A ketogenic diet is a low carb, high fat, high protein diet that has gained popularity with solid scientific research. By eating more fat and protein and less carbs, your body enters a state of ketosis which helps you burn fat.
Research studies showed that 41 patients who were placed on the low-carb diet consistently lost weight and kept it off during a six-month period.
To fully understand why people experience weight loss success with the keto diet, it is important to look at some basic science. When we eat a diet that is carb-heavy (e.g. that delicious donut in the breakroom), our bodies break that down into glucose through a process known as metabolism.
Glucose is then converted into the energy we need to perform our daily functions. So, if you think of your body’s metabolic mechanism as a car engine, you can relate with the idea of your car engine needing fuel which it burns off to power your car. Carbohydrates in this case are fueling your engine.
The only issue with that is, since your body is using glucose from the carbs you just ate, there is no need for your body to break down fat. This means fat sticks around longer. Add in a lack of physical activity and this leads to obesity. When you switch to a ketogenic diet however, because your food is now low in carbs, your body’s metabolic mechanism is forced to derive the energy it needs from fats and protein. Simply changing the type of “fuel” your body burns allows fat to be burned off faster. This helps you lose weight faster. This process is what is known as “ketosis”. When your body is in a metabolic state of ketosis, your liver breaks down fats into ketones.
Another thing that happens when your body enters ketosis is that insulin- a chemical in your body that allows glucose to be taken up by your cells- is lowered. And the interesting thing about insulin is that once it is present, it prevents fat from entering your bloodstream. This means fat will be stored in your body. Less insulin means more fats are released into your bloodstream instead of being stored in your body.
Why is a ketogenic diet beneficial?
Several research studies have measured the effectiveness of a ketogenic diet on various aspects of health apart from weight loss.
- Lower triglyceride levels (bad fats) and an increase in high-density lipoproteins (good fats) in the blood of people who were placed on a ketogenic diet.
- Total cholesterol levels were decreased.
- Bicarbonate levels in the blood were decreased on a ketogenic diet.
- This study suggests that the ketogenic diet might be an effective alternative treatment for brain cancer.
- Acetone is a ketone that is increased in the brain when a person goes on a ketogenic diet. Acetone is an effective treatment against epilepsy. In this study published by the Annals of Neurology, researchers showed that a ketogenic diet is effective in reducing the number of seizures a person with epilepsy gets.
People on a ketogenic diet also report having more clarity and how the diet helps to increase their focus. These self-reports are not surprising especially with some of the evidence presented above that shows how a ketogenic diet affects the brain positively.
What to expect when you get started
Before you start the ketogenic diet (like any diet), it is important that you speak with your doctor.
There are certainly many good reasons to love the ketogenic diet. But you want to make sure you are making the right decision for your specific health situation. For instance, people with Type 2 diabetes might struggle with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) on a ketogenic diet.
Once you’re cleared to begin, here are the types of foods you will start to eat.
- Fish and seafood
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Healthy fats like coconut oil, butter, ghee, lard, bacon fat and olive oil.
People report experiencing the “carb flu” that people experience when they first start on the keto diet. This is a natural reaction your body goes through because you stopped eating foods it is used to. The “carb flu” goes away after about a week.
To get over this period where your body is adapting, you should;
- Drink more water.
- Consider including a few good carbs to your diet-in moderation.
- Take MCT oil in your tea or coffee for more energy.
The ketogenic diet is backed by solid scientific research that shows that it can benefit many aspects of your health. Eating healthy is key to your health and the ketogenic diet may just be the diet that finally works for you.
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