Ketosis and the Ketogenic Diet
What is Ketosis?
The simplest explanation of ketosis is the body switching from using carbohydrates to using fat as fuel. Eating foods that keep the body in fat-burning, fat-fueled mode is the basis of a ketogenic diet.
Normally, the body’s default setting is to use carbohydrates as fuel, which it converts to glucose. When this happens, insulin is released to carry the glucose to the bloodstream (aka “insulin spike”). It’s just easier for our bodies to use glucose as fuel, which is why people like to say our bodies “prefer” carbohydrates.
In order to get the body to go into ketosis, carbohydrates need to be decreased dramatically. When carbohydrates are scarce, the body won’t have enough glucose to use for fuel, so the liver will turn to fatty acids, instead.
The liver transforms fatty acids into ketone bodies, or ketones, which the body can then use as its energy source. Since your energy source now comes from fatty acids, you’ll need to increase your fat intake to stay fueled.
Why the Keto Diet?
The ketogenic diet has been around for a long time, mostly for medical reasons. It started in the 1920s, helping to ameliorate epileptic seizures in children.
It is now known that the ketogenic diet eases symptoms of a multitude of medical conditions and also aids weight loss. Every time I turn around, there’s a new article or blog talking about how the keto diet has helped someone’s PCOS, lyme disease, ADHD, depression, psoriasis and other inflammatory diseases, cancer, anxiety, celiac disease, autoimmune disorders, and the list–seriously, truly–goes on.
Can you see why I was intrigued by this diet when I first learned of it?
Most of us skeptics roll our eyes when we hear of a new fad diet promising to help us lose weight fast. Most of them just don’t work long term, and what do we know about how those diets affect the rest of our body and its systems?
“Fat makes you fat.” It sounds right, which is one reason the lie has been believed for so many years. Did you know that fat accumulation is not caused by eating fat? This is one of the most fascinating parts about keto.
Eating fat isn’t what makes you gain weight. Consuming excessive carbohydrates is. When you eat more carbohydrates than your body needs, your body turns them into fat storage.
The keto diet is NOT a high protein diet, because for one thing, protein can actually be broken down into glucose, keeping the body from using fat as fuel.
There are several types of ketogenic diets, which I will explore further in the future as I try to decide which path is best for my health goals, but each of them focuses on decreasing carbs while increasing fats. It may be a good idea to try a few out before deciding on one.
To Those Who Wait
A word of caution. I have only experimented with certain aspects of the keto diet thus far, but I have heard and read this over and over, “I tried the keto diet for a few weeks and it didn’t work for me.” DO NOT GIVE UP ON THE KETO DIET JUST BECAUSE IT’S NOT WORKING YET FOR YOUR CONDITION.
Just in the past few weeks, I’ve heard people talk about how the keto diet wasn’t working for them, so they’re quitting after 3 days or 3 weeks or 3 months.
Nooo! Stop. Please don’t do that to yourself.
There are a multitude of keto-proponents online that will tell you how to get your body into ketosis in one day. That’s nice. Ketosis doesn’t solve anything. At least not right away. There are so many things going on in your body after you reach ketosis, that you need to stick with it to see full benefits.
For example, one thing that starts to change (if you follow keto the way I plan to, incorporating prebiotics and probiotics) is your gut. Because you’re no longer eating foods like sugar and gluten-containing grains, your gut will ditch the inflammatory response and excessive permeability (leaky gut) and begin to heal. If you’ve read anything about the gut microbiome, you know that healing the gut doesn’t just heal the gut–the entire body is affected positively.
For some people, this can take up to 3 years! I just listened to a podcast today that stated that it takes our bodies 900 days to replace 75% of its cell membranes!
(For more about the microbiome and how it affects the brain and nervous system, read Brain Maker, by neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter).
There are several factors that could be off if keto is not working for you yet. One is not giving it enough time, but another is macro percentages. Macros refers to macronutrients, which are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. You’ll see a range of macro percentages with different types of keto diets.
As a general rule, in the ketogenic diet a person should be getting 5-10% of their calories from carbohydrates, 20-25% from proteins, and 70-75% from fats.
It sounds like you’ll be consuming cubes of butter at every meal, but reality is less dramatic. A tablespoon of butter has 102 calories. It can be as simple as smearing an extra tablespoon of butter on your asparagus or pouring an extra drizzle of olive oil dressing on your salad. (For help figuring out what foods to choose, download my FREE list of ketogenic foods.)
You Can Do This!
Please stay with it, guys. I promise it gets easier as you create new habits. And, as I’ll detail later in another post, so much of our cravings actually come from psychological reasons rather than physical. You are in control and you can absolutely do this! All of us have the capability to finish what we start.
Even before I went full keto, I was still gaining new improvements to my health here and there just from cutting out gluten a year prior and following a few other keto principles.
Every few days it seems I was noticing that I didn’t have a problem that I used to have. It was awesome.
I hope to continue to see progress with my body in ketosis, too. And I hope you can also find something in keto to help you on your journey to health and healing!
If you have any keto diet questions, I’ll do my best to answer them! In the meantime, to get you started, please enjoy my FREE printable list of approved keto foods.