What is a ketogenic diet?
It is a diet which consists of very high level of fats and very low level of carbohydrates. The protein intake should be enough to fulfil your needs.
But, it shouldn’t be very high, as it won’t allow your body to go into a ketosis state. In a ketosis state, your body start burning fat at a higher rate.
This fat comes from the food you eat and from the fat stores in your body. The basic idea behind the ketogenic diet it to decrease the intake of the carbohydrates, so that your body switch to fat as an energy source.
Remember, contradicting to popular beliefs, carbohydrate is the only macro-nutrient that is not essential for survival.
How to achieve a ketosis state?
As discussed before you need to provide your body very low amount of carbs, so that it no longer stays dependent upon glucose for the energy.
For most of the people, 40-50 grams of carbs per day is enough. Simultaneously, you also need to provide it with high level of fats so that it fulfils the energy requirement of the body.
The fat should constitute 70-80% of your calorie intake.
The consumption of protein for ketogenic diet is very tricky, as having too low protein can cause muscle loss and having too much protein can prevent you from attaining ketosis state. (We will look into it later)
How to know if I am in a ketosis state?
Ketosis state represents a state of the body in which it starts to burn more fat. And, when your body burn fats for energy a by-product is released in your blood stream; Ketones.
So, to check whether your body is in the ketosis state you need to get your blood checked for ketones. Urine sticks are also available in the market for this job, but the accuracy is not always up to the mark.
What are Ketones?
Ketones are acids that are produced when your body use fat as an energy resource. People with diabetes, who aren’t able to produce insulin, the body cells find it hard to extract glucose present in the blood.
This results in them starving. Due to this, the body starts using fats and producing ketones. Some level of ketones are fine, but if this level goes up, it can be toxic.
As the entire concept of ketogenic diet is to use fat as an energy source, your body will produce a lot of ketones. But, it won’t be enough to be called toxic.
Optimal range of ketones
When your blood ketone level goes above o.5 millimolar, then it is considered as the beginning of the ketosis phase. The optimal range of ketones on a ketogenic diet is between 1.0 – 3.0 millimolar.
In normal conditions, the ketones level can fluctuate between this range depending upon the time, what you ate or the amount of physical activity you did.
If your ketones level goes above 6-7 millimolar you must consult your physician.
Before going on a ketogenic diet you must sit down with your physician and discuss what you should do in case something like that happens.
Initial challenges with ketogenic diet?
Since the time you are born you have been using carbohydrates as the main source of energy and fat worked as a side kick.
Now, you are switching their roles completely. It will take some time before your body starts recognising this new establishment.
During this phase a person can feel fatigue all the time, dizziness while performing a mundane activity, lack of concentrate, irritation, etc.
This is common to everyone who choose ketogenic diet, but the days before your body adapts can be varied.
Some people start seeing results in just 4-5 days and for some it might take a couple or a little more weeks.
Why the ketogenic diet doesn’t work for some people?
Ketogenic diet has proven its benefits overtime. Most of the people who try it, can’t stop singing its praises, but there are few exceptions also.
The first reason ketogenic diet doesn’t work on people, is because they quit too early. As I have said before, for different people it takes different amount of time to adapt.
Secondly, they think only cutting carbs is the key to fat loss and they continue to take a high amount of protein. And, it absence of adequate carbs, your body starts breaking protein to glucose, which kills the entire point of taking low carbs.
Ketogenic diet and performance
Since the popularization of KD, many endurance and ultra endurance athletes have adopted this LCHF(low carb high fat) diet and seen unbelievable results.
Although, not enough studies have been conducted about the effects of ketosis on the performance of the athletes, but a general view among athletes is very positive.
Ketogenic diet and cancer
It is seen that, unlike our normal cells, cancer cells aren’t as effective in using ketones as an energy source. Cancer cells need good amount of glucose to spread and maintain.
By using ketogenic diet we can limit the amount of glucose in our body and hence limit the speed at which the cancer cells grow.
This has been proven in many studies and researches. A study was conducted on a mouse with brain cancer and a human brain.
It concluded that, Ketogenic diet significantly controlled the growth of the cancer cells without effecting the functions of normal brain cells.
Many studies are going on, looking into the effects of the KD combined with other therapies like, chemo and radiation.
Since, the need for glucose and inability to effectively process ketons is same in all types of cancers, it can be very effective in treating every type of cancer.
How much fat, carbohydrate and protein should I take?
The amount of fat you’ll intake will solely be dependent upon your body weight and your goals. The logic is very simple, if you are trying to lose weight that some part of the overall fat(around 40-50%) should come from diet and the rest should come from fat stored in your, that is how you’ll lose weight.
The average consumption of a person can lie between 1600 – 3000 calories depending upon the gender, weight, age and level of physical activity. An obese person consumes more calorie in a day than an normal healthy person.
Obese person: If you are an obese person and want to lose weight then half of your calories should come from diet and rest the body will derive from stored body fat. So, if your daily calorie need is 3000, then 1500 calories should come from fat stored in your diet.
Healthy person: If you are comfortable with your weight and want to maintain it. Then almost all the calories should come from fat. For example, if you need 2400 calories per day, then you should eat around 250 gram(2250 calories) fat.
You can check this tool to calculate your daily calories need. It is not extremely accurate, but it will give you a general idea.
Protein: The maximum protein intake should constitute 10-20% of your calorie intake. If you are just looking to maintain muscle mass, then 1 gram per kg of your body weight is sufficient. Of course going too heavy on protein is not an option in a ketogenic diet. As discussed before.
Carbs: About 5% of total calorie intake should come from carbs. It is better to keep carbs as low as possible, as it might prevent you from attaining a ketosis state.
Who should follow this diet?
If you are suffering from obesity and want to decrease your weight, then you should follow this diet. People who suffer from diabetes have high insulin resistance, which means they can’t use glucose properly.
Ketogenic diet is an effective solution for this problem, as it trains your body to use ketones, instead of glucose, as the energy source.
Hence, insulin and insulin resistance is taken out of the picture. People who feel varied level of energy throughout the day on a mixed diet, can try a ketogenic diet for a constant flow on energy.
Can I lose weight without exercising on KD?
Some people, due to their weight, find it very hard to engage in physical activity. Ketogenic diet can be a very useful tool for such people.
There are many people who have lost a good amount of weight without even lifting a finger.
But, it is better to engage in a little physical activity, like, stretching or a little resistance training for preventing muscle loss.
You can start exercising 1-2 months after getting into the ketogenic diet. No hard and intense training is required just enough to utilise all the muscles in your body.
What if I decide to stop Ketogenic diet?
When you switch back to a mixed macro diet from a ketogenic diet you might experience the same effects in the beginning; dizziness, fatigue, irritation. Because your body is currently using fat as energy source and now it has to adapt to a carb diet.
Secondly, you’ll gain 4-5 pounds of weight immediately. Most of that will be water weights. Yes, carbs makes your body retain water.
So, the more carbs you eat, the more water would be retained. It is important for you to know that eating a bulk of carbs straight from a KD can cause bloating.
It is better to start taking a little bit of carb in the beginning and keep on adding little by little.
What kind of fat should I eat on a ketogenic diet?
The two types of fats you need to eat in abundance, are monounsaturated and saturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are easy to metabolise by your body and hence they are considered a good source of fat.
As the name suggests, they have a single(mono) carbon to carbon double bond. A ketogenic diet should consist a large amount of monounsaturated fats. About 40-60% of the total fat intake.
Saturated fats are fats with no double bond. They are known as saturated fats, as all the carbon atoms are fully saturated by hydrogen.
Since a long time saturated fats were being accused of causing variety of health related problem. But, in past few years studies have been conducted which acquitted saturated fats completely. But, there are few other studies that says otherwise.
The recommended intake of saturated fat should be around 10% of the total fat intake. But, in ketogenic diet the ability to use fat as energy source increases considerably, hence stretching that recommended limit to 15-20% shouldn’t be a problem.
And, finally, everyone’s favourite; polyunsaturated fats. Have you ever heard someone say, that you should eat your omega-3’s and omega-6’s for healthy heart and body.
Well, these are your polyunsaturated fats. They have more than one carbon to carbon double bond. Omega-3 is not only good for your heart, but is good for your brain and helps in production of testosterone.
Although, there have been certain talks about the ill effects of Omega-6 if taken in large quantity or if taken from an artificial source. So, your focus should be more omega-3.
Ketogenic diet and Epilepsy
Ketogenic diet has shown tremendous success with people with Epilepsy. It has managed to control seizures in children very effectively.
This diet is recommended to patient who are not responding to medicines. The KD is combined with seizure medicines to get maximum effect, but the dosage of the medicine is reduced considerably.
There is a critical need to follow this diet strictly, going of track with one or two meal can stop the effects of ketogenic diet.
Ketogenic diet and muscle growth
KD doesn’t cause muscle loss, but it won’t allow you to gain heavy muscles. The reason behind this is lack of protein on a diet.
You can’t attain ketosis if there is a large amount of protein in your diet, as body has the ability to break down protein into glucose.
In mixed(high carb) diet, as carb is the main source of energy, your body doesn’t break down protein excess as much and even if it did the process is very slow.
As the carb intake on a ketogenic diet is very less, the body is more likely to convert protein into glucose, which won’t allow you to attain ketosis.
What equipment do I need?
As switching from high carb – low fat diet will change what flows in your blood, you need to keep track of that. First of all, you’ll need a glucose meter to measure the level of glucose in your blood at regular intervals.
In Ketosis state, the glucose level should drop considerably and if that isn’t happening then there is something wrong with your approach. Secondly, you’ll need a ketone measuring tool.
The optimal range of ketone is 1-3 millimolar, so you’ll need to frequently measure and analyse what things you did to get up or down the level of ketones. Increased level of ketone can be toxic.
Ketosis vs. ketoacidosis
There is a huge difference between ketosis and ketoacidosis, but they are constantly confused to be one another. Ketosis is a controlled state achieved by intentional cutting of carbs from the diet, in order to regulate the glucose and in turn the insulin level in the blood.
On the other hand, Ketoacidosis is a state in which your body lacks insulin or becomes insulin resistance, which results in your cells not getting any glucose and your body starts to oxidise fats uncontrollably.
This leads to production of huge amount of ketone bodies, which makes your body acidic.
Apart from the destroying the natural pH balance, if your body is acidic in nature, then it is prone to huge array of diseases.
On a ketogenic diet, it is very unlikely for you to get ketoacidosis, although having Ketone measuring tool at home will help you to detect any unwanted hike in the level of ketones.
What minerals should I take with ketogenic diet?
Although, sodium and potassium are very essential mineral for every one, but people on ketogenic diet require them in a little more quantity. You can do this by increasing the intake of salt. You can use supplements as well, but taking excess potassium can be very dangerous.If all the potassium is coming from the food, then you’ll less likely to get it in excess.
Some foods that are rich in sodium and potassium:
- Dark chocolate
Will ketogenic diet effect my cholesterol level?
Since a very lot time, fats were blamed for increasing the cholesterol levels and thus facilitating the increased risk of heart diseases.
Even now people tend to stay from fats, due to the same reason. But, you shouldn’t be worrying about your cholesterol?
Ketogenic diet will increase your total cholesterol level!
But, this rise of cholesterol level would be because of HDL, which is a good cholesterol and not because of LDL which is a bad cholesterol level.
All the problems that you face regarding your cardiovascular system are due to LDL.
Since, in KD, most of the fat will be coming from mono-unsaturated, saturated and poly-unsaturated fats you don’t to worry about your cholesterol.
Trans-fats and saturated fat from processed food is responsible for increase in bad cholesterol.