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KetoGenic Diet: A Guide for Beginners

I would be amazed if you had not heard of the ketogenic diet. It has been trending for some time, and the terms have largely entered the common language. There are ketogenic recipes all over social media, and you can even find sections in grocery stores devoted to ketogenic foods.

But the trends and facts can be quite different things. There is some science involved in the ketogenic diet. A ketogenic diet can be a legitimate health plan, but you need to know how to do this in the healthiest ways.

While ketogenic diets are easily accessible to anyone, it is important to know the facts about them. A ketogenic diet is not quite the same thing as a strict carb-free diet, for example, and this is a mistake is fairly common. Ketogenic diets regulate both carbs and fats. As we will see, sticking to a ketogenic diet can be a healthy way to lose weight and get fit.

What is the Keto Diet or Ketogenic Diet?

A ketogenic diet focuses on lowering carbs and increasing fats to lower blood sugar and insulin levels. This alters your body's metabolism so that you burn fats instead of carbs.  

A ketogenic diet, often simply called the keto diet, works by strictly limiting carbs. It differs from the so-called “Adkins diet,” because a ketogenic diet helps you accomplish your fitness goals by replacing carbs with fats. By causing a drastic reduction in carbs, the ketogenic diet causes a physiological reaction called ketosis.

Put simply, ketosis is a metabolic state in which fat becomes the primary fuel for the body. Rather than the ordinary course of metabolism that relies on glycogens derived from carbohydrates, ketosis happens when the levels of glycogens are reduced to a point at which the body must draw on its reserves for energy. These reserves are typically fats.

The keto diet drastic lowers blood sugar and insulin. This has been shown to have multiple health benefits which we will detail below. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the keto diet is healthy and will help you lose weight and get fit.

What are Ketones?

Ketones are a naturally occurring chemical in our bodies. We all produce ketones whether we are on a specific diet or not. Ketones are also not just a result of diabetic blood sugar problems. They are part of our natural metabolic processes.

Our bodies produce ketones when you do not have enough insulin in your body to convert sugars into energy. When this happens, you need another source of energy, and your body begins to metabolize fats.

Your liver will turn ketones into a type of organic acid and release this into the bloodstream. From this, your muscles and body tissues can produce energy in the absence of sugars. 

Benefits of the Keto Diet

Weight Loss

The primary benefit of a ketogenic diet is to lose weight and reduce your risk of a number of diseases. A ketogenic diet has been found to be superior to low-fat diets for reducing weight since the process of ketosis directly impacts your metabolism and the way your body processes fats and carbohydrates. A low-fat diet only reduces your fat intake and cannot alter your metabolism in any lasting way.

As opposed to a low-fat diet, a ketogenic diet is so filling that you do not need to count calories. People tend to feel more satisfied while maintaining a ketogenic diet and are therefore more likely to find success in losing weight and keeping the weight off.

One study showed that people who maintained a ketogenic diet lost 3 times as much weight as those who were on traditional low-fat, low-carb diets.

Diabetes benefits

Diabetics also benefit from the ketogenic diet. Since the ketogenic diet is designed to reduce or eliminate sugar and carbs, it has proven to be an ideal program for people with diabetes.

Diabetes is characterized by profound changes in metabolism that lead to high blood sugar and reduced insulin function.

A ketogenic diet helps reduce fat intake and cuts fat on the body. This works as preventative medicine for pre-diabetic symptoms. For people who have already developed diabetes, a ketogenic diet has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity by as much as 75 percent. In another study, 95 percent of participants with Type 2 diabetes were able to entirely stop using medications for controlling their condition.

Other Benefits

  • Heart disease: A ketogenic diet can help control risk factors for heart disease like high body fat, high cholesterol, and hypertension.
  • Cancer: Several types of cancer can be treated with the ketogenic diet. It has been shown to slow tumor growth.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: The keto diet shows promise in slowing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Brain injuries: A ketogenic diet has been shown to help in recovering from concussions and brain injuries.
  • Acne: Reduced insulin levels and a concurrent reduction in sugar intake (often in processed foods) may help improve acne breakouts.

Many of these benefits seem obvious when you consider that an overall reduction in carbs tends to help with things like blood sugar. Cutting down or eliminating processed foods is just good nutrition in the first place.

How to lose weight on Keto

By restricting your intake of carbohydrates for a few days, your body will begin to produce ketones. Ketones are what your body uses for energy in the absence of glycogens derived from carbs.

As you enter into ketosis, you start burning ketones for fuel. Most people experience an increase in energy and a simultaneous reduction in hunger. As a result, you consume fewer calories while burning the remaining carbs and sugars in your body. This leads to weight loss.

How Ketones affect your hunger hormones?

Ketones affect the production of two key hormones that control hunger: cholecystokinin (CCK) makes you feel full, and ghrelin which makes you feel hungry.

After you eat, your intestines release CCK. This is part of the body’s self-regulating mechanisms for controlling how much you eat. Ketones increase levels of CCK and this makes you feel full faster. As a result, you eat less.

Ghrelin is the hunger hormone. It is released by your stomach and intestines and triggers the need to eat. Ketones cause the stomach and intestines to produce less ghrelin. When you are in ketosis, you tend to not feel as hungry and you feel less hungry than normal.

Ketosis also tends to produce a diuretic effect. Part of the rapid weight loss at the beginning of a ketogenic diet is due to the loss of water in your body. You need to be careful during this phase because this can lead to flu-like symptoms associated with dehydration. You need to be careful to stay properly hydrated, especially during the first few days of a ketogenic diet.

Once you adjust to the ketogenic diet, your body will switch over to drawing on ketosis as a primary energy source and you will not need to count calories as long as you maintain the proper balance of fats against carbs.

Why is counting calories ineffective?

Counting calories makes sense only in the most superficial ways. It feels right that taking in fewer calories will lead to losing weight. The reason this fails is that counting calories do not alter your metabolism in any way. Your body will eventually (often quickly) adjust to the change in caloric intake and level off. This means you will not significantly lose weight, and you will not be able to keep the weight off. A ketogenic diet, by contrast, reduces calories that lead to weight gain while maintaining a caloric intake that leaves you feeling satisfied.

Losing weight with a  ketogenic diet requires some planning and adjustments in terms of meal planning. But in the long run, and even in the short term, a ketogenic diet relies on healthy dietary mechanisms that alter your metabolism for significant weight loss and long-term health.

What’s the Difference Between Keto, Atkins, and Paleo?

A ketogenic diet is one that relies primarily on achieving the nutritional state of ketosis. While other low-carb diets may lead to ketosis, they are not regimented in such a way that the primary cause of weight loss is the metabolic changes that are the result of ketosis.

Paleo diets restrict carb intake and may achieve ketosis because they focus on whole foods and non-processed foods. But paleo diets allow for things like tubers, especially potatoes, that have high starch content. This will prevent ketosis.

The Adkins diet is a specifically no-carb diet. It does initiate ketosis. But the Adkins diet will gradually reintroduce carbs into your diet. The idea is that a strict reduction in carbs is sufficient for healthy weight loss, and a gradual reintroduction of carbs will lead to a healthier balance of carbs in your body.

A ketogenic diet rigorously regulates the level of carbs you consume and balances this against levels of fats. The resulting ketosis is regimented to a point that your metabolism is significantly altered for weight loss and sustained health and fitness.

What Can I eat on the keto diet?

Many people are surprised to find out what you can eat on a ketogenic diet. Unlike low-fat diets and low-calorie diets, you can eat some hearty foods while on a ketogenic diet. Below is a list of foods that are acceptable for a keto diet.

  • Meat: Red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon (yes, bacon), chicken, and turkey.
  • Fatty fish: Salmons, trout, and tuna are the top choices.
  • Eggs. Cage-free or omega-3 whole eggs.
  • Butter and cream: Grass-fed
  • Cheese: Make sure you buy unprocessed cheese. Cheddar, goat, cream, blue, mozzarella.
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc. These make great keto snacks.
  • Avocadoes: Fresh guacamole, for example.
  • Healthy oils: Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil.
  • Low-carb vegetables: Tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
  • Salt, pepper, healthy unprocessed herbs and spices.

Part of the appeal of a ketogenic diet is that you are able to eat all kinds of foods that are filling and satisfying.

Keto Side Effects

The ketogenic diet is medically safe and effective. However, some people may experience certain side effects while adjusting to the keto diet. Some of the side effects include:

Energy loss, poor mental function, increased hunger, and sleep problems are all generally referred to as the “keto flu.” Most of these side effects occur in the early phases of the diet. Drinking plenty of water and adding extra salt to your meals can help minimize or eliminate these symptoms.

Accelerated weight loss. You can experience drastic weight loss in the beginning. Take care to not overly restrict your calorie intake in the first couple of weeks.

Keto FAQS

Can you ever eat carbs? 

Yes. It is crucial that you significantly limit your carbs. But after the first couple of months on a keto diet, you can occasionally indulge in carbs

Will I risk losing muscle? 

There is a possibility of losing muscle in the early phase of a keto diet. However, due to the high protein part of keto, it is unlikely that you will see and reduction in muscle.

Can I build muscle on a keto diet? 

Yes. Again, it is a high protein diet. This is conducive to building muscle.

Is ketosis dangerous? 

No. Ketosis is sometimes confused with ketoacidosis which is a dangerous condition associated with diabetes. Ketosis is a natural process that is not dangerous.

What if I feel tied while on a keto diet?

This is usually due to incomplete ketosis. Lower your carb intake and adjust the amount of protein you eat.

Wrapping things up

A ketogenic diet is not just another fad diet. Ketogenic diets are based on science and the benefits are scientifically proven. By limiting or eliminating carbs while simultaneously increasing your protein intake, you can see significant weight loss in a short time.

Ketogenic diets work by altering your natural metabolic processes. As we reduce carb intake, we deprive our bodies of the sugars ordinarily burned for energy. This leads to the natural process of ketosis in which the body burns fats for energy.

By eliminating carbs and causing the body to burn fats, you can see serious weight loss in the first two weeks of a ketogenic diet.

In addition to weight loss, ketogenic diets have been shown to provide real benefits for diabetics, people with high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Because the ketogenic diet works with our body’s natural systems, it leads to overall health in addition to weight loss, and the benefits of a variety of serious conditions have been proven by medical research.

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