What Is A Keto Diet?
By now you have heard of the keto diet and you might even be interested in starting this keto diet but do you really know what it is?
Do you know what keto even means? Or what ketosis is? What are ketones? Do you really know what a carb is?
I will break this all down very thoroughly yet in extremely simple and easy to understand terms; think of this a sort of glossary for your keto journey.
In the simplest terms “a keto diet” is a way of eating that will put your body into a state where it is burning fat for fuel.
Keto – Adjective: of or relating to a ketone
What are Ketones (ketone bodies)?
Ketones or ketone bodies are a type of fuel that your liver is capable of making when your brain is deprived of glucose (a specific and simple form of sugar)
When you are on a Keto diet your liver responds by converting stored fat into ketones, to be used as a backup fuel to keep your brain happy. When this occurs, you enter what is called the state of Ketosis.
Your liver makes 3 primary ketones (one known as “BHB” which isthe predominant ketone body in the blood).
A “carb” which is short for carbohydrate, is a type of food that when broken down into its simpler form provides a quick energy to the body.
It is of a group of organic compounds and includes sugars, starch (e.g. bread and potatoes) and vegetable fibers. The most important thing to know and what is a critical datum to understand is that your digestive system converts carbohydrates into blood sugar!
Sugar – has two main definitions you should know. First it is another word for sucrose commonly known as “table sugar” or “cane sugar”, it is a carbohydrate formed from the combination of glucose and fructose.(will be explained next)
Secondly, sugar is the generic name for a sweet-tasting, simple carbohydrate. The various types of sugar are derived from different sources. Simple sugars include but are not limited to glucose and fructose.
Glucose – Glucose is a component of many carbohydrates. It isa simple and important type of sugar easily assimilated by the body and primarily stored in muscles as glycogen (glycogen is stored glucose).
Fructose – Unlike glucose, can only be metabolized by the liver, where limited amounts are converted into glucose. The majority of fructose– especially if your fructose intake is high — is converted into triglycerides (FAT).
There is growing scientific consensus that one of the most common types of sugar, fructose, can be toxic to the liver, just like alcohol. Fructose is the sugar that makes fruit taste sweet.
Too much fructose can damage your liver (more on this below), just like too much alcohol can, whereas glucose can easily be used by the cells for energy.
How Your Body Processes Its Fuel
What is the difference between glucose and fructose?
Fructose and Glucose are processed very differently by the body. Fructose is sweeter than glucose, so it’s most often used as an added sugar in processed foods, whether in the form of high-fructose corn syrup or just plain old sugar. Plain old table sugar/sucrose is usually a 50-50 mix of fructose and glucose.
Another component to understanding the entire picture is INSULIN, this is VERY commonly misunderstood even by the so called “experts”.
Simply put, insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas, which regulates the amount of glucose in the blood by using and storing it; insulin is responsible for delivering glucose from the bloodstream into muscle, fat, liver, and most other cells so that your body can use it for fuel.
Diabetes is when the body does not produce insulin either genetically (type 1) or due to over use and damage then fails to produce insulin (type 2).
Every time one eats a protein or carbohydrate insulin will be produced to a greater or lesser degree. Insulin in normal amounts and when functioning efficiently is great for you and necessary for a healthy, functioning body.
Insulin resistance is when a body can’t properly handle the insulin it produces. It occurs when the cells no longer allow insulin to do its job properly due to the over saturation caused by a high carb/high sugar diet.
A damaged liver will also lead to this insulin resistance and something known as: Fatty liver syndrome.
People with a “beer belly” or “pot belly” have this condition and it is caused from too high of a fructose intake over time/too much alcohol consumption.
So, when your body has become insulin resistant it will no longer be able to lower its blood sugar levels quickly and efficiently meaning the blood sugar levels remain too high which causes the pancreas to produce even more insulin in an effort to lower that blood sugar faster but this over production of insulin only leads to further insulin resistance!!!
This situation will now leave your cells in a nutritionally deficient state and your energy levels will crash which can cause an extreme hunger and cravings for sugar!
Have you ever crashed mid-morning or in the afternoon after eating?
Have you ever fallen asleep after a plate of pancakes? You may know what I mean.
Insulin resistance is how one enters the vicious cycle of: food intake, over production of insulin, energy levels crash, feeling the need to eat more sugar to handle said crash (when really all along it was caused by your body’s inefficiency of its insulin to properly communicate with the cells due to too much sugar!). Then you eat more, leading to even more insulin production and therefor further resistance and so on and so on! Now your pancreas will start to wear out and this exact cycle is what sends one towards type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease!
Last topic of the “glossary” of keto terms I want to explain is what a “NET CARB” is, as it will be critical for your daily tracking of total carbs consumed.
The term “net carbs” simply refers to carbs that are absorbed by the body.
Net carbs are the carbohydrates that our bodies can digest and turn into sugar (this obviously includes sugar itself) and where “total carbs” include fibers, sugar alcohols or other indigestible compounds.
Fiber does not increase your blood sugar levels. It’s a type of carbohydrate that your body cannot digest.
A sugar alcohol is neither a sugar nor an alcoholic beverage. It doesn’t get you drunk despite having the word “alcohol” in its name. Sugar alcohols are organic compounds naturally found in fruits and vegetables and may be found in “sugar-free” products.
Sugar alcohols are hard for our body to digest which is why consuming sugar alcohols in excessive amounts may cause digestive problems such as cramping, gas, and diarrhea.
However, sugar alcohols are still a form of carbohydrate. Some of them might still affect the blood sugar levels for a few people.
If you are on the ketogenic diet and you want to play it safe, you should count half of the sugar alcohol amount as carbohydrates (this part can be a little bit confusing in the beginning, but it gets easier with practice).
So the formula for calculating net carbohydrates is:
Net Carbs = Total Carbs – Fiber – 1/2 Sugar Alcohols
9.5 Net Carbs
A Brief History of the Keto Diet
The ketogenic diet has been used to successfully treat epilepsy cases in children since at least the 1920s – you can find sources that talk about keto and other dietary regimens having been used to treat epilepsy since at least 500 BC.
Newer evidence from animal models and clinical trials suggest keto may be therapeutically used in many other neurological disorders, including headaches, neurodegenerative diseases, sleep disorders, bipolar disorder, autism and brain cancer.
A ketogenic diet is a lot more natural than one may think and has been a lifestyle of certain cultures since their inception – Think of the aboriginal diet of the Arctic Inuit or the nomadic Native Americans of the Great Plains.
Take the example of the Native American – long ago and naturally they would have very little access to carbs, and modern studies show their heart disease rates being some of the worst as they genetically cannot handle the modern high carb diet.
I am NOT saying a chronic state of ketosis is ideal but certainly a cyclic state can be very beneficial in a world so over ridden with sugar, breads and sodas.
Genetics plays a HUGE role in one’s success on the keto diet long term – there are some people who I would not recommend keto for more than two weeks at any given time, but any genetic profile could stand to do it for 2 weeks; one can always use a good sugar detox.
Those who wish to say “oh well that’s not for me! Or that’s a form of starvation!” and yet experience all the symptoms of insulin resistance or fatty liver syndrome and are overweight are just simply not confronting the facts or willing to go through what might be initially an uncomfortable change of lifestyle and in the end, it is your body, your decision, and your responsibility.
I am simply here to help you and make things easy for you to understand when it comes to this crazy subject of diets.
I will repeat this – it is largely dependent on your genetic make-up when it comes to how long one should one stay in ketosis and how often there MUST be a cheat meal in one’s long term ketogenic diet lifestyle, etc. but I will cover this in the next article.
OK, now that you have a good understanding of what keto means and the key words pertaining to this diet. Your potential success and ease of execution will be much better.
Well, now how do you know if you are in ketosis? What is the “keto flu”? When should I have a cheat meal? Etc.
These questions will be answered in my next article named, “insert name – maybe: how to keto – part 2”
I will go over the general guidelines of keto dieting and not only give examples of foods to eat and not eat but I will also include important tips and outline common mistakes that one should avoid, ensuring a smooth and effective keto journey.
My goal is to make this lifestyle change as easy as possible for you!
I hope this article has cleared some things up for you and given you a good grasp of the KETOGENIC DIET.
You might even be able to help another with something you’ve learned here. Please share and stay tuned in on my website for future articles.