroom visits, you will experience a dry mouth and increased thirst. Therefore, ensure that you are drinking water constantly to replenish the lost electrolytes.
Bad Breath: We usually expel acetone (a ketone body) through our mouths. It has a sharp smell like that of nail polish remover, or an overripe fruit. Nevertheless, this is during the initial stages of the diet and ceases to exist after a while.
Increased Energy and Reduced Hunger: After getting past the keto flu, you will start experiencing lower hunger levels, in addition to enhanced physical and mental energy levels.
Is the Ketogenic Diet Dangerous?
Can someone achieve levels of ketones that are so high that they become a problem? Well, yes, and this is referred to as ketoacidosis. So, should you expect ketoacidosis? You shouldn’t.
The fact is that most people struggle just to have the optimal levels of ketones in the body. Thus, getting to a point where you will need medical attention is very unlikely to happen.
It does not help that there are many misconceptions floating around about keto diets that have given them a bad rep. However, tons of studies have gone ahead to prove that eating meals that have high fat and low -carb content are extremely beneficial.
Moreover, there are also people who confuse low-carb high-fat diets to high-fat high-carb diets. The latter are terrible for the body. Eating meals that are high in both fats and sugars are, of course, going to get you in trouble.
This is because when you eat foods that are high in sugars and fats, your body will turn to the sugar to convert them to glucose. So, what happens to the fat? It gets stored. This is what causes weight gain and health issues that are usually associated with processed foods.
Nevertheless, it is essential that you first consult your doctor before embarking on any of the ketogenic diets if you have any concerns. Additionally, be wary of this diet if you are under medication or have any pre-existing condition that might not augur well with the diet. Moreover, breastfeeding mothers are advised against it as they need to increase their carbohydrate intake.
So, What Exactly Happens to Your Body?
Because of being used to eating meals that have a high carbohydrate content, your body got accustomed to breaking them down for energy. As such, it built up enzymes that specifically deal with carb molecules but has very few that deal with fats. Consequently, it stores the fats as they are more cumbersome to process anyway.
But when the body suddenly has to deal with a situation where there is a lack of glucose molecules but an increase in fats, it is forced to build up a new supply of fat torching enzymes. And as it gets accustomed to the new ketogenic state, it will use up the remaining glucose supplies and focus its efforts on the fat.
However, there is a drawback to this as you will no longer have glycogen in your muscles. When this happens, you will experience lethargy – which is a lack of energy.
As such, during the first week of the new diet, it is typical for people to complain of headaches, fatigue, dizziness, aggravation, and mental fogginess. For the most part, this is because your electrolytes are being flushed out because of the diuretic effect of ketosis. Thus, it is critical that you constantly hydrate yourself while keeping your salt intake up.
In fact, you are advised to consume as much salt as you can during the initial stages of the diet. It helps you retain water while helping replenish the electrolytes. Nevertheless, this is the most danger you will ever face from embarking on this diet and it is known as the keto flu.
This is a very common occurrence among people who are new to these diets. Fortunately, it will fade away after just a couple of days. Moreover, there are ways for you to combat, manage, and even eliminate it. This flu is characterized by symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, and headaches.
But when you increase your water intake and replenish your electrolytes, you will begin feeling a lot better. For the average person, try and aim for 20 to 30 grams of carbohydrates per day. This will allow you to adjust to the diet within 4 to 5 days. After that, now aim for about 15 grams so that you can induce the ketogenic state faster. And if you are still dealing with symptoms of keto flu, investigate your water and electrolyte intake then make the appropriate adjustments.
If you love hitting the gym, you will notice some significant reductions in strength and endurance. This is nothing to worry about as it is typical while your body adjusts. After becoming keto-adapted, however, you will start utilizing fat as your primary source of energy, and your strength levels will go back to normal.
Working Out on a Keto
A lot of people think that they need carbs to build muscle. This is not true. If you are worried about your glycogen levels in your muscles, let us look into it further.
The thing is that you can still refill your glycogen stores even when you are on this diet. In fact, keto diets are one of the most effective ways of building lean muscle. But of course, proteins are crucial here. If you are looking to gain lean muscle mass, it is recommended that you consume about 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of your lean body mass. However, putting on muscle while on a carbohydrate restrictive diet might be slower, but then, you can be assured that you are not accumulating fat in the process as it is commonly the case.
Here are a few diet variations that you could consider:
The Standard (SKD) This is the diet we have been discussing all along where you limit your carbohydrate intake as much as you can.
The Targeted (TKD) Here, you will slightly vary the SKD by consuming small amounts of a fast-digesting carbohydrate before your workout.
The Cyclical (CKD) This one will best suit bodybuilders and other physique competitors. Here, you use one day of the week to up your carbohydrate intake to quickly replenish your glycogen stores.
Therefore, if you are a person who works out intensely, you would be best served by the TKD and CKD.
How to Budget for Ketogenic Diet
It is a common belief that keto diets are usually more expensive than other types of diets available. While it is worth admitting that they can be a little bit costlier than grain-stuffed foods, they are not as expensive as you would be led to think.
Yes, this diet might be costlier than the standard diet, but that is a price to pay for healthy eating. However, this is not to say that there are not ways to go around it. The following are tips that can save your money when you get into this eating lifestyle:
Look for Deals: You will always find a coupon or sale on keto-friendly items. You can typically find savings in the newspaper and magazines that are sent to your home. Combine these with the in-store specials and manager cuts. When you combine them, you will find that you have made quite significant savings on your groceries.
Buy in Bulk and Cook: Here is the thing, whenever you buy your groceries in bulk, there is a significant cost per pound savings that you will make. Also, ensure that you are buying from wholesalers. And if you do not fancy spending too much time in the kitchen, you can set aside one day to prepare meals for the whole week and store them.
It is also worth noting that buying pre-cooked meals is a good way of wasting your money. Put in some effort and start making things yourself. This goes also for veggies. Prepare them yourself instead of buying pre-cut ones.
Final Thoughts on the Keto Diet
When you embark on a diet that is high in fats, moderate in protein and has a low carbohydrate content, you stand to benefit from extreme health benefits. You will have lower cholesterol levels, lower your body weight, control your blood sugar, and have enhanced mood and energy levels.
Admittedly, ketogenic diets can be hard to adjust to at the beginning; however, you can and will make it through. The transition period will be a real test for you, but if you endure those 4 to 5 days, you will wish you had started sooner. The initial adjustment effects will wear off, and you will begin enjoying your new lifestyle.
If you are embarking on this diet to lose weight, here are some few pointers
Be strict and straightforward: People who are able to restrict their carbohydrate intake the furthest are also the ones who experience impressive results in the shortest time. This means cutting out all artificial sweeteners – even diet soda – and keeping your carb intake as low as possible. Moreover, dumping the sweeteners will decrease your sugar cravings.
Drink a lot of water and look for electrolyte supplements: Your first problems when you embark on this diet will be due to a lack of electrolytes because of flushing them out when you visit the bathroom. Use salt as much as you can, and take multivitamins. Check with your doctor for the best electrolyte supplements.
The Keto diet is all the rage lately, and with good reason. Embark on this diet and experience the immense benefits it has to offer.
If you have tried the ketogenic diet or have questions about it, leave us a comment below.