What do the Paleo Diet, the Zone Diet and the South Beach Diet have in common? They’re all essentially variations of the ketogenic diet – a high-fat, moderate protein and very low-carb meal plan that forces your body to burn fat for fuel. While on a ketogenic diet, your body turns into a fat-burning machine, transitioning from using carbohydrates (glucose) as its main energy source to burning fat instead.
Ketosis & Ketones
As your body switches from using carbohydrates for fuel to burning fat, your body enters a state known as ketosis. You can only enter ketosis by restricting your daily carbohydrate intake. Once in ketosis, your body starts to produce more ketones within the liver that will now become your body’s primary energy source. Ketones help lower your insulin levels; when insulin levels are high, your body functions by using glucose and carbohydrates for energy. The ketones will then help supply energy to your brain and muscles.
Setting Up the Ketogenic Diet
Although the exact breakdown of macros varies by person, the general rule of thumb when following a ketogenic diet is to intake roughly 75% of your daily calories from fats, 20% from proteins and 5% from carbohydrates. Total net carbohydrate intake is usually around 30-50g per day to remain in a state of ketosis. The ketogenic diet requires a precise balance of macronutrients in order to turn your body into a fat-burning machine. This will be quite a departure from any diet you’re used to, so prepare accordingly and set yourself up for success! Here’s a shopping list to get you started.
How is the Keto Diet Different Than a Low-Carb Diet?
Although limiting your carbs is an essential part of a ketogenic diet, it is not the same as a low-carb diet. Typical low-carb diets are based on a very high intake of protein and a low intake of fats. However, a ketogenic diet focuses on consuming large amounts of healthy fats and moderate protein.
The reason for only consuming a moderate amount of protein on a ketogenic diet is because too much protein can knock you out of ketosis and transition the body back to burning carbohydrates. Protein is still necessary in the diet, as it’s needed to help prevent muscle breakdown (known as catabolism) and increase lean body mass. However, if you’re consuming large amounts of proteins, combined with large amounts of fats, your body could potentially store this excess protein as fat.
Good Fats vs. Bad Fats
At first glance, the ketogenic diet may seem like the greatest diet ever – bring on the bacon! The truth is, while fats will make up 75% of your diet, to be successful, you need to focus on good fats, not bad fats. Good fats, or unsaturated fats, come in three types: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega 3s (also polyunsaturated).
Both mono and polyunsaturated fats can help fight off health problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to help improve cognitive function, reduce inflammation, protect against cardiovascular disease and delay fatigue. Foods containing these good fats include: nuts, avocados, vegetable oils, and cold-water fish such as mackerel, salmon and herring.
Saturated fats, on the other hand, are the bad fats you need to avoid on any diet. Most commonly found in animal proteins and whole milk products, they’ve been shown to increase cholesterol levels (both LDL and HDL), which can potentially lead to heart disease and other chronic conditions. These fats are also more easily stored as body fat, compared to unsaturated fats that are necessary for proper body function.
You’ll also want to avoid trans fats as much as possible. Trans fats can be found in many commercial food items as they help prolong the food’s shelf life. These fats actually harm the body more than saturated fats because they lower HDL (good) cholesterol levels and increase the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. This extreme effect can lead to various problems, including diabetes and stroke.
As a keto dieter, one of the most efficient sources of fats you can consume is Medium Chain Triglycerides. MCTs can help you get the calories you need for your diet, while providing large amounts of healthy fats. These fats are different from the rest as they enter the blood stream, bypass the liver and are quickly used to fuel your muscles and brain. Coconut oil, which is made up of almost 60% MCTs, is a readily available source and also great for cooking. They can also be found in our multi-purpose recovery supplement, Keto Aminos™.