The keto or ketogenic diet sets the health world ablaze. You probably already know a bit about the diet. Let’s clear up a few basic questions.
WHAT IS THE KETO DIET?
It is a very high-fat, very low-carb, and moderate-protein diet that will put your body in a state of ketosis. Some say that it has been in place for millennia—the earliest man ate mostly fats and proteins. When comparing it to other plans, many keto dieters say they have achieved greater weight loss, feel full longer, have improved energy, and have fewer cravings. Keto diets vary in the specific nutrient breakdown, but most of the calories you’ll eat per day will come from dietary fat sources—about 70 percent of your total daily intake. There’s a fair amount of data to support the use of the keto diet to aid in the management of pediatric seizure disorders, and some early research that suggests there may be a benefit to some at risk for type 2 diabetes.
WHAT IS KETOSIS?
When your body is using fat as its main source of energy, your body enters a state called ketosis. When you are limiting your carbohydrate intake to around 10 percent, this metabolic state is initiated.
HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?
When fat is digested and broken down in the body, it produces usable energy called ketone bodies, or ketones. This fat can come directly from the food you eat, or from the breakdown of your fat stores.
Typically, carbohydrates are converted to glucose and are used as fuel to run the body. Once glucose supplies are depleted—about two to three days into the keto diet—your body will begin using ketones for fuel instead. The breakdown of fat into energy is similar to the process that dietary carbohydrates undergo when producing glucose to keep your vital organs up and running. So if we’re doing a math equation: Ketones are to fat what glucose is to carbohydrates. Clinically, ketosis is defined as having blood ketone levels above 0.5 mmol/L.
When you’re on a ketogenic diet, your body becomes efficient at burning fat for energy. Since fat contains more than double the calories per gram of carbs or protein (9 calories/1 gram of fat compared to 4 calories/1 gram of carb or protein), you will need to eat far less to feel full. Keto diets may also impact your body’s hunger hormones, which can make you feel less inclined to graze while you’re on the plane. Additionally, since your body readily burns the fat it has stored (the fat you might be trying to shed), it may help with weight-loss efforts. Prioritizing fat for energy may help you maintain stable blood sugar levels, avoiding the energy highs and lows that can occur when eating refined carbs.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES?
The water and electrolyte loss your body will experience on this diet can raise your risk of dehydration, which brings on the “keto flu” that most people experience when first starting the diet. You may feel muscle soreness, headache, and constipation and become moody and lethargic, and have difficulty focusing. You’ll need to take dietary supplements for the vitamins and minerals you aren’t getting from fruit, grains, and starchy veggies, which could raise your risk of disease and bone loss. Note that if and when you go off the diet the hormone shifts you experienced that suppress appetite will be reversed—meaning you may be hungrier than you were before you started (and thus reverse your weight loss). The keto diet is not for everyone, and we strongly recommend that you consult your physician before starting this plan, especially if you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or rely on exogenous insulin and/or certain types of oral hypoglycemics for disease management.
WHAT ARE RATIOS?
Keto is based on ratios of macronutrients, a.k.a. protein, carbs, and fat. Each provides energy (calories) per gram consumed. Keto dieters aim to receive at least 70 percent of their calories from fat. About 20 percent should come from protein and the remaining 10 percent from carbs. The number of calories you should eat depends on a few factors, including
• Lean body mass
• Physical activity and activities of daily living
•The thermic effect of food or the energy your body requires to digest and absorb the food you eat
Many ketogenic-based macro calculators are available online, like and. Plugin your desired outcome (e.g., weight loss or weight maintenance) and get estimates for your calorie needs. Tracking may help with accountability and can aid in your progress since it provides a visual record of what you’re consuming each day.
SO HOW DO I START EATING KETO?
When planning your daily meals, think eggs or protein-enriched smoothies for breakfast, frittatas or salads for lunch, and fish, steak, or chicken (often with a yummy sauce) with greens or other low-carb vegetables for dinner. But what about dessert? Berries and dairy-rich options are always good picks. When you need a snack or to get your keto ratios up, pop one of our fat bombs. Grains, starchy veggies, and sweeter fruits are off-limits.
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