The keto diet, also know as a KETOGENIC diet is a low carb, high fat diet that reduces the amount of carbohydrates consumed and replaces them with healthy fats, while keeping protein consumption at a moderate level. These altered food proportions put your body in a totally natural metabolic state known as Ketosis, where you will burn fats (rather than carbs) for energy! It means eating more fat, to burn fat.
You’re thinking, ‘ so you replace your breakfast toast with a side of bacon right???” Yes, but that’s not all a Keto diet is about. There is SO much more to understand about a what a ketogenic diet REALLY is.
Keto is about dramatically reducing the amount of carbs that you eat AND adding LOTS of HEALTHY fats- more than JUST eliminating the commonly known high carb offenders of breads, pastas and rice. Believe it or not high carbohydrate foods are EVERYWHERE. The less commonly known foods high in carbohydrates are foods that have sugars and starches (Sugar and Starches ARE carbs). The majority of people don’t even KNOW that they ingesting loads of carbs every day! Did you know that only 1 Tablespoon of Heinz Ketchup has 5 Grams of Carbohydrates, 4 grams of which are sugars?!?! Yep, there’s CARBS HIDING IN your KETCHUP????!
Eating a truly low carb & keto diet naturally means you stay away from sugars, gluten, grains, and starches , as well as focusing on eating CLEAN (clean = not processed) foods and healthy fats. Healthy fats are eating organic, grass-fed animal meats and dairy products because these are higher in Omega 3s (as opposed to Omega 6s which you want to limit). Unfortunately, the majority of processed foods are made with vegetable oils like Canola, soybean, and corn oil, that are NOT healthy fats (they’re actually extremely bad for you), which you should steer clear of on a keto diet. In fact, you should avoid these on ANY diet!
When you simply alter the ratios of fats to protein to carbs in your diet, focusing on where your nutrients come from like grass fed and organic foods to follow a Ketogenic approach, it can have PROFOUND effects on your body, your mind, and your life. I’m talking…. LIFE CHANGING EFFECTS.
It only takes one to three weeks of following a keto diet (sometimes less) before the MAGIC happens. All of the sudden, you’ll transform into a REAL LIFE energizer bunny with endless energy. You start sleeping better. Your skin will look clear and amazing. Your inflammation decreases. Your anxiety or depression may disappear. Certain unsolvable health issues (for me this was migraines) will mysteriously be alleviated. You become a fat burning machine and the weight falls off like crazy. Basically, you transform into a SUPERHERO….or at least, you FEEL like one ????.
And Now, you’re wondering the specifics of how this magical Ketogenic Diet works? Don’t worry – we are going to cover ALL the basics.
If you’re looking for something specific, click a link below to jump ahead!
What Exactly Does a Keto Diet Look Like?
Fats, proteins, and carbs are the three building blocks of all foods, called Macronutrients [referred to as ‘MACROS’]. In general, a Ketoenic diet requires a specific ratio of these three macronutrients (that’s what makes it WORK). The average proportion for most on keto is 70% fats, 25% proteins, and 5% carbs. These percentages can vary slightly from person to person, but not by much.
Why would these ratios vary? Based on a person’s goals (how much weight loss for example), their bodies (body fat %), and their lifestyle ( type of exercise), which might mean you need slightly more protein & in turn slightly less fats, or a little more fat & therefore less protein. The one macro on a keto diet that remains UNCHANGED, is Carbohydrates. 5% is an average, as that typically equates to 20 grams of carbs or less, which is a VERY important limit for everyone to be on a true ketogenic diet.
Note: The amount of carbs that most people’s body can handle and still remain in a ketogenic state, can be increased over time for some people as the body becomes adjusted to burning fat for fuel; however, in the first few months of adaptation, your maximum carb count needs to remain unchanged. For all intensive purposes of KETO 101, we’re not covering this little tidbit further here.
To Understand how the ratios vary proportionally, think of keto macronutrient proportions as a pie chart. The Carbs Slice is always static and unchanging because of the daily maximum carb intake of 20 grams of net carbs. When you make the protein pie piece a little wider (for certain circumstances as mentioned) then in turn your fat slice has to shrink proportionally to keep the circle. The same goes for fats if you’re decreasing your protein amounts, then your fat slice gets proportionally larger. The ENTIRE PIE represents your overall total intake of calories for the day (which depends solely on how much weight you’re trying to lose).
You can’t manipulate the protein to fat ratio ANY way you want though, because not eating enough fat and TOO much Protein can have negative effects on ketosis.
Starches, Sugars (inclusive of sugar alcohols), and Fiber are all Carbohydrates . I keep mentioning the carbs as NET CARBS, because net carbs are slightly different. “NET” CARBS are referring to the exclusion of fiber and sugar alcohols . We exclude the fiber and sugar alcohols in our tracking of carbohydrates because they do not effect blood sugar like all other forms of carbohydrates do; therefore, we CAN INCLUDE them in our ketogenic diets, without worrying about a negative impact on our ratios.
Net Carbs aren’t typically included on a nutrition label, so we have to calculate them. Here’s how they’re calculated:
Net Carbs = TOTAL CARBS – FIBER – Sugar Alcohols*
* only foods with non-sugar sweeteners will have sugar alcohols in them
So, in short, the total net carbs on a ketogenic diet need to be 20 GRAMS OF NET CARBS PER DAY or less to remain in a state of ketosis (we’ll dive deeper into what ketosis is shortly). For some perspective, 20 grams of net carbs is the equivalent of eating just one small BANANA ????! [ Gasp…….!]
You probably think that this is completely different from the standard (western) recommendations for a healthy diet, because IT IS. The US Department of Agriculture suggests that Americans should prioritize getting 6-11 servings of breads, cereals, rice & pasta a day, using fats and oils ONLY sparingly.
The Keto Food Pyramid, on the otherhand, looks like more or less like an upside-down USDA food pyramid.
The dietary guidelines, here in the US at least, that we’ve grown up following were completely out of whack. They were written based off of studies that didn’t have proper scientific back up back in the mid 20th century, and now it’s finally been shown that the nutritionist experts got the amount of fats we should be eating completely wrong . Unfortunately, the food guidelines have not yet been updated to reflect any changes.
So yes, Keto might feel completely backwards and upside down from the way you’ve been taught to eat a ‘healthy’ diet.
As soon as I made changes to what I ‘thought’ was a healthy diet , which previously included the recommended amount of carbs and very limited fats, to a keto diet, I lost 25 lbs and am now in the best shape I’ve EVER been in. Fats actually DON’T make you fat. Do. Not. Fear. Fats.
This, is a broad overview of what you can eat on a keto diet! As you can see, it varies from person to person. For the EXACT calculation of foods you should eat on keto (to reach goals like weight loss) you will want to read my HOW TO KETO section after this.
What is the science behind Keto & How does it all work?
The default ‘fuel’ that your body prefers and primarily uses for energy, is from carbohydrates. It’s the ‘default’ fuel because carbohydrates are the easiest and quickest for the body to break it down (carbs are broken down into blood glucose, aka sugar) that turns into immediate energy, so it’s naturally it’s the first choice of fuel.
Carbs = Sugar (Glucose)
Your body doesn’t know how to burn an ALTERNATE fuel for energy when carbohydrates are always in the picture.
When you take carbohydrates out of the equation, then the primary source of fuel is obviously no longer an option. Energy is then created from the secondary fuel source – FATS!
With carbohydrates being restricted, Fats then get turned into amino acids which get transported to your liver, where your liver will produce something called KETONES. Ketones are cells that CAN be burned as a fuel source. The presence of ketones, means you go into a state of ‘KETOSIS’. Ketosis is just the name for the VERY NATURAL metabolic state where you’re using ketone bodies for fuel and functioning.
Ketosis = Fat Burning State
Ketosis is what makes the ‘keto’ diet what it is and obviously is what gives it’s name. ???? This metabolic process, is WHERE ALL THE MAGIC HAPPENS.
What’s Wrong With Carbohydrates?
Did you know that Fats do not make you fat- carbohydrates do? Carbohydrates are also the sneaky culprit for a number of undesirable issues that you’ve most likely fallen victim to time and time again. To explain this , we need to first understand how the body uses, processes, and stores carbohydrates.
When you eat carbohydrates, they get broken down and turned into Glucose, which is, as we’ve mentioned, your body’s default fuel source. This Glucose first is absorbed in stomach and intestines and then released into your blood as blood glucose, which is what can be immediately used for your energy demands (think daily functioning). Then, the excess glucose that your body doesn’t immediately need gets stored in two ways. First, it gets stored as a sort of ‘reserve fuel’ called glycogen (glycogen= the name for glucose in it’s ‘stored’ form). Glycogen (reserved fuel) gets stored in your muscles or your liver for quick or ‘dire’ energy needs ( think fight or flight, starvation, or abrupt bursts of energy). The reserves in your liver and muscles are very limited space wise though. They can only hold a few hundred grams of emergency glycogen. So, where does the REST OF THE EXCESS GLUCOSE FROM CARBS get STORED? The Second Storage place is …….. In Adipose Tissue???? (also known as FAT STORES)! There’s no storage limit when it comes to fat stores.
Aside from excess glucose (from carbs remember!) resulting in an inevitable muffin top, there’s another problem. Once Fat is stored in fatty tissues, it CANNOT be used AGAIN for energy, because it can’t really be converted back into glucose easily. IT EFFECTIVELY BECOMES USELESS to you, besides growing into a nice squishy cushion for your behind and a lovely pair of batwings hanging from your arms!
Another issue with Carbohydrates is that they’re very quick burning. Once you’ve USED the glucose you’ve eaten (FROM carbs) as blood glucose for your current energy requirements, reserved a small amount in your ‘reserve’ fuel tanks that don’t hold much, and stored the rest uselessly as BODY FAT ( you can’t turn that back into glucose), then you’re EFFECTIVELY OUT of new energy to use. Your main fuel tank is once again EMPTY. There’s nothing left for you to use for fuel.
In order to get more energy, You HAVE TO INGEST MORE carbohydrates to convert to glucose again. AND again. AND Again.
Enter Carbohydrate ADDICTION!!
Have you ever noticed that once your energy gets low after not eating for a few hours, you start getting cranky & HANGRY ? The longer you go without eating, the more you start craving CARBS ( like a BIG GIANT BOWL OF PASTA? OR GIANT FOOT LONG, GLUTINOUS SUBWAY Sandwhich)? That’s because all your energy has been used up, and you’re craving the foods that will give you immediate energy again- MORE CARBS! It’s a never ending need to keep refueling.
Trying to stay energized on carbohydrates is the equivalent of trying to keep a fire burning all night long ONLY using pieces of kindling- quick burning, with a never ending need to refuel.
Consider this information for a moment, if you’ve ever caught yourself thinking , “I could NEVER give up carbs”. You think that way, because your body LITERALLY depends on eating carbs for energy, CONTINUALLY. It’s not your fault, your body keeps you craving those carbs to keep that energy source coming!
SO my friends, HOW DO YOU STOP CRAVING CARBS? YOU STOP EATING THEM. YOU BREAK THE CYCLE BY FORCING YOUR BODY TO USE ANOTHER FUEL SOURCE.
I bet you didn’t know there are tons of negative effects of carbohydrates!? I never did, before going keto.
OVERCONSUMPTION OF CARBOHYDRATES ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR:
OBESITY, HANGER, moodiness, poor sleep, constipation, acne, feeling
crappy, “food comas”, belly fat, inflammation, high insulin [insulin
inhibits fat burning], diabetes, mental fog, stomach issues, feeling
sluggish, vascular disease, encouraging cancer growth (seriously!),
sugar addiction, hormone imbalances, excessive cravings, and energy
All these negative side effects of carbs are testament that our bodies are not made for the heavy carbohydrate diets we ingest today. We didn’t have all these issues long ago! But, way back… when we didn’t have the luxury of the starbucks or a mcdonalds on every street corner… the human species ate COMPLETELY different.
For the majority of the last 200,00 year (that our species roamed the earth), our ancestors HAD to live through consistent periods of feast or famine. Through the periods of famine, our species actually thrived thanks to the process of ketosis; CARBOHYRDATES were NOT responsible for our survival. Our ancestors relied on their body fat as fuel until their days of feasting. When feasting, they feasted on animal proteins and fats, Fish, nuts and seeds, berries, and some tubers- not mcdonald’s hamburger buns and sugary starbucks drinks.
Today, we’re in a 24/7 feast period. Foods are in abundance – cheap, genetically modified, processed, laden with hidden carbohydrates and added sugars. These processed foods and carbs haven’t been around long enough for us to have evolved to process them well. It’s no wonder why we are now plagued with more cases of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease than EVER before!
How Is Keto Different From Other Low Carb Diets?
There’s SO many diets out there in today’s day and age. Paleo, Keto, Low Fat, Low Carb, Whole 30, Sugar-Free, Vegan, Atkins, Weight Watchers, Time Restricted Feeding and the list continues…Why is Keto any Different?
As we’ve heavily covered, the keto diet (done right) will result in your body going into a state of nutritional ketosis (a mega fat burning state). KETOSIS IS THE MAGIC that sets this diet apart from other diets.
Let’s be clear, that just eating a diet that is “Low in Carbs” DOES NOT [necessarily] PUT YOU INTO A STATE OF KETOSIS!!
Other low carb diets may put you into a state of ketosis, but only if you were coincidentally eating the right macros for the metabolic process to take place. So perhaps I should amend that *no other diet puts you into a consistent state of nutritional ketosis* like keto does.
Atkins is probably most widely known of the low carb diets for weight loss, and it is true that you MAY induce a nutritional state of ketosis during the diet, but only for the first two weeks. The first two weeks requires a maximum intake of 20 Grams of Net Carbs, just like a keto diet; however, there is no restriction on protein intake and less emphasis on higher proportions of fats (although it is allowed if desired). Additionally, over time, the Atkins diet slowly adds more carbs back in each week after the first two weeks of the diet is complete (known as the induction phase), so ketosis is less likely as the diet progresses. The only other diet that may put you into a state of ketosis, although it’s not a consistent state, is a Time Restricted Feeding Diet, also known as Intermittent Fasting. Fasting diets includes a small window of time that is allowed for feeding and drinking your calories each day, anywhere between 12 hours and 24 hours (some forms of fasting even include withholding calories for more than 24 hours), leaving the remainder the 24 hour period (ie. 12 hour feast + 12 hour fast) to be in fasted state with no calories being consumed. Your body may can go into ketosis when on on a regular diet but while in a fasted states of 12 or more hours, albeit much lower levels of ketosis than a keto diet. QUICK NOTE: Intermittent fasting and the keto diet go VERY well together, but we’ll cover that in HOW TO KETO too)
Why Go Keto?
Although keto has just recently been gaining popularity, thanks to some celebrities like Halle Berry (insert link), Courtney Kardashian [link ] the KETO GUIDO from Jersey Shore [link] , and LeBron James (Insert Link) who have adopted and spread awareness about the keto diet, it’s actually been around and in use for almost 100 yrs. It started as a therapeutic application when it was originally developed in the 1920’s as way to treat epilepsy in children WITHOUT using medicine. It’s not only epilepsy that keto can treat either; it has a HUGE array of benefits that might help convince you to take the PLUNGE into living a low carb, high fat life.
Ketogenic Diet Benefits:
- Weight Loss – Burn Fat consistently, reduce insulin levels, control appetite , reduce overall calorie intake, have more satiation throughout the day from high fat intake, and lose more visceral fat.
- Increase Mental Clarity- Ketones help regulate the glutamate (neurotransmitter that allows us to think sharply and quickly) to Gaba (heps relax our brain and prevent anxiety) balance in you brain. Ketosis = sharper thinking and reduction in brain fog.
- Treat Neurological Disorders – including Epilepsy, Alzheimers, Parkinson’s, Migraines (this is a biggie for me)!
- Improve Cholesterol Markers & Reduce Cardiovascular Risk- Lower your Triglycerides with and increase GOOD cholesterol (HDL) with healthy fats, which both reduce risk of heart disease.
- Reduce Inflammation! Many keto friendly foods are anti-inflammatory in nature, and the foods that are notorious for causing inflammation are off limits or significantly reduced on a keto diet (ie. Gluten, Vegetable Oils or Refined Carbohyrdates). Certain Ketone bodies (Beta Hydroxybutyrate) has been found to block a specific immune system recepted linked to inflammation ( called NLRP3 Inflammasome). Low Carb + Ketones = Reduced Inflammation!
- Reverse Diabetes – Ketosis = reduction in blood sugar levels. Often diabetics blood sugar levels return to normal with keto, and eliminate or reduce the need for medications.
- Reduce Insulin Levels-
- Get Better Gut Health – Treat IBS, Improve Reflux and indigestion, etc.
- Get clearer skin – reduce acne with carb intake reduction.
- Improve Mental Health Symptoms– Ketosis has mood stabilizing properties as it helps reduce intracellular sodium concentrations. Lower Anxiety and Improve Mood, or even potentially treat depression or bipolar disorder .
- Improve Fertility! Treat PCOS and improve fertility.
- Increase Physical Endurance- when you do not depend on refueling with glucose during endurance activities, you can rely on your body fat storage to provide you with lasting energy.
- Help Prevent or Treat Cancers- Many cancer cells use glucose as fuel to reproduce, and cannot use ketones as fuel. Cutting off cancer cell’s supply of glucose may help stop cancer progression. More research is being undergone on how Ketogenic Diets may help treat cancers (so exciting!)
- Reverse symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome– including abdominal obesity, elevated blood pressure, Fasting Blood Sugar Levels, High Triglycerides, Low HDL cholesterol (the good kind of cholesterol).
Weight Loss is probably the most popular reason that people have been adopting a Ketogenic diet. I, myself, lost 25 lbs in the first three months which was mainly just stubborn, post-baby weight that I COULD NOT get rid of even with a super low fat diet (I tried low fat, because I clearly had NO idea you can EAT FAT, TO BURN FAT before going keto).
There’s more than anectdotal evidence to ketogenic weight loss. Studies have proven that Keto is effective at weight loss, and actually significantly more effective than other diets, ie. in comparison to a low fat diet. In fact, Dieters on a keto diet, lost 3 X the amount of weight as dieters on a low fat diet.
There are many reasons that a low carb, high fat ketogenic diet will significantly improve your weight loss efforts.
- Cutting out sugar and carbs eventually eliminates your cravings for more sugar and carbs, which also in turn prevents you from overeating those foods that normally would get stored as body fat when eaten in excess.
- Fat keeps you feeling full much longer than carbohydrates. The fuller you feel, the easier it is to maintain a calorie restricted diet. Eating at a caloric deficit is how you lose weight. High Fat diet= eating less.
- Ketones = burning fat for energy, opposed to Glucose = fat storage.
- Ketosis gives you more energy. More Energy = more exercise, and more exercise = weight loss.
- Fats are MORE SATIATING than carbohydrates or protein, due to fats being denser and holding more energy capabilities per gram than carbs or proteins. Fats have 9 calories per gram, whereas carbohydrates and proteins have 4 calories per gram. Meaning? Less than half a plate of fats eaten = ENTIRE plate of carbs or protein (in terms of energy). Thus, Eat less, and feel less hungry.
- Ketosis is a natural appetite suppressant. Ghrelin (the hunger hormone associated with increased appetite) levels on a ketogenic do not rise. Less Ghrelin = less appetite.
- Keto diets reduces insulin production. Insulin is responsible for fat storage, and actually prevents the body from burning fats, since it tells it to store it instead.
So Maybe, most likely, if you’re a carb eater, then joining the ketogenic diet movement sounds challenging to you. Maybe it sounds downright impossible. If so, then THAT’S OKAY, because….
IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT that you’re a carbivore.
Thanks to standard (western) diet recommendations that are actually NOT optimal for your body and health, you’ve been dependent upon carbohydrates for energy for most likely most of your life, and thus, you can’t picture you’re life without them. You also had no idea what negative effects carbohydrates can have when you’re eating them all the time, OR what fantastic things could actually happen if you decided to ditch your carbivorous habits.
I can promise you, a ketogenic diet is NOT HARD. A bit more work than being on no diet at all? Well, yes-that’s true. Worth the few extra steps it takes to eat keto? Hands down – YES. Think about giving it a try ????
If you’re not already committed to taking the plunge, then at least think about trying it! Try switching your fuel source from carbs to fats for JUST 3 WEEKS. If you follow the keto “rules”, eat the right amount and proportions of foods and do NOT cheat, then I GUARANTEE you will witness the AMAZING benefits of Keto yourself, in JUST 3 weeks, probably even less time than that. Once you’re metabolically adapted to a Ketogenic diet, then you will NO LONGER crave carbs, and missing them will be a thing of the past. You’ll become an energizer bunny, sleep better, FEEL better and you will seriously wonder what the heck you were doing with your face in a bowl full of carbs for the entirety of your life.
I’ve created a comprehensive HOW TO KETO guide to get you started on your journey to ketosis, burning fat for fuel, & feeling amazing EVERY dang DAY. ???? Check it out next!
Want to get a good idea of what kind of DELICOUS recipes you can make when you’re on a keto diet? Check out some of our KETO RECIPES you could be indulging in, guilt-free ????!