What Exactly is Keto?

What is Ketosis? 

Ketosis is simply a metabolic state where your body uses its fat stores as its main source of energy. 

This usually occurs as a result of reduced calorie and carbohydrate intake. When in ketosis, your energy supply comes from ketones in your blood rather than the glucose found in your blood and tissues. 

What Are Ketones? 

Ketones are a by-product created by your body when fat is burned rapidly. The presence of ketones in your body above the normal level is indicative that you have entered a state of metabolic ketosis. 

This essentially means that your body has begun to utilise fat stores to fuel its everyday functions. 

Is Ketosis The Same As A Ketogenic Or 'Keto' Diet? 

Ketosis is the metabolic state achieved through a ketogenic or keto diet. This type of diet aims to replicate the effects of fasting through calorie restriction and reduced carbohydrate intake. When you fast, your body utilises fat instead of carbohydrates as the main source of fuel.  

What Are The Health Benefits? 

Research has shown ketogenic diets to have a positive effect on lowering the risk factors  and associated factors of (amongst others): 

·       Cardiovascular disease

·       High cholesterol levels

·       Increased blood pressure. 

·       Type 2 diabetes

·       Visceral fat reduction

·       Weight loss

How Does The Body Respond When Switching To A Ketogenic Diet? 

Everyone responds differently to being in a ketogenic state. Not all side effects are experienced and most subside as the body becomes more adept at burning fat as its main source of energy. 

In the early stages, fatigue is common. This is the initial adaptation response to the reduced intake of carbohydrate and the body shifting from burning carbohydrates (glucose) to burning fats (ketones). 

The body begins to break down its stored glucose leading to the release of a lot of water, which is removed by the kidneys. As a result, dehydration can be common and should be compensated for by increasing water intake. 

As ketone levels in the body rise, some convert to a chemical called acetone, which can lead to a metallic taste in the mouth. Some people on a ketogenic diet may also have experienced some initial hair loss. There is no conclusive evidence however, that ketogenic diets lead to hair loss. Hair loss may occur as a result of numerous factors, including stress or a reduced uptake of iron. 

Entering ketosis can take anywhere from 3 days to a few weeks depending on the individual.  

How Do I Know If I Am In Ketosis? 

It is possible to test whether one has entered ketosis within a few days after embarking on a ketogenic diet! An easy to use and obtain ketone test strip will reveal the level of ketone bodies in the urine. If the concentration is high enough, a state of ketosis has been successfully achieved! Note: Any change to the strip color indicates changes in ketone levels but a true state of ketosis will be marked on the strip. 

There are other ways of determining whether one is in a ketogenic state. Changes in mood and alertness, along with a stronger odor in breath and urine are indicators. Many people also report better sleep and decreased appetite. 

What Makes a Diet Ketogenic?  

A ketogenic diet is a HIGH fat, MODERATE protein and LOW carbohydrate eating plan. Generally, you would aim for: 

70%-75% of you daily calories from fats

20%-25% of your daily calories from protein

5% of your daily calories from carbohydrates

Trying to figure out your macronutrient (fats, protein and carbohydrate) percentages can be overwhelming. There are so many numbers coming at you and you just want to get started. 

As an example, for an 1,800 calorie per day diet

75% fat means 1,350 calories from fat. Fat has 9 calories per gram = 150 g fat per day 

20% protein means 360 calories from protein. Protein has 4 calories per gram = 90 g protein per day 

5% carbohydrate means 90 calories from carbohydrate. Carbohydrate has 4 calories per gram = 22.5 g NET carbohydrate per day. 

Fiber is considered neutral.

NET carbohydrate = TOTAL carbohydrate - FIBER

 ½ an avocado contains 9 g of carbohydrate and 7 g of fiber. By subtracting the fiber from the total carbohydrates count (9 g carbs - 7 g of fiber), you can calculate your net carbohydrate total to be 2 g. This 2 g amount is what is used when counting toward the daily carbohydrate limit. 

There are also some extremely effective ketogenic calculators and apps available for free and for purchase to make these calculations simpler. Using a tracker in the beginning is an important tool in getting your macronutrient levels dialed in and allows you to more effectively troubleshoot later. 

What Do You Eat On A Ketogenic Diet? 

Now comes the fun part. Eating! What foods do you buy when going grocery shopping for your ketogenic program? 

As with a Paleo diet, the most benefit is to be gained from eating nutrient dense, ethically raised and produced whole foods. Although packaged products may appear to fit in with the Ketogenic nutritional profile, they are not as nutritious.

Here is a sample Ketogenic grocery list to get you started:

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Is a Ketogenic Diet Safe?  

Initially, when starting a ketogenic diet, it may seem like you are eating a large amount of fat. These are, in fact, healthy fats that your body needs to function properly and efficiently. Even saturated fat is not the unhealthy product it has been made out to be!  

What you are not doing is consuming unhealthy fats in combination with huge amounts of high sugar/high carbohydrate foods. Think pizza, ice cream, fried chicken, burgers and other fast and highly processed foods. A high quality ketogenic diet can be healthier AND more effective than a low fat high carbohydrate (yes, even whole grains) plan. 

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The Ketogenic Diet can seem overwhelming at first, but is essentially simple to follow and life changing by shifting the body's reliance on fast burning carbohydrates to a longer, more sustainable energy source in fats. 

Michal Ofer