The ketogenic diet...
...is getting more and more popular since the last couple of years. It is a diet that is most effective for losing weight, but it is not only a new weight-loss trend. Already in the 1920’s it became known to be a successful therapy for epilepsy, proven by a scientific study of childhood epilepsy.
The ketogenic diet is a very strict low-carb diet. That means basically that you eat a very low amount of carbohydrates, a moderate amount of proteins and lots of vegetables. Significant to this diet is to add a lot of fat to your diet, for example, natural butter, coconut oil, and olive oil. Most important is also to avoid carbohydrates like sugar, flour, grains, and above all to avoid processed food.
This ketogenic diet is similar to the Paleo Diet and the Atkins Diet and it is not only a low-carb diet it is also a gluten-free diet. All these kind of diets are very similar to the way our ancestors back at the beginning of mankind ate as they had to hunt for a living and eat what they found in nature.
Even if it’s thousands of years ago, the human body has not adapted to the cultivated and refined food. Now we go hunting in stores, but it still means we have to be careful not getting any toxic food between our teeth!
In this article, you are going to learn about the ketogenic diet and how it works.
The topics are as follows:
- Energy sources of the body
- What does ketogenic mean
- The benefits of the ketogenic diet
- When, how much and what to eat
- What happens in the body when on keto
- Things to consider about the ketogenic diet
- What to do when having reached your goal
Energy Sources of the Body
The body gets energy from
- carbohydrates (all food containing any kind of sugar)
The body, but especially the brain, love carbohydrates (sugar and starches) because it is the easiest and quickest way to get energy. When we eat carbohydrates the body produces
- glucose – a simple sugar
- insulin – a hormone which promotes the glucose out of the bloodstream into the body cells
When we eat more carbohydrates (sugar and starches) than the body needs, the hormone insulin promotes the sugar out of the bloodstream to the body tissues where the excess energy gets converted to fat. That’s the reason why insulin also is called the fat-storing hormone. So when eating primarily carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, sweets, soda...) we are in a constant fat-storing mode.
By reducing the intake of carbs and increasing the intake of fat,
we can turn our body into a fat burning mode.
This may sound paradox, but please go on reading and you’ll see.
What Does Ketogenic Mean
Ketogenic means production of ketones. The ketogenic diet is commonly called keto diet.
When you are on a keto diet the body and brain get its energy from fat instead from carbohydrates. This means when the body does not get energy from sugar, it takes the energy from the fat we eat (for example meat, fish, olive oil).
The body cells can directly use the fat as an energy supplier, but for the brain, the fat first has to be converted in the liver into energy molecules - these are the so-called ketones.
Ketosis is the state of the body when it gets the main energy from ketones,
energy molecules made out of fat.
The state of ketosis is a natural process which always takes place when the food intake
- is very low, by fasting and by starvation.
- mainly comes from fat, like when following a low-carb diet or the keto diet.
Many people are skeptical when hearing about eating a lot of fat. For many decades it has been told that fat is not healthy but the latest scientific studies confirm that the body needs healthy and natural fats for functioning properly. It is particularly the sugar and all the products containing sugar, and the processed food containing unhealthy trans-fats that are ruining the health. Studies on feeding mice a ketogenic diet show that this kind of low-carb diet has helped to extend their lifespan.
Keep on reading to learn more about the amazing benefits of this diet.
The Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
The benefits of the keto diet are numerous. Below follows a list of the most remarkable benefits.
The keto diet helps to prevent and treat many kinds of diseases:
- Chronic Inflammation
- Diabetes - Reversal of type 2 diabetes
- High Blood Sugar Levels
- High Blood Pressure - Improvement in blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Cancer - Helps to fight cancer, while depriving the cancer cells of their primary source of energy — glucose
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
The more direct benefits of the Keto diet are:
- Energized feeling
- Less hunger
- Fewer sugar cravings, or none
- Stable blood sugar level
- A calmer stomach
- Increased mental clarity
- Increased physical endurance
- No need to count calories
- Exercise is not required for weight loss
- While sleeping you burn fat
- You also can save time, while you eat less and fewer meals per day.
How to Get Started With the Keto Diet
The best is to clean out your kitchen pantry first, get rid of the carbohydrates and add the new basic keto food.
Before running to the store, have your diet plan ready and note the groceries you need to buy.
If you have any severe diseases it is recommended to make an appointment with your physician and do a medical check-up before you start with any kind of diet.
When, how much and what to eat
You may eat whenever you feel hungry. When eating keto food, you will not feel hungry as often as you did when eating carbohydrates. That means you’ll automatically feel less hungry.
Carbohydrates (sugar, bread, pasta etc.) can be stored in the body for only a few hours or at most for one day. Therefore we get hungry very soon again after eating sweets, sandwich or a plate of pasta.
The body is excellent for storing fat and can use it as energy for weeks or months. This means that the body and brain won’t crave for food as often as when eating carbohydrates.
You may eat as much of the keto food until you feel satisfied but avoid overeating.
The most important thing is to avoid carbohydrates. The fewer carbs, the more effective is the weight loss and reversal of diseases.
To get a quicker result it is better to choose the restricted ketogenic diet, which means up to 20 grams of carbs per day. When you have reached your desired weight or the physical wellness you can very well add healthy (low-glycemic) carbs to your diet - 50 grams for a moderately low-carb diet and up to 100 grams for a liberal low-carb diet.
20 grams of high-carb foods are for example:
- A half of a bun
- One potato
- A half cup of (cooked) rice
- A half cup of spaghetti
20 grams of low-carb foods are for example:
- A large plate of vegetables
- A plate of berries
- A plate of nuts
It depends on how fast you want to see results. The fewer carbohydrates you eat, the faster you will get into ketosis, the state when the body mainly gets its fuel out of fat.
Keep the carbohydrate intake limited, preferably from vegetables, nuts, and dairy.
The most of your energy intake should come from natural fats, like olive oil, butter, avocado and fatty fish.
Food to eat
Choose unprocessed meats, preferably organic and grass-fed meat. Be aware of that processed meat, like for example sausages and cold cuts, contains added carbohydrates.
Eat a moderate amount of meat, because if you eat more protein than your body needs, this will turn into glucose, and slow down the fat burning process.
All fish and seafood fit into the keto diet, especially fatty fish like salmon, herring, and mackerel.
Perfect keto food – there are many various ways to eat them: boiled, scrambled or as omelets. Preferably choose organic eggs.
Choose high-fat products: Butter, high-fat cheese, high-fat yogurts. Use heavy cream for sauces and desserts.
Do not drink much milk as it contains a lot of lactose (milk sugar).
Fats and Oils
Remember fat is the fuel and friend for your body.
When cooking use a lot of butter or coconut fat.
Eat high-fat sauces.
Add olive oil to salads.
Avocados are an excellent natural fat.
Choose vegetables growing above ground as they contain fewer carbs. Especially beneficial are leafy greens, such as Boston lettuce, iceberg lettuce, arugula, spinach, kale and swiss chard.
Broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, cabbage, cucumber, pepper, olives, and tomatoes are perfect vegetables for the keto diet.
Vegetables growing below ground contain starches (a polysaccharide which is complex sugar).
You may choose fresh or frozen vegetables, both are healthy.
Nuts and seeds
These foods contain a lot of protein and only a few carbohydrates. When on keto diet the pecan, macadamia and brazil nuts are the preferred choice. Among the seeds, the flax seeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds are the ones with the lowest amount of carbs.
When on a keto diet, berries are allowed but be aware of eating only a moderate amount as they contain sugar. Eating berries with whipped cream is a delicious dessert and the cream helps to keep the blood sugar better stabilized.
The best thing is to avoid sweeteners, but if you like to have a dessert or sweeten your tea, then the preferred ones to choose are stevia, allulose, and erythritol.
Artificial sweeteners should be avoided as they can be carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Especially avoid Aspartame as it is known that when these are metabolised dangerous neurotoxins are generated in the body.
This is the first choice, this is the elixir of life. You can choose flat or sparkling water. Add ice cubes, lemon, lime and orange slices, berries, mint leaves or such like.
Warm or cold water added with freshly squeezed lemon juice is delicious and cleansing for your body.
Drinking coffee without sugar, of course, is OK. You can add milk or cream if you wish to, or why not try coconut or almond milk.
Black, green or herbal teas – hot or iced – without added sugar, are great options. Any teas containing dried fruits contain carbs, so you may be careful not to drink fruit teas as much.
Food and drinks to avoid
These high-carbs are the most dangerous ones to our health and a no-go when following the keto diet. Avoid all kinds of sweets, chocolate, cakes, biscuits, buns, ice cream, breakfast cereals, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup and any other sugars.
Almost all kinds of processed food contain some kind of high-carbs and other food additives, like flavour enhancers, preservatives, modified starch and many more. Examples of processed foods are ready-made meals, sausages, french fries, canned food, breakfast cereals, müesli, porridge, potato chips, biscuits, ice cream and quite any food you see in a grocery ready to eat.
Any bread made out of grain are high-carb food which must be avoided. If you want bread you can bake it yourself out of almond flour or coconut flour.
Pasta, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, legumes like beans and lentils, french fries, potato chips are all starchy foods and must be avoided if you want to reach ketosis (the fat burning mode).
They contain a lot of fruit sugar and make your blood sugar level go up and down as well. You can eat a fruit once in a while, but make sure to eat it before or after the main meal, not as a snack in between.
These are also a huge no-go. Avoid all kinds of soft drinks, fruit juice, sports drink and also water with added fruit flavours.
When drinking alcohol the weight loss slows down significantly and when having health issues it is not beneficial to drink any alcohol.
Champagne, red and white wine are low-carb and you can allow yourself to drink a small glass occasionally, when on a keto diet.
Beer is a no-go as it contains a very high amount of carbs, which makes your body turn off the fat burning mode.
What Happens to the Body When on Keto
The body is used to break down carbohydrates and convert them into energy. For this process, the body has got specialised enzymes doing this job.
When suddenly there is a lack of glucose and instead fats to burn, means that there is a need for other kinds of enzymes to convert fat to energy. In the initial phase the body will first search for all glucose there are left. The muscles will get depleted of glycogen in the muscles and therefore, you feel tired and your mood goes down.
Side effects during the transmission (initial) phase
Usually begins within the first couple of days and lasts for about one to two weeks.
The symptoms are sugar cravings, headache, dizziness, irritability, poor concentration, stomach pains, muscle soreness and fatigue.
You mostly do not experience all the symptoms, but only a couple of them and the length of the keto flu is different depending on for example the genetics and on how much carbohydrates you ate before.
Some people experience a fruity smell that reminds of nail polish remover. This is a sign that the body has started to burn fat. The smell is temporary and when the body has got used to the ketosis, it goes away.
This is a sign for lack of minerals. Drink enough water and add extra salt to your food, that can help to reduce the loss of magnesium. If it doesn’t help, then add a magnesium supplement.
This is mostly due to dehydration. Increase the water intake and eat enough vegetables to add the fiber intake.
A very common issue during the initial phase transitioning to keto. The heart beats faster and harder due to the reduced fluid volume in the blood. Drink plenty of water and salt, that helps in most cases. If not you may want to add a potassium supplement.
Reduced physical performance
At the beginning of the keto diet, you’ll feel weakened and more tired than usual. When the body has adapted to using fat as primary energy source your strength and endurance will return.
During the first two weeks avoid excessive exercises.
How to avoid or reduce the side effects:
Salt deficiency and dehydration causes all these symptoms,
so the simple and easy solution for all these issues is to:
Drink enough water and mix it with salt.
How do I know when I’ve reached Ketosis
When the transition (initial) phase is over, the body has turned on the fat burning mode – ketosis. But how do we know when?
These are the signs:
Reduced hunger – fat makes you satiated for a longer time.
Increased energy – having a more reliable energy source (fat) raises the energy level.
These good signs will remain as long as you follow the keto diet.
Increased thirst – because of greater loss of fluids and electrolytes during the transition time.
Increased urination – because the body burns the stored glucose in the liver and muscles and breaking down glycogen releases a lot of water.
Keto breath – acetone is a ketone body (a converted fat molecule), which may escape your body and make your breath smell fruity, mainly during the initial phase.
These uncomfortable signs will disappear for most people after a couple of weeks or after one month. If you still have these issues after the transition phase, there are other measures that can help you, so don't worry too much about that. Just reach out to me for more tips.
Things to Consider About the Ketogenic Diet
There are groups of people that should take some extra precautions before starting the keto diet.
It is recommended to check with your physician first:
- If you take medication for diabetes – the insulin intake may have to be adjusted
- If you take medication for high blood pressure – there is a risk of getting a very low blood pressure and the medication intake must then be adjusted
- If you do breastfeed for the moment – you may need an increased intake of carbs, because when breastfeeding you lose sugar via the milk, otherwise you can get ketoacidosis which could be life-threatening, because of too high levels of ketones in your body.
What to do when I’ve reached my health and weight goals
You can either continue with the keto diet or slightly adding some carbohydrates to your meals. The fat burning effect will get weaker and it may be that the weight goes up a bit.
If you give up the keto way of eating and start eating like before, you’ll gain the weight you’ve just lost and your health issues will return.
Simple and Short
Having experienced all the benefits you don’t want to go back to your old habits.
The very beginning may be a little tough but the benefits make it all worth it.
- Improved health
- Loss of excess weight
- No more hunger pangs or sugar cravings
- No calorie counting
- No pills or special products needed
- Raised energy
- Mental clarity
This diet is perfect for you who...
- ... wants to lose weight in a sustainable way
- ... wants to be fit and healthy
- ... are fed up with feeling tired and foggy
The keto diet can help to heal your body, prevent diseases, and even extend your lifespan.
There is still much, much more to tell about the keto diet, I can’t cover everything in one article. If you are serious about implementing the keto way of living I highly recommend to dive deeper into this topic.
These books will help you getting started:
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Keto Food Make Good Mood
Do you have any questions about the keto diet?
Have you tried the keto diet and want to share your experiences?
Please, leave your comment below, I'd love to hear what you have to tell.