A ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat, adequate protein diet that was initially developed in the ’20s to help people with neurological diseases such as epilepsy. On a ketogenic diet, you’re attempting to get your body into ketosis, which is a metabolic state where you begin to use fat as your primary source of fuel, instead of carbs.
What Is Ketosis?
If you are following the standard American diet, your body normally relies on carbs as the first source of energy. Carbs are broken down into glucose when you eat them, which triggers the production of insulin, a hormone that tells your cells to use the sugar for energy now or store it for use later.
When you switch to eating very limited carbs, your body breaks down fatty acids from fat stores and forms ketones, which are released into the bloodstream by the liver. Ketosis occurs when blood ketones are higher than normal.
Ketosis is a side effect of fasting. To trigger ketosis in your body, you would need to fast for about three days. Another way to do that is to decrease the amount of carbohydrates in your diet and increase the amount of fat. So a ketogenic diet — one that is very high in fat with some protein and very little carbohydrates — can be used to get your body into ketosis. To start ketosis and keep it going, you’ll have to eat less than 50 grams of carbohydrate per day, which is about 5 to 10 percent of your overall calories for the day.
There are three main types of ketogenic diets:
- Standard ketogenic diet: Macronutrient breakdown: 75 percent fat, 15-20 percent protein, 5-10 percent carbs.
- Cyclical ketogenic diet: Cycles between higher-carb “re-feed” days and standard ketogenic days. Example: Five days of keto followed by two days of higher carbs. You might hear it called “carb cycling.”
- Targeted ketogenic diet: Add carbs around workouts; follow standard keto the rest of the time.
What Foods You Can Eat on a Ketogenic Diet
The majority of meals on the ketogenic diet should be built around the following staples:
- Fat: Nuts and seeds, butter, avocado, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, mayonnaise, beef tallow
- Protein: Fatty fish, chicken, turkey, ham, bacon, pork loin, pork chops, steak, veal, goat, lamb, eggs, peanut butter, sausage, shellfish, full-fat dairy
- Low-carb vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, garlic, onion, green beans, mushrooms, bell peppers, pickles, romaine lettuce, shallots, butter lettuce, spinach, snow peas, tomato, fall/winter squash (such as butternut, acorn, spaghetti)
What Happens to Your Body on a Ketogenic Diet?
The first few weeks following a Ketogenic diet will be hard. Your body needs to adapt to using a different fuel source as its’ primary source of energy. You may experience what is known as the Keto Flu, where you experience a loss of strength and energy and feel almost ill, until your body learns to use fats for fuel.
It can take several months for your body to adapt to increasing the use of fat as a fuel source, so don’t give up after a week. Keep at it, try new foods, experiment with different recipes. Make sure you are taking a multivitaim and extra magnesium to help with the effects of the “Keto Flu.”
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Do Ketogenic Diets Work for Weight Loss?
Yes, very well.
People who follow the Ketogenic diet often report large amounts of weight loss in a short period of time, usually in the first couple weeks. However, this initial weight loss is usually water weight. Carbs hold on to water. When you drastically reduce your carb consumption, it is naturally that you will lose water weight that your cells have been holding on to.
When you are eating high amounts of healthy fats, your brain tells your body that you are satisfied, which means you will end up eating less calories as a by-product.
The Ketogenic may not be for anyone, but I do believe most people can benefit from it. If you have any pre-existing health conditions, please do your own research and consult a physician, of course.