Thursday, June 9, 2016

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

A ketogenic diet, also known as keto, very low carb, or LCHF (low carb, high fat), is where you force your body to produce ketones in the liver to be used as energy. On a high carbohydrate diet, your body produces glucose and insulin. Glucose is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy, so if available, your body will choose it over any other energy source. Insulin is produced to process the glucose in your blood by taking it around your body. Since the glucose is used by your body as it's primary energy source, your fat is not needed and stored instead.

By using lowering your intake of carbs (preferably to under 20 grams), the body is put in ketosis. Ketosis is a natural process where the body produces ketones from the breakdown of fats in the liver. The end goal of a ketogenic diet is to force your body into the metabolic state known as ketosis. You don't have to starve to get here, but you do have to be VERY low carb. But if you take away the carbs and increase your fat, your body will burn ketones as the main energy source.

I guess the next question I always get is... What do I eat?

Ideally, your macronutrient ratios should be around 5% carbs, 20-25% protein, and 70-75% dietary fat. This is really what works for you. Some are successful with 80-85% fat. Some eat up to 10% carbs. Some advocate for higher protein. But the graphic below, in my opinion, is the sweet spot.

Your carbs should mostly come from vegetables, nuts, and dairy. DO NOT eat wheat (breads, pasta, cereals), starch (potatoes, beans, legumes) or fruit (berries are ok on occasion). Dark and leafy greens are best choice. Fatty cuts of meat are great (leave the skin on the chicken!). Put grass-fed butter on meat and veggies. In the beginning if you need a snack, eat cheese or almonds. But the longer you are keto, the less you need to snack. You're simply not hungry as often as you used to be. The high fat curbs your appetite and keeps you so satisfied.

Now, some get very caught up in macros and tracking. There are some sites that will provide calorie calculators ( has a great one) and some people track religiously. I did at first. But with keto, you really don't HAVE to track calories or macros. Many people who have been super successful do not. But in the beginning, I think it's helpful until you have a grasp on WHAT to eat and how much. Overeating is overeating. You want to get to a point where you are eating when you are hungry, and stopping when you are full. Eventually, calories won't matter. Your metabolism will be burning strong despite low calories (more info on that another day).

Just eat lots of GOOD fat. Keep your protein moderate. And stay under 20 g of carbs. You'll be good.

There is endless diet dogma and misconceptions about being keto or very low carb. Don't listen to the negativity or bad information. Even from doctors. They are studies that were published 30+ years ago that show high amounts of fat and low carbs are good. It's high fat and high carbs that are bad for your body. And the low fat/high carb recommendations are just bad information that has led us into an obesity epidemic. Don't believe the hype. Educate yourself on this lifestyle and you might even teach your doctor a thing or two. If you have Type 1 diabetes or pre-existing kidney problems, DO get in touch with your doctor before starting keto because in these cases it may put a strain on your kidneys. But don't worry about high cholesterol or heart disease... keto (and any high fat, low carb diet) has been well known and documented to help improve these conditions.

Benefits of a Keto Diet

  • Cholesterol. A keto diet has shown to improve triglyceride levels and cholesterol levels most associated with arterial buildup.
  • Weight Loss. As your body is burning fat as the main source of energy, you will essentially be using your fat stores as an energy source while in a fasting state.
  • Blood Sugar. Many studies show the decrease of LDL cholesterol over time and have shown to eliminate ailments such as type 2 diabetes.
  • Energy. By giving your body a better and more reliable energy source, you will feel more energized during the day. Fats are shown to be the most effective molecule to burn as fuel.
  • Hunger. Fat is naturally more satisfying and ends up leaving us in a satiated (“full”) state for longer.
  • Acne. Recent studies have shown a drop in acne lesions and skin inflammation over 12 weeks.
When you first begin a keto diet, get ready for the dreaded "keto flu". Your body is used to using carbs as energy, so when you take them away your body is unhappy at first. But as you get adjusted to a ketogenic state, your body will use up all the glucose and transition into burning ketones. This makes you generally feel like crap for a few days. Get ready for headaches, brain fog, and flu-like symptoms. Many say that increasing sodium helps to replenish electrolytes and makes it better. But it will go away in a few days regardless. Just ride it out.

Another wonderful thing about the ketogenic diet is that once that keto flu and initial week of feeling like crap is over, you feel GREAT. Your cravings lessen each week, you suddenly get all this energy, and the aches and pains go away (due to reduction in inflammation). And the stomach fat/bloat goes first, so your pants are loose and you almost instantly feel the inches going away. It's been my experience that your body changes are way more dramatic than the numbers on the scale. You really have two ways to measure your success. I used to weigh almost daily, but now I could care less what the scale says. I feel fabulous.

On my next post, I will tell you all about the specific foods I eat on the keto diet.

*** Most of the information from this post was taken from, which is an EXCELLENT source for beginners. And as mentioned earlier, it has a keto calculator on there if you need an idea of exact calories and macronutrients. The other information is MY OPINION and advice based on what I have learned. I am not a doctor or nutritionist or an expert.

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