So you’ve heard the term ketogenic diet around the gym watering hole a few times, and curiosity has gotten the best of you. Now you want to know – What is a ketogenic diet and why are so many people subscribing to this new way of eating? What are the benefits and drawbacks to following a keto diet? Should you try eating keto? Don’t worry, we’ve done the research and asked the experts and now we’re ready to share the answers with you.
What Is The Ketogenic Diet?
Ketogenic Diet Origin
The ketogenic diet was originally designed to treat difficult to control epilepsy in children. It is based on high-fat, low carb, and adequate protein, intake. The key aspect that makes the ketogenic diet different than other nutritional plans is that it forces the body to rely on ketone bodies as an energy source rather than glucose.
Ketone bodies are created from fat in the liver when there are very few carbohydrates present in the diet to pull from. These ketone bodies are then sent through the bloodstream to the brain to create energy. This process has no reason to occur in a diet which contains adequate carbohydrates because glucose is present and able to be used as energy instead. This is why keto diets are so heavily focused around minimizing the dietary intake of carbohydrates.
When ketone bodies in the bloodstream are elevated the body goes into a state of ketosis which causes the frequency and duration of epileptic seizures to be reduced.
Everyday Ketogenic Diet
Just because the ketogenic diet was created to help control epilepsy in children doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have have everyday value as well. Aside from providing general health benefits, the ketogenic diet has been shown to help control and even improve chronic illnesses.
Before attempting to treat yourself using the ketogenic diet, talk to your doctor or a licensed dietary professional to ensure that the process won’t make your condition worse. This will also ensure that you are proceeding with the diet properly.
The nutrient balance of a ketogenic diet allows for it to be considered a sustainable diet, despite the fact that the intake of the carbohydrate macronutrient is drastically limited. Carbohydrates are considered a macronutrient because the glucose that they contain is used by the body to create energy, which is required for basic human functioning. In theory that means that carbohydrates are also required to function.
Upon discovery that ketone bodies were also able to be used by the body for energy, when carbohydrates were limited, carbohydrates became all but obsolete. As most fruits and vegetables contain carbohydrates, it is unlikely that any diet will completely eliminate them, however eliminating processed grains from your diet is a great way to reduce the amount of carbohydrates in your diet.
Why Are So Many People Going Keto?
There are many personal reasons a person may decide to commit to a ketogenic diet. The three most common reasons people give to starting and maintaining a keto diet though are: weight loss, increased energy, and improved quality of life.
Body Fat Weight Loss
It may seem illogical to increase your fat intake if you’re trying to reduce your body fat and increase your muscle mass, but numerous studies show that a low-carb diet reduces fat at a faster rate than a low-fat diet. Following a low-carb, high-fat diet allows you to burn more fat for fuel, while much of the fat that you consume in your diet is converted by your liver to amino acids and ketone bodies and used for additional energy.
To increase body fat weight loss even more, you can try cutting out just a few of your fats and replacing them with lean protein options. Protein is mainly used by the body to build and repair muscles, bones, and skin; digest food and activate metabolism; and help make neurotransmitters and hormones. In addition, protein can also be used to make energy when carbohydrates and fats are limited in the diet.
Carbohydrates are broken down by the body to create glucose, a sugar that is then used by the body for energy production. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and green vegetables, complete this process slowly throughout the day so that your blood sugar remains fairly stable. Simply carbohydrates, such as refined grains and fruit juices, complete this process faster and cause dramatic spikes and dips in blood sugar. These quick glucose changes cause a severe decrease in energy frequently referred to as ‘sugar crashes’.
Reducing your overall carbohydrate intake reduces your risk of experiencing a sugar crash, and energy depletion, making you feel as though you have more energy throughout the day. Carbohydrates are replaced by fats that provide a more stable blood sugar level, and thus more consistent energy levels.
When you consume average amounts of fats and carbohydrates the body has no reason to use protein as an energy source, but cutting your carbohydrate intake and minimally reducing the amount of fat sources you consume, forces your body to use the additional proteins from your diet to fuel your energy. The process of creating energy from protein is more complicated than creating energy from carbohydrates (glucose) or fats (fatty acids), which means that it takes the body more time. This creates a more stable and long lasting energy source.
Improved Quality of Life
Starting and maintaining a ketogenic diet can reduce the likelihood that you develop risk factors for cardiovascular disease. As cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the world, reducing risk factors such as: high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, and abdominal obesity, can not only improve the quality of your life, but may also increase the longevity of your life.
A stronger heart, higher energy levels, less body fat, better sleep, and sharper focus are just a few of the life enhancing benefits that you can look forward to on a keto diet. Remember that to reap all of these benefits though you must follow the keto diet correctly, and or order to do that safely it is important to talk to your doctor or licensed dietary professional before committing to these eating habits.
Are There Any Drawbacks To Eating Keto?
Over a longer period of time, the ketogenic diet can negatively affect your health. To achieve the proper ratio balance between fat, carbs, and protein, people often turn to foods that are high in fat but low in protein and carbohydrates, which also tend to be high in saturated fat. Saturated fats play a role in increasing your risk of developing heart disease. So while a short-term keto diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, a long-term keto diet could increase your risk.
Fortunately (or unfortunately – depending on your personal views) keto diets tend to be difficult to maintain, reducing the likelihood that you’ll suffer long-term effects.
It can be difficult to remain on a strict ketogenic diet and keep your body in ketosis. Unless you are using the diet as a way to control epileptic seizures you may be tempted to stray from your strict restrictions. The standard nutritional guidelines of a keto diet include a ratio of four grams of fat per one gram of carbohydrate or protein, which can make eating anything but pre-made meal prep difficult. Using the ketogenic diet to lose body fat can is effective but difficult, since you must remain in ketosis to achieve maximum progress.
Should You Following The Ketogenic Diet?
Deciding to follow the ketogenic diet is a completely personal choice that should be made only after weighing the pro’s and con’s and of course consulting your doctor or a licensed dietary professional. No one can tell you what type of nutritional diet is safe and healthy for you as an individual except someone who is aware of your medical and psychiatric history.
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