How Does Keto Work?

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Carbohydrates are usually the preferred source of energy production by our cells. When carbohydrate intake is limited to less than 50g per day, insulin secretion is reduced and our glycogen stores depleted, forcing the body to adapt to a different metabolic state.

The main idea of the ketogenic diet for weight loss is that if you deprive the body of glucose, which is obtained by eating carbohydrates, then a alternative fuel called ketones is produced from stored fat. Our brains demand glucose as fuel, about 120 grams daily, because it cannot store glucose. This is why the brain needs a steady stream of glucose.  During fasting, or or on a low carbohydrate diet, our cells use stored glucose from the liver and temporarily breaks down muscle to release glucose. If this type of diet continues for more than 3 days and when our stored glucose is fully depleted, blood levels insulin decrease, and the body begins to use fat as its primary fuel. This is the ultimate goal of eating the ketogenic diet. This is when the liver produces ketone bodies from fat, which can be used when glucose is depleted.

Ketosis is the accumulation of ketone bodies in our blood. This is also what results when our bodies are in a fasting state. If the diet is carefully followed and monitored by a doctor, blood levels of ketones should not reach a harmful level, known as “ketoacidosis. The brain will use these ketones for fuel, and healthy individuals will typically produce enough insulin to prevent excessive ketones from forming. How soon ketosis happens will be different for everyone and depends on factors such as body fat percentage and resting metabolic rate.

We’re in a state of nutritional ketosis when we are fueled mostly by fats, and practicing intermittent fasting is one of the methods commonly used to enter the state of ketosis more quickly.

Many people on this diet reported a reduced sense of hunger, higher levels of mental clarity throughout the day, stable energy levels, and weight loss.  Most people report high levels of satiety, as they are still eating whenever they feel the need, yet still losing weight, without necessarily having to exercise.

The keto diet has similar concepts to the paleo diet and the old Atkins diet. They have in common the low levels of carbohydrates, the lack of processed junk food, rice, pasta, etc., and instead preferring meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, and natural fats, such as olive oil. These types of diet have all in common one thing: they follow the principle that our ancestors weren’t eating processed carbohydrates. These diets also consider the fact that most food nowadays is made to be hyper-palatable, highly rewarding and potentially addictive: from high sugar drinks to different types of candies; we end up eating and drinking high amounts of sugar.

The initial side-effects given by this diet is often referred to as “keto flu”, which include a few symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, headache, and insomnia. These symptoms are resolved in a couple of days, and making sure consuming a good amount of fluids and electrolytes can help alleviate them.

Before starting this (or any) diet, it’s advised to speak to a specialist to make sure any past medical history isn’t contradicted with the new lifestyle. If you’re looking to start this diet, speak with your doctor about it to make sure it’s the right eating plan for you.