What is the Keto Diet and is it Right for You?
In an ideal world, we are able to modify our food intake to better our health and to avoid relying on pharmaceutical treatments to treat certain diseases. This method has drawn a lot of attention in the real world from researchers worldwide, including those interested in the ketogenic (keto) diet.
The keto diet is one of the most widely debated diets. Despite this, not many people actually know what the keto diet entails. In the bro-science world, the diet is defined as a severe weight loss method while maintaining lean muscle mass in a ridiculously short amount of time. Articles span the internet with headlines resembling “Lose 30 lbs. in just two weeks!”. The diet is also thought to be based on butter, bacon, and cheese, causing a lot of skepticism from those considering it.
What is the Keto Diet?
The keto diet was first established as a treatment for epileptic patients. It is a treatment for seizures associated with glucose transporter protein deficiency syndrome and pyruvate dehydrogenase complex deficiency.1
The keto diet consists mostly of fats, moderate protein, and very little carbohydrates (carbs). There is no clear requirement for dietary carbs for humans. The typical macronutrient amounts of the keto diet are roughly divided into 65 to 70% fat, 25% to 30% protein, and 5% to 10% carbs. For most people, carbs cannot exceed 50 grams/day. The fibers offset the amount of carbs consumed due to their ability to slow down carb digestion to reduce blood sugar spikes. If a food has 50 grams of carbs and 15 grams of fiber, really 35 grams of carbs are consumed.
Your diet should be tailored towards your lifestyle. In this 6-week customized meal plan, I focus on your health to get you the results you want. I work most dietary lifestyles, including the ketogenic diet.
After a few days with drastically reduced carbs, glucose storages become insufficient to supply the central nervous system (CNS) with glucose. Since the CNS cannot use fatty acids as a source of energy, ketone bodies produced in the liver become the alternative fuel source.2 The highly regulated production of ketone bodies kicks the body into a state termed ketosis. In comparison with glucose, the ketone bodies are actually very good respiratory fuel. Contrary to popular beliefs, the body does not require carbs to function. Since ketone bodies are released by the breakdown of fats, ketosis is the most reliable indicator of fat loss.
Amino acids from proteins can be converted to glucose, kicking the body out of ketosis. A well-formulated keto diet requires limited protein intake to maintain lean muscle mass without restricting the consumption of fat.
Ketosis is a completely physiological mechanism. 3 A common misconception is that the body does not use ketones as a source of energy unless in ketosis. The human liver produces up to 300 grams of ketone bodies per day, which contribute between 5–20% of total energy expenditure in fed, fasted, and starved states.4 Ketone bodies serve as a source of fuel post-exercise when glycogen storages are low and during sleep, assuming carbs were not consumed right before sleep. 4 With a restricted feeding window as in intermittent fasting, ketone bodies are produced during sleep and the “starvation window” before the first meal is consumed.
Is the Diet for Everyone?
Not everyone is the same and no one diet is suitable for every person. While humans share many similarities with one another, there are also stark differences. One thing for certain is that refined carbs and sugars induce inflammation in every individual and the keto diet automatically eliminates these foods, thus reducing inflammation. For more details on this topic, check out my blog on How to Maintain Gut Health to Improve Brain Function
While most people do not like the restrictive nature of the keto diet, it does not mean that one cannot follow a low-carb high/moderate-fat diet. A keto diet and a low-carb diet are different in that the former elicits ketosis. A low-carb diet is only low-carb in comparison to the amounts of fats and proteins consumed. While the keto diet restricts carbs to 50 g/day or less, a low-carb diet can be >100g/day or more, depending on the number of calories consumed. Low-carb diets have been shown to possess beneficial properties similar to the keto diet but not as pronounced. Low-carb diets that are higher in carbs than the keto diet still allows the body to produce ketone bodies. Their metabolism suggests that mild ketosis may offer therapeutic potential in a variety of different common and rare disease states.
A high-carb high-fat diet should be avoided. When both are present, it makes it far easier to be in a caloric surplus, leading to weight gain. Upon the consumption of high-fat high-carb foods, the body will utilize the glucose first for energy while storing the excess fats for later energy use. This over prolonged periods of time leads to fat accumulation because the fat is not required for energy if the body is provided with excess amounts of glucose.
What to Eat on a Keto Diet
The foods people think they need to eat in excess:
- Animal fats
What you really should be eating:
- Nuts and nut butter
- Oils such as coconut oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, etc.
- Meats such as poultry or beef
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Low-sugar high-fiber fruits such as berries
- Plain Greek yogurt and dairy products packed with probiotics
In the next blog post, I will be talking about the evidence-based benefits of the keto diet in detail so stay tuned!
- Kosinski, C.; Jornayvaz, F. R. Effects of Ketogenic Diets on Cardiovascular Risk Factors : Evidence from Animal and Human Studies. 2017, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9050517
- Paoli, A. Ketogenic Diet for Obesity : Friend or Foe ? 2014, 2092–2107. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph110202092
- Puchalska, P.; Crawford, P. A. HHS Public Access. 2018, 25 (2), 262–284. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2016.12.022.Multi-dimensional
- Christopher, J. L.; Danaei, G.; Ding, E. L.; Mozaffarian, D.; Taylor, B.; Ezzati, M. The Preventable Causes of Death in the United States : Comparative Risk Assessment of Dietary , Lifestyle , and Metabolic Risk Factors. 2009, 6 (4). https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000058