If you are new to the whole keto diet thing, you will probably have some questions. Here is a list of the most commonly asked questions about the keto diet. I trust that they will help you understand this way of eating a bit better.
Why do most diets fail?
Common knowledge says we get fat simply because we get lazy and eat more. But it turns out that it’s the other way round? We just get fat and as a result we eat more and become lazy?
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For the last decades we have been given wrong advice about nutrition and effects of fatty foods on putting on weight.
It turns out that it is high carbohydrates, and low fat in our diet that is causing a large raise in our insulin levels, and this is causing us to gain weight.
This raised insulin causes all sorts of inflammatory illnesses well before we develop full blown diabetes. This raised insulin leads to insulin resistance, heart disease, high blood pressure, autoimmune conditions, cancer and obesity.
Obesity isn’t the cause of these conditions like it was once thought, it is a symptom of a larger metabolic issue.
Today carbohydrates make the majority of our diet and have significant implications for our health. Carbohydrates are without doubt the most fattening element in our diets.
Based on studies performed over the last decades, calorie-restricted diets or diets restricted in fat are virtually ineffective for the vast majority of people.
Ketogenic diets are, in fact, closely related to the Paleolithic diet. Both exclude refined carbohydrates and aim at eating real food. The paleo or primal diets are slightly higher in overall carbs and encourage a larger portion of protein than the keto diet.
When you follow a high carbohydrate (i.e. low-fat, reduced-calorie) diet, only some of your body fat is burned during weight loss. Unfortunately, on such diets your body will use the protein stores (muscles) and convert them to glucose for energy rather than use fat stores. This is, of course, an unfavorable effect, as you lose significant muscle tissue instead of fat.
How is weight loss achieved on ketogenic diets?
This is probably the most commonly asked question, as many people are concerned about the real effects of ketosis. Keto helps you lose weight in 3 very powerful ways.
1. The Satiety Effect means you are no longer hungry all the time
The ketogenic diet food that makes you less hungry and less likely to experience cravings. It’s a fact that people naturally eat less on a low-carb diet. Protein and fat are the most sating macronutrients. Achieving satiety (feeling full and satisfied) and natural appetite control are the most important effects of low-carb eating. Insulin, which is a hormone released when you eat carbs (and protein to some effect), affects your appetite.
You get in to the sugars go up, insulin goes up, sugars crash and now you are hungry again cycle. With more carbs, you’ll experience more cravings and regular periods of hunger.
2. Low-Carb Diets are better For actual fat loss
Eating fat helps your body release and burn fat and lose weight, while carbohydrates have the opposite effect. This has to do with how insulin affects your body and as you may know, insulin is mostly produced when you eat carbs. With decreased insulin levels, your body will use body fat for energy and you will lose weight.
You can think of it like the glucose stores are like your refrigerator, and your fat stores are like your freezer in the basement. While the fridge is full, you will use that food. It is only when the fridge is empty, do you venture down to the basement to access the freezer food.
Your fridge is easy to put food in and out of, and when your fridge gets full, you move stuff down to the freezer. To access the fat stores in the basement you need to empty your fridge first, commit not to fill it up again, and get insulin to sit down and stop blocking the door to the basement.
To do this, you need to restrict the carbohydrates that you eat.
3. Metabolic advantage
Finally, there are studies that appear to support the idea of a potential “metabolic advantage” of low-carb diets. This means that you could achieve weight loss at a higher level than the calorie intake would suggest.
For more about metabolic advantage of low-carb diets, check out this article: Is a Calorie Really a Calorie? Metabolic Advantage of Low-Carbohydrate Diets In this study, participants following a low-carb diet experienced increased energy expenditure (by 300 kcal) compared to those following a low-fat diet.
What is the difference between a low-carbohydrate diet, the paleo diet and a ketogenic diet?
Ketogenic diet and the paleo diet are a subset of low carbohydrate diets. It is generally accepted, that any diet below 130-150 grams of carbohydrates is regarded as low-carb.
Ketogenic diets induce a metabolic state known as ketosis, which is usually achieved at a level of about 50 grams of total carbohydrates a day (20-30 grams of net carbs) or less. The exact amount is individual and may vary. Keto is a moderate protein diet, as too much protein has been shown to spike your insulin too.
The paleo diet is anything under 150g of carbs per day, but it is limited by philosophical limits, only eating things that were available during the caveman times. The paleo diet is a moderate to high protein diet, with no dairy. It is possible to do paleo-keto.
Do you need to be in ketosis to lose weight?
Not necessarily. You can lose weight without being in ketosis. Foods high in fat, adequate in protein and low in carbohydrates are satisfying, making you less hungry and, therefore, you’ll be experiencing less food cravings.
To access your fat stores, you need to keep your insulin levels low and steady. To achieve this you need to be consuming very little carbs and plenty of fat for energy.
The fastest way to melt fat is to be in a state of ketosis, where your brains is using ketones for energy, not glucose. To get here you need to use up all your glycogen stores in your liver and muscles, and not eat enough carbs for them to be replaced.
It takes a while to become “fat adapted” as your body will need to build more mitochondria for your cells. These are the fat burning parts of your cells. This can take up to a couple of weeks for some people.
What is insulin and what does it do?
Insulin is one of the most important hormones. It is secreted by the pancreas and is what ketogenic diets mostly focus on, as it affects body fat and metabolism of carbohydrates. It is effectively a storage hormone, responsible for moving nutrients out of the blood stream and into target tissues. Its other job is to regulate your blood sugar level.
When you eat carbohydrates, your body must produce more insulin to keep up with increased levels of glucose in your bloodstream. In some cases, this eventually leads to insulin resistance, and then Type 2 diabetes. This may often go along with high LDL cholesterol (“bad”), low HDL cholesterol (“good”), higher triglyceride levels and increased inflammation.
When you eat less carbs, less insulin is required to be secreted into your bloodstream and regulate your blood sugar and as a result, less fat storage.
Keto and high cholesterol levels
A common misconception is that because ketogenic diets are high in fat, they must increase cholesterol in your body and clog your arteries. However, much of the recent research shines light on how low-carb diets can optimize your cholesterol levels and in fact improve your heart health.
Do I need to count calories? Do calories matter?
It’s a common misconception that you can eat unlimited amount of calories and still lose weight. Although this doesn’t happen often, you can put on weight even on a low-carb diet. Overall calories do still matter.
Generally eating keto, will automatically mean you will be very satisfied with less calories, so counting them usually isn’t too much of an issue.
If for any reason your weight is stalling for more than 2-3 weeks, you may need to consider keeping an eye on your energy intake (calories). Reaching a weight loss plateau may be caused by several factors and you don’t necessarily have to be eating too much, in fact, you may discover that you haven’t been eating enough. Losing body fat becomes more and more difficult as you get close to your target weight.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting.
There are several different intermittent fasting methods, all of which split the day or week into eating periods and fasting periods.
Most people already “fast” every day, while they sleep. Intermittent fasting can be as simple as extending that fast a little longer.
You can do this by skipping breakfast, eating your first meal at noon and your last meal at 8 pm.
Then you’re technically fasting for 16 hours every day, and restricting your eating to an 8-hour eating window. This is the most popular form of intermittent fasting, known as the 16/8 method.
If you are serious about fasting and the amazing heal gains from it, I really recommend you read the book The Obesity Code.
The benefits of fasting are huge and they include a reduction in insulin levels, inflammation markers, improved health markers and it saves time and money eating!
When combined with the keto diet, intermittent fasting is a quick, simple way to speed your weight loss and boost your metabolic health.
What is the keto flu – can you prevent it?
When you switch from a high carbohydrate diet to a keto diet, you may well experience the dreaded carb flu or keto flu. The symptoms are like that of the actual flu – tiredness, nausea, aches, pains, headaches, brain fog.
The cause of keto flu is simple, it is a lack of electrolytes!
When you are eating high carb, you have a long standing, high level of insulin in your blood. One of the jobs of insulin is to act on the kidney and to cause them to retain salts (sodium, potassium and magnesium being the most common).
When you lower your blood insulin levels, you will also reduce that effect on your kidneys. As a result you will pee out a lot of that salt, and continue to do so. To reduce the effect of this change over time, and for the long term as well, you will need to increase your consumption of electrolytes.
The best way to do this is to drink bone broth 1-3 cups per day, and add plenty of salt to your meals, as well as ensuring you are getting plenty of green leafy vegetables.
What about ketoacidosis? Aren’t ketones bad?
There is a massive difference between ketones and being keto-adapted and having ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a very dangerous condition in diabetics where both their ketones and their blood sugars are extremely and dangerously high.
This combination makes their blood very acidic, and if left untreated, will kill them within hours.
It is alomst impossible for a non diabetic to induce this state. As to get high ketones, a normal person needs to not be eating carbohydrates that would be required to drive blood sugars up that high.
Nutritional ketosis like that on the ketogenic diet needs blood ketone levels to be between 1-5mmol and the blood sugars will sit between 4-7mmol. In ketoacidosis the ketone levels are over 15mmol and the blood sugars are over 20mmol.
It is quite a different beast! If you are a diabetic and are going on the ketogenic diet, good on you! Keep checking your blood sugars regularly, decrease your medications as required and ONLY do this under the supervision of a doctor. Do not drastically reduce your carbohydrate intake and take your full dose of insulin, your blood sugars will drop like a stone.