Ketosis is the state described where a body is optimised to burn fat as a primary fuel source rather than carbohydrates. In order to achieve this, it's essential to limit carbohydrate intake to very low amounts. If carbohydrates are not limited then the body will continue to use carbs as it's main fuel.
Achieving ketosis involves a carefully controlled diet and an understanding of what a macronutrient is. A keto diet requires a macro ratio of:
Carbs: Less than 50g daily but ideally 20g or less.
Protein: Your protein intake should be adequate for your body size. (0.7 - 1g/lb) This is for maintenance and growth.
Fat: The rest of your diet should consist of mono and and unsaturated fat. Fats will now provide the energy your body needs daily.
Fats to eat: Avocado oil, coconut oil, butter, olive oil.
Vegetable: Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli.
Meat: Fatty red meats, chicken with the skin left on, fish, organ meat.
How does Ketosis work:
When the body depletes all of it's sugar, it turns to fat for fuel. A byproduct of metabolizing fat are ketones. When ketones are being produced in sufficient quantities, then ketosis is achieved. Additionally, the ketones are able to cross the blood-brain barrier and in the absence of sugar, the brain is able to use ketones for energy.
It's important to recognize that a Ketogenic diet is not the same as a high protein diet. Keto involves high fat and only enough protein for maintenance. If too much protein is consumed then the body will convert the excess protein into sugar potentially knocking itself out of ketosis.
So is it OK to gorge on fat as much as I want? No, although ketosis requires fat for fuel, eating an abundance of fat will not aid ketosis and excess calories, even in a fat adapted state, will still mean energy stored in the body as... fat.
Insoluble fibre in foods is not able to be digested and most often is attached to some carbohydrate element. This means that a portion of the carbs in a particular food is never digested and comes straight out as poop which is great news for keto! On the back of the food label, it is acceptable to deduct the amount of fibre in a single ingredient from the amount of carbs to calculate how many actual carbs will be available to the body.
Net carbs apply to single ingredient foods only i.e. a piece of meat, a vegetable. This should not be applied to whole meals. You cannot add fibre to a meal and hope that carbs are somehow negated! Also, do not be fooled by carb-blockers which have not been proven to work and are essentially snake-oil or magic.
What about drink?
Drink plenty of water! Green teas and black coffee are great. Their caffeine content helps to suppress appetite and very marginally increases metabolic activity. Of course avoid any sugary drinks including fruit juices. Milk should be avoided too as it contains carbs (even full fat milk,) consider using cream as a replacement.
Oh right, you mean't drink drink! Alcohol will be processed as energy but beer, wine all have carbs so these need to be avoided! If you must drink then stick to spirits.
Benefits of keto:
Energy Levels. Metabolizing fat for energy is a very consistent process. As long as fat is available in the diet and stored in the body, it will be used so keto ensures adequate energy throughout the day. In contrast to eating carbs where blood sugar will spike (even complex carbs) and then drop as the body releases insulin to control the blood sugar levels. Followers of keto often report that they no longer suffer energy slumps and drowsiness after lunch when they gave up the traditional 'sandwich/pasta/rice.'
Hunger. Fat is more difficult to digest than carbohydrates and is very satiating but hunger will never go away. It is well known that eating carbs increases hunger and a desire to eat more carbs which ultimately mean more calories. With keto, you should never fall into that viscous cycle.
Performance. Specifically in endurance events. In high-intensity activity (sprinting), keto athletes will lose out to carbohydrate athletes but for distance events, ketosis should bring strong benefits. Imagine the keto athlete to be a tanker-truck. Except the tanker truck doesn't use it's standard fuel tanks. Instead it uses the fuel straight from the giant tank it's towing about. This is what happens in ketosis. The body is better able to use the abundant fatty deposits in the body rather than the relatively small amount of carbohydrates.
Better dental health and breath. No doubt about this, with low carbs and low sugar there's less food for bacteria in your mouth. It won't be long before you start waking up with your mouth not tasting like old gym socks. But please, don't take this as permission not to brush your teeth at night!
Shopping Bill. Buying meat on keto usually means buying fattier cuts such as chicken thighs with skin still on which are less desirable so your meat bill will be much lower at the end of the week than equivalent lean meat choice.
Multi-Vitamin. Because the keto diet also limits a lot of vegetables, it can be difficult to ensure adequate micronutrients. Supplementing with a high quality multi-vitamin would not be a bad idea.
Fish Oil. The keto diet can be high in Omega 6 oils so it might be a great idea to get a good quality fish oil to balance out the Omega 6 with Omega 3 oils which fish contain a lot of. (More about Omega balances later this year.)
Potassium. This mineral plays important roles in metabolic maintenance and is essential for all cells in your body to function properly. It also facilitates normal muscle, bone and organ growth. Potassium is also essential for cardiovascular and nervous system health. Again, a keto diet may make achieving adequate potassium intake difficult.
Fibre. Adequate fibre can be very difficult with a keto diet. Carbohydrates do provide the body with a lot of fibre so a fibre supplement such as psyllium husks may be required to maintain normal bowel movements.
So is ketosis a magic bullet for weight-loss? Whether a body is optimised for burning fat or not, if calories consumed > calories spent then the excess will be stored as fat. The body will not just go on a fat burning spree for no reason!
What ketos does do, is very effectively reduce the opportunity to consume calories from carbohydrates which are usually high in calories and low in nutrition. Provided the person follows the protocol. Limiting calories can be very difficult and eliminating an entire food group (which might have been the dominant) can prove extremely challenging. We rate this protocol as hard but the weight-loss results should come quicker. We recommend that if you are going to attempt a ketogenic protocol, the most important single thing you can do is prepare as many meals in advance.
So after reading this hopefully you will understand why fat blocking supplements are not only a waste of time, money and potentially embarrassing but know why fat is not the bogeyman it's been erroneously singled out as for decades. What do you think? Why not let is know on the comments if you've had success with keto.
Bonus video. An origin of the food pyramid and how fat became maligned and how carbohydrates achieved prominence.
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