The keto diet is blowing up in the nutrition scene because of its promises to help you shed fat, lower inflammation, and increase your brain function. With words like “ketosis” and “ketones”, plus all the talk of macros and fat adaptation, you’re bound to be wondering, “what exactly is the keto diet?”
But the keto diet doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s a simple guide to getting started so you can experience the benefits of the ketogenic diet for yourself.
In this article, you’ll learn:
Simply put, the keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat, moderate protein diet that helps your body burn fat as your main source of energy instead of glucose.
You’re likely familiar with the idea of your body breaking down carbohydrates into glucose and using glucose as fuel. This is the reason sticky sweet “energy bars” and packets of endurance goop were invented for long-distance athletes.
I had already been low carb at times when I was trying to lose weight but noticed an increasing desire for sugar. [The keto diet] started out as a way to cut sugar and lose weight and manifested into a lifestyle.
– Jaime, @mindfuljaime
Glucose is a quick source of fuel for your body, but it comes with some pitfalls, like energy crashes, unbalanced blood sugar, and weight gain.
That’s why many of us crave sweets when we’re low-energy or downright exhausted. When your body is used to breaking down carbohydrates like grains, starches, and sugars into glucose molecules for energy, it’s no wonder you crave more carbs when you need more energy.
I went keto because I needed to not only lose weight, but GET HEALTHIER in general as well. I was overweight, prehypertensive, and depressed. I had lost around 40 lbs over a year and a half through eating mostly clean & exercising, but was stuck & still had a way to go. I did a lot of research into the health benefits of keto, and decided I had nothing to lose (except weight) since I felt I had tried just about everything else.
– Amy, @rockon_keto_rn
The keto diet changes all of that. Keto dieters cut out nearly all carbohydrates and dramatically increase their healthy fat intake. When this happens, your body starts breaking down fat into ketones, compounds your body can use to produce clean, fast energy without the crash.
Your body will not produce a significant amount of ketones for energy until you drastically lower your carbohydrate intake. Only then will you start to deplete glycogen stores – the excess glucose your body stores in your muscles and liver.
Once glycogen stores are depleted, then your body will start to burn fat for fuel.
I started keto over 2 years ago and keto was looked at as a fad. It wasn’t real yet and it was very new. People didn’t agree and liked to think I was weird for changing my entire way I thought about food. That can be rough on you. I proved them wrong after I lost 75 lbs.
– Samantha, @Keto.sam.iam
The breakdown of fat happens primarily in the liver, where fatty acids are converted into ketones and ketones are converted into ATP, or energy.
Being “fat adapted” or in ketosis means that you have a significant amount of ketone bodies in your blood to use for energy. You can test ketone levels with simple at-home tests.
Optimum blood ketone levels are about 1.5-3 mmol/L.
Light nutritional ketosis is around 0.5-1.5 mmol.L.
The keto diet was first used as far back as the 1920s as a therapeutic diet for children suffering from epilepsy. Researchers and doctors found that children who switched into a ketogenic state naturally had fewer episodes and is especially affective for those who don’t respond to seizure medications.
The benefits of keto for me include being able to successfully get all four medications for anxiety and bipolar depression. A major increase in energy, so much I don’t know what to do with all the time LOL. I also experience major mental clarity daily!
– Ciara, @KetoGoddessMama
Since then, other health benefits were noticed, then objectively studied in rodents and humans. People who experiment with the keto diet notice:
- Fat loss
- Fewer cravings and hunger suppression
- More energy
- Mental clarity
- Better brain function
- Balanced blood sugar
- Better athletic performance
- Lower levels of inflammation
Are you ready to get started with the keto diet? Check back next week for the next chapter in our keto series, The Keto Diet: What to Eat.