Keto is the new buzzword in the diet world, the new favorite among those looking to shed pounds, and yet frowned upon by the food-pyramid-spouting-eat-your-whole grains mainstream medical industry. But despite all the recent hype, the ketogenic diet has actually been around for almost 100 years to treat drug resistant epilepsy, especially in children. In the 70’s the Atkins Diet was popularized by Dr Atkins very low carb diet for weight loss that begins with a very strict two week ketogenic phase, and over the years, there have been other fad diets incorporating a similar approach for weight loss.
The keto diet, while it is not the magic cure-all for every single disease on the planet, does a pretty damn good job at being the potential causer of healing many horrible conditions. So let’s cut through the science, separate fact from fiction, and look at the benefits of the keto diet.
What is Keto?
In essence, it is a diet that causes the body to release ketones into the bloodstream. Most cells prefer to use blood sugar, which comes from carbohydrates, as the body’s main source of energy. In the absence of circulating blood sugar from food, we start breaking down stored fat into molecules called ketone bodies (the process is called ketosis). Once you reach ketosis, most cells will use ketone bodies to generate energy until we start eating carbohydrates again. The shift, from using circulating glucose to breaking down stored fat as a source of energy, usually happens over two to four days of eating fewer than 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. Keep in mind that this is a highly individualized process, and some people need a more restricted diet to start producing enough ketones.
Because it lacks carbohydrates, a ketogenic diet is rich in proteins and fats. It typically includes plenty of meats, eggs, processed meats, sausages, cheeses, fish, nuts, butter, oils, seeds, and fibrous vegetables.
Benefit # 1 – Weight Loss
Okay, so this one isn’t so astounding, but it is one of the most common reasons people start on the keto diet. So why is weight loss usually so easy on the ketogenic diet instead of other regular diets? For all of the following reasons:
- The keto diet is composed of approximately 75% fat, 20 % protein, and 5% or less carbohydrates. The high fat content and lack of sugar means diminished cravings, lack of blood sugar swings and binges, and increased satiation. Increased satiation=eating less. Many people also have food sensitivities to grains, even gluten-free ones, so eliminating them may lead to an increased ability to absorb minerals like magnesium and potassium, which in turn means your body is more nourished and you have fewer cravings
- Ketones. When your blood sugar is running low, your body turns to its glycogen stores for energy. Typically, glycogen stores house about 2000 calories of “backup” energy for when you run out of glucose. Like the intelligent machine it is, your body depletes the glycogen stores and then turns to your own body fat for fuel.
IMPORTANT: The ketogenic diet is not a free-for-all eat however much cheese or super low-carb fat bomb treats you want diet. If you are eating way more calories than you need, you will not lose weight. So focus on keeping your diet around fatty cuts of grass-fed meat, butter, eggs, avocados, lots of green veggies and cruciferous, and be modest with the keto desserts, dairy, and sweets.
Benefit #2 – Brain Function
A poorly functioning brain, as you may have already experienced, leads to lessened work productivity, which in turn means an unhappy boss, lack of job satisfaction, sugar cravings for energy, and depression. It’s a horrible domino effect. The original ketogenic diet was formulated by Dr. Russell Wilder in the early 20th century to treat epilepsy. The success rate was phenomenal and it is still used today to treat epilepsy and other brain disorders. Research also indicates that ketones are more efficient brain fuel than glucose. (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5102124/)
Some experts believe that using a combination of ketones and glucose may be uniquely beneficial for the brain, especially in people with neurologic and mental health disorders.11 Research suggests that in certain situations, this combination could be quite beneficial.
Let’s take a look at some of these circumstances:
- Epilepsy: Although usually not completely devoid of carbs, the classic ketogenic and modified Atkins diets restrict carbs to less than 20 grams per day. Well-designed trials have shown that this level of carb restriction can be very effective in reducing — and in some cases eliminating — seizures in children and adults.
- Mental health conditions: While research is preliminary, anecdotal evidence, basic neurochemistry studies and a few promising clinical trials have suggested a ketogenic diet may improve symptom control for some mental health conditions.
- Alzheimers: In alzheimers disease, there is documented insulin resistance in the brain that hampers the uptake of glucose for fuel, so much so that some researchers have called Alzheimer’s “Type 3 diabetes.” However, that while glucose uptake is impaired in early Alzheimer’s, the brain’s use of ketones for energy is not. Clinical studies, including a meta-analysis of intervention trials, showed preliminary but promising results of using a ketogenic diet for people with Alzheimers.
- Hunger control: A carbohydrate-free diet suppresses the “hunger hormone” ghrelin that is secreted mainly by the stomach. Ghrelin has multiple impacts in the body but one impact is on the brain’s hypothalamus to regulate appetite control. It also travels to the amygdala, the brain’s reward center. This means that in a body burning ketones, the brain is receiving reduced hunger signals, which may enhance weight loss and diabetes control. Importantly, although considered high-quality research, these studies are very small.
Benefit #3 – Potential Cancer Benefits
Early research published in the journal Cell Reports suggests that restricting your blood sugar might also help combat certain cancerous tumor growths.
One study showed implementing the ketogenic diet led to a dramatically increased survival time and slower tumor growth.
- Maintaining blood sugar levels can be helpful for your overall health.
- Early research also points to the benefits of keeping blood sugar levels low to help fight cancer.
- Past research has found that certain tumors may rely on high glucose levels.
Keeping blood sugar levels even throughout the day may help you avoid afternoon energy crashes. It might also ward off or help you manage diabetes.
Keto Side Effects
It usually takes three to four days for your body to go into ketosis because you have to use up your body’s stores of glucose, i.e., sugar first. Any major diet change can give you some issues, and one doctor noted that some of his patients complain of IBS-like symptoms and feeling wiped out at the beginning of the diet. (The tiredness happens because you have less access to carbs, which give you quick energy)
Those issues can also be part of what’s known as the “keto flu,” which is a common side effect. Other side effects, all of which are tied to carb withdrawal, can include lightheadedness, nausea, mental fog, cramps, and headaches, in addition to tiredness. Luckily, the keto flu doesn’t usually last more than a week—which is coincidentally about when people start to see the number on the scale go down. Aside from those typical keto flu complaints, diarrhea and keto breath are also common side effects.
Is Keto For you?
The keto diet is not easy—or necessarily healthy—to follow over a long period of time as there are certain types of carbs which are actually good for you! The Ketogenic diet is not appropriate for everyone, especially people with any stage of pre-existing kidney or liver disease, due to the high fat content which can potentially lead to or exacerbate, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and the higher protein intake can also put a great deal of stress on the kidneys.
You also shouldn’t be on the diet if you’re pregnant: Fetal growth depends heavily on glucose from carbohydrates, So, a diet low in carbs will impact the growth of the baby.
“It’s also not advised that people with digestive disorders follow a ketogenic diet, Fiber is an extremely important nutrient for digestive health, and it is common for keto dieters to under-consume this nutrient. Since whole grains and fibrous carb sources are omitted, it’s difficult to get the daily recommended amount—25 to 35 grams—of fiber from non-starchy vegetables alone, as you’d have to consume a very large amount of them.”
If you don’t fall into any of those groups and you’re interested in following keto for a short period of time, it’s important to set yourself up for success by making sure you have the right ingredients and tools to make it happen. The bottom line is overall if you want to try the keto diet, just remember that its not necessarily a diet which you can or should stay on forever.
If you are ready to take the next step and try out a custom keto diet based on your food preferences, activity levels, height, weight and target weight goals, then why don’t you click on the link below.
Here’s what you will get:
- An eight-week meal plan created based on the expertise of certified nutritionists, personal trainers, and chefs.
- Meals that have calorie and macronutrient content tailored to your specific situation and goals.
- A nutrition plan with food variety to ensure you get a wide range of nutrients and boost the likelihood of sticking to your diet.
- Meals that are based on personal food preferences to make your diet enjoyable and help you stay on track with your plan.
- Detailed recipes with step-by-step instructions to make meal preparation super simple (no prior cooking experience needed).
- A downloadable shopping list each week that details every needed ingredient you will need in the upcoming seven days.
- Options on how you can customize every meal even more to suit your taste buds.
- We’ll show you what to eat every day to reach your goals in the fastest and most enjoyable way.
If you want to try out your very own customised keto diet plan, click on the button below to learn more.
You may also want to read my blog on how to track your macro’s whilst doing the Keto diet.
Hope this is useful, and if you have any further ideas and suggestions on the Keto diet, or how well its worked for you, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below …