One of the prominent issues for our health is the amount of tempting yet unhealthy food out in the market. Be it snacks or fast food, creamy cakes or chocolates, we all know how absolutely delicious these are, so much that we decide to overlook the dark side of consuming these delicacies.
Majority of our health problems are usually derived from our unhealthy diets. Obesity is one such health condition, and there is more than enough scientific evidence to support the fact that it is a global issue and an issue that needs to be addressed. There are more obese people in United States than there are overweight people. And as time progresses, obesity is becoming more common amongst the younger generation. The long term health issues as a direct result of obesity are far too great to ignore.
Let's start by looking at how our body breaks down our food intake and utilizes it. When we eat food, it gets digested in the stomach, where acids and enzymes break down the carbohydrates, sugar and starch into glucose. The body further uses this glucose to generate energy. If the amount of calories consumed is greater than what the body needs, the excess is stored as fat in the liver, muscles and fat cells. Overtime if reservoir of fat isn't used it results in overweight and ultimately obesity. Scientists have come up with a solution to address this condition. They call it the Ketogenic Diet.
Ketogenic Diet - The Definition
The 'keto' in ketogenic refers to the ketones our body produces as a substitute for glucose. Ketones are small fuel molecules that are produced by a process called 'Ketosis' due to lack of glucose in the system and are generated when the liver breaks down the stored fat. Low carbohydrate intake and a reduced protein intake promote the production of ketones. They are then used across the body as fuel to generate energy. Even the brain uses these to function in case of shortage of glucose. Once an individual switches to a ketogenic diet, the body changes the fuel supply from glucose to ketones. It becomes easier for the individual to lose weight, since the body uses the fat storage as a primary source of energy. Where weight loss is a major benefit for people on keto diets, there are more benefits such as enhanced physical performance, better focus and you feel less hungry. Who doesn't want that!!
Unlike other diet plans, getting started with a ketogenic diet is fairly simple. All you have to do is reduce you're the amount of carbohydrates you consume so as to give your body a chance to switch to ketogenic metabolic state.
What to Eat
Ketogenic diet is also referred to as low carb diet or low carb high fat diet. The main purpose is to reduce your carb intake by as much as you can. If you want to enter ketosis sooner, you need to bring down your carb intake to about 50g per day and ideally to 20g per day. The lower the better. Here are some foods that meet the ketogenic diet requirements:
- Meats - fish, beef, lamb, poultry, eggs, etc.
- Leafy Greens - spinach, kale, etc.
- Above ground vegetables - broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
- High Fat Dairy - hard cheeses, high fat cream, butter, etc.
- Nuts and seeds - macadamias, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
- Avocado and berries
- Sweeteners-low-carb sweeteners
- Other fats -high-fat salad dressing, coconut oil, saturated fats, etc.
What Not to Eat
- Grains - wheat, corn, rice, cereal, etc.
- Sugar - honey, agave, maple syrup, chocolates etc.
- Fruit - apples, bananas, oranges, etc.
- Tubers - potato, yams, etc.
What to Drink
- Water - plenty of water. You can add lemon to give some taste.
- Coffee - Drink coffee without sugar to give you the extra energy you need. You can add butter to it to give it the slight kick.
- Tea - You can drink as much tea as you want and not necessarily green tea. However, don't use sugar. Remember the idea is to starve the body of glucose so that it can start using ketones.
What Not to Drink
- Beer - high in carbs
- Soft drinks and energy drinks
- Off-the-shelf juice
- Any drink with sugar in it
The main concept with this diet is to increase fat intake, reduce carb intake and trying to keep a moderate protein intake. The ratio could be somewhere between 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbohydrates.
Try keeping the total carb intake below 30g and the net carb intake below 20g per day. For those not familiar with the term net carbohydrates intake, it is the total carbohydrates you eat after taking out the total fiber from the equation.
If you feel hungry during the day, you can go for nuts and cheese, however these small cheats can reduce the rate of weight loss.
Types of Ketogenic diets
- Standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This is a high-fat, moderate-protein and very low-carb diet.
- Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This diet is where you get 1 or 2 cheat days in a week.
- Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): This diet is for people who workout. It allows for high carb consumption around workouts.
- High-protein ketogenic diet: The only difference in this diet and SKD is that the protein composition for this is higher.
Why to Eat keto
- Lose weight - Once on a keto diet, the body transforms into a fat burning system rather than a fat storing system. Due to lack of glucose, the level of insulin (which stores fat) drops, this in turn speeds up the weight loss process. An added benefit is you aren't starving yourself like you would normally do on other diets.
- Appetite control - Studies have shown that with ketogenic diets, the individual gets a new level of control over their appetite. Since, the body has a constant supply of energy from the fat reservoir, you don't feel the need to provide more by eating. In most cases, people usually have two meals per day. Less food means less chances of getting over the desired weight limit you set for yourself. Just imagine all the money you could save if you are not spending it on junk food and snacks. This can also help people fighting food and sugar addiction.
- Constant Energy and Mental focus - Unlike sugar intakes, ketogenic diet provides a stable and constant fuel supply for the brain. This helps the brain function optimally without interruptions or surges in the fuel supply. And if the brain is functioning properly, concentration and focus automatically increases.
- Control blood sugar and reverse type diabetes - Keto diets work on the principle of controlling sugar levels and reducing insulin levels, hence they can be used effectively in reversing type 2 diabetes. Not only this, it can also be used as a tool in preventing type 2 diabetes. After all prevention is better than cure.
- Improved Health Markers - Individuals who adhere to a proper ketogenic diets have reported improved overall health reports. Everything from blood sugar levels to cholesterol levels to blood pressure and much more stays within the optimal range. Having a healthy body functioning optimally has its own benefits like reduced risk of heart diseases, better standard of living and an overall excellent experience.
- A calmer Stomach - One of the immediate benefits of a keto diet is a calmer stomach. One can experience the relief of less gas and reduced cramps within a day or two after switching to ketogenic diet.
- Increased Physical endurance - Carbohydrates can supply energy to the body for a few hours in a go, so workouts or intense physical activities tire you quicker on a carb diet. However, since keto diets provide energy from fat storage, they can keep you well nourished for far longer than carb diets.
- Epilepsy - There have been in-depth studies related to ketogenic diets and their benefits for epileptic patients. Most of them have shown promising results both in children and more recently in adults.
- Other benefits - Our scientists are making considerable progress in treating several other medical disorders with ketogenic diets playing a vital role in the remedial process. Patients with medical conditions like alzheimer's, brain tumors, migraine attacks, fluctuating blood pressure and heartburn have shown a much more positive respone to the treatment when on ketogenic diets.
How to get into ketosis
Getting into ketosis is fairly simple if you follow the basic principles of ketogenic diets, i.e. Less carbohydrates, more fat, moderate protein (LCMFMP)
- Restricting carbs: This is the most important step in a keto diet. Sometimes, restricting carbs to a record low itself can bring you into ketosis. Try bringing your carb consumption to as low as 20g a day. Fiber does not have to be reduced as much, in fact fiber can be quite beneficial.
- Restricting protein: Excess protein can be broken down into glucose, and this slows down ketosis. Try keeping your protein consumption to 1g per kg of bodyweight. So if you weigh 64kg, your protein consumption should be 64 g per day.
- Favoring fat: Increased fat intake helps ketosis. The difference between ketogenic diets and starvation is that despite both resulting in ketosis, ketogenic diet keeps you satisfied and reduces your chances of giving up. If you feel hungry, eat more healthy fat like butter or olive oil.
- Avoiding snacks: Snacks can reduce the rate of ketosis. Snacks are basically food that you eat just to fill up your empty hands. They are not food you necessarily need, hence you can let them go. They also slow down weight loss so if you are planning on losing weight, you definitely need to go easy on snacks.
- Fasting: This is only if you are not achieving the results you hoped for. You can fast for 16 hours and eat during the remaining 8 hours. This type of fasting has been associated with increased ketone levels.
- Exercise: It goes without saying that exercise is good for your health. The added benefit of exercising on a keto diet is that the fat storage gets used up faster and more often, hence it speeds up the weight loss process.
- Regular sleep patterns: Get enough sleep. Insufficient sleep has been connected with increased stress levels, and the stress hormones then increase your blood sugar levels, which eventually slow down ketosis.
How to know you are in ketosis
The case with most other diets is you never know if you are doing it right. However, if you decide to go on a keto diet, here are some symptoms which can indicate you are on the right track.
- Increased urination - Because your body is burning up fat quicker, and generating more energy, the waste produced by the body increases. This happens more with beginners but eventually comes back to normal as you settle in.
- Dry mouth - Since you urinate more, your body becomes thirstier, so keep yourself properly hydrated.
- Bad breath - Acetone, a ketone body, is usually released in the mouth during ketogenic diets. This can lead to bad breath but only in the beginning and gradually wears off.
- Reduced hunger and increased energy - Once you settle in and your body adapts to the new fuel supply, you will feel the urge to eat lessen and you can experience a clearer state of mind.
There are a few short term side effects of going on a keto diet. These may include:
- Heart palpitations
- Reduced physical performance
- Keto Flu - is a term used to indicate the phase when your body is trying to change its fuel source. Some symptoms may include:
- Light nausea
- Difficulty focusing ("brain fog")
- Lack of motivation
These side effects are short term and occur only because your body is trying to adapt to the new diet. You can avoid most of these by keeping yourself hydrated, getting enough rest and staying focused.
Ketogenic diets have proven again and again how beneficial they can be for our bodies. So give it a try, the worst that can come from it is you saving some money! Go Keto, Go Healthy.