Keto Diet 101

At the beginning of every year, wе аrе tоld thаt detoxification, dіеtіng аnd new mеmbеrѕhір іn the gym are the keys tо a ѕuссеѕѕful nеw year. It seems that everyone is trying to lose weight as quickly as possible and any diet that can promise a rapid weight loss is what they are willing to try. Intro: the Ketogenic Diet. The ketogenic diet (often abbreviated to just “keto”) provides certain health benefits, ranging from weight loss to greater mental focus. But is it backed by science? Should you follow the crowd or stay away? Let’s go deeper.

What is the ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet consists of a feeding pattern that is high in fat, moderate in protein and low in carbohydrates. It is usually rich in foods such as eggs, meats, nuts, butters, cheeses, seeds, oils and some low-carb vegetables. It does not allow fruits, grains, potatoes, sweets or other foods rich in carbohydrates. A common distribution is to eat 5% of the total calories from carbohydrates, 20% from proteins and 75% from fats. Depending on your caloric needs, this only allows between 20 and 50 grams of carbohydrates per day!

Thе gеnеrаl рrеmіѕе оf thе kеtоgеnіс dіеt іѕ tо produce kеtоnе bodies, whісh аrе mеtаbоlіtеѕ оf fаttу acids and use thеm іnѕtеаd оf gluсоѕе to feed the cells. The ketogenic diet was first adopted as a treatment for people with epilepsy in the 1920s, as it was shown to reduce seizure activity in some patients.

How is it supposed to work?

Let’s start with explaining carbohydrates first. When you eat a carbohydrate, which is found in anything from oatmeal to soft drinks and tomatoes, it breaks down into glucose. The main role of glucose is to provide energy for all our bodily processes. Your body is much less discriminatory than you might believe – it uses the carbohydrates from a tomato, a cookie or gum in the same way: to create energy! (Of course, there are different benefits of a tomato versus a cookie or a gummy. We know!). However, we store glucose in different ways: as glycogen in the liver and muscle tissue, and the extra glucose gets coverted and stored as fat.

Glucose is the main fuel for almost every cell in our body. Our brain, the central nervous system, and the developing red blood cells all prefer glucose over any other source. When you exercise or have not eaten for a while, your body will break down your glycogen pool for energy quickly.

Now, what happens when you run out of glycogen? Big question! If a person does not replenish their glycogen stores, their body will break down protein and fat for energy. What is the problem? The cells of the brain cannot use them. This is where ketones come in. When there are no more carbohydrates left that provide energy, the body will begin to produce ketone bodies, which can provide energy for most types of cells. As ketones are produced, the accumulation of ketones in the body is known as ketosis.

Here are some known weight-loss benefits of a keto diet according to studies:
• Easier to restrict calories
• Less water retention
• Appetite control

And just like everything in life, there are some downsides:
• Decreased athletic performance
• Keto “flow”, which is the response your body gives during the diet adjustment. People tend to feel unwell during this period.
• Nutrition deficiencies of the vitamins and minerals that are found in carbs such as fruits and grains.

From the early understanding of the keto research and literature, it looks like we’re just scratching the surface understanding some of the potential therapeutic roles of the keto diet. While it’s unclear if it’s any better or worse than any other diet for weight loss, the reality is that there is no one-size-fits-all model for diets.

Our advice? If you like carbs, don’t swear them off entirely. Rather, find ways to choose the most satiating versions of them to fuel you. And if you want to give keto a try, get in touch with a registered dietitian to help you work through the diet correctly and in a healthy manner or do some research and see if it is for you.