I’ve been hearing all this hype about a highly effective weight-loss plan. Have you heard of the ketogenic diet?
Aloha and welcome to Part 1 of The Ketogenic Diet Masterclass! In this 3-part series we will be diving into the what, how and why of one of America’s top trending diets: the ketogenic diet.
What is the ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, moderate protein, high-fat diet. Keto, as it’s commonly called, shares many attributes with popularized “caveman” diets such as paleo and primal. The ketogenic diet is often referred to as a sugar elimination diet because carbohydrates, whether simple or complex are composed of glucose (aka sugar molecules), complex carbs are simply longer chains of molecules.
Simplified, carb restriction is sugar restriction.
The ketogenic diet involves reprogramming the body to rely on fat rather than glucose, for fuel. Now, in order to fuel the body with fat you’re gonna need to take down a whole-lotta of it. Far more in fact, than would ever seem reasonable. So I’m sure you’re wondering… How could a high fat diet possibly result in weight-loss? Well my friend, it’s certainly not as complicated as we’ve all been led to believe. Let’s begin with a brief overview of what causes weight gain.
In its simplest breakdown, the body has two basic fueling systems. The body will either take carbohydrates and turn them into glucose for quick burning fuel. Or it will take fat and convert it into ketones for slow, sustainable fuel. After eating, your blood sugar levels increase and trigger the release of insulin, an important hormone involved in glucose utilization. Different types of nutrients affect blood sugar differently. After consuming carbohydrates our blood sugar (glucose) rises. When we consume carbohydrates in excess, our cells become full of glucose and the overflow travels off into the bloodstream. This glucose becomes viscous and harmful, packing on weight, clogging our arteries, raising triglyceride levels and causing inflammation. In contrast, fat has significantly less impact on blood sugar than carbohydrates. In fact, when consumed alone, ingested fats have no bearing on the concentration of blood sugar whatsoever. And just so we’re clear, an excess of any carbohydrate, including both sugar and starch, are stored as fat. And despite what you may believe of “healthy whole grains,” ANY carbohydrate not immediately used by the body is broken down into glycogen and stored away as fat.
Therefore, a sugary diet is the same as a starchy diet.
I realize this information may feel like a serious bitch slap because like me, you’ve spent your whole life programmed to believe that eating cereal, skim milk and fruit for breakfast was healthy. I’m sorry to break it to you…
It’s time to reconsider EVERYTHING you think you know about fat.
And more so, it’s time to reprogram the body for optimal performance. And how do we reprogram the body for optimal performance? By drastically reducing our carbohydrate intake and prompting the body into a state of ketosis.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the body relies on ketones for fuel. Ketones are produced in the liver from fat. During ketosis the body directly breaks down its fat stores into energy instead of slowly converting fat and muscle cells into glucose for energy.
Simplified, your body is in a state of ketosis when it is feasting on fat (rather than glucose) for fuel.
So you’re telling me, stuffing my face full of fat will lead to increased energy and weight-loss?! That’s exactly right!
Is that natural?
It’s said the body’s preferred source of energy is glucose. And glucose as we know, is delivered to the body via carbohydrates. What you may not know, is that carbs are found in virtually everything- tomatoes, bananas, beets, avocados, nuts, seeds, cheese, onions, even garlic. Therefore, if you’re concerned that by eliminating starches and sugars from your diet, your body is not going to get an adequate carb load- let that shit go! It’s extremely challenging to get yourself into a carbohydrate deficit and nearly impossible to deprive yourself of carbs entirely. What’s more, even if you were to go into a 100% carb deficit our bodies are designed to turn protein into glucose through a process known as gluconeogenesis. Meaning, we will deteriorate in the absence of fat and protein, but we can go on living just fine in the absence of carbohydrates. Now, that’s not to say there aren’t serious disadvantages to a zero-carb diet but the point is, the body will survive. While many argue glucose is our body’s preferred source of energy, that was not always the case. For hundreds of thousands of years our Paleolithic ancestors relied on ketones for energy when glucose sources were scarce. In fact, they thrived on a low-carb diet based on animals, plants and insects. Most Americans today are deriving the bulk of their carbohydrates not from veggies, fruits nuts and roots; rather from beer, processed foods, breads pastas and pastries.
Perhaps glucose is not the body’s preferred energy source, but rather a necessary accommodation to our “evolved” dietary model.
Is ketosis natural?
So getting back to the initial question, is ketosis natural? Absolutely! Ketosis is a normal state of metabolism. In fact, most babies are born in a state of ketosis. However, in our modern era of carbohydrate abundance people rarely access ketosis, making it a dormant metabolic pathway.
How do you know if you’re in ketosis?
Fortunately for us, ketosis is not some elusive metabolic state. Ketosis is 100% measurable. In order to know if you’re in a state of ketosis it’s imperative you test your ketone levels. There are three common methods for measuring ketone levels.
- The first method is through urine testing. Urine testing is designed to measure excess amounts of ketones within the body. Urine sticks are the most commonly used method of testing, likely due to their accessibility as well as affordability. You can find urine sticks (ketone testing sticks) at your nearest CVS or Walgreens, and they’ll only set you back 15-30 bucks. Urine testing will help to determine if you’re in a state of ketosis, but they aren’t always accurate.
- The second method is through blood testing. By squeezing a drop of blood onto a test stick you can test the level of Beta-Hydroxybutyrate in your body. This will effectively determine if you are in a state of ketosis. However, it is the most expensive testing method available.
- The third method of testing involves breath testing. You can actually measure the amount of acetone in your breath using a breath meter. Though be aware that this is the least reliable method of testing for ketosis.
Now that we’re all clear on what the ketogenic diet is. Let’s move on to what sorts of benefits and side-effects we can expect while on the keto diet. See you next week for The Keto Diet Masterclass Part 2: Benefits and Side-Effects of the Ketogenic Diet.
Can’t wait? I don’t blame you. Click below to watch the entire 3-part series now!