As I look around at my clients/students, my friends and on social media, more and more people either from a big desire to lose weight, to reduce inflammation in their bodies, to improve their clarity, their energy levels or out of need to beat a sickness or illness, are interested in the ketogenic diet and the term "ketosis" comes to my attention as something that people are willing to try to achieve their desired weight and health goals.
As a health and fitness professional, I feel is my duty to do my research and so I started reading books by medical doctors and nutritionists on the subject and also asked people who have dome the Keto diet for a while fr their input and opinion in the matter. Here is what I learnt:
Keto is a very low carb, around 20 grams per day, diet while the recommended daily intake of carbs it's around 200 to 300 grams of carbs per day. According to the believers, eating only 20 g of carbs a day will make our bodies shift the energy metabolism to burning fat rather than using the usual sugar from carbs as fuel for energy.
According to the diet, we should keep the carbohydrates intake at 20 grams per day until we burn enough fat to reach the ideal weight and then we can increase the carbs to 50, 75 or 100 grams per day In time, depending on the person, ideally putting ourselves in a mild state of ketosis for the rest of our lives. Simply put that's how it works.
Many people who have been on a low-carb diet before will come back to this and say that is not working because they tried a low carb diet for a long time but what they didn’t do before was to maintain the carb intake low enough to put them in the ketogenic state.
Because, let’s be honest, many times people who are on a low-carb diet are also in a low fat diet and often on a high protein diet and as a percentage of unused protein turns into carbs at the end of the day, you can see it's impossible to reach the ketogenic state.
It turns out that it's impossible to lose weight with the low carb, low-fat, high protein diet. Therefore all the frustrations of those who tried that before and failed, truly make sense. So what is ketosis?
It is a natural body condition, where our bodies are burning fat rather than sugar, as the primary fuel source. The sugar our bodies usually burn is glucose, which is produced from carbs we eat. Any extra glucose is stored either in the liver or the muscles as glycogen or converted to fat for storage.
By lowering carb intake, insulin hormone levels also drop, and we reprogram our metabolism to shift into fat burning mode. Healthy foods that are high in healthy fats and eating a moderate amount of healthy protein is what helps control the appetite and reach the ideal weight. When our bodies are in this fat burning mode we are technically in the state of ketosis.
We come close to full ketosis when we sleep, if we eat dinner around 6 in the evening and only drink water before going to bed, with no food until breakfast, and we fast for 12 or more hours, that puts us in a mild state of ketosis.
After we eat breakfast in the morning, or we break our fasting in anyway, the body usually does not return into the ketosis state for the rest of the day because the body it's busy digesting the food that we have eaten or drinking, often is busy breaking down the carbs.
So when we eat a high carb diet we will have our body busy digesting for a long time. When we eat a low-carb diet and high fat intake we go into the ketosis where the body burns fat and believe it or not the stubborn fat around the belly is the first one to go. That is the fat targeted in ketosis, because of the anti-inflammatory benefits of the diet.
So imagine instead of digesting carbs all day long, in ketosis the body burns fat all day long. It also makes us sharp and alert, energetic and with less food cravings for the whole day, and very importantly: it reduces inflammation.
Here are in a nutshell the Recommendations for the Keto Diet: Carbohydrates: To enter Ketosis and to stay in the Keto state we should intake our 20 grams of carbs a day from non-starchy vegetables, spices and herbs.
Fats: We should take our healthy fats including Omega-3, from fish, grass-fed meats and other animal products which are not processed. Also, pecans, macadamia nuts and almonds are recommended. All other nuts have way to many carbs to start with and are not recommended when we just begin the diet.
Protein: We should eat healthy protein: whole pastured eggs, low-mercury wild fish, grass-fed meats, trying to get one gram of protein for one kilogram of body weight. (or 1 gram of protein per 2.2 pounds)
This way we reduce the intake of carbohydrates from 40 or 50% of total body calories per day, which is regularly recommended, to only 5-15%, while 70% of our calories comes from fats, and 10-15% comes from protein.
According to the keto diet when we feed our bodies with 5 to 15% healthy carbs, 70% healthy fats, and 10 to 15% healthy proteins we are going to be in the peak metabolic fat burning Zone. Now please don't imagine that this will happen overnight. It usually takes people a while to reach the keto from days to a month, depending of their health condition. The ketogenic diet is in line with many other popular diets like the gluten-free diet, and any other low carbohydrates diet because it is recommended by doctors and nutritionists when there is a need of reducing inflammation in the body. Gluten, for example, seems to be a big inflammatory cause, especially associated with inflammation in the GI tract where approximately two-thirds of our immune system is based.
Fat was known for many years as being a source of inflammation as well, especially when we talk about the fat stored around our bellies and waist, so, as I have two fitness programs which trigger exactly that, my curiosity is picked: and a new question arises: are all fats bad?
Do all fats cause inflammation? Are there any good fats that we can actually eat without having problems? In other words, okay I understand that gluten does not bring any benefits to our bodies at all, but do fats help our body in any way?
Surprisingly they absolutely do. They control appetite and help tame hunger, and also fats are vital for proper brain function.
But could fat intake actually help in weight loss?? That seemed like a contradiction in terms to me at the beginning but the more I read about the ketogenic diet and what happens in the human body when we are in a state of ketosis, the more sense it makes.
Eating the right fats helps the body function properly and it burns more fat in return.
The theory really starts by saying that if we eat the right foods, the body will function properly and there's going to be a balance of hormones happening naturally in the body.
When compared with the model of the Atkins diet back in the 70s, (low carbohydrates, High-fat, high protein), the modern Keto diet has shifted to a high-fat, low carbohydrate, moderate protein diet, which seems to make a huge difference with hormonal balance as well as with losing weight.
As far as animal protein goes, there was always conflicting research about excessive animal protein being associated with cancers, but no studies back that up when is about natural grass-fed meat. It is mainly the processed animal protein, such as sausages, salami, hot dogs, bacon that are more closely associated with cancer and not so much the unprocessed meats.
Also from all the published studies it is clear today that diseases and cancers are fed by sugars in the body, which are derived from carbohydrates and not from fat.
I am writing a whole course on the ketogenic diet, how it started, how to apply it, maintain it and measure it for best results, what is the relationship between carbohydrates, sugar and the insulin hormone, the relationship between cholesterol, saturated fats and ketosis, as well as clarifying the huge difference between ketosis and ketoacidosis, the first a very healthy and natural state of the human body while the second one a critical and sometimes deadly condition.
I will let you know, but for now, my conclusion is that the Ketogenic Diet ( Keto, or ketosis) is not something new, and if maintained, is one the fastest and healthiest ways to burn fat, especially belly fat, which is highly inflammatory and directly related to so many diseases.