WHAT IS A KETOGENIC DIET?
The more you look around on the internet the more you come across a lot of information about nutrition and different types of diets. Just when you think you know everything about low carb, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free etc you come across ‘ketogenic diet’! Now what the heck is that all about? I start to feel like people are just making stuff up just to put online and confuse me!
Well stay tuned I’m about to break it down and explain it simply so you know exactly what a ketogenic diet is and figure out if its something you would want to try.
By definition the word ketogenic means something that produces ketones. Therefore a ketogenic diet is supposed to produce ketones. The liver produces ketones from fat when the supply of glucose (sugars) runs out. Your body is in a state of ketosis when this happens.
When the body starts using ketones for energy and not sugars, the burning of fat is increased quite significantly. Needless to say, this is very good news if you’re trying to lose weight! You can read more about the research that has been done here.
The fastest way to get the body into ketosis is by not eating any sugars. This means a diet very low in carbohydrates. As a result there are very low levels of insulin required, which as we know is the fat storing hormone.
FOODS TO EAT ON A KETOGENIC DIET
A Ketogenic diet is similar to your run of the mill low carb diet except for the fact that it doesn’t promote high protein. Your diet should be low carb, moderate protein, high fat. The theory is high protein may get you out of that ketosis level but you should still be eating adequate amounts to support muscle mass. You can read my previous posts on carbs and eating a low carb diet here, here and here.
The aim is to stick to under 50g of net carbs per day. If you get below that, even better. You obviously have to steer clear of the usual carbs like bread, pasta, potatoes and other processed foods.
When it comes to vegetables, vegetables grown above the ground are generally lower in carb content than vegetables below ground. Grains and legumes are also high in carbs and should be avoided. There’s a more detailed guide here if you really want to try a ketogenic diet. Below is a short list of some common foods, just to give you an idea of grams of carbohydrates in foods;
1 cup of milk 12g
half cup mashed potato 15g
1 cup cooked pasta 45g
1 slice bread 20g
1 apple 20g
1 banana 35g
It is obvious from this list, even if you’re not big on eating cakes and biscuits, eating low carb may become a challenge when you have to try to keep it to under 50g! If you stick to whole foods anyway and stay away from the processed crap you’re going to come close.
THE BENEFITS OF A KETOGENIC DIET
The obvious benefit is going to be weight loss. If you’re body is not getting energy via carbs it is forced to produce ketones from fat and use them as energy instead.
REVERSING TYPE 2 DIABETES
It can reverse type 2 diabetes because it lowers blood sugar levels and therefore the need for higher insulin levels.
When you’re on a ketogenic diet, the highs and lows of blood sugar are practically eliminated and so too are the bad moods that can go along with this. (think hangry syndrome). Mental focus is much improved when the brain has a constant supply of ketones as energy.
INCREASED PHYSICAL ENERGY
Stored carbohydrates in your body (glycogen) is enough to provide energy for a couple of hours of intense exercise. Ketones on the other hand are continuously being provided from your fat stores so energy is provided 24/7. It can take the body up to 2 weeks to adapt to ketosis to work effectively though.
OTHER POSITIVE EFFECTS
Ketogenic diets have also been demonstrated to improve metabolic syndrome and epilepsy and may even have a positive affect with acne, cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
As you can see a ketogenic diet is somewhat like paleo, low carb and LCHF diets that you have probably read about. By all accounts it is a lot about eating real whole foods and avoiding processed foods. There is still a huge variety of foods to eat and turning my body into a fat burning machine sounds like a great side effect to me.
Of Course there are many whole foods like starchy vegetables and fruits that are not low carb but there are plenty that are. You will still be able to consume all required nutrients. Once you’ve lost the weight you need to, you should be able to add more of those higher carb whole foods into your diet.
As for the processed foods, I think we can all agree, they have minimal nutritional value if any. No matter what you weigh eating very small amounts, rarely of these ‘foods’ is best for your health.
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