The Keto Diet & You: What You Should Know
Ketogenic diets were often prescribed by physicians as a treatment for epileptic patients in the 1920s. As modern medicine progressed throughout the 20th century, pharmaceutical anti-epileptic treatments were developed; making Ketogenic diets a much less popular choice.
In search of new ways to improve our health through diet, the Keto diet has surged in popularity once again. Backed by credible evidence in physiological and nutritional science, this long-standing diet has true merit. (1)
**Ketogenic diets are not intended to be a long-term lifestyle diet. Please check with your physician before starting any new dietary regimen.**
This information will guide you through what a Ketogenic Diet is, and how it may help you.
- Ketogenic is defined as the forming, or ability to stimulate the production of Ketone bodies. (2)
- A Ketogenic diet is reducing or restricting foods that have sugar and starch in them.
These types of foods are known as carbohydrates, and they are broken down into sugar in our blood when digested. If our sugar (insulin and glucose) levels become too high, the extra calories are more easily stored as unwanted body fat.
A Ketogenic diet focuses on carbohydrate restriction to effectively cut off glucose levels. This allows your body to begin burning excess fat instead and produces Ketones that can be measured in our blood. Most diets are normally quite high in carbohydrates and use sugar (or glucose) to make our energy. However, on a Ketogenic diet, your body will use stored fat to make energy.
Ketogenic diets can assist with rapid weight and fat loss, even when a large number of calories are consumed. Today’s version of the Keto diet is different than the one used years ago as a medical treatment for epilepsy. The modern Keto diet centers around eating healthier fats and less protein overall. Processed meats are eliminated completely from Ketogenic diets as well. (3)
There are 4 types of Ketogenic diets:
- Standard Ketogenic diet (SKD) – the standard Ketogenic diet made up of 75% fat/20% protein/ 5% carbs
- Cyclical Ketogenic diet (CKD) – this diet utilizes periods of higher carbohydrate intake (ex. 5 Ketogenic days/2 high-carb days)
- Targeted Ketogenic diet (TKD) – this type of Ketogenic diet follows the SKD and allows for additional carbohydrates about 30 min. to 1 hour before workouts or training.
- High-Protein Ketogenic diet – Very similar to the standard version of a Ketogenic diet but uses a higher ratio of protein. The most common higher-protein diet ratios are 60% fat/35% protein/5% carbs.
** Note: Only the standard and high-protein diets have been studied thoroughly. The standard Ketogenic diet is the most widely used. The cyclical and targeted Ketogenic considered more advanced, and mostly utilized by athletes. (4)
Adopting a Ketogenic lifestyle can set you on the path to reaching your health goals. As with any lifestyle change, there is usually a learning curve before it becomes second nature. Beginning a Ketogenic diet can be easier with informative tips that can help make the transition less challenging.
Here are our Top 10 guidelines to make a Ketogenic diet work for you:
- Scale Numbers – The success of a Ketogenic diet is not dictated by scale numbers. Weight can fluctuate several times within a single day.
- Include Fats – Fats are necessary to achieve Ketosis. A Ketogenic diet uses fat to create energy for our bodies.
- Healthy Fats – Healthy, saturated fats are the best options to achieve nutritionally sound Ketosis.
- High Protein Ratios – Protein is essential to the healthy function of our bodies. However, eating too much protein will negatively affect your body’s state of Ketosis. Our bodies will convert the excess protein into glucose (sugar) and use it for fuel; disrupting our fat-burning state of Ketosis.
- Wholesome Foods – Prepackaged foods wrapped in plastic or cardboard are not considered wholesome, or fresh. Processed foods cannot compete with fresh, healthy ingredients and lack the vital nutrition our bodies need.
- Immediate Weight-Loss – A Ketogenic diet should not be used to drop weight quickly. A Ketogenic lifestyle is managing and maintaining a healthy weight long-term.
- Scheduling Meals – Ketogenic diets are not focused on planned meal times. The Keto diet is most effective when you listen to your body’s needs. Mealtime should be dictated by hunger.
- Sodium Levels – Maintaining proper sodium levels while on a Ketogenic diet is important. Keto diets drastically reduce the insulin levels that help your fat cells to store fat and help the kidneys to store sodium. Lower insulin levels mean less sodium. Keep sodium levels in check by seasoning your food with salt.
- Comparison – No two people will have the exact same result on a Ketogenic diet. Do not focus on matching your progress with others. Body chemistry is uniquely individual to each person. A Keto lifestyle will yield results meant specifically for your body.
- Support – Transitioning to a Keto lifestyle takes motivation and commitment. Having others who have adopted a Keto lifestyle to offer support, and help guide you through your transition, can help you achieve the success you want.
Ketogenic diets are high-fat, moderate protein, and low-carb. High-fat diets do not have to be unhealthy. Listed below are the good, healthy fats to focus on adding to your diet.
The Top 10 healthy fats:
- Healthy oils like coconut and olive oils
- Greek yogurt
- Sour cream
- Cream cheese
- Fish oils
- Animal fats (5)
Ketones are a secondary fuel for our bodies when there is a low level of glucose. They are made in the liver from the breakdown of fats. This usually takes place overnight, or during fasting. Fat is released from our cells when our insulin levels are low, but our glucagon and epinephrine levels are stable.
Once the fats travel to the liver, they are processed into Ketone units. These Ketones then circulate back through our bloodstream, muscle, and tissues to become fuel for our metabolism. (6)
Ketones are not new by any means. Throughout history, our ancestors survived by way of eating when they were able to. Hunting for food sources did not always mean daily meals. It is believed that when food was scarce, our bodies developed the ability to burn fat as an alternative fuel to sustain life. Thus, the first crude form of the Ketogenic diet was born.
Today we have a wide assortment of foods available to us, letting us eat when, where, and what we want throughout our day. There is an overabundance of processed, sugar-laden foods in most of our diets. Relying on sugar as our body’s primary fuel source is detrimental to our metabolic state and reduces our ability to produce Ketones.
When our bodies run on sugar, it can negatively affect us in many ways. Massive blood sugar spikes can lead to increased inflammation, hormonal imbalance, and unwanted chronic conditions that have a major impact on our health. If we opt for a more Ketogenic way of eating, our bodies can begin to burn our unwanted fat to fuel our metabolism. (7)
Exogenous Ketone bodies are simply Ketone bodies that are ingested into our systems through a supplement. The Ketone bodies that are produced in our livers are known as endogenous Ketone bodies.
There are 3 different Ketones that we produce naturally in our bodies:
- Acetoacetic Acid
- Beta-Hydroxybutyric Acid (also known as Beta Hydroxybutyrate or BHB).
Though not technically considered a Ketone, BHB functions like a Ketone in our bodies and will convert into energy like acetone and acetoacetate. Nutritional supplements use BHB as the essence of their exogenous Ketone bodies, and supplements rely on BHB to provide the user with an instant supply of Ketones.
This can raise blood Ketones even if you are not consuming a diet of low or no carbohydrates. There are 2 reasons why BHB is the most common source of Ketone bodies in nutritional supplements:
- BHB effectively converts into energy
- It is easy to formulate
Exogenous Ketones allow our bodies to efficiently convert BHB into acetoacetic acid, which presumably can raise our blood Ketone levels. (8)
Raspberry Ketones are the naturally occurring chemical compound that gives raspberries their appealing color and scent. Other berries like cranberries and blackberries possess this natural chemical as well. These types of Ketones can be used to flavor foods or give cosmetic products a berry scent.
Recently, Raspberry Ketones have also been touted as a weight-loss product. Companies that choose to market their raspberry Ketone product to be associated with, or as a form of exogenous Ketones, are capitalizing on the weight-loss market due to the word “Ketone” being associated with Ketogenic diets.
Ketogenic diets do not advocate the use of Raspberry Ketones to assist in weight-loss. To date, there is no scientific research backing raspberry Ketones as a singular ingredient for fat-loss. In fact, the only studies that show any promising results were animal studies. Life Sciences published a study done in 2005 to assess if raspberry Ketones assist in weight-loss and activate lipid metabolism in rodents.
The doses that were used for the animal studies were extremely high- over 200 times higher than an average daily dose for humans. As there are no conclusive human studies involving the exclusive use of only raspberry Ketones for weight-loss, Raspberry Ketones are not the best choice for fat-loss or weight management. A nutrient-rich diet, exercise, and making healthy lifestyle choices, will yield the best results.
Keto diets are now surging in popularity as a healthy way to “retrain” your body to utilize fat as a fuel source, instead of sugar. While an excellent choice for those looking to improve their health and manage their weight; can Ketogenic diets offer athletes a performance advantage?
Athletes traditionally rely on higher carbohydrate intakes to fuel their most intense workouts. Targeted Ketogenic diets (TKD) are a variation of standard Keto diets that offer more of a tailored level of carbohydrates to suit athletes that want to maintain high-performance levels while keeping their metabolism in a state of Ketosis.
Targeted Ketogenic diets focus on maintaining similar ratios of protein and fat while allowing for higher carbohydrate intakes before training. Recently, a 2015 study was published by Dr. Jeff Voltek, lead researcher, and professor of human sciences at Ohio State University, about the success of Keto-adapted endurance athletes. The study used a targeted Keto diet for their low-carb test group, with ratios of 70% fat/ 19% protein/ 10% carbs, respectively.
Here were the findings:
- The low-carb test group of athletes was able to maintain higher intensity during their training sessions by utilizing fat instead of carbohydrates.
- The low-carb athletes’ fat-burning rates were twice as high as the high-carb athletes’ fat-burning rates.
- A surprise finding within this study was that the low-carb athletes’ muscle glycogen levels remained normal.
- The low-carb athletes also broke down almost the same level of glycogen as the high-carb athletes and produced the same level of glycogen in their muscles during recovery as the high-carb athletes.
Glycogen is defined as a substance deposited in bodily tissues as a store of carbohydrates. It has long been known to be a critical source of energy for athletes, which has led to emphasizing high-carb diets to support the energy needs of athletes during intense training.
This study allowed for higher carbohydrate levels in the low-carb test group which may have led to these findings. The higher level of carbohydrates may have contributed to the increased energy and endurance. It also tested athletes that had been on a Ketogenic diet for an average of 20 months. This may have assisted the Keto-adapted athletes in retaining a state of metabolic Ketosis even with increased carbohydrate intakes.
The targeted Keto diet may be a better option overall for athletes wanting to maintain the energy to perform at a higher intensity for a longer period of time. Without a higher carbohydrate intake during these sessions, athletes may not be able to sustain the energy needed to complete the training or workout session. (10)
The Keto diet is a healthy diet that may offer quick weight-loss for you, due to the restriction of carbohydrates. However, there are several things to keep in mind when starting a Ketogenic diet.
Registered dieticians like Kristen Mancinelli, RD, a New York City-based dietician, believe that no two people will have the exact same results while on a Keto diet. Everyone is different, and our individual body chemistry will be the deciding factor in how your body responds to adhering to a Ketogenic diet.
There are several health benefits to eating a Keto diet:
- A recent study conducted at the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Padova, Italy, found that reducing carbohydrate intakes can actually lead to significant total cholesterol reduction, increased HDL levels, and a reduction of blood triglycerides. This reduction of LDL cholesterol plays a significant role in reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease.
- Your metabolism may increase- Ketogenic diets have demonstrated decreased appetite overall.
- Keto diets can help eliminate excess water from the body, due to the reduction of carbohydrate intake; often leading to rapid weight-loss within the first few weeks.
- Low-carb diets like Ketogenic diets can lead to more fat-loss than low-fat diets and higher fat-loss from the abdominal cavity overall.
When initially starting a Ketogenic diet, you may experience what is often referred to as the “Keto flu”. This usually occurs during the first week, as your body adjusts to eating a high-fat, low-carb diet.
Symptoms of the “Keto Flu” include:
- Body aches
- “Brain fog”- or foggy thinking
Experiencing these flu-like symptoms is a result of the transition your body is undergoing as it adjusts to using stored fat for energy, instead of carbohydrates (sugar).
To avoid prolonged symptoms, additional supplements can offer relief during your transition:
- Nutritional yeast contains many of the necessary B vitamins and trace minerals, such as selenium, manganese, zinc, and molybdenum, that your body will need to help alleviate these symptoms.
- A vitamin B-5 supplement- nutritional yeast does not contain B5.
- Electrolyte powder- this powder contains 1000 mgs. of the potassium your body needs to help reach a state of Ketosis.
These recommended supplements will assist your body to transition into Ketosis and can ease any symptoms you may experience.
Ketogenic diets also affect our bodily processes by altering the way our bodies manage water and electrolytes. Keto diets restrict carbohydrate intakes, which lead to less insulin production and depleted glycogen stores. As these glycogen stores are diminished, the stored water in our bodies is flushed out of our systems; draining levels of important electrolytes as well.
Electrolytes are specific nutrients that are vital to bodily functions like:
- Muscle contractions
- Energy production
- Bladder control
- Heartbeat regulation
- Body temperature control
- Neurological functions
The four essential electrolytes are:
All four of these key electrolytes are necessary to maintain proper bodily functions. An electrolyte imbalance or deficiency can lead to symptoms such as:
- Weakness, dizziness and shaking
- Headaches and/or migraines
- Leg cramps and/or other muscle cramps
- Bloating and constipation issues
Remember that not everyone will be affected by these symptoms as they transition to a Keto diet. You can decrease your chances of experiencing these symptoms by keeping hydration and electrolyte levels in check with the supplements mentioned above.
Allow yourself to mentally prepare for the possibility of experiencing Keto flu and remember that these symptoms are only temporary– your body will adjust.
Excessive amounts of anything can do more harm than good. This includes common factors that can negatively affect our bodies, and interrupt our state of Ketosis.
Our Top 11 factors that can take you out of Ketosis:
- Stress – activates cortisol (stress hormone) and increases blood glucose.
- Refined Carbohydrates – can cause blood sugar spikes in our systems
- Bone Broth – excess amounts contain enough protein to alter Keto daily protein ratio.
- Excess Caffeine – substantial amounts of caffeine can activate adrenaline and insulin.
- MSG – (modified food starch) raises glucose (sugar) levels, can trigger “cravings”.
- Artificial Sweeteners – substantial amounts can raise insulin levels.
- Excess Protein – exceeds Keto protein ratios and spikes insulin.
- Keto Desserts (too many) – leads to excessive consumption of artificial sweeteners.
- Carbohydrates – exceeds Keto carb ratios and can spike insulin.
- Cold & Flu Medications – contain sugars and alcohol which also breaks down into sugar.
- Alcohol – contains sugar and carbs, disrupts Ketone production.
By keeping these factors in check, you can assist your body in achieving Ketosis successfully.
Ketogenic diets seem to be most effective within the first 6 months. These types of diets which dramatically restrict or even eliminate certain food groups can sometimes be difficult to maintain long-term.
This type of diet was not designed to be a “forever” diet. Research is still in the earliest stages on the use of Ketogenic diets as a long-term lifestyle, and there is not enough information on how the body will react by eating a Ketogenic diet for an extended period of time. However, when transitioning back to a familiar dietary routine, you may notice that your taste preferences might have changed.
As a result of eating a diet that consists of so few carbohydrates; you might not “crave” as many carbs, and some foods may initially seem extremely sweet. Try to avoid excess carbohydrates and overly-sweetened foods as your body readjusts to a different dietary routine.
Transitioning back to a balanced diet that includes fewer carbs and processed foods, can assist you with maintaining a healthy weight, and help to manage your overall health goals in the future. (11,12,13,14,15)
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