Alright, let’s talk about the Ketogenic diet!
The word ‘diet’ will resonate differently depending on your experience - some may think of a diet as a severely restricting and miserable experience- others may associate the word with positive change, and renewal. Whatever your past experiences bring up, giving the Keto diet a try could have a lasting positive change in your life. Why? Let’s get into the science of the keto diet for a better understanding of why this diet has stuck around for so long and earned the praise of many as a life changing way of eating.
Understanding the Ketogenic diet requires first understanding our bodies natural fuel sources for energy. The primary fuel source of the average person is glucose, or carbohydrates, but the body also utilizes fats and protein for energy. The Keto diet introduces fats as the body's main source of fuel rather than glucose by lowering the carbohydrate intake to around 20 grams, upping the amount of fat in the diet, and keeping protein at a moderate-high intake. Diabetics should avoid the keto diet.
Now for a hard truth - Fat in food does NOT equal fat on the body. An excess of glucose spiking blood sugar and causing the pancreas to produce more insulin is what leads the body to store excess energy (most often from sugar/ carbohydrates) as fat. By lowering your carbohydrate intake, your body will naturally produce more ketones which are the enzymes that target fat as fuel. This is why people will track their ketones to make sure their body is producing enough to signal Ketosis, or, the fat burning state. The old adage of ‘calories in vs. calories out’ still applies, but the body doesn’t react to fat the way it does to carbohydrates. There isn’t a major sugar spike and drop with fats, so we don’t feel the sugar rush and subsequent crash plus cravings that we do when we consume carbohydrates.
Objections to the Ketogenic diet come from people who claim the body cannot function with limited carbohydrates. As long as you have a high intake of healthy fats -NOT Trans fats- then your body will adapt to significantly less carbohydrates. Issues come in when people limit carbs, up their protein, and keep fats at a low to moderate intake or when the fats they substitute come from unhealthy sources (trans fats). Now, everyone is different, what works for some may not work for others, but the Keto diet has worked for numerous people who report various positive changes in addition to bringing down their body fat. These changes include less inflammation, more focus throughout the day, consistent energy, less mood swings and a more restful night’s sleep. These are due to a significant decrease in sugar intake and processed carbohydrates in the diet. The body will transition to utilizing fat, and your carbohydrates you do consume should come mostly from fiber.
So what’s the catch? The first is understanding that the beginning of the keto diet can be challenging because sugar is addicting. That is not a light statement, this is a fact, sugar is an addictive substance. When you lower your carb intake initially, cravings can hit hard - it’s important to remember that this is temporary, drink plenty of water, and know that YOU are in control. In these first few days, energy levels may sink a bit as well. You may find yourself feeling lethargic - again, this is your body changing its rhythm from what it’s been used to for so long. After a few days this will pass, you’ll feel mentally sharper and what people have described as a ‘fog lifting’. After that, it’s staying consistent, eating healthy fats and keeping your carbs low. The more you explore the foods you can eat and get comfortable with trying your favorite dishes with low carb options, you’ll eventually stop feeling like you’re on a diet.
The keto diet isn’t necessarily about eating less, it’s about eating differently. You’ll be eating what your body needs and not what it craves. Your body will be healthier, you’ll feel great and that’s what’s important! Losing body fat is just a bonus.