Diets are a rough road to navigate, especially if you want to lose weight and tone up. Along the way, you may find plenty of diet plans that promise to help your scale numbers look pretty. But before you stock up on crash diet pills and draw up crazy meal plans, how about you explore the ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet has been around for a while, and while it has many benefits, there are also some pre-conceived untruths about it. Let’s break down those untruths and uncover how to use the ketogenic diet as the best way to lose weight.

The ketogenic diet is not a get-skinny-quick weight loss plan. Instead, it takes time, culinary discipline and just a pinch of dedication to achieve transformation.

 

What is it?

 

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carb, moderate-protein that resets your body into a state known as ketosis. It involves reducing your carbohydrate intake and substantially increasing your intake of healthy fats. It also limits your protein intake. Although it sounds extreme, it does not mean cutting out every other essential food group and replacing it with fat.

Every day, we encounter carbs, and we eat them in the form of processed grain. From pasta and potatoes to rice, human beings have evolved to rely on carbohydrates as the main source of energy. However, as we consume more carbs, the body uses the glucose formed to provide energy. This way, it stores up fats leading to weight gain.

The over-reliance on carbohydrates made the body experience highs and lows. When carbs and starches break down, they produce sugar, in the form of glucose and insulin. The glucose keeps the body running while the insulin acts as a transportation agent. When you consume too many carbs, sugar production increases. These sugars are stored in the liver and kidneys in the form of glycogen. However, when your body can no longer store sugar, it transforms stored glycogen into bad cholesterol and triglycerides(type of fats). Bad cholesterol and these triglycerides pile up your pounds.

The ketogenic diet is a reversal mechanism which changes the energy sources of the body. The name ketogenic is derived from ketones. Ketones are a by-product of fat breakdown, and they are produced in the liver.

 

Why do we rely on carbohydrates?

 

One of the main reasons why we prefer carbs is that that’s just how we evolved. Early humans fed on tubers like cassava, but as industrialisation set in, we began farming and storing up grain. Grain stayed for longer. Then came the commercialisation phase, which ramped up food processing and made processed foods popular.

 

Classes of the ketogenic diet

 

  Standard Ketogenic Diet: Very low carbs (5%), protein (20%), high fat (75%).

Illustration showing % of daily intake of carbs, protein and fats in standard kept diet

  High-protein: Carbs (5%), fat (60%) and protein (35%).

Illustration showing % of daily intake of carbs, protein and fats in High Protein Keto diet

  Cyclical: This is hard to sustain because of the high-low carb fluctuations.

 

How Does Ketosis Work?

 

Ketosis refers to a metabolic state that occurs when the body is voluntarily or involuntarily denied of its primary source of energy. Typically, your body synthesises dietary carbohydrates into glucose. The surplus glucose becomes glycogen- fat stored in the liver and muscles. As sugar intake increases, so does surplus sugar storage. That is why high sugar levels are associated with weight gain.

If for any reason the body cannot produce enough glucose to sustain its energy demands, it switches to an alternative mode of energy production. At first, it uses the fat stored in the muscles and liver. At this point, the stored up glycogen is in the form of triglycerides, and its breakdown results in glucose production.

When ketosis sets in, the body has adapted to being deprived of carbohydrates. It recognises that there needs to be a more stable energy source to run vital organs. As such, it uses the fat stores as an energy source.

Fasting is a voluntary method of inducing ketosis. However, fasting may not be for everyone. Intermittent Fasting could be a way to be in ketosis considering healthy eating habits for sustainable weight loss. Effective nutritional management of the carbohydrates to fats ratio is more likely to bring about healthy weight loss.

Optimal ketosis for weight maximum loss is at 1.5 – 3 mmol/L. This range is known as nutritional ketosis, and it indicates that your ketone levels are okay and you’re at a lower risk of ketoacidosis.

 

What are the benefits of the ketogenic diet?

 

Some people may see it as an extreme measure since it is almost inevitable that you consume some form of carbohydrates. However, when done correctly, you can begin to see an increase in mental focus, body fitness, and muscle form.

 

1.  Mental focus

 

The brain is an energy-intensive organ, often requiring immense amounts of energy to function optimally.

High-calorific foods are linked to intense cravings that affect the brain’s reward systems.

When the body is deprived of sugar, your brain will immediately get into craving mode, and you will want to feed that sweet tooth. These cravings might make you reach for quick fixes to feed the craving, leading to erratic highs and lows, causing periodic mental disruptions.

Ketogenic Diet helps with mental focusKetogenic diets help you focus by providing the body with a stable energy source. By minimising the need to eat most of the time, the areas of the brain tasked with cognition run more efficiently.

 

2.  Stable energy

 

The ketogenic diet is designed to make your body’s energy production as efficient as possible. Fats stored in the liver are broken down slower than glucose. By upping fat intake and regulating protein, you are able to build muscle while giving your body a more reliable energy source.

 

3.  Weight loss

 

Perhaps the biggest divider about the ketogenic diet is whether it is the best way to lose weight. Other than what you eat, there are other factors that affect weight loss. Various factors such as exercise and genetics influence the probability of sustainable weight loss. The objective of the ketogenic diet is to cut down on quick-fix feeding habits and promote healthy intake of fats.

Efficiently following the ketogenic diet promotes the use of fats as the body primary energy source.

The ketogenic diet helps you control your appetite. Since fats are broken down slower than carbohydrates, the need to eat frequently is suppressed, leading to maximum usage of stored up fats. By reducing appetite, your body does not have an excess supply of fats to store up hence keeping your weight in check.

Ketogenic diet helps with weight loss

Another way a ketogenic diet helps you lose weight is if you incorporate strength training into your diet. You would first need to build up your tolerance for the diet before going into strength training. However, once your body can rely on stored fats as body fuel, you can get on with strength training and even endurance training. Just be careful about exercises such as sprinting as they tend to use up glucose.

It is quite common to get excited at the fast results you might witness when you are just starting out with the keto diet for weight loss. However, in that initial phase, the drop in weight is attributed to stored up carbs and water.

 

Is the ketogenic diet hard?

 

The ketogenic diet is hardly a quick fix.

Naturally, we crave sweet things. Economically, most foods we eat are processed or have some processed sugar in them. Sugar will throw your body out of ketosis due to the body’s affinity for sugar.

To follow through on the ketogenic diet means an almost religious or fanatical approach to low-carb, high-fat food intake.

Some critiques view the ketogenic diet as difficult because of the dietary follow-through that is required.

However, studies show that with effective management, it is possible to sustain a healthy weight loss strategy through this diet.

 

Ketogenic Food List

 

The ketogenic diet requires a lot of discipline for it to help you with weight loss. It all starts with knowing the right foods to stock up. This is why each type of food should be represented in the food plan.

The ketogenic diet promotes healthy foods as the best way to lose weight.

 

Carbs and fiber

 

It is important to note that you are not entirely eliminating carbs from the diet. You are only limiting carb intake by avoiding starchy carbs. Your primary source of clean carbohydrates can come from leafy greens as they pack some fiber and a whole lot of essential minerals without throwing you off optimal ketosis.

Here is a list of foods that contain fiber:

Leafy green vegetables           Beans                          Zucchini             Bell pepper

French beans                            Celery                          Cucumber         Jicama

Scallions                                     Radish                          Tomato             Mushrooms

Pumpkin                                     Olives

Fiber rich vegetables for Ketogenic diet

Above mentioned vegetables are low in calorie and  you can have these vegetables raw or cooked.

 

Proteins

 

Protein can make you feel full for long time and as such help you avoiding binge eating or consuming unnecessary extra calories.

Here are some good sources of protein:

Beef                       Lamb                   Goat                Pork

Organ meats        Poultry                Fish                  Eggs

Animal protein sources for ketogenic diet

Darker poultry meats assume preference over the white bits. Additionally, fatty meats are better.

Process and cured meats need not be in your diet plans as most contain added sugars. Deep fried breaded meats should also have no place in your diet plans.

 

The good oils

 

Here are some of the good oils that you can add in your diet:

  Olive oil          •  Coconut oil

  Fish oil

Vegetable oils such as sunflower oils are processed polyunsaturated fats. Margarine, on the other hand, is a processed trans fat. You should avoid vegetable oils and use butter as a substitute for margarine.

Good oils to add to your diet  

Fruits and seeds

 

It is advisable that you steer clear of fruit as they contain sugars. However, that does not mean completely cutting out fruits. Berries are a super replacement. Below are some of the fruits and seeds that your diet should contain:

  Blueberries          •  Strawberry             •  Watermelon        •  Avocado

  Currants.              •  Pumpkin seeds     •  Hemp seeds.       •  Chia seeds

  Flax seeds

 

Ketogenic Food Plans

 

Before embarking on this rough, yet rewarding road, you need to know some of the side effects that may come with this diet. As the body rewires to accept these changes, you may feel:

  Drowsiness          •  Headaches

  Fatigue.                 •  Difficulty to focus

Fret not, friend. These are standard side effects associated with the depletion of water and salt in the body. You will also urinate- A LOT! However, it is easy to glide through these flu-like symptoms. Aggressive hydration and sodium intake should help ease the severity of the symptoms. You can also take bone broth (it really is good for you).

This sample meal plan outlines a week on the keto diet. However, feel free to use any of the foods on the recommended food list to experiment and get the best combinations.

This is a sample of a one-week plan. The meal plans will need you to experiment to get the best combinations.

Picture describing Ketogenic meal plan for 7 days, includes food items, dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner from Sunday to Saturday

*Fat coffee and fat tea are commonplace in keto diets. It involves blending coffee with butter, some milk and coconut oil. It’s an acquired taste, but once you get the tongue for it, you will not get enough.

Okay, so the sample meal above is a little monotonous (with all the beef and pork) However, you can replace beef with other delicious meats.

To make meals easier, always strive to make big batches so you can get leftovers and quick access to frozen ready meals.

 

Resources

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-signs-and-symptoms-of-ketosis#section10

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25402637

https://now.tufts.edu/articles/craving-brain

https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/dorian6.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23651522

https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/10/11/how-do-our-bodies-use-carbohydrates/#4dbd02cf736c

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27385608

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Sajal Mahato

I am a fitness enthusiastic who believes “Health is the number one asset to an individual” and that “It should be the number one priority in life”. Gone through the journey of being super fit & healthy (sports fanatics during teen years) to sick & unfit (late 20’s and 30’s) to fit & healthy again (wise men say life starts at 40 ☺). Understands why things go to custard and what it takes to get back on track again.
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