Basics of ketogenic diet could be a little bit hard for beginners to fully comprehend, mainly out of lack of facts, evidence-based data and/ or simplified plans.
Diet life advice will lay out all the basics of ketogenic diet for you to know how ketogenic diet works? How many carbs should you have in ketodiet? And of what sources? why do you need so much fats in keto diet? What is ketosis? Why is it different than other diets? Why does ketogenic diet restrict carbs? And replaces it with fats? Why is it not considered a lifestyle change like going Vegan? What are its benefits? what are its downfalls? Is it dangerous? Does it really treat cancer and diabetes? What are the best recipes to start with?
Let’s answer all your questions about ketogenic diet basics!
Basics of metabolism:
Naturally, your body uses glucose as the simplest form of food to get the energy required to fuel all its organs, tissues and cells to survive, function and grow.
The process in which our body constantly builds and breaks down food and substance within a living body is known as Metabolism.
A healthy, human being needs almost 2000 calories a day to maintain a normal metabolism. Calories (burning unit of our body) comes from food, divided as follows:
- 50 % of our caloric intake comes from carbohydrates.
- 30% of our caloric intake comes from Protein sources.
- 20% of our caloric intake comes from fats.
Carbs, proteins and fats are known as macronutrients.
This percentage ensures that your body receives the exact amount of glucose it needs on daily basis to function.
Even when you decide to go on a traditional diet, the first thing to do is to decrease your caloric intake by 500 calories per day, without changing the percentages! This makes you lose weight but without changing your metabolic state.
What is “keto”? what does it mean?
Ketogenic diet got its name from the byproducts your body metabolizes when you follow it, these by-products are known as “Ketone Bodies” or “Ketones”.
It is the magical alternative feul of our body when blood glucose levels are really low or non-existent!
- If you are starving.
- When you are in intermittent fasting.
- when you don’t eat enough carbohydrates (its simplest form is glucose).
- If you eat too much fat in the absence of carbohydrates and with a relative amount of proteins for at least 3 -7 days.
- If you are a diabetic and do not watch out for your insulin shots and food intake.
In these conditions your body relies on ketone bodies as its fuel.
When you go into ketosis, your liver breaks down fatty acids into ketone bodies, these ketones replace glucose as the main fuel source for your body and specifically your brain.
As your brain can exclusively use glucose as its main source of energy, ketone bodies are unique as they can cross the blood brain barrier, forcing your brain to use them instead of the deficient glucose.
What does ketosis do to your body?
When your body relies completely on ketone bodies as its main source of energy, for at least 3 days, your body responds by starting to burn more fats so it can supply the brain with more ketone bodies to function properly.
So instead of burning glycogen (stored form of glucose) your body goes directly to burning the stubborn fats! so you start losing weight, pound after pound quicker than you ever expected.
In ketosis, since your brain can use it as a fuel source, your brain is alert and focused and sharp unlike other low caloric diets where glucose levels simply drop and offers no alternative to the brain!
And what’s more important, your brain stops giving signals that it is hungry!
Basic rules of ketogenic diet:
To reach ketosis there are a certain rule that should be followed to ensure that you hit it quickly, efficiently and with minimal side effects.
Ketogenic diet basics: The 7 basic rules:
Basic Rule #1:
Your diet should depend entirely on fats, almost 65-80% of your diet should come from organic, unsaturated and monosaturated fats.
Less then 5% of your caloric intake should come from carbohydrates.
And almost 15-20% of your diet should include protein whether animal or plant sources of it.
This percentage is crucial to enter nutritional ketosis not ketoacidosis.
Basic Rule #2:
All your food sources should be organic and natural, because trans-fat, processed food and food full of preservatives can totally ruin the ketonic state.
Basic Rule #3:
You must be cleared by your doctor to follow ketogenic diet. To avoid any complications or side effects or unforeseen problems, your doctor should examine you thoroughly and make sure you don’t have any disease or health risk that could be worsened by ketogenic diet.
Basic rule #4:
Avoid all sources of carbohydrates, including pasta, bread, rice, legumes, grains and fruits.
Basic rule #5:
Drink zero carbs beverages! no more soda, no more juices and no more sweeteners or flavors!
Basic rule #6:
If you suffer from any side effect or unusual symptom, call your nutritionist and ask for immediate help or advise.
Basic rule #7:
If you don’t know the macronutrients’ contents of any food you are eating, simply use an application like MyFitnessPal to help you with that, or learn how to read nutritional facts here.
But what are the benefits of ketogenic diet? Why should I follow such a restrictive diet? The 7 benefits:
- Weight loss:
Not only do you lose weight, you lose it quickly.
- Burns fat:
Ketogenic diet offers a very unique weight loss method, as it directly makes you lose the excess fats not muscles.
- No more hunger and cravings:
Unlike other diets, ketogenic diet fuels the brain too, so it never feels hungry or craves junk food. Because Ketone bodies suppresses the hunger hormone called Ghrelin. These findings still need more evidence-based studies to prove.
- Decreases inflammation:
Ketogenic diet enhances the quantity and quality of antioxidants in our body and also decreased free radicals’ production. This directly reduces inflammatory responses and their subsequent health risks.
- Memory boost and focused brain:
Ketones provide a unique source of energy to your brain, improving its functions and performance so you can stay more focused, alert, sharp and with an extra memory boost.
- Decreases health risk:
Losing weight, directly influences your overall health and decreases many health risks. Also, it improves insulin sensitivity and decreases bad cholesterol this means less cardiovascular risks.
- Diabetes and cancer treatment:
More studies are needed regarding this observation, as many small-scale studies has claimed that ketogenic diet can help treat diabetes type 2 by improving insulin sensitivity and controlling blood sugar levels. while other studies suggest that with ketogenic diet anti-inflammatory properties and anti-oxidants production, it can force cancer cells into programmed cell death and eventually remission.
Ketogenic diet basics: why not?! The 7 downfalls!
Since there is no magical solution for everything yet, ketogenic diet albeit all its benefits carry some disadvantages in its regimen. Which include:
- Keto-flu symptoms:
If you suddenly cut your carbs, you may suffer from fatigue, dizziness, loss of focus, gastric upsets. This side effect is temporary and you pass through by drinking lots of water and as soon as you hit ketosis.
- Dehydration and muscle cramps:
If you don’t drink enough water, you risk dehydration because fats don’t store fats like carbs do. So, your kidneys have hard times excreting body’s waste.
- Constipation or diarrhea:
If you don’t eat enough fibers in your diet, you risk constipation. And the sudden increase in fat intake lets you suffer episodes of diarrhea.
- Measure ketone bodies levels:
Having to make sure on daily basis that you are still in ketosis, means that you have to measure its blood, urine levels on daily basis which is very troublesome for many.
- Restrictive nature:
It may seem easy at first to cut carbs and you feel like it’s a piece of cake. but not for all! Some really like their carbs and cutting it off so suddenly makes them itch for their carbs in the middle of the diet and lose everything on a whim!
Ketogenic diet is not a lifestyle change. It is a regimen to help you los weight, unlike veganism and following a paleo diet that means you have a philosophical idea behind this diet that you have to follow even if you get weak sometimes.
- Lack of evidence-based studies:
Ketogenic diet is a relatively new regimen, it has not yet been studies for all its aspects especially its long-term effects.
Diet life advice:
Now that we have laid out all the basics about ketogenic diet, you can decide for yourself if ketogenic diet really suits you or not, is the diet you can follow to lose those stubborn fats or would you prefer to follow other regimens for weight loss.