The simplest definition of the ketogenic diet is that it is a low-carb, high-fat, and moderate-protein diet. Ideally, when you follow this diet, only 10% of your total calories come from carbs, 20-30% of your total calories come from protein, and a whopping 60-70% of your total calories come from fats.
The diet takes its name from its main goal—to reach a state of ketosis. After some time of following the keto diet, your body will start burning fats instead of glucose. This is why one of the main benefits of this diet—that also makes it extremely popular—is weight loss. The macronutrient distribution of this diet requires you to eliminate foods that are high in carbs and sugar.
One of the more controversial aspects of this diet is that it requires you to eliminate foods that were once thought to be healthy. This includes legumes, some types of fruits and vegetables, and even grains. However, you would be allowed to eat high-fat food items such as bacon, cheese, dairy, and more.
When this diet first came onto the radar of health and fitness enthusiasts, it raised a lot of eyebrows. But as people saw proof of how effective the keto diet is— and as researchers studied it more—the world came to realize that it was more than just a trendy diet. The only reason you would eliminate certain types of foods and food groups on the keto diet is that they are high in carbs.
However, you would be replacing these foods with other types that will nourish you—and that fit into the keto diet. For instance, instead of eating a lot of starchy veggies, you would increase your intake of low-starch veggies such as leafy greens. You may also continue consuming veggies that contain moderate starch content such as carrots, red peppers, and more.
If you’re a lover of veggies, there are things you can do to make them more keto-friendly. For one, you can cook your veggies in coconut oil, ghee, butter, and other healthy oils. This makes them taste better while helping you reach your daily fat recommendation on the keto diet.
The keto diet also allows you to consume fish and meat without restriction—but for fish, it’s recommended to go for the ones that contain healthy fats such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, and herring. These are great options because they will not only help you consume enough fats, but they also contain other nutrients to keep you healthy.
For meat, you may choose lean cuts once in a while, but the fatty cuts are better. When it comes to following the keto diet—only the keto diet—the ratio between vegetables and meat that you consume depends on you. Generally, though, this diet requires more protein than high-carb diets.
The key is to choose the types of foods you eat and try to avoid food items that are high in carbs and sugar. On its own, the keto diet is pretty simple. It’s fairly restrictive, especially in terms of carbs and sugar. This diet may also feel quite intimidating, especially at the beginning. To follow it correctly, you must learn how to count your macros.
This enables you to ensure that you are getting the right amounts of fats, protein, and carbs to force your body into ketosis. Following the keto diet correctly is important. The good news is, there are different types of keto diets you can try depending on the macronutrient ratios you think you can handle.
How Does the Ketogenic Diet Work?
To help you understand how the ketogenic diet works, let us first review how the human body works—specifically how it produces energy. Most diets make our body run mainly on blood sugar or glucose which we get from carbs like potatoes, fruits, pasta, sweets, and bread. Most diets are also high in carbs—and people who don’t follow specific diets tend to eat a lot of carbs.
However, if our blood glucose levels drop, we feel our energy levels drop as well. The bad news is, our body isn’t designed to store a lot of glucose. But the good news is that even if you don’t consume a lot of carbs, your body can still function if it starts running on fats—and this happens when you reach ketosis.
While in a state of ketosis, your liver starts breaking down fats—the fats you consume and the fats stored in your body—into ketones or ketone bodies which are a usable source of energy. When this happens, your organs can start using these ketones to continue with their functions.
Simply put, your body will become a fat-burning machine using fats instead of glucose as its main energy source. This process is considered adaptive as it occurs when you “starve” yourself of glucose by eliminating carbs and sugar from your diet. As soon as your ketone levels increase, your body goes into ketosis.
It starts burning fats—which is why the keto diet a very effective way to lose weight. There are a couple of ways you can achieve ketosis. One way is by fasting. This involves a cessation of eating for a long period. Some diets involve fasting, the most popular of which is Intermittent Fasting or IF.
Fasting forces your body into a state of ketosis as it starts burning fats for fuel in an attempt to decrease the amount of glucose it uses. This happens because you’re “starving” your body of food. Another effective way to reach ketosis is by following the keto diet. On this diet, you consume a lot of butter, eggs, cheese, meat, fish, oils, nuts, and veggies while avoiding bread, grains, legumes, beans, and some starchy fruits and vegetables.
The nature of this diet is what forces your body into ketosis. You would be drastically limiting your carb intake—only eating enough to survive—while consuming high amounts of fats and moderate amounts of protein. To maintain ketosis, you need to consume a lot of fat since this is what your body will be used for fuel.
It’s also important to moderate your protein intake since protein can also be broken down by the body and converted into glucose. Therefore, if you consume more protein than what’s recommended, you might not be able to reach and maintain ketosis.
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