Dieting has such a major impact on our body goals, performance and even spiritual condition, that it has become a fixed idea to so many of us around the globe. Studies, trials, and discussions never stop and every now and then a new nutritional trend pops out.
In regard to this, we’re going to discuss the process of ketosis and the benefits of a ketogenic diet, which has drawn a lot of attention recently.
What is ketosis?
In its essence, the ketosis is a process, in which the body produces small energy molecules called “ketones” (through fat oxidation). Ketones are alternative fuel for the body that comes in handy in cases of restricted reserves of blood sugar. Ketones are generates in the liver from fats, after which they are used for energy by the body, including the brain. Let’s not forget that the brain requires considerable energy every single day, but it can’t directly use fats to acquire it. Still, the good news is that besides glucose, it can be “fed” via ketones.
With ketosis, you give your brain a consistent and gradual supply of energy (unlike carbs, which cause ups and downs in energy levels). After a few days on a ketosis diet (an adaptation during which you may experience low concentration, headaches and irritability), the brain and the body switch successfully to using ketones for fuel. After that, their cognitive functions and energy improve drastically.
The fastest way to reach ketosis is starvation, but apparently this isn’t the smartest decision. That’s how the ketosis diet was born – a diet with high intake of dietary fats, low consumption of proteins, and almost no carbohydrates. Through such a regime, the body is able to reach ketosis and draw from the benefits of ketosis. Many people find out that the ketogenic diet works for them when they get used to it.
So, what are the benefits of ketogenic diet?
– Losing excessive weight
As most of you might have guessed by now, this is one of the major reasons why people start this eating regime. Carbohydrate restriction for reduced body weight has been in the game for at least 150 years, and contemporary studies continue to support the efficacy and implementation of different low-carb diets.
Then, how do low-carbohydrate diets work and what are the effects of ketogenic diet?
It’s no surprise that carbohydrate reduction has a special effect beyond the modern focus on the consumption of calories. Carbohydrates have the strongest stimulation over the production of the hormone called insulin, which very anabolic, but incites the deposit of fat. Stemming from this, in order to lower our body fat percentage, we need to lower our insulin levels through the reduction of carbs. The main goal of a low-carb diet should be to help the body make changes for the better, not work against it.
Instead of wasting time and testing your will to count your calories while resisting constant hunger, the goal is to help your body get accustomed to craving less food and burning more fat than before (without entering a starvation mode). That is possible thanks to restricting the production of insulin, hormonal improvement and gradual change. So, in a nutshell – switch to ketogenic diet for fat loss if that’s your end game.
– Reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes or improving the condition of diabetics
There are numerous studies and trials that back the ketogenic diet benefits when it comes to improving the condition of diabetes. Those with type 2 diabetes have unordinary high blood sugar, lack of sufficient insulin, or inability of the insulin to transport blood sugar into the cells. And what produces blood sugar? That’s right – carbohydrates! The less carb consumption, the easier it becomes for the body to control the blood sugar levels. There are reports from people with type 2 diabetes saying ketogenic dieting has relieved their medical condition, plus there are individuals with type 1 diabetes claiming they have gained control over their condition by stimulating ketosis.
– Better physical endurance
The benefits of the ketogenic diet include boosting your stamina by providing permanent access to the reserves of energy from body fat. While the deposits of glycogen get depleted in only a few hours of intensive exercise, the energy originating from fats can be enough for weeks to come! The problem is, that when a person’s body is used to using primarily carbohydrates for energy (which is the case with the majority of the population nowadays), fat reserves are not that easily accessible and can’t be used for energy and brain nourishment. As a result, people have to consume more carbs to be in good cognitive shape and get through their daily obligations, hobbies and choirs.
With the ketogenic diet this problem is avoided – after the initial adaptation period, the body begins to efficiently use its fat stores for energy throughout the entire 24 hours of the day! There are however, 2 essential details here.
First – higher intake of liquids and minerals. If you’re on a ketogenics diet it’s very important to drink more fluids, and more specifically – a full glass of water along with ½ tea spoon of sea salt or Himalayan salt, 30 to 60 minutes before workouts. That can boost the quality of your training session, as well as reduce the chance for fatigue.
Second – giving yourself time to get acclimated to the ketogenic diet
Don’t expect immediate and magical results. Don’t expect immediate energy rush or higher endurance right away. You should be patient and allow your body to gradually get used to using ketones for fuel, instead of carbs.
– People on a low-carb ketosis diet report they have improved blood pressure. (1)
– Those that have started a ketogenic food regime tend to have lower LDL cholesterol levels. (2)
– Scientists are not yet entirely sure why, but the benefits of ketogenic diet seem to spread to treating brain and neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, migraines, even brain tumors.
– Epilepsy seizure control is one of the key reasons as to why the ketogenic diet was invented. The efficacy has been proved many times over. Unfortunately, not all results are equal, but most scientific data shows that: in 50% of the people, their symptoms reduce in half. 30% of epileptic sufferers reach a 90% improvement and 5-15% manage to fully overcome their condition. (3, 4)
– The ketosis nutrition plan could be of help in deficiency of GLUT 1. The deficiency of glucose transport 1 is a genetic, neuro-metabolic condition in which the brain doesn’t receive enough glucose, which can lead to faints and loss of cognitive functions. Keto diets are a possible solution, but certain reported complications should be taken under consideration, like high hypertriglyceridemia.
– The answer to the question of “why do the ketogenic diet benefits are so largely concentrated on brain and neurological problems” perhaps lies within the switch from glucose to ketogenic bodies, but the concrete reasons are still to be further studied.
– The keto diet is frequently studied for possible cancer-treating properties, because it weakens cancer cells (5). Unfortunately, at this point, data is quite insufficient and many more research and trials are needed to establish a therapeutic benefit of keto diet in cancer suffering patients.
Which foods take part in the ketogenic diet?
When composing your regime, you should include foods with higher content of protein, particularly high content of healthy fats and very low content of carbohydrates. Here are some of the best types of food while on keto:
- Meat, fillet, ham
- Egg whites (on every 7,8 whites, you should include around 3 yolks)
- Unskimmed cheese, curd
- White fish
- Crabs, crayfish, salmon, squid, clams
- Protein shakes and beverages
- Lactose-free milk products
- Butter and ghee
- Cold pressed vegetable oils, olives, raw extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and coconut manna, cream, roe, home made or organic mayonnaise, soft cheese
- A lot of vegetables
- Nuts and seeds – in smaller quantities (up to 50g daily)
Food you shouldn’t eat (much) in order to keep the keto diet in check:
- Bread and other dough-based foods
How to distribute the intake of different foods when on a ketogenic diet?
The better part of the energy required for sustaining proper body functions originates from fats that oxidize to ketones. That’s the reason for an increased intake of protein during such a diet. The amounts of consumed daily protein in men should be from 2.5 to 3g of protein per 1kg of body weight, and 2-2.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight for women. Food should be divided into 6 to 8 meals throughout each day. First meal should be after an hour you wake up in the morning and should also include larger quantity of water.
Example: An ample portion of salad and an omelette with eggs and cheese. It’s advisable to have a 2 hour pause between the last meal and the start of your training session if you want to burn fats efficiently. 30 minutes after the workout, you should consume more protein, only this time without fats, because they prolong the stay of food in your stomach.
If you don’t have time to cook or eat a protein-rich meal, you can always have a quick grass fed whey protein or vegan protein supplement, or a greater dose of amino acids. To obtain your night intake of protein, you can have a meal that delivers larger quantity of fats and 2 sources of protein. Example: and omelette with white and yellow and a salad. In every 5-7 days it’s advisable to eat 1-2g of carbs per kg of body weight. Carbs should come from low-glycemic foods.
How to process our foods?
All thermal processing methods are allowed, besides over frying. All types of oils, except coconut oil, shouldn’t be used for frying, baking and steaming. Still, you can sprinkle raw, unprocessed vegetable oil over your food once it’s cooked. If you eat nuts and seeds, they should be raw, instead of baked or fried. Vegetables too should be eaten raw, or, if you really wish to process them, you can steam them with just a bit of oil.
What type of workout would be appropriate when you’re on a ketosis diet?
When your body is in a ketosis state, you can still perform different types of workouts, such as: aerobic ( long duration – low intensity fat burning), anaerobic (high-intensity interval training or weight lifting), flexibility (stretching, yoga), stability (isometric exercises, balance and core). Aerobic exercises are the friendlier option if you’re new to ketosis, because they represent cardio at a steady pace. Anaerobic workouts require short, but large energy combustion. These can be weight lifting on HIIT.
Anaerobic training calls for at least moderate levels of glucose, therefore the absence of carbs makes it somewhat harder to regularly have such kind of workouts. If you go too far with pumping the iron in the gym or having a tough, complex circular training, you increase your risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Stopping your workout session before extreme tiredness hit hard is the way to avoid such potentially dangerous condition. Still, in case you over-train and reach such a phase, have some fast carbohydrates. For instance, you can eat 80-100g of black chocolate. After that, you shouldn’t train for the rest of the day.
More about the effects of ketogenic diet
You can observe a quicker and relatively gradual dis assimilation of fat tissue. After 4-8 weeks on ketosis regime, it’s strongly recommended to switch to a maintenance diet that is either a balanced once or a low-carbohydrate one. When you’re on a keto diet, the tricky part is to maintain your insulin levels, which are important for the restoring of your muscle tissue after workout. This makes the nutrition regime very suitable for weight reduction in individuals who have insulin deficiency and have to inject themselves with the hormone.
In people who produce insulin normally, it’s advisable to have 1 high-carbohydrate day each 5-7 days (10 days for men) while on keto. That will allow them to lose less muscle tissue as a result of the diet.
Is a ketogenic diet safe?
In most cases, if you’re a healthy adult, this regime shouldn’t pose a threat to your well-being. Still, despite the fact that you can enjoy the numerous benefits of ketogenic diet, side effects may occur.
Most side effects of ketosis diet might appear if you’re on the classic variation of the diet, due to the complete exclusion of certain types of foods.
Common possible side effects are:
- Constipation (due to lower fiber consumption)
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Unexpected weight reduction/increase
- Increased appetite and hunger (mostly in the first few days while your constitution adjust to the diet)
- Deficiency in certain nutrients – calcium, selenium, zinc, copper, magnesium, vitamin B complex, vitamin D, vitamin C, L-carnitine
- Thyroid problems
- Increased risk of kidney stones
- Change in the lipid profile
To boot, people with rare diseases, such as deficiency of Pyruvate carboxylase, porphyria and other impairment of fat absorption should avoid the diet. In other special conditions, being on keto diet isn’t impossible, but requires additional supervision and control by a specialist.
Even if you’re a regular, healthy individual, you can still experience side effects of ketogenic diet. Remember that from a metabolic point of view, ketosis is the first cousin of hunger. If you’re a women who’s trying to conceive or you’re already pregnant, the ketogenic diet isn’t particularly good for you. Pregnant women or those who’re trying to get pregnant, should be on a balanced diet.
Youngsters and kids aren’t entirely appropriate for a ketosis diet too, because it could slow down their growth.
Furthermore, although rarely, it’s possible to develop a diabetic ketoacidosis. There is a case report involving a 32 year old healthy woman who developed this condition upon being on a low-carbohydrate diet for a while. This note is especially critical for people with diabetes type 1.
We hope we have been useful to you by providing you information about the essence and the benefits of a ketogenic diet. It’s been a very trendy diet and it just might be your type of nutrition program, but please, check with your personal health care provider if this diet is good for you before engaging into it.