In some ways, it’s similar to the Atkins diet, which similarly boosts the body’s fat-burning abilities through eating only low-carb foods, along with getting rid of foods high in carbs and sugar. Removing glucose from carbohydrate foods will cause the body to burn fat for energy instead. The major differences between the classic keto diet and the Atkins diet is ketogenic emphasizes healthier fats, less overall protein and no processed meat (such as bacon) while having more research to back up its efficacy.
But all those studies were very small, and not all research on the keto diet is as promising. One American Society for Clinical Nutrition study of 20 participants found that those on the diet didn’t lose more weight than those on a non-keto diet. But they did have fouler moods and higher levels of inflammation, which has been linked to a variety of conditions, including heart disease and cancer.
When it comes to weight loss — a big possible draw of the plan for many individuals — the benefits of the ketogenic diet may not be much different from any other diet plan. “There is no magical weight loss benefit that can be achieved from this diet,” says Spano. “The ketogenic diet may help weight loss in the same way other diets help — by restricting food choices so you eat fewer calories.”
There are several types of the keto diet, but essentially, to achieve a state of ketosis, you have to severely reduce the amount of carbs you eat. (You can use this ketogenic calculator to create a custom food plan.) Data suggest the average American man over age 20 consumes 47.4 percent of his daily calories from carbs, and the average American woman over age 20 consumes 49.6 percent of her daily calories from carbs. (3) But in the classic ketogenic diet, which was originally used for the management of seizure disorders, 80 to 90 percent of calories come from fat, 5 to 15 percent come from protein, and 5 to 10 percent come from carbohydrates.
The end result is staying fueled off of circulating high ketones (which are also sometimes called ketone bodies) — which is what’s responsible for altering your metabolism in a way that some people like to say turns you into a “fat-burning machine.” Both in terms of how it feels physically and mentally, along with the impact it has on the body, being in ketosis is a very different than a “glycolytic state,” where blood glucose (sugar) serves as the body’s energy source.
A lot of changes are happening in your body and you’re going to feel it! The first five to seven days can be pretty rough, but your body is getting over its dependency on sugar. During this time of transition it is essential that you supplement electrolytes. Your body is flushing out lots of water, and with that goes electrolytes. The Keto Flu can be greatly reduced if you add sodium, potassium and magnesium to your diet. Check out our supplements page for a list of electrolyte supplements we recommend. Stay on course and you’ll start feeling better in no time!
Protein: Keep in mind that keto is high-fat, and not high-protein, so you don’t need to eat very much meat. Too much protein turns into glucose in the body, making it harder to stay in ketosis. Stick to fatty cuts of grass-fed, pasture-raised, or wild meat, and wild-caught fish. Red meats, offal/organ meats, pork, eggs (preferably pastured), fish, shellfish, and whey protein concentrate.
Con: Results can vary depending on how much fluid you drink. By drinking more water, you dilute the concentration of ketones in the urine and thus a lower level of ketones will be detected on the strips. The strips don’t show a precise ketone level. Finally, and most importantly, as you become increasingly keto-adapted and your body reabsorbs ketones from the urine, urine strips may become unreliable, even if you’re in ketosis.
Therefore, when you’re following a ketogenic diet, your body is burning fat for energy rather than carbohydrates, so in the process most people lose weight and excess body fat rapidly, even when consuming lots of fat and adequate calories through their diet. Another major benefit of the keto diet is that there’s no need to count calories, feel hungry or attempt to burn loads of calories through hours of intense exercise.
The good news is that snacks are totally allowed (and I're not just talking about carrot sticks.) There are plenty of packaged options out there designed for keto fans. FATBAR is one of them. These snack bars have 200 calories, 16 grams of fat, and four grams of net carbs. They're also plant-based and are made with almond or cashew butter, cocoa butter, coconut, pea protein, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds.
One of the secrets of getting into ketosis faster is by fasting, since this helps burn off stored glycogen, so trying intermittent fasting can help you on your way. While it isn’t necessary to be on a ketogenic diet, doing IF while on a ketogenic diet can be very helpful. Most people who do IF don’t even think about food until late in the morning because it becomes natural to wait until later to eat.
Our bodies are incredibly adaptive to what you put into it – when you overload it with fats and take away carbohydrates, it will begin to burn ketones as the primary energy source. Optimal ketone levels offer many health, weight loss, physical and mental performance benefits.1There are scientifically-backed studies that show the advantage of a low-carb, ketogenic diet over a low-fat diet. One meta-analysis of low-carbohydrate diets showed a large advantage in weight loss. The New England Journal of Medicine study resulted in almost double the weight loss in a long-term study on ketone inducing diets.
Following a diet that drastically restricts carbohydrates requires carefully monitoring your food choices to ensure you are meeting your nutritional needs. Working together with a registered dietitian can make sure you follow this diet in a healthy manner without increasing your risk for complications or negative side effects. You can find a registered dietitian at EatRight.org.
Ketogenic diets, like most low carb diets, work through the elimination of glucose. Because most folks live on a high carb diet, our bodies normally run on glucose (or sugar) for energy. We cannot make glucose and only have about 24 hours’ worth stored in our muscle tissue and liver. Once glucose is no longer available from food sources, we begin to burn stored fat instead, or fat from our diets.
The current hypothesis is that the brain functions differently on ketones than on glucose, and this is what causes certain brains to reduce epileptic seizures. I would then also hypothesize that certain people who feel that “brain fog” lifted on ketosis is due to either placebo effect OR their brain actually functioning differently on ketones vs glucose.
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