What is the keto diet?
The keto diet plan is a low carbohydrate, medium protein , high fat diet. It’s sometimes called the ketogenic diet or the low carb diet.
Your body has to produce a continous supply of enery and it has two ways of doing this. It’s preferred route is to convert the carbohydrates you eat into glucose for energy. The average western diet tends to be carb heavy, and so this is the method that is normally chosen, and there is no need for your body to do anything different. In response to the available glucose, insulin is produced to manage the use of the glucose and to move any excess to be stored for later use.
When you lower your intake of carbs – normally for a keto diet it will be below 20g per day, your body no longer has sufficient carbohydrates to convert into glucose for energy. In response to this, your body will begin to use fat for its energy instead. As your body breaks down fat into an energy source ketones are formed, giving the keto diet it’s name.
You have a store of glucose in your liver which your body will use first, and once this has gone then the process of converting fat will begin. Normally you can expect this to take several days to a week before you are fully in the state of ketosis.
It is this state of ketosis which helps you to burn fat and has so many proven health benefits.
As well as consuming very low carbohydrates, this diet also requires that you eat a medium amount of protein and obtain most of your calories from healthy fats. Foods such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes are out, and the focus is on some meat and fish, above ground vegetables, healthy oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, butter and cream from grass fed cows. Nuts, avocados, eggs and cheese and any other low carb food you enjoy. You eat until you’re full, and calorie counting isn’t necessary. It’s also possible to follow a vegetarian or vegan version of the keto plan.
People choose this diet when they want to lose weight or reverse one of the many health conditions caused by a carb heavy diet. Many people use the plan long term because they enjoy the health benefits and generally feel happier and more energetic when in ketosis.
The original keto diet was developed in the 1920s to control seizures in children with medication resistant epilepsy. Since then, it has been discovered that its other health benefits include controling blood sugar levels and reversing type 2 diabetes. Reducing the risk of developing Alzheimers disease, improving cholersterol levels, inflamation, cognitive function, sleep, high blood pressure, migrains, polycystic ovary disease and depression.
What happens to your body once you’re in ketosis
Once you have been following the keto diet for a few days – this varies from person to person- then your body will be in a state of ketosis. That is to say, without its regular supply of glucose which is produced by the carbs in your diet, your body has switched to its alternative supply of fuel. When glucose levels drop, levels of insulin in the blood also drop and the body out of necessity, turns to your own fat stores to supply its energy needs.
This is good news if you are hoping to lose some of your stored fat, but you will certainly feel the health benefits too. With the body using its own fat stores for energy, your energy levels will remain stable throughout the day. There won’t be the ups and downs associated with fluctuations in blood sugar. No more mid-afternoon slump.
When blood sugar levels drop this normally signals to your body that you’re hungry. With ketosis there is a big reduction in hunger as your blood sugar levels remain more stable throughout the day. You will find that you are not needing to eat as often as you would normally, and the high fat intake will leave you feeling full for much longer.
This is a diet that is as much about getting healthy as it is about weight loss.
Myths about the keto diet plan
There are many myths doing the rounds of the internet, and here are a few of them:
- This is a high protein diet and therefor “bad” for your kidneys – no it is not. The keto plan is moderate protein, and you can work out how much protein you need based on your weight.
- You cannot live forever on this diet – you can and there is plenty of evidence of people living this way for many years. Some people choose to come on and off the diet, or only do it for a short while. It all depends on your goals.
- You need to base your diet on carbohydrates – false. We all need some carbs, but nothing like the amount usually eaten on today’s western diet There are many studies showing that too many carbs cause weight gain and multiple health problems.
- High fat intake will cause heart problems. There is now evidence that this is not true, saturated fats are not the baddies they have been labeled as.
Who needs to take extra care when starting a keto diet
There are some people who take medication for diabetes or high blood pressure who do need the help of a doctor to manage their condition if they start this diet. That isn’t to say that they cannot do keto ( this diet is of huge benefit to these groups) but they will need to adjust their medication as this diet will affect blood sugar, and alter salt levels, particularly during the first few days. This groups of people will need to adjust their medication as they continue with their keto diet.
What’s not to love?
Being on a keto diet can seem restrictive, and not everyone will want to be on it for years on end. Some people will have a weight loss goal and be happy to introduce more carbs once they are at their preferred goal. Others who are using the keto diet to manage health problems will be more likely to want to stay on it long term. This is especially true of people who find they are feeling healthier and happier than they have felt in a long time.
It really does depend on your reasons for wanting to try the keto diet in the first place. For me the benefits were quick and dramatic. Giving up certain foods such as bread may be difficult, but the gains far outweigh any temporary inconveniece experienced in the beginning.
As you learn more about this diet, you will find out for yourself how long you want to stay on it. Some cycle in and out of ketosis, and this certainly gets easier once your body is fully adapted to burning fat for fuel. Others like to stay on it full time, for several months to many years.
There is plenty of wriggle room for exactly how long you want the keto lifestyle. As long as the correct amount of carbs, protein and fats are eaten then how you reach your individual goals will depend on your personal food preferences.
Use this keto calculator to help you to work out how many grams of carbs, protein and fat you need daily. These are known as your macros, and are worked out with regard to your weight, height, activity level and desired goal. For example, are you wanting to lose weight or maintain weight but deal with some ongoing health issues.
Thousands of people have discovered the amazing benefits of being on a keto diet, and have seen how easy it is to lose weight and feel healthier. Many have seen long-standing health problems reversed and reduced their risk of cognitive decline as they get older.
So, is there anything not to love? I don’t think so, and here I want to give you all the information you need to start or continue with your keto journey to a healthier and longer life.
Take a look around the site, there are articles about keto foods, getting started, the health benefits and much more. I regularly add new posts so check back often.
If you have any suggestions or comments I’d love to hear them.
All the best,