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What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The Ketogenic Diet or "Keto Diet" is a newer eating style that is low on carbs and high in fat. When you first think about diets and weight loss you might not think that eating fat is the real solution. The benefits of this diet are more than just the possibility of weight loss. The purpose of this diet is to result in Ketosis. Ketosis is a natural state in which the body relies on and completely fueled by fat. Ketosis occurs when the body produces "ketones", an alternative source of fuel for the body. Ketones are produced from fat in the liver and used as fuel throughout the body. On a Ketogenic diet it becomes very easy for the body to start using fat as a source of energy which is great for weight loss.
Ketogenic Diet Types
There are a few variations of this diet. This article focuses on the standard Ketogenic diet but I did want to touch base on the other variations.
Standard Ketogenic Diet: Basic low carb and high fat diet with a moderate amount of protein. Diet consists of about 75% fat, 5% carbohydrates and 20% protein. This is the most popular type.
High-protein Ketogenic Diet: This is very similar to the standard diet but includes more protein. The ratio is about 5% carbs, 60% fat, and 35% protein.
Cyclic Ketogenic Diet: In this variation you alternate days of high carb and low carb consumption. This is not recommended of normal people and is mostly practiced by body builders and and athletes to maximize fat loss while building lean muscle.
Targeted Ketogenic Diet: With this type you would eat carbs 30-60 minutes before exercising. Meals after working out should be high in protein and low in fat.
Related: 5 Tips for Starting a Keto Diet
Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet
Weight loss is not the only health benefit that can come with a Ketogenic diet, there are many other health benefits that can result from this lifestyle.
Weight Loss: There have been many trials and randomized studies that have shown how a Ketogenic diet results in more weight loss than common "low-fat" diets and you don't need to track calories. One research study discovered that those on the ketogenic diet lost 2.2 times more weight than the participants that where on a calorie restricted diet.
Improved Mental Focus: When Ketosis happens fuel is continuously getting sent to the brain and with a Ketogenic diet you avoid big swings in blood sugar. Without big swings in blood sugar you gain a increase in focus. In fact some people follow a Ketogenic diet simply for the mental focus benefits. However, there is a period of adaptation period in which you might experience headaches and difficulty concentrating lasting between a few days to a couple of weeks.
Increase in Endurance: This type of diet can gives you constant access to energy from fat. When your body uses carbohydrates for energy the energy supply will only last a couple hours of intense exercise. When fat is used for energy it can easily last weeks or even months. When you are on a carbohydrate based diet, like most people, you will find yourself needing to eat before, after and even during long periods of exercise. With a Ketogenic diet fat is available to your body 24/7 and it is easily accessible.
Diabetes: A Ketogenic diet has even been shown to help those with diabetes type 2. By helping you lose excess fat, a ketogenic diet can help reverse the effects of diabetes. One study examined patients with diabetes and out of the 21 patients, 7 of them where able to completely stop using their medication after benefiting from a Ketogenic diet.
A Ketogenic diet has also been shown to help with the following health conditions:
- Heart disease
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Brain injuries
Types of Food to Eat on a Ketogenic Diet
If you are following a Ketogenic diet or are looking to start you should be eating 5% carbs, 25% protein, and 70% fat. However, this will also depend on your body types, metabolism, and activity level. For a detailed calculation of you macro needs with on a ketogenic diet you can use this ketogenic diet calculator. You don't want to eat any straight out carbs like wheats, bread, or pastas. If you eat carbs keep your intake coming from veggies, dairy, and nuts. Basically plan your meals around the following foods:
- Meat and Fatty Fish
- Low-carb veggies
- Nuts and seeds
- Healthy oils (olive, avocado, coconut)
Here is a list of low carb veggies, dark leafy greens are the best choice.
- Spinach (Raw)
- Lettuce (Romaine)
- Collard Greens
- Green Beans
Types of Food to AVOID on a Ketogenic Diet
It's also important to know what types of foods avoid if you are on a Ketogenic Diet. These are the foods that should be reduced or completely avoided:
- Sugary foods
- Grains and wheat based products
- Some sauces (high in sugar)
- "Diet" foods
- carbs, carbs, and carbs
To keep it simple just try to avoid foods that are high in carbohydrates. The less carbohydrates you have in your diet the faster your body will enter ketosis and it may take a few days to get there. You should aim to eat less than 15 grams of carbohydrates per day.
Ketogenic Diet Side Effects
Starting a ketogenic diet and getting your body to a state of ketosis might not be a easy transition. Your body is used to relying on carbohydrates for energy and it will take some time to convert to using fat for fuel. Here are some of the side effect you may experience over the first few weeks:
- Difficulty focusing
- Flu-like symptoms (known as the “keto-flu”)
- Excessive thirst
- Sweating and chills
The ketogenic diet is not safe for everyone especially those with preexisting medical conditions. In any situation you should consult with a physician before starting the Ketogenic diet or making any dietary changes.
How to Start a Successful Keto Diet
If you think the keto diet is right for you and your fitness goals then you will need the right tools to get started. First, become familiar with the foods you can and can not eat. Do research and collect recipe ideas for all three meals of the day and even keto friendly recipes. Once you have a wide selection of recipes create a weekly meal plan. You will also want to organize you shopping lists with the recipes. If this seems like a lot of work you can take a short cut and check out The Keto Beginning by Leanne Vogel, it includes advice, tips, recipes, shipping lists, and a full 30 day meal plan.