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Ketogenic Diet – The Ultimate Guide

An Introduction and Summary to the Ketogenic Diet

The keto diet, or ketogenic diet is known for being a low carb diet, in which the body produces ketones in the liver. These ketones are then used for energy. Keto, low carb, ketogenic, low carb high fat- all these names refer to the same basic set of ideas.

The body reacts to carbs by producing glucose and insulin.

Glucose is easy for the body to convert and use for fuel, and it is chosen over other energy sources because of this. Insulin is produced to process glucose by moving it throughout the body.

On a normal diet with higher carbohydrates, the body uses glucose as the main form of energy.

With a lower intake of carbs, the body is forced into a state of ketosis.

Ketosis is a process designed for survival with food intake is reduced. Ketones are produced during ketosis, coming from the breakdown of fats in the liver.

The goal of a ketogenic diet is to enter the metabolic state of ketosis, but not through starvation of calories.

The reduction and starvation of carbs is what must happen.

The body easily adapts to what fuel it is fed. In ketosis, an overload of fat and removal of carbs causes the body to burn ketones.

Optimal levels of ketones can lend benefits in the areas  of health, weight loss, and general performance.

Weight loss is one of the main reasons people choose to pursue a ketogenic diet.

The diet uses body fat as fuel, so weight loss comes easily to many who follow the rules.

Insulin levels drop and body fat becomes easily and readily burnt.

Ketogenic diets also tend to have long term benefits, especially when compared against other diets.

Others may choose to follow a ketogenic diet for insulin control, focus, or other reasons.

The Science Behind it

It’s important to understand how diets work when they are followed.

For many diets, it is as simple as calories consumed being less than calories burnt.

Whether the diet itself is restrictive without added exercise, or exercise is added, the intake of calories compared to what is burnt is what causes weight loss.

This makes it possible for those with mobility issues or restrictions to lose weight- even simply lying or sitting all day burns calories; eat less than that uses, and weight will be lost.

Ketogenic diets can be calorie restrictive, but that is not the main point of them by any means. Instead of starvation or calorie restriction, ketogenesis is based on what is consumed rather than just how much is consumed.

Not everyone following a ketogenic diet really cares about how everything happens, but the science is easily explained and well understood.

keto science

Excess glucose follows one of two ways when it is introduced to the body- lipogenesis or glycogenesis. Glycogenesis happens first.

Glucose is converted into glycogen and it is then stored in the liver and muscles. If there is already enough in the liver and muscles, lipogenesis occurs.

Excess glucose is converted into fat and stored in lipogenesis, as the name suggests (lipo- meaning fat, and -genesis meaning creation).

Ketogenic diets rely on the body running out of glucose and glycogen.

With no access to food, the body burns fat and creates ketones.

This is a natural and normal process, occurring during sleep, for example.

The body, as stated before, is adaptable and its ability to switch metabolic pathways makes this possible.

Ketones are created as the body breaks down fat, creating fatty acids and glycerol. Ketones are then burnt off in the liver through beta-oxidation.

The brain and muscles use this end product and process as fuel.

Glucose is the main source of energy for most people, but the brain relies on fatty acids when food or carb intake is low.

Ketosis can benefit the brain outside of just giving it fatty acids to use- studies show that the brain operates up to 70% more efficiently than when just relying on glucose.

When in ketosis, the body converts stored fat into usable fuel that is available and abundant.

This in turn creates weight loss by reducing fat molecules stored in the body, not just water weight loss (although that occurs too).

Ketosis further breaks down the fatty acids released by the liver, creating a ketone body called acetoacetate.

This is then converted into either Beta-hydroxybutyrate or Acetone.

BHB is produced further into keto dieting and is used by the brain as a preferred fuel.

Acetone is excreted as waste, or rarely metabolized into glucose.

Acetone can cause the distinctive foul breath odor associated with ketogenic dieting.

As time passes, less ketone bodies are produced.

This is why monitoring by urine sticks may make it seem like progress is slowing or not happening.

Ketosis can be measured through urine or blood. Urine test strips can be expensive, inaccurate, or messy to use.

They can give a good idea based on physical evidence of where someone in the diet is at, so many people choose to use them.

Ketosis can also be detected through symptoms that are experienced.

These include increased urination, dry mouth, bad breath, and reduced hunger alongside an increase in energy.

Urination is increased by the diuretic effect of the diet, and the ketone body of acetoacetate can cause increased urination as well.

Dry mouth comes along with the diuretic effects, and bad breath can be caused by increased acetone, a ketone body.

Reduced hunger and increased energy usually comes after the negative effects fade away, or what is called the “keto flu”.

The Diet Itself

While the balance of scientific principles behind the ketogenic diet may seem complex, the diet itself is fairly simple.

Limit carbs, especially refined carbs, and allow occasional exceptions to certain items. Avoid eating grains, sugar, most fruits, and tubers.

Focus on consuming meats, leafy greens, above-ground vegetables, high-fat dairy, nuts and seeds, avocado and berries, sweeteners that are low carb, and other fats.

Ketogenic Diet

The general consensus is to keep fat high, proteins moderate, and carbs low. 70% fats, 25% proteins, and 5% carbs is what is usually suggested.

Somewhere between 20-30g of net carbs a day is a good place to start, and lower carb intakes can increase results.

Net carbs are total carbohydrates with total fiber subtracted.

Macros, or macronutrients, are the daily intake of fats, proteins, and carbs.

A calculator should be used to get a customized report of macros for each person.

Age, gender, weight, activity levels, and other factors can influence the amount of each component a person should be consuming.

Types of ketogenic diets

Different types of ketogenic diets exist, with some tailored for muscle building or the inclusion of cheat days.

Most people stick to the standard keto diet (SKD) for weight loss.

Even non-athletes may notice a small dip in performance during the beginning of the diet, but long term studies show that adaptation occurs and the body does just fine.

For the rare instance in which an exercise requires explosive action, ketosis can impact performance. 30g or so of carbs can be consumed a half hour before these exercises to help.

Vegetables should be dark green and leafy.

Most of the meals on a ketogenic diet should consist of a protein, vegetables, and a side of extra fat.

Whilst vegetables may seem high in carbs, their net carbs are lower- for example, the 2g of fiber in broccoli makes the 6g carbs in one cup actually count as 4g total carbs.

Even picky eaters may find solace in ketogenic dieting- vegetables should be cooked and drowned in fats like butter and oil.

Ketosis

Plain, dry salads are not part of ketogenic dieting.

The first step to a successful ketogenic diet is entering ketosis.

Restrict carb intake severely, restrict protein intake moderately, increase fat intake, drink plenty of water, stop snacking, and start fasting.

Carbs are very important to balance, with net carbs being the main focus. Limiting carbs before calculating net carbs will result in even better outcomes.

Ketogenic dieting being successful is dependent on carb intake.

Other factors are also important, but it is simply impossible to enter ketosis with a high carbohydrate intake.

Protein can impact ketosis in higher amounts, but this usually does not occur. It should still be limited, but it may also be necessary to boost intake to an appropriate level.

About half a gram to ¾ of a gram of protein should be consumed per pound of lean body mass.

It may be surprising how many carbs and how little protein are in everyday foods.

Fat is often a dieting bad word, but not for ketosis.

It is the primary source of energy and must be consumed- ketosis cannot be effective without fat or through starvation.

It may seem unnatural to associate dieting with large increases in fat consumption, but ketosis is not a fad diet based on trigger words.

Fat is so important that foods such as “fat bombs”, or items made mostly out of oils and fats, are added to the diet. Indulging in the right things can benefit ketosis, which may make the transition easier.

About a gallon of water a day should be consumed. It helps regulate body functions, and keeps hunger at bay.

Water for Keto

A gallon seems like a huge amount of water because it is- most people do not even get the recommended eight cups a day as it is.

Increasing the consumption of leafy vegetables and other foods required for ketogenic dieting may lead to a passive increase in water consumption, but an effort must be made as well.

Many people confuse hunger with thirst, causing them to snack when they are actually thirsty.

Always drink water first, and then snack if needed. Snacking can be done in moderation, but it can cause insulin spikes throughout the day.

Less spiking leads to more weight loss and more stable and predictable progress.

Fasting can boost ketone levels and can be very effective, depending on the individual, fasting type, and length of fast.

The number one thing to remember for all diets, ketosis included, is that exercise should be included.

Even short walks can regulate weight loss and blood sugar. If needed, supplements can help a ketogenic diet along, but most people do fine without the extra step and complexity that can involve.

A negative impact on exercise performance may be experienced at first, but it is not permanent nor serious, as mentioned earlier.

Ketogenic diets come with some risks, but most people will not experience these. If ketone production becomes too high, ketoacidosis can occur.

People with Type 1 Diabetes shouldn’t follow a ketogenic diet without consultation with their doctor, and even then it will not likely be recommended.

Anyone taking medications or looking to lose significant amounts of weight should also consult with a doctor.

Breastfeeding may require increased carb intake, and this should be part of consideration and discussion with a doctor if possible.

At first, ketosis may seem difficult and miserable at worst.

The sudden change in diet and how energy is processed causes a depletion of glycogen in muscles, which can mean a lack of energy.

Headaches, fogginess, dizziness, and mood changes are common in the first week or so.

Electrolytes being flushed out by the diuretic effect of the diet can cause these symptoms, which is why a high water intake alongside increased sodium consumption is recommended.

Salt should also be increased throughout the entire diet. It helps replenish electrolytes and helps retain some water.

These symptoms are commonly called the “keto flu” and they will decrease or go away with time.

The Downsides to the Upsides

Muscle cramps, constipation, palpitations, reduced performance, hair loss, increased cholesterol, gallstones- there are plenty of negative side effects of the ketogenic diet that some will experience.

Most people won’t, and those that do find that their impacts are temporary or can be mitigated through management and monitoring.

Weight loss at first will likely be water weight.

This loss is not permanent, but it is a start and gives proof that the diet is becoming effective.

Tracking carbs and macros through an app or notebook can make the diet easier and more effective, even when a slip-up occurs- water weight may fluctuate but by keeping track of consumption it can become easier to stay motivated.

Weight loss differs for every person.

On average, up to two pounds of fat are lost per week.

This usually will not be consistent, and may fluctuate or even stall over time.

Physical measurements can show progress even when the scale isn’t changing.

The ketogenic diet may be continued after a goal weight is reached, or a normal diet may be resumed with modification.

An increase in weight due to glycogen being restored can occur when keto is discontinued.

Why it Makes Sense

Ketosis is a complex process that is natural and normal to the body, even occurring during sleep every night.

Taking advantage of a built-in mechanism can prove to be extremely effective for weight loss, mental clarity, blood sugar management, and other effects. It is important not to confuse ketosis with ketoacidosis, the latter being a rare and dangerous state.

It is very unlikely for ketoacidosis to occur when there is not already a problem, such as Type I Diabetes.

This makes ketogenic dieting effective and safe for a majority of dieters, or even a majority of those looking for general benefit.

Weight may come off quickly in the beginning, making some people decide they are done and to stop following the diet.

It is important to continue ketogenic dieting beyond the initial drop in weight as a lull or plateau in progress is normal and is not usually permanent.

With management of intake, ketogenic diets can be extended to become permanent diets beyond weight loss.

Ketosis is built in and can easily be achieved. With exciting and visible results, ketogenic diets are becoming more and more popular.

More fat, more meat, and indulgent additions such as fat bombs can make it seem like dieting is not even happening.

Once a person gets over the drastic reduction in carb intake, they will begin to enjoy and see the benefit in other foods.

Their palate adjusts accordingly, and many dieters stop craving carbs altogether.

The ketogenic diet uses the body’s natural processes.

It is a built-in weight loss mechanism, but many believe the diet can be expensive.

Couponing, buying in bulk, and cooking at home from scratch can reduce cause and allow a better connection with food to be made.

Not buying the usual unhealthy items may make ketogenic diets cheaper for some as well.

Ketogenic diets do not require the purchase or addition of expensive tools, supplements, or speciality food.

Oftentimes, dieters find that ketogenic dieting comes from a reduction in their overall food consumption and costs.

Any form of dieting can help one to become more in touch and connected with food and consumption, benefiting the individual well beyond the diet itself.

There are countless support groups and clubs for dieting, guides on how to eat out and manage lifestyle, and infinite recipes and meal planning resources.

Ketogenic dieting is not new, as the human body has always been outfitted with the process of ketosis.

Information is abundant, understandable, and supported by science and first-hand experiences.

The most important thing to keep in mind when following any diet is that results will vary based on the person, their specific diet, and their lifestyle.

Ketosis will almost always benefit the dieter, no matter their situation as long as they are in general good health already.

Hundreds of pounds or just a few can be lost in relatively short timeframes when compared to other diets.

These results also tend to be more permanent, both due to the diet mechanism itself and the impact on awareness of eating habits.

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