The ketogenic diet is a sugar-free, grain-free diet, low-carb diet. Typically carbohydrates are limited to less than 20 grams per day. There are different variations of the diet that people follow but most are higher fat and moderate protein. A common distribution of macronutrients is 5% carbs, 25% protein and 70% healthy fats.
How Our Bodies Use Fuel For Energy
Typically, our bodies use glucose as fuel. We eat a mix of carbs, protein and fats and our body processes the foods and breaks it down and absorbs the nutrients with glucose ultimately landing in our blood stream where our cells absorb it to use as energy. Often if we overeat in general or overeat carbohydrates which causes too much glucose to end up in our blood stream, our body doesn’t know what else to do with the excess glucose except turn it into fat. This is also how so many of us end of insulin resistant or diabetic. This is a super simplified explanation to an involved process but this gives you an idea of what our bodies normally do.
The goal of the ketogenic diet is to balance blood sugar levels and stop this oversupply of glucose. This is accomplished by biochemically shifting the body into burning fat instead of glucose for energy by restricting carbohydrates. Our bodies are very well adapted to make this transition. It usually takes a couple weeks for our bodies to fully adapt but within a couple days the process begins. This process is called ketosis and results in the production of ketone bodies which our bodies use for energy.
Our brains use about 50% of the ketones produced and thrive by using ketones for energy. Then the other ketones are used to fuel the other processes of living such as digestion and respiration. Mental clarity is often a positive side effect of ketosis. Physical endurance is also a welcome side effect. Our fat stores are in constant supply to provide a steady supply of energy and the blood sugar swings that are common in glucose‐centric energy production are calmed in ketosis.
A few of the Common Objections to the Ketogenic Diet
Many people, physicians included, are not aware enough about the ketogenic diet to make an informed decision one way or the other. There is also a set of people who are opposed to the keto diet and feel that it can cause damage to the body.
It is important to recognize the distinction between ketosis and ketoacidosis. These two processes are often confused which raises concerns about the safety of the ketogenic diet. Ketosis is a very normal process that allows the body to provide energy for the body from fat metabolism. Diabetic Ketoacidosis is a serious condition that can occur in the bodies of individuals with uncontrolled Type 1 Diabetes. During ketoacidosis, Blood sugar levels are elevate drastically without insulin available to bring blood sugar down. The body produces severely high levels of ketone bodies which lead to symptoms like nausea, vomiting and stomach pain followed by confusion and finally coma. (Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, 2017) Ketoacidosis can cause long-term damage to the kidneys.
Another objection that often surfaces is the drastic change of lifestyle that goes with the ketogenic diet and the difficulty of sticking with the plan. If someone is eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) with high levels of carbohydrates and often high levels of fat, transitioning to a ketogenic diet is a big step. Half-way following the ketogenic diet could potentially harm a person’s health. This is a reality. The keto diet isn’t for everyone. A commitment to change is a must if it is going to be attempted, just like any other lifestyle change.
Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
It is common to experience some or all of the following benefits from ketosis (from the book Keto Clarity by Jimmy Moore and Dr. Eric Westman):
Natural hunger and appetite control
Effortless weight loss and maintenance
Sounder, more restful sleep
Normalized metabolic function
Stabilized blood sugar and restored insulin sensitivity
Lower inflammation levels
Feelings of happiness and general well‐ being
Lowered blood pressure
Increased HDL cholesterol
Lowered or eliminated small LDL cholesterol particles
Ability to go twelve to twenty‐four hours between meals
Use of stored body fat as fuel source
Prevention of traumatic brain injury
Increased sex drive
Improved immune system
Slowed aging due to reduction in free radical production
Improvements in blood chemistry
Optimized cognitive function and improved memory
Reduced acne breakouts and other skin conditions
Heightened understanding of how foods affect your body
Improvements in metabolic health markers
Faster and better recovery from exercise
Decreased anxiety and mood swings
This hopefully has given you some background to the ketogenic way of eating. Are you intrigued? Yes, there is more to learn!
Next week I will share with you why I am so ga-ga over the ketogenic way of eating. It has been life changing for me! Stay tuned…