Paleo and keto can overlap, though there are some major differences in the core of each way of eating. The Paleo diet focuses on whole, natural foods that would have been available as food to our paleolithic ancestors. If it could have been hunted or foraged, then it would have been eaten. Some people on a Paleo plan also focus on what would have been growing in season, and in a certain region of the world for their genetic ancestors. Carbs are overall allowed in a Paleo plan, but they would come from whole foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, fruits, honey, and other unprocessed sources.
Because the main tenet of the keto diet is counting and cutting carbs — a commonly used way to control blood sugar — this eating approach has become increasingly popular among people with type 2 diabetes who are looking to lower their A1C, which is the two- to three-month average measurement of blood sugar levels. Indeed, research suggests this diet may lead to fast weight loss and potentially lower blood sugar for people with the disease. (13)
Other forms of ketogenic diets include cyclic ketogenic diets, also known as carb cycling, and targeted ketogenic diets, which allow for adjustments to carbohydrate intake around exercise. These modifications are typically implemented by athletes looking to use the ketogenic diet to enhance performance and endurance and not by individuals specifically focused on weight loss.
There are two major ways fasting is beneficial for overall health. First, it gives the body a break from digestion. Digestion is a surprisingly stressful activity, and if there is a longer period of time where your body can focus on simply using the nutrients it’s been given already without having to handle more, digestion tends to improve, as well as energy levels.
This is an adaptation period, where we’re essentially re-training our muscles and our brain to use fat as the primary fuel source instead of glucose. This adaptation can take a couple of weeks to a couple of months. As a hallmark of being keto-adapted and not just in ketosis, the skeletal muscles are able to burn fat directly for fuel, and the brain relies on the higher volume of ketones in the blood as its main source of energy.
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.
To be confident about being in ketosis, especially at the beginning when you're not quite sure how you should feel, it’s best to measure your ketone levels. By monitoring your ketone levels, you can assure that you’re doing the diet correctly and make dietary adjustments based on what you measure. People also respond to diet and exercise differently, so the best way to cater the keto diet to your own biology is to measure.
Instead of thinking about the total carbs you’re eating, assess what those carbs provide to you. Do the majority of your carbs come from fruit and vegetables, with a payload of fiber and disease-fighting antioxidants? Fantastic. Or are you consuming them in the form of added sugars (cookies, candy, soda) or refined flour? If you are, you know what to do.
Use our keto calculator to calculate the exact macros you should be eating. Remember, substituting more fat for carbs or protein is almost always ok. In fact, if you’re worried about losing muscle mass because of decreased protein consumption, you may not need to worry. There has been evidence that while in a state of ketosis your body actually maintains protein better than in a standard diet.
If you talk to keto aficionados, you’ll find many save leftovers from dinner for the next day’s lunch. Cook once, eat twice—your keto diet menu for lunch is solved. If you don’t like leftovers or if you’re craving something different for lunch, the mid-day meal can be as simple as a scoop of chicken salad. Or, hit the salad bar at a local grocery store and top a bowl of greens with some good-fat goodies. You can also try one of these simple keto lunches:
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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