Understanding the Ketogenic (Keto) Diet
The ketogenic diet is a low carb, moderate protein, high fat diet which puts the body into a metabolic state known as ketosis. Essentially what this means is that once you figure out your macros then you’ll find that you’re eating mostly fats (these are good for you), some protein, and very little carbs.
What does it mean to be in a state of Ketosis?
When you’re body is in a state of ketosis, the liver produces something called ketones which become the main energy source for the body rather than glucose (sugar) and this all revolves around the consumption of fat instead of carbs.
The ketogenic diet is also referred to as keto (key-toe) diet, low carb diet, and low carb high fat (LCHF).
It completely reverses how your body functions (in a good way) along with changing how you view nutrition.
It’s based around the premise that your body was designed to run more efficiently as a fat burner than a sugar burner.
Fat Burner vs Sugar Burner
When you eat something that is high in carbs (like that yummy donut), your body will produce glucose and insulin.
- Glucose is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy so that is why it’s the preferred energy source for your body.
- Insulin is produced to process the glucose in your bloodstream by transporting it around your body.
This sounds pretty efficient, right? The problem with this is that when glucose is used as a primary energy source, fats are not needed for energy and therefore are stored.
With the average person’s diet, glucose is the main energy source because there is an abundance of it.
This initially doesn’t seem like a problem until you realize that the body can’t store that much glucose. This becomes an issue for you because the extra glucose gets converted into fat which is then stored.
Because your body uses glucose as it’s main energy source the glucose that is converted into fat doesn’t get used.
When your body runs out of glucose it tells your brain you need more so you end up reaching for a quick snack like a candy bar or some chips instead of burning the fat that is being stored.
You can begin to see how this cycle leads to building up a body that you don’t really want.
So what is a person to do?
Become a fat burner instead of a sugar burner.
You will need to train your body to stop relying on glucose and to start relying on fat. (Poor us right?)
Our bodies are incredibly adaptive to what you put into it – when you overload it with fats and take away carbohydrates, it will begin to burn ketones as the primary energy source.
Ketosis is a natural process the body initiates to help us survive when food intake is low. During this state, we produce ketones, which are produced from the breakdown of fats in the liver.
The end goal of a properly maintained keto diet is to force your body into this metabolic state. We don’t do this through starvation of calories but starvation of carbohydrates.
You’ve probably heard of the fact that you can go weeks without food but only a few days without water.
The reason for this is ketosis. Most people, for better or for worse, have enough fat stored on them to fuel their body for a while. This is why the Keto diet blends so well with intermittent fasting. When people are on full fasts their bodies produce these same ketones after day 3 or so to feed the body while burning the fat.
So why isn’t the body constantly breaking down fats in the liver? When your body is producing insulin, the insulin prevents the fat cells from entering the bloodstream so they stay stored in the body.
When you lower your carb intake, glucose levels, along with blood sugar levels, drop which in turn lowers insulin levels.
This allows the fat cells to release the water they are storing and then the fat cells are able to enter the bloodstream and head to the liver.
Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet
There are numerous benefits that come with being on keto: from weight loss and increased energy levels to therapeutic medical applications. Most anyone can safely benefit from eating a low-carb, high-fat diet
Because the ketogenic diet uses your body fat as an energy source , your insulin (the fat storing hormone) levels drop greatly which turns your body into a fat burning machine.
Even science has shown time and again that the ketogenic diet has better results compared to low-fat and high-carb diets; even in the long term.
Control Blood Sugar
Unfortunately, many people suffer from diabetes which is caused by your body’s inability to handle insulin.
Keto naturally lowers blood sugar levels due to the types of foods you eat. Keto has been shown to have huge benefits for people that are pre-diabetic or have Type II diabetes. If you’re pre-diabetic or have Type II diabetes, you should seriously consider a ketogenic diet.
No more brain fog! You can’t understand how cloudy carbs make your thinking until you remove them from your diet. The Keto diet is used by many specifically for this benefit alone, it does that good of a job. The reason for this is that ketones are a great fuel source for your brain and the increase in fatty acids has a huge impact in brain function.
Increase in Energy
We’ve already learned that keto helps your body turn fat into an energy source, it also helps to increase your energy levels as well. Because your body can only store so much glucose, when it runs out it means your body has run out of fuel (energy) and it needs more. 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.
Better Appetite Control
A diet that is heavy in carbs will often leave you hungry a lot sooner than you expected after eating a meal. Because fats are more naturally satisfying they end up leaving our bodies in a satiated state for much longer. That means no more random cravings and crashes.
Keto has been used to successfully treat epilepsy since the early 1900s. It is still one of the most widely used therapies for children who have uncontrolled epilepsy today. A big benefit of the ketogenic diet for people that suffer from epilepsy is that it allows them to take fewer medications which is always a good thing.
Cholesterol & Blood Pressure
The ketogenic diet has been shown to improve triglyceride levels and cholesterol levels. Less toxic buildup in the arteries allowing blood to flow throughout your body as it should. Low carb, high fat diets show a dramatic increase in HDL (good cholesterol) as well as the large fluffy LDL (protective cholesterol) and a decrease in the small LDL (bad cholesterol). Because some blood pressure issues are associated with excess weight, the keto diet is an obvious warrior against these issues due to its natural weight loss.
Insulin resistance can lead to type II diabetes if left unmanaged. An abundant amount of scientific research shows that a low carb, ketogenic diet can help people lower their insulin levels to healthy ranges so that they are no longer in the group of people that are on the cusp of acquiring diabetes.
One of the more common improvements that people on the keto diet experience is better skin, including reduced acne and softer skin. You may even find you have no need for lotion.
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10 Benefits of a Low Carb High Fat Diet
There’s been increased interest in the scientific community on benefits of Low Carb High Fat diets. Scientists across the globe have researched the benefits extensively. Here are 10 of the top benefits of a LCHF Diet.
- You Will Lose Weight
Scientific studies and years of experience have shown that weight loss will occur on a LCHF diet. The amount of weight loss may vary between individuals and will also depend on how aggressive you are in getting rid of sugar and carbs.
- Blood Sugar Will Improve
Studies have shown that low carbohydrate diets reduce levels of fasting glucose and glycated hemoglobin. This may be beneficial, in particular, if you have diabetes or prediabetes, which is quite common among individuals with the metabolic syndrome.
- Blood Pressure Will Improve
High blood pressure is one of the strongest known risk factors for stroke and heart disease. Lowering blood pressure is therefore considered a very important step to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies indicate that LCHF diets lower blood pressure in individuals with overweight or obesity.
- Triglycerides Will Improve
Blood levels of triglycerides have emerged as a very important risk factor for cardiovascular disease. High serum triglyceride level is associated with abnormal lipoprotein metabolism, as well as with other risk factors including obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus, and lowered levels of HDL cholesterol. It has been shown in a number of studies that carbohydrate restriction lowers triglyceride levels significantly.
- HDL Cholesterol Will Improve
HDL cholesterol is inversely related to both coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular disease mortality in both man and women. This means that low levels of HDL-cholesterol are associated with risk of heart disease. Carbohydrate restriction has been shown to increase blood levels of HDL-cholesterol.
- LDL Particle Size Will Improve
LDL-Cholesterol particles exist in different sizes. On one hand we have the large, fluffy, cotton-ball like molecules, and on the other hand the small dense molecules. Many recent studies have looked into the importance of LDL-particle size. Studies show that people whose LDL-C particles are predominantly small and dense have a threefold greater risk of coronary heart disease. Furthermore, the large and fluffy type of LDL-C may actually be protective. Studies indicate carbohydrate restriction positively affects particle size by reducing the number of very small and small LDL particles.
- LDL Particle Number (LDL-P) Will Improve
Blood levels of LDL-P are strongly associated with the risk of cardiovascular disease and some studies indicate that LDL-P may be a stronger predictor of risk than the commonly used LDL-cholesterol. LCHF diets appear to significantly reduce LDL-P.
- Insulin Resistance Will Be Reduced
Insulin resistance is common in individuals with the metabolic syndrome and is strongly related abnormal lipid profile. There appears to be an association between insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. Studies indicate that carbohydrate restriction significantly lowers insulin resistance compared to a low-fat diet.
- Insulin Levels Will Drop
High levels of insulin are associated with insulin resistance. Hyperinsulinemia (high levels of insulin in the blood) appears to be an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease. Therefore, lowering insulin levels may be beneficial. Carbohydrate restriction has been shown to significantly decrease insulin levels.
- C-reactive Protein Will Be Reduced
C-reactive protein (CRP) can be measured in blood and is a known marker of inflammation. CRP, in particular, high sensitivity CRP (hs-CRP) has been associated with cardiovascular risk. There is evidence that carbohydrate restriction lowers the level of CRP, which may indicate that LCHF diets can reduce inflammation.
During the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, nibbling on chocolates, sugar cookies, and pumpkin pie seems to be a way of life.
The good news is it may not be as bad as you think. According to the National Institutes of Health, the average American gains about 1 pound during the winter holiday season, far less than the 5 to 8 pounds commonly believed.
The problem is that people often don’t lose the weight, and it can add up over the years. Also, people who are overweight are more likely to gain as much as 5 pounds during the holidays, according to the NIH.
It’s perfectly fine — even healthy — to indulge during the holidays; just don’t go for broke. No matter what you do, don’t starve yourself or skip meals, because that only sets you up for grabbing the closest plate of brownies.
Here are 12 tips for keeping holiday weight gain under control:
- Plan ahead.Before you go out, slip a cheese stick and some almonds, or another healthy fats snack, into your purse (or bag) to fight off temptations.
- Be the slowest eater at the table. This will give you a chance to notice when you feel satisfied. Slow down by challenging yourself to chew each bite 20 times, putting your utensils down between bites, and taking 30 minutes per plate.
- Drink plenty of water.Be sure to drink a glass before the party to help fill you up.
- Bring your own healthy dish to the party so you know there’s at least one you can splurge on.
- Use a small plate so it looks full.
- Remember, you can eat whatever you’d like, as long as it’s in moderation.
- Ditch sweet drinks and consume alcohol in moderation, if at all. Choose sparkling water (sweetened with a little stevia or erythritol) with citrus slices in stemware for no-calorie bubbly.
- Don’t hang out by the buffet table. Chatting beside it will only tempt you to graze.
- Go small. Many desserts are being made in bite-sized portions now, which is fantastic for getting the sweet cravings fix while keeping the portion size in check.
- Before going back for seconds, wait 20 minutes for your food to “settle.” You might feel full and lose interest in more munching.
- Find ways to exercise every day. If exercise is hard to fit in with a busy holiday schedule, try the 10×10 rule: fit in 10 minutes twice a day for a total of 20 minutes per day.
- Incorporate daily stress relievers like exercise, journaling and meditation — and avoid waiting until the last minute for gifts and preparations. Consider making a list of the traditions you love, and it’s OK to say no and skip some festivities to avoid over-scheduling yourself.