The ketogenic diet was first introduced in the 1920’s as a means to control epilepsy in children.
In more recent times, the principles of the ketogenic diet have been adapted for a highly effective weight loss plan.
The Ketogenic diet forces your body to enter into a state called ketosis. Your body then makes use of the carbohydrate’s as its primary source of energy. This is because those carbohydrates are the easiest for your body to absorb.
The essential aim of the diet is to prompt your body to burn fats instead of carbohydrate’s, which has the effect of fast weight loss.
If your body run’s out of carbohydrates, it will revert to making use of fats and proteins for its energy production. Essentially, your body has a sort of energy hierarchy which it follows.
First of all, your body is programmed to use carbohydrates as an energy fuel when it is available. Secondly, it will revert to using fats as an alternative in the absence of an adequate supply of carbohydrates.
Your body will turn to proteins for its energy provision when there is an extreme depletion of carbohydrates and fats. However, breaking down proteins for it’s energy provision leads to a general loss of lean muscle mass.
The ketogenic diet does not fully depend on the calories in or the calories out model. This is because the composition of those calories matters due to the hormonal response of the body to different macro-nutrients.
However, there are two schools of thought in the ketogenic community. While one believes that the amount of calories and fat consumption does not matter, the other community contends that calories and fat does matter.
When using the ketogenic diet, you are trying to find a balance point. While calories matter, the composition of those calories also counts.
In a ketogenic diet, the most important factor of the composition of those calories is the balance of fat, protein and carbohydrates and how each one affects your insulin levels.
This balance is very important because any rise in insulin will stop the breakdown of fats. Therefore, you need to eat foods that will create the smallest rise in insulin. This will help to keep your body in the state of burning stored body fats for fuel.
The body can normally go into a ketosis state by itself. This is often the case when you are in a fasting state such as when you are sleeping. In this state, your body tends to burn fats for energy while your body carries out it’s repairs and growth while you sleep.
Carbohydrates generally make up most of the calories in a regular meal. Also, the body is inclined to make use of the carbohydrates as energy because it can be more easily absorbed. The proteins and fats in the ketogenic diet are thus more likely to be stored.
However, in a ketogenic diet, most of the calories come from fats rather than carbohydrates. Since the ketogenic diet has a low amount of carbohydrates, they are immediately used up. This low carbohydrate level causes an apparent shortage of energy fuel for the body.
As a result of this seeming shortage, the body resorts to its stored fat content. It then makes a shift from being a carbohydrate to being a fat-burner. The body however does not make use of the fats in a recently ingested meal but rather it stores the fats up for the next round of ketosis.
As your body gets more familiar to burning fat for energy, the fats in an ingested meal then become used up with very little left for storage.
This is why the ketogenic diet uses a high amount of fats so that your body can have enough for energy production and also still be able to store more fat. The body needs to be able to store fat, otherwise it will start breaking down its protein stores in your muscles during the ketosis period.
When you are fasting during ketosis like in between meals and during sleep, your body still needs a constant supply of energy. You do have these periods in your normal day and therefore you need to eat enough fat so your body can use the fat as energy.
If there is not enough stored fat, then the proteins contained in your muscle’s will then become the next option for your body to use as energy. Therefore it is important to eat enough so that you can avoid this scenario from taking place.
The main goal of a ketogenic diet is to mimic the state of starvation in your body. This situation forces your body into a fat burning mode for energy.
5 Tips for Success on the Ketogenic Diet
Below are a few tips to maximize your success on a ketogenic diet.
1.) Drink tons of water.
While on a ketogenic diet, your body has a hard time retaining as much water as it needs. So, staying properly hydrated is absolutely essential. Many experts recommend that men intake a minimum of 3 liters of beverages each day, while the figure for women is 2.2 liters daily.
A good indicator of proper hydration is the color of your urine. If your urine is clear or light yellow, you’re most likely properly hydrated. Keep a bottle of water with you everywhere you go!
2.) Don’t forget the fat!
Simply put, our bodies need fuel to function. When we limit our carbohydrate intake, especially to levels that induce ketosis, our bodies need an alternate fuel source. Since protein is not an efficient source of energy, our bodies turn to fat.
Any fat you eat while in ketosis is used for energy, making it very difficult to store fat while in ketosis. Choose healthy, unsaturated fats as often as possible: foods like avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds are ideal.
3.) Find your carb limit.
All of our bodies are different. Some dieters will need to adhere to a strict low-carbohydrate diet that entails consuming less than 20 grams per day of carbs. Other dieters will find that they can comfortably stay in ketosis while consuming 50, 75, or 100 grams of carbohydrates.
The only way to know for sure is trial and error. Purchase Ketostix or any brand of ketone urinalysis strips and find out your carbohydrate limit. If you find that you have a bit of wiggle room, it will make sticking to your diet that much easier.
4.) Be smart about liquor.
One of the great aspects of the ketogenic diet is that you can drink liquor while on it without throwing your weight loss too far off course. You can drink unsweetened liquors like vodka, rum, tequila, gin, whiskey, scotch, cognac, and brandy, along with the occasional low-carb beer.
Use low-carb mixers and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, as hangovers are notoriously bad while in ketosis. And remember, calories still count, so don’t go overboard. All things in moderation.
5.) Be patient.
While the ketogenic diet is known for rapid weight loss, especially in the early stages of the diet, weight loss is always a slow, time-consuming process. Don’t freak out if the scale doesn’t show weight loss, or shows slight weight increases, for a few days.
Your weight varies day-to-day (and throughout the day) based upon a number of factors. Don’t forget to use metrics like how your clothes fit or body measurements to see progress beyond what the scale shows.
While on a ketogenic diet, it is very important to ensure that you eat within the restrictions of the diet. This is vital so that you are be able to remain in a state of ketosis.
Going out of ketosis can be as simple as eating one or two meals that are not recommended on the ketogenic diet. However, coming back into ketosis is another different story entirely. This can often take days or even weeks depending on how strict you become when you get back on the diet.
Meals in a ketogenic diet comprise of three basic food types. These are the:
fruit or vegetable
A ketogenic diet by nature involves the consumption of increased amounts of fats in the diet. They can come in as part of the cooking process or as sauces and dressings.
The best types of fats are those medium-chain triglycerides. These include both the medium-chain triglycerides oil and coconut oil. Medium-chain triglycerides are easily metabolized to produce ketones.
Some other equally good fats for ketosis include:
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids
Salmon, Shellfish, Trout, Tuna
Monounsaturated and Saturated fats
Olive oil, Avocado, Butter, Cheese, Red palm oil, Egg yolks
Non-hydrogenated oils (when cooking)
Coconut oil, Beef tallow, Non-hydrogenated lards
Safflower oils, Sunflower oils
Other fat sources:
Chicken skin, Coconut butter, Peanut butter, Fat on meats
When buying your protein foods, always try to choose grass-fed, organic and humanely raised meat and wild-caught seafood. Apart from offering more nutrients, they have not been exposed to added hormones, antibiotics, and other potential toxins.
The ketogenic diet accepts basically any type of meat. There is no discrimination about the type of cut or preparation.
Beef, Goat, Lamb, Pork, Veal, Venison
Any type of poultry is also allowed by the diet. You can improve the content of the meal by leaving the skin on. However, breading and batter should not be used in the preparation of poultry as they are usually high in carbohydrates. Other than that, you can prepare your poultry to your liking.
Chicken, Duck, Game hen, Goose, Ostrich, Partridge, Pheasant, Quail, Squab, Turkey
Another great source of protein is seafood. Seafood is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. They also have high amounts of minerals and vitamins to help keep you well-nourished and healthy.
Clams, Crab, Lobster, Mussels, Oysters, Prawns, Scallops, Shrimp, Snails
Fish have good amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. You should go for fish that are caught in the wild and also in mercury-free areas.
Ahi, Catfish, Cod, Flounder, Halibut, Herring, Lobster, Mackerel, Mahi mahi, Mussel, Salmon, Sardines, Scallops, Snapper, Squid, Swordfish, Trout, Tuna, Walleye
Vegetables are the primary source of carbohydrate on a ketogenic diet. When you are buying vegetables always opt for the organically grown vegetables. Also, the dark leafy vegetables contain the least amount of carbohydrates with good nutritional value.
Arugula, Asparagus, Bok choy, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery,Collard greens, Endive, Garlic, Kale, Kelp, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Onions, Peppers, Radishes, Seaweed, Spinach, Swiss chard, Watercress
Milk and Dairy Products
These are very essential in a ketogenic diet. Grass-fed and organic source are more preferable. The full fat variety is better suited for the ketogenic diet than the fat-free and low-fat verities.
Butter, Cheddar, Crème fraîche, Heavy cream, Mozzarella, Sour cream, Cream cheese, Mascarpone cheese, Cheeses, Hard cheeses
Moderate amounts of nuts and seed are allowed on the ketogenic diet. Nuts and seed are rich in protein, fats, and carbohydrates. The total fat, protein and carbohydrate content of the nut varieties should be checked and added to the total daily calorie calculation.
Roasted nuts and seeds are the best. Anything that may cause harm or interfere with ketosis in the body has been removed from them through the roasting process.
Nuts should be used mostly as a snack
Almonds, Macadamia, and Walnuts are some of the best
Some nuts have high content of omega-6 fatty acid which can cause inflammation in the body.
However, they can hold some people back from their goals. If your weight loss is purely your purpose of using the ketogenic diet, then it would be advisable to remove nuts and seeds to improve your results.
Almonds, Brazil nuts, Hazelnuts, Pine nuts, Macadamia nuts, Pecans, Pili-Nuts, Pumpkin seeds, Sesame seeds, Sunflower seeds, Walnuts
Herbs and Spices
After some time on the ketogenic diet, the foods may start to become boring. Adding spices to your meals can however help to spice things up. You can add fresh and dry spices to your meals and even beverages so that they become more enticing and exciting to the palate.
Spices and fresh herbs are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet you can eat. Adding spices to your meal doesn’t only add more flavors to the meals but also offer a lot of various health benefits to your body.
Spices contain carbohydrates thus you should ensure to add them to your daily carbohydrate count. Also, endeavor to check the labels of premade spice mixes for their accurate carbohydrate content as they usually contain added sugars.
Salt also enhances flavors. It is best you chose high quality sea salt instead of traditional table salt. Unprocessed salts such as Celtic or Himalayan sea salt provide you with more than eight trace minerals that your body need to perform optimally.
Anise, Annatto, Basil, Bay leaf, Black pepper, Caraway Cardamom, Cayenne pepper, Celery seed, Chervil, Chili pepper, Chives, Cilantro, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Cumin, Curry, Dill, Fenugreek, Galangal, Garlic, Ginger, Lemongrass, Licorice, Mace, Marjoram, Mint, Mustard seeds, Oregano, Paprika, Parsley, Peppermint, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Spearmint, Star anise, Tarragon, Thyme, Turmeric, Vanilla beans
Adding artificial sweeteners to your meals can help in curbing cravings for carbohydrates and sweets. Sweeteners help a lot of people to be able to adhere to the ketogenic diet.
However, natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, and agave raise blood sugar levels which does not only cause inflammation but can also kick you out of ketosis.
Always go for the liquid form of sweeteners as they do not have binders like dextrose and maltodextrin. Dextrose is an anti-caking agent and is a form of sugar. Maltodextrin on the other hand is a bulking agent which has higher glycemic index than table sugar.
The following is a list of recommended sweeteners which have little effect on blood sugar.
Allulose, Blended sweeteners (Swerve, Lakanto, Sukrin), Erythritol, Monk fruit, Stevia, Stevia glycerite is a thick liquid form of stevia, Sucralose and Xylitol.
The application and implementation of the ketogenic diet has expanded considerably. Keto diets are often indicated as part of the treatment plan in a number of medical conditions.
This is basically the main reason for the development of the ketogenic diet. For some reason, the rate of epileptic seizures reduces when patients are placed on a keto diet.
Pediatric epileptic cases are the most responsive to the keto diet. There are children who have experience seizure elimination after a few years of using a keto diet.
Children with epilepsy are generally expected to fast for a few days before starting the ketogenic diet as part of their treatment.
Research suggests that the therapeutic efficacy of the ketogenic diets against tumor growth can be enhanced when combined with certain drugs and procedures under a “press-pulse” paradigm.
It is also promising to note that ketogenic diets drive the cancer cell into remission. This means that keto diets “starves cancer” to reduce the symptoms.
There are several indications that the memory functions of patients with Alzheimer’s disease improve after making use of a ketogenic diet.
Ketones are a great source of alternative energy for the brain especially when it has become resistant to insulin. Ketones also provide substrates (cholesterol) that help to repair damaged neurons and membranes. These all help to improve memory and cognition in Alzheimer patients.
It is generally agreed that carbohydrates are the main culprit in diabetes. Therefore, by reducing the amount of ingested carbohydrate by using a ketogenic diet, there are increased chances for improved blood sugar control.
Also, combining a keto diet with other diabetes treatment plans can significantly improve their overall effectiveness.
Many individuals with gluten allergy are undiagnosed with this condition. However, following a ketogenic diet showed improvement in related symptoms like digestive discomforts and bloating.
Most carbohydrate-rich foods are high in gluten. Thus, by using a keto diet, a lot of the gluten consumption is reduced to a minimum due to the elimination of a large variety of carbohydrates.
This is arguably the most common “intentional” use of the ketogenic diet today. It has found a niche for itself in the mainstream dieting trend. Keto diets have become part of many dieting regimen due to its well acknowledged side effect of aiding weight loss.
Though initially maligned by many, the growing number of favorable weight loss results has helped the ketogenic to better embraced as a major weight loss program.
Besides the above medical benefits, ketogenic diets also provide some general health benefits which include the following.
Improved Insulin Sensitivity
This is obviously the first aim of a ketogenic diet. It helps to stabilize your insulin levels thereby improving fat burning.
Since protein is oxidized, it helps to preserve lean muscle. Losing lean muscle mass causes an individual’s metabolism to slow down as muscles are generally very metabolic. Using a keto diet actually helps to preserve your muscles while your body burns fat.
Controlled pH and respiratory function
A ketoc diet helps to decrease lactate thereby improving both pH and respiratory function. A state of ketosis therefore helps to keep your blood pH at a healthy level.
Improved Immune System
Using a ketogenic diet helps to fight off aging antioxidants while also reducing inflammation of the gut thereby making your immune system stronger.
Reduced Cholesterol Levels
Consuming fewer carbohydrates while you are on the keto diet will help to reduce blood cholesterol levels. This is due to the increased state of lipolysis. This leads to a reduction in LDL cholesterol levels and an increase in HDL cholesterol levels.
Reduced Appetite and Cravings
Adopting a ketogenic diet helps you to reduce both your appetite and cravings for calorie rich foods. As you begin eating healthy, satisfying, and beneficial high-fat foods, your hunger feelings will naturally start decreasing.