What is Low Carb Ketogenic Diet?
The Ketogenic diet (keto) is an eating plan that features a very low intake of carbohydrates.
Low carb diets are eating plans that typically lower the intake of carbs to below 100 grams per day, the Ketogenic diet is the most strict of these and limits intake to less than 50 grams per day, preferably starting with 20 grams.
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It is most important to understand that keto is not a fad diet, or a temporary solution to weight loss, it is actually designed to be a lifestyle plan that not only results in successful weight loss, but also promotes overall health, energy, and vitality.
It eliminates junk and processed food by definition, as most carbs are just that allowing you to eat clean, whole food for better overall health and wellness.
While some may question how sustainable it really is to drastically lower carb intake, in reality, it is quite easy with the wide variety of whole foods available, and several studies show they offer better results for weight loss than low fat diets, or even low calorie diets.
One of the reasons for this, besides various metabolic processes in the body, is that reducing carb intake naturally regulates the appetite, so people find they eat less naturally because they are satisfied and without starvation.
In general, a keto diet may be ideal for the overweight and obese, diabetics, anyone who needs to improve their metabolic health and for various other health reasons.
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The body has three storage depots to use as fuel:
- Carbohydrates from food
- Protein that is converted to glucose in the liver and used for energy
- Stored body fat and ketones
In a regular high carb diet, carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for the body.
- Carbohydrates, specifically starches and sugars are readily broken down into glucose in the bloodstream, giving the body its principal energy source.
- At this point, the hormone insulin steps in to remove glucose from the bloodstream as too much sugar can lead to a dangerous condition known as glycosylation.
- Insulin converts glucose into glycogen. Some glycogen is stored inside the liver as a fuel reserve for the brain, and the rest is stored in the muscles as fuel reserves for the body.
- When that muscle glycogen is not used through a lack of energy expenditure or exercise, it stays in the muscles.
- The human body can only store so much glycogen, about 1800 calories worth. When that reserve becomes full both the muscles and the liver send a signal to stop insulin production and excess glucose from dietary carbs begins to build up in the bloodstream, calling for more and more insulin to be released to remove it.
- Insulin levels surge, and eventually this leads to insulin resistance.
- At this point, the liver then sends any excess glucose to be stored as body fat.
- As high carb intake continues, glucose floods the bloodstream, insulin levels increase, and so do the body’s fat stores.
A VICIOUS CYCLE
High Carb Intake = High Glucose In The Blood = High Insulin = Body Fat Stores
Eventually this leads to metabolic syndrome, a set of conditions caused by insulin resistance, which includes obesity, fatty liver, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other metabolic issues.
While this carb cycle may not occur in everyone, for many who are obese, have a sensitivity to carbs, or who do not expend the required amount of stored energy, this is often the case and the main culprit behind obesity.
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What is Lipolysis And Ketosis
Under normal dietary conditions, ketones play no role in fueling the body and energy production, but during a Ketogenic low carb diet, ketones become the central player, fueling the body and at the same time flipping on the fat burning switch.
When the intake of carbs is limited, and their sources controlled, meaning that starches and sugars are eliminated, the body goes into a state called lipolysis, a most efficient biochemical pathway to weight loss and a scientifically proven alternative to using glucose for energy.
- Lipolysis is the only practical alternative to giving the body an alternative for glucose fuel, the process that often leads to obesity
- Lipolysis occurs when the body begins to burn fat stores for energy instead of carbohydrates that are obtained from the diet.
- The by-products of this fat burning process are ketones and so ketosis is the secondary process of lipolysis.
- By lowering intake of carbohydrates and also the sources of those carbohydrates, which the body will use for energy first when available, it is forced to use its fat stores instead, literally melting it off the body in a state referred to as ketosis.
- Ketones, the byproduct of ketosis, fuel the body
Sugars, grains, starches, and starchy vegetables fuel your body when you eat them, a state called glucosis (a term coined by the late Dr. Atkins, a pioneer in low carb weight loss). It is only when you lower carb intake and limit it to non-starchy vegetables, and small amounts of certain dairy foods that you are not eating enough carbs to create glucose, creating a state of ketosis where the body begins to burn its fat stores for energy.
- The only exception to the body not needing glucose for fuel is ketones
Lipolysis and its secondary process, ketosis provides adequate fuel for cells, the brain, and other organs just as glucose from carbs does BUT, unlike when the body uses glucose from carbs for energy, ketosis does not store fat, and actually allows the body to burn stored fat for fuel.
Ketosis Versus Ketoacidosis
Ketosis and ketoacidosis are often confused and they are two completely different things.
- Ketosis is a natural fat burning process in the body, while ketoacidosis is a medical condition that occurs only in uncontrolled diabetes.
- Ketoacidosis is dangerous, but ketosis on a ketogenic diet is perfectly normal, healthy, and necessary for weight loss.
According to Psychology Today, while the brain typically runs on glucose, it has no problems getting its fuel from ketones when they are available.
While some parts of the brain can only use glucose for energy, the body takes care of this too. When glucose is lacking, it can turn protein into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis.
Lipolysis and the its secondary process, ketosis uses fat as its primary source of energy.
Ketone production occurs when insulin in the bloodstream is low.
The lower the insulin level, the higher the ketone production and vice versa.
This process can only occur while following a low carb diet and the sources of those carbs are not insulin trigger foods, such as starches or sugars.
Benefits of Low Carb Ketogenic Diet
- Weight Loss
- Stabilizes blood sugar
- Maintain healthy blood pressure
- Eliminates those pesky out of control cravings
- May lower risks for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and stroke
- May lower risks for gallbladder disease
- The ketogenic diet is used to treat several types of cancer and to slow the growth of tumors
- The ketogenic diet is also used to treat traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and polycystic ovary syndrome
The use of carbs for fuel is exactly what the ketogenic diet aims to avoid by greatly limiting carbs and their sources in order to give the body its alternative energy source, which is fat.
The main source of carbohydrates in the Ketogenic diet is non-starchy vegetables
This is especially strict in the beginning weeks in order to trigger ketosis. But wait, aren’t vegetables simple carbs? Yes, they are but…
- Non-starchy vegetables are not insulin triggers
- Non-starchy vegetables are very low in carbs, making them a nutrient dense food with a very low glycemic load that supports ketosis
The following carbs are not allowed…
- Sugar or foods made with it
- Starchy vegetables
- Any other starches
The Ketogenic diet advises less than 20 grams of net carbs per day, most of which should come from non-starchy vegetables.
The Role Of Fiber
Fiber is naturally found in many carbohydrates, and remember fiber does not turn into glucose in the body as other sugar carbs do, and so that fiber helps to lower the glycemic load of carb rich foods.
Net Carb Formula
THE NET CARB FORMULA
Total Carbohydrate Count – Fiber Count = Net Carbs
The Ketogenic diet only counts what are known as Net Carbs and the formula to figure out the net carbs of any food is simple.
The more fiber a food has, the less impact its carbohydrates will have on blood sugars.
This formula makes it easy to determine the actual impact carbs of any food by simply reading the food labels or looking at its nutritional value.
Rules Of The Ketogenic Diet
CARB INTAKE → Less than 50 grams of net carbs per day, but better at 20 grams at least in the beginning
- Most of the carbs should come from non-starchy vegetables
- Green, fibrous vegetables are your best choices, though many other low carb vegetables are fine
- Always eat a carb food with a protein or a fat, for example have a piece of cheese with cucumbers or salad with chicken.
LOTS OF HEALTHY FATS → Don’t be afraid of fats. Fat is 90% ketogenic. Remember that in ketosis, fat is the main energy source for the body, helps remove hunger, provides key macronutrient requirements and natural fats are fine when controlling carb intake. They also have many other benefits, including providing the building blocks for several important hormones and bodily structures.
- The best fats are monounsaturated and saturated, including olive oil, grass fed butter, red meat, and coconut oil. Margarine is never advised, as it is fake and interferes with ketosis. Natural whole fats are always best.
- Limit intake of polyunsaturated fats, including soybean oil, corn oil, and cottonseed oil.
- Fat intake is variable and depends on weight loss goals.
ADEQUATE PROTEIN → Protein is both 46% ketogenic and 58% anti-ketogenic, as some protein will convert to glucose in the bloodstream and inhibit ketosis, so intake should be enough to prevent muscle loss, but not so much that will disrupt ketosis.
Protein Intake Guidelines
- Sedentary lifestyle:69 – 0.8 grams per pound of lean body mass
- Mildly active: 8 to 1 gram per pound of lean body mass
- Heavy strength training/bodybuilding and exercise: 1 to 1.2 grams per pound of lean body mass
Lean body mass is typically defined as – body weight minus body fat
- Men will have a higher lean body mass than women, and typically, it is 60% to 90% of the total body mass.
- You can use any of a number of online lean body mass calculators, such as this one – http://www.calculator.net/lean-body-mass-calculator.html to figure yours.
- If you use a Fat Caliper to measure your exact body fat, than you will get a much more accurate lean body mass index measurement.
- Keep in mind these protein intake recommendations are just general guidelines.
- Fatty red meats, chicken with skin, turkey, eggs, deli meats, seafood and fish
- Nuts, seeds and full fat dairy such as heavy cream and sour cream should be taken in moderation as these protein sources are higher in carbs than meat, fish or poultry which have zero carbs
EAT TO SATISFACTION → Eat when hungry until you feel satisfied
INCREASE SALT INTAKE → A little extra salt, can help avoid possible side effects known as keto flu as your body adjusts to ketosis, including headaches, muscle cramps or weakness that occur as result of an electrolyte imbalance and since a low carb diet is naturally diuretic, you don’t have to avoid salt to minimize water retention.
- Get that salt from 1 to 2 cups of broth daily or soy sauce over food
Caution: ask your doctor about increasing salt, and if you are being treated for a condition that requires limited sodium intake, like hypertension continue with the medical advice of your doctor.
DRINK LOTS OF WATER → Water is a natural appetite suppressant and also supports the body’s ability to metabolize fat. Several studies found that reducing intake of water may cause fat deposits to increase, while drinking more reduces them.
Hydration greatly promotes weight loss, so drink lots of fresh water throughout the day. The more active you are the more hydration you will need.
Choosing The Right Fats In Keto
Contrary to all the hype about fat, replacing sugar and carbs with healthy fats actually does result in weight loss, as shown by many studies.
It also true that low-carb diets have been shown to result in more weight loss and a larger reduction in cholesterol levels than low fat diets.
Fat does not make you fat in it of itself, fat has more calories than carbs or protein, so a high intake of fat may result in a higher caloric intake, which can cause weight gain under normal dietary conditions.
Additionally, it is when carbs and fat are mixed that problems in weight gain arise. The only proof you really need to this fact is the insurmountable amount of carb/fat laden junk food and processed food that we consume as a society that in great part has resulted in the epidemic levels of obesity (1/3 of all US adults) in the United States.
When you limit carb intake, the body will use dietary fats and your own fat stores for energy, literally turning your body into a fat burning machine, helping to reduce belly, thigh, and hip fat.
What Fat Does Inside The Body
While fat has more calories, 9 per gram versus the 4 per gram in both protein and carbs, it’s more important to understand what it does inside the body.
When you are young your metabolism and high activity levels may allow you to eat carbs and fats and maintain a healthy weight, but as you get older and activity levels and metabolism slow down the weight may start to creep up.
If you are already overweight and your diet is filled with carbs, it makes it very difficult for the body to use stored fat for energy because it always defaults to carbs for that purpose.
- Greatly reducing carb intake promotes the body’s ability to burn fat stores for energy resulting in healthy weight loss.
- Unlike carbs, fat also promotes satiety and fullness, helping to regulate the appetite so you actually eat less. In fact, you have to eat two times more carb calories as fat calories to reach the same level of fullness.
- Unlike carbs, fat has little impact on blood glucose, which keeps blood sugars stable, eliminating out of control cravings and hunger that comes after eating carbs.
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Types Of Fats
- Monounsaturated fats are found in avocados, nuts, olive oil and canola oil,
- Polyunsaturated fats are found in vegetable, seed and nut oils, like soybean, corn and sesame oils along with fatty fish like salmon and sardines.
- Essential fatty acids include both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that the body cannot produce on its own. Shellfish is rich in omega-3s and you can get omega-6s from chicken, pork, and seeds.
- Ideally, you need to balance intake of both omega-3s and omega 6 fatty acids with a balanced combination of shellfish, fatty fish and nuts, canola oil and flaxseed.
- Saturated fats are those that are solid at room temperature, and their best sources on a low carb diet are butter, red meat, and coconut oil. Since the target of the Ketogenic diet is to burn fat for energy consuming these types of fats is not only acceptable, but also required, and many studies confirm that this fat intake while on a low carb diet does not raise cholesterol or fat levels in the blood.
- Trans fats (also known as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or hydrogenated vegetable oil) are bad news, increase risk for heart disease and should always be avoided when eating a Keto diet. These are typically found in fried foods, sweets, baked goods, processed snacks and food products, cookies, crackers and vegetable shortenings.
Optimal Fat Intake
Remember, the goal of fat is to provide satiety, boost energy, increase metabolism and support the enjoyment of food as fats make everything taste better.
It is not advisable to eat so much fat that you send your caloric intake through the roof. The following guidelines can help you get an idea of daily fat intake; of course, body size will determine the portions, as larger men will eat more than smaller women will. You can choose fats in any combinations you see fit.
Daily Fat Intake Guidelines:
- 2 to 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil when cooking or for salad dressings
- 2 ounces of cheese
- 4 to 6 ounces of meat, chicken, seafood, or fish at each meal
- ½ an avocado or 10 olives
- 1 to 2 ounces of nuts or seeds (depending on your ketotic state and as long as they do not take you out of ketosis)
- Use canola, peanut and grapeseed oils for pan cooking and stir-frys
- Use full fat mayonnaise, canola oil mayo is a good choice
- Coconut oil contains ketosis-boosting MCTs (medium chain triglycerides). A tablespoon a day is fine in replacement of another fat. You can also get a purer form of MCTs in supplement oil form.
- Avoid low fat foods, including reduced fat dairy. These foods typically contain carbohydrates, and chemical compounds that have not been well studied as to risks for human health.
- Replace milk in coffee with heavy cream, which has less than 1 gram of carbs per tablespoon, while milk is very high in natural sugars.
Sample 1 Day Keto Menu
Eggs cooked in butter
Bacon or sausage
Black coffee or with stevia or Splenda and heavy cream or tea
Turkey lettuce wraps with mayonnaise
4 to 6 oz. steak with onions and mushrooms
Grilled kale with butter and garlic or raw kale with dressing or lettuce salad with dressing
Water, herbal tea, no calorie flavored seltzer, or coffee with stevia and heavy cream
½ avocado or 10 olives or 1 ounce of cheese with cucumber or celery slices
4 to 6 oz. Grilled chicken
Vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, greens, green beans, or other low carb vegetables, your choice) with butter or salad (lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber, sprouts, bacon bits) with olive oil and vinegar or a creamy dressing
Water, herbal tea, or no calorie flavored seltzer
Hard-boiled egg with smoked salmon or flaxseed crackers with salsa
Note: Portion sizes are not included because you eat to satisfaction, and portions will differ among individuals and men and women. Make sure to measure you vegetable and dairy intake to account for the daily carb intake limits.
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