The ketogenic diet has received widespread attention recently. Health experts understand how important it is for burning fat, fighting against cancer and providing stable energy all day long. This is no ordinary diet, though, as it actually goes against common medical advice from as far back as the ‘50s.
This diet is so unusual because the goal is to eat foods that are high in fat and to skip the carbs. That may seem an impossible diet for those who want to lose weight, especially since fat gets such a bad rap in the media.
When we look closer at it, however, we find something different.
How the Ketogenic Diet Redefines Nutrition
Scepticism is usually something that is encouraged in the scientific community. It is what lets people evolve their belief systems and increase their understanding. Rethinking how we talk about and perceive diets should not be exempt from the scientific method of examination.
Our understanding of nutrition changes all the time. It is a very complex process that is used to break down nutrients and to absorb them into the body, so it’s not surprising that new discoveries are being made all the time in the field of nutrition and dieting. The diet methods of old have come under severe scrutiny recently, and that doesn’t surprise us either.
The ketogenic diet is all about how our body uses energy. Or bodies are designed to use up either fat or glucose as sources of energy, and the way we diet can change which of those our body depends on for energy.
The ketogenic concept is to make the body depend more on fat than sugar for energy, especially when the body first starts to need energy. By consuming few carbohydrates, the body will start to prefer fats over sugar as a primary fuel source. This allows us to burn up fat quickly and easily.
This completely changes nutritional science and the dieting game as well. The very ideas of nutrition are being challenged, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
You do need to understand, however, that this diet, and any diet, is not the only solution. There are some people who will do very well on a diet like this. Others will have some trouble with it, and dieting isn’t as cut and dried as just picking out one diet and saying it will work for everyone. You need to do some research on your own and determine which diet will work best for you. You need to consider all the facts and try to come to your own conclusions about dieting and nutrition based on those facts.
Now we are going to look at how the ketogenic diet works and what makes it such a popular choice.
The Advantages to Using the Ketogenic Diet
If you are using ketones to give your body power instead of glucose, then you are going to reap some unexpected benefits.
When you are on ketosis, your energy levels will be more stable, since you will have plenty of ketones to draw from stored up in your fat. You will also be able to skip meals or go a long time in between meals without feeling irritable. Ketones also keep your insulin levels in check, to some degree, and they are a better source of fuel for your body than glucose. On a ketogenic diet, you won’t need to eat as much food to feel full. Perhaps best of all, you will be at less risk for diabetes.
How the Ketogenic Diet Works
When you are on a conventional diet that is high in carbohydrates, when food comes into your stomach, carbohydrates chains are broken up to become sugar molecules. That can cause your glucose levels to escalate quickly. Sugar can actually be dangerous to the body, and it’s not good to have those sugar levels too high. To decrease the sugar levels, our body reacts by releasing insulin.
This is a hormone that starts the sugar processing function and stops fat from being broken down and used. When insulins present, it can be hard to lose weight, and that’s an indirect action of a high carb diet.
When you have eaten a high carb meal, your insulin levels shoot up. This causes more sugar to enter your cells, and your body will begin to absorb that sugar. That means that your blood levels will start to decrease. The glucose will be used up quickly, and your energy levels are going to disappear afterwards. We call this a sugar crash, and it can lead to hunger, irritability and tiredness.
On the ketogenic diet, carbohydrates are limited, and they’re instead replaced with fat. That’s not going to make your insulin shoot up, and that means that over time, your body will start to prefer fat as an energy source. This benefits you by keeping your energy levels stable in between your meals, and you don’t have to deal with the sugar crash.
When there isn’t much insulin present, your body will metabolise. If you combine that with exercise and dieting restrictions, you can quickly burn off fat as energy.
A lot of people who use the ketogenic diet have reported that their energy levels are high most of the day. They are also able to concentrate easier and perform better athletically. They also lose weight easier (especially if they combined the diet with regular exercise), and their irritability caused by hunger will be pretty much gone for good.
This may sound a bit confusing, and it can be, but you can think of ketosis in these simple terms:
Imagine that the sugar in your body is fuel for a rocket. It burns out quickly and all at once, creating huge blasts of energy. After the fuel is gone, however, it need to be replaced very soon to keep the energy levels going. If the energy levels fall the rocket will crash to the ground.
Your fat is more like coal. It offers high density and slow energy release. That means that you can sustain the energy for longer before needing to refuel. It may not give the rocket the same explosion of power, but it does keep it going long enough for it to enter orbit.
The ketogenic diet is aiming for that kind of performance. It uses the stored-up fat in your body, and we call the process of turning fat into energy, instead of sugar ketosis.
The ketogenic diet is geared toward creating a state of ketosis. Don’t confuse this with the medical problem ketoacidosis.
In ketosis, your body will run off ketones primarily, which are fat molecules that are very small and are water soluble. It can take your body some time to enter this stage, especially since most people are used to the rocket powered boost provided by sugar fuel. For most people, it will take about two weeks of ketogenic dieting to achieve ketosis.
To make ketosis happen, you need to first do a few things:
Your glucose consumption needs to be kept low.
If you take in too much glucose, then your body will think it is still a good source of energy to use, and the ketosis transition won’t happen as quickly, if at all. You have to carefully examine the different types of sugar that are coming into your body.
You also need to deal with the discomfort of a changing hormonal and enzyme process.
As you move away from sugar consumption for your energy, your cells are going to have a tough time getting the energy they require to operate. Your blood sugar is going to decrease, and your body will want more sugar. That’s going to make you miserable for a time, and your body will feel tired and irritable. You may need to dial things back a bit if the discomfort is too strenuous.
As you transition, you will find that you have a lot of energy you might not have expected, and that can make the wait well worth it.
You also need to have the necessary stores of fat.
On the ketogenic diet, your body will need to have some fat to draw energy from. You will be eating meals that are high in fat to provide fuel, but you need to have some body fat to be used up as well. This creates a buffer so that you don’t become too gaunt and famished while dieting. Anyone with a BMI under 18 probably won’t be able to get much benefit from ketosis and may become unhealthy while on this diet. If your body doesn’t have the necessary fat to make ketosis work, it may start using proteins, and that can be dangerous. The body will use proteins by turning them into glucose and draw its energy from there.
How Ketosis Affects Weight Loss
When you are in ketosis, it is easy enough to lose fat. You will burn more fat if you use up more energy.
If you consume more energy that your body burns off, then that will turn into body fat.
If you burn off more than you consume, then that will decrease your overall body fat.
Because of how easy it is to lose weight during ketosis, you won’t need to do much to get your body to use up the fat already stored on your body. If you can keep your dietary calories low, then your body will take what it needs from your fat stores.
Energy is traditionally taken from glucose, followed by glycogen and afterwards fat. What that means is that you usually need to perform a lot of exercise for your body to start using up your body fat.
On a ketogenic diet, your weight loss capabilities will improve dramatically and you will enjoy weight loss benefits that diets high in carbohydrates cannot offer.
You also won’t crash between your meals, which means that your appetite won’t be as much of a problem for you. You will probably consume fewer calories and be able to fast more efficiently.
Let’s put it in simpler terms: The energy consumed, subtracted from the energy burned equals energy from stored fat.
If you are like the average person you can burn up about 1700 calories each day while doing practically nothing. This assumes you are about 60 kg. This is your basal metabolic rate, and you can determine what yours is using a basal metabolic calculator.
Consuming 6200 kJ (which comes out to about a full day of meals) and burning up about 7000 kJ with your daily routine, you can lose about 800kJ each day, which is close to 21 grams of fatty tissue.
If you incorporate exercise into your routine, then it’s obvious how easy it is to lose weight this way.
A simple ketogenic breakfast recipe like three eggs and about 60g of butter is going to make a filling and scrumptious morning meal. It gives you 450 calories, which means that you can eat your other meals during the day without feeling guilty.
While you an on ketosis, a meal like this will last you easily until dinner, and you should not have any cravings. If you were to consume a high carb meal with the same number of calories, you would probably be full for only a few hours. You may then want to break your diet or slow down the dieting process to curb those hunger pangs. Keep in mind what will happen if you consume more calories than you burn off.
How Does Ketosis Affect Illnesses?
There are more benefits to ketosis than just energy and weight loss. Ketosis by its very fundamentals opposes the diabetic process. It isn’t a cure, as far as the research shows right now, but it is looking like a promising way to fight back against the risk of diabetes.
When your body has a resistance to insulin, then type II diabetes begins to form. The sugar cannot get into your cells the way it is supposed to, and your blood sugar goes through the roof. If your sugar levels get high enough, then they can become toxic and damage your vascular system.
Insulin is kind of like a bar bouncer. It opens the door as patrons line up outside, but if he loses his door key, then the door won’t be able to open. The patrons would fill up outside and eventually reach such massive numbers as to cause problems, probably breaking out into a riot and damaging the bar.
We don’t really know exactly why this happens, but there is some more conversation to be had and research to be done. The primary theory behind it is that the cholesterol that is often used to fix damage is increased to such levels that it forms cholesterol plaque. These lead to stroke, angina and cardiac arrest. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia and much of the world.
Ketosis fights back against the diabetic process because it produces a low level of sugar intake. The helps the body to rely on fat as fuel instead of prompting insulting to form and deal with the sugar. In theory, we would be able to circumnavigate entirely around diabetes with this diet.
Ketogenic dieting may also help to prevent cancer and fight against it once it has formed. There is a lot of powerful deductive reasoning that goes into this theory, and most of the research comes from animal test and in vitro testing. Because of that, we cannot claim that ketosis can actually cure cancer, because it hasn’t been extensively tested on human cancer patients. There are those that suggest that this kind of diet actually speeds up the growth of cancer, but the perspective depends on how high carb and high fat diets affect cancer. The kind of cancer is a factor in determining how these diets affect the cancer growth.
The support for ketosis as a cancer treatment comes from what we know about cell oxygenation and cancer cells. Cancer consists of cells, just like any part of the body, the difference being that these are damaged cells. They don’t work like they used to. The damage isn’t so severe that the cells die off, however. Instead, the cells multiply, creating more damaged cells that can consume an entire organ and lead to death.
These cells grow and split apart, and they require energy to do so. Cancer doesn’t have a lot of access to oxygen, however, and they need to develop their own self-feeding vascular system to draw from the body’s blood and oxygen supplies. This will take a lot of time, however.
The energy they produce, then, is made in oxygen-less conditions. Ketones are not going to support that kind of function, however, and many cancer cells thrive on sugar over fat because of this. Sugar can be burned as energy without any oxygen being present.
This is a complicated process, and we have simply made it incredibly easy to understand and left out a lot of important details in order to do that, but you get the basic premise. This notion gives us some idea about how ketosis might fight cancer or simply prevent it from occurring in the first place.
What Does a Ketogenic Meal Consist of?
The kind of ratio you should have will vary from one source to the next, but generally, you want to bring in about 70% of your energy from fat and 20% from protein. The remaining 10% can come from carbs. Fat contains more dense energy, so this shouldn’t be too hard to pull off.
Carbohydrates give you 17 kJ of energy per gram. Fat, on the other hand, gives you 37 kJ. You would only need to eat about half the fat as you would carbs to receive the same energy results.
Let’s break this down with some specific foods. If you put 15 mil of olive oil onto a salad, you get the same number of calories as you would from two pieces of whoe meal bread.
A cup of pasta gives you about half the calories of 100g of mozzarella cheese.
One large potato is equivalent to small glass of milk, since potatoes are pretty much just complete sugar.
There are a few characteristics of ketogenic meals:
- A ketogenic meal is typically smaller than a meal from a high carb diet. You’ll be eating milk, cheese, butter, vegetables and cold-pressed oils regularly, and their high energy density means you won’t have to eat a lot of them.
- The foods tend to be low carb, and it may surprise what foods are going to be restricted to you when you are on his kind of diet. You shouldn’t be eating beets, carrots or potatoes, since most root vegetables store up sugar for their plants during the winter, which means that they have a ton of sugar. You’ll want to avoid candies, pastas, breads a most kinds of fruits because of their sugar content as well.
- Foods on the ketogenic diet will often be high in fat. You’ll be eating tacos, salads, cheese, meat, avocados, seafood, peanut butter and eggs. These all contain lots of vitamins, proteins, fibre and minerals and are generally low in sugar.
- Your food will be rich in vitamins as well. You definitely want to make sure that you are getting your daily recommended dose of vitamins and minerals. You’ll get the most from green leafy vegetables, and while this diet doesn’t prefer plants over meats, you’ll find vegetables are a much better source of essential vitamins. A healthy ketogenic diet meal will have a lot of vegetables on the plate, but they need to be partnered with foods that have healthy fats- such as seeds, avocado, cheese or olive oil.
Is It Possible to Be Vegan and Live Ketogenic?
You can, but it could prove challenging. You will find that the best sources of fats are animal by-products and livestock, since animals depend on fat for their fuel rather than sugar.
There are a lot of vegetarians and even vegans who do live this lifestyle successfully, though. You can get some excellent fat content from chia, avocado, coconut oil, nuts and olive oil. These can be added to just about any meal, but you want to remember to steer clear of beets, carrots and potatoes.
If you want to eat both ketogenic and vegan, then you should spend some time researching the foods that will work best for you. You probably want to take a multivitamin regularly at first to ensure you are getting the necessary nutrients and minerals. The ketogenic diet should be about living healthy, and if you are vitamin deficient, you won’t be promoting proper health and energy. You can prevent this kind of problem with a multivitamin until you get used to this diet.