The Keto Diet Explained
We have all heard the words ‘keto diet’ thrown around numerous times. The question is, what is it exactly? How does it work? The purpose of this article is to answer these questions so that you can decide for yourself if keto is something you should incorporate into your health journey.
The first step in understanding keto is to understand how your body extracts energy from the foods we eat. Of the three main energy sources – protein, carbohydrates and fat – carbohydrates are converted into energy the fastest, while fats are converted the slowest. As a result when you eat your body will choose carbohydrates as a primary energy source, converting them into glucose.
Your body also produces insulin. Insulin is a hormone that allows your body to use the glucose as an energy source. The way it does this is by attaching to your cells and telling them to absorb sugar from your bloodstream for immediate use and to store excess glucose for future use. Since your body already has an energy source it does not need to burn fat. The insulin in your body therefore tells your fat cells to store new fat and to hold on to fat that they already carry.
Keto is a way of eating that is not only low in carbs but also high in fat. When you substantially lower your intake of carbs, your body is lacking its main source of energy. After two to seven days your body goes into a state called ketosis. In ketosis, your body abandons sugar as an energy source and breaks down fats instead. This produces ketones, which are used to fuel your body and brain.
The point of the keto diet is to get your body into this state by cutting your carb intake to between 5-10% of your entire food intake, while increasing your fat intake to 60-75%. Simply put, the keto diet forces your body into using stored fat as its main fuel source.
High Fat For Weight Loss
When your body starts to burn fats to produce ketones it begins to burn the fat stored around your body. This is great news for weight loss. Traditional diets focus on lowering calories, keto focuses on turning your stored fats into a clean energy source. This often results in rapid weight loss without the plateaus of traditional dieting. Also, no more starving yourself to lose weight.
Being in a state of ketosis means that your insulin levels decrease due to the decrease of carbohydrates. Think of insulin as a fat storing hormone. Since one of the functions of insulin is to convert excess glucose into fat your body will store less fat overall.
Another way keto helps you lose weight is, it makes us feel more satiated than a traditional diet. When you eat carbs, it is common to overeat on things like breads and pasta or foods that are high in refined sugar. Eating fats primarily has the double benefit of feeling more satisfied resulting in a decrease in food cravings and a decrease in appetite-stimulating hormones. What this means is you can say goodbye to those random food cravings that get us to binge on unhealthy foods.
Steady Energy Levels
Ever feel a sudden drop of energy after lunch? This is more often than not caused by a sugar peak and crash. On a keto diet, your energy supply is steady. There are two basic reasons:
When you burn glucose for energy your body can simply run out of fuel as your body can store only limited amounts of glycogen. On the other hand, when using fat for energy, your body has plenty of fat to work with resulting in a more long-lasting energy supply.
The keto diet requires that dieters stop eating highly sugary processed foods and eat unprocessed whole foods, flooding your body with nutrients.
Increased Mental Focus
One surprising benefit of keto is increased mental focus. Ketones are a great source of fuel for the brain. When using glucose for brain function you are prone to spikes in your blood sugar levels followed by a dip. This can result in a foggy brain or a difficulty remembering important facts. This is not a problem when using ketones.
Ketones, on the other hand, are an excellent source of energy for the brain. Unlike a typical western diet, when adhered to properly the keto diet is high in essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6, which are crucial for brain health and function. Our brains are made primarily of fatty acids, so it makes sense that fatty acids are vital for brain health and important functions like learning and sensory execution.
The Downside to Keto
Although there are many benefits to the diet it also has its downside. Since keto is such a radical shift away from our normal eating habits many people drop out before they see any of the benefits.
An additional downside is when just getting started with the diet, dieters often experience flu-like symptoms. This side effect is so common it has been named keto flu. What can exacerbate the keto flu problem is the initial loss of water weight. This may cause dehydration which can increase the symptoms of the keto flu. The good news is this can simply be countered by staying hydrated.
People who have kidney damage (including those with type 2 diabetes) and people with or at risk for heart disease, and pregnant or breastfeeding women should not try the diet. Also, people with type 1 diabetes should not follow the plan because of the risk for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). You should check with your doctor before starting any new diet plan.
Is Keto For You?
Keto has huge health benefits for someone looking to boost their energy and rapidly lose weight. The question is are you willing to radically redefine the way you eat while surviving the initial stages when your body is adjusting to the diet? If you answered yes, and you are looking to lose weight or simply boost your energy levels, then give keto a try.
Have you tried the keto diet? What were your experiences? Please share them in the comments section below. We would love to hear from you.