A ketogenic diet is well known for being a low-carb diet, where the body produces ketones, which are byproducts or the result of using fat for fuel instead of carbs (or glucose/sugar).
These ketones or byproducts are produced in the liver to be used as energy.
How It Works
Glucose (sugar) is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy so it will always be chosen over any other energy source. When we consume glucose, insulin is produced to process and circulate it.
When glucose (carbs or sugar) is being used as a primary source energy, fats are not needed as much and therefore can be stored, when we might want to be burning those instead.
When there isn't sufficient glucose, glycogen levels become depleted, blood sugar and insulin are lowered in the body, and now your body starts looking for an alternative fuel source, in this case, fat.
The body, in its infinite wisdom and resourcefulness, now uses ketones as fuel for both the body and the brain. This puts you in a state of fat burning called ketosis. You can also achieve this state with fasting or prolonged exercise. If you were out in the wild starving, your body would go into ketosis pretty quickly – here we're doing it with food, but starving it of carbs.
This diet has many different names – the ketogenic diet, low carb diet, low carb high fat (LCHF), etc. When you eat something high in carbs, your body will produce glucose and insulin.
Most people who have experienced ketosis claim to have reached that state at about 20-50 grams of net carbs per day. The grams of carbs you should consume daily depend on your weight. Ultimately, if your goal is to achieve ketosis, then you'll want to keep your carb intake to 5% or less of total calories.
When considering which carbs to consume, keep in mind that the ketogenic diet measures net carbs. This refers to the total carbohydrates a certain food contains minus the number of grams of fiber.
For example, 1 cup of broccoli contains 6 grams of carbs but 2 grams of fiber, so it comes out to 4 net carbs. Or 1 cup of blackberries has 14 grams of carbohydrates but 8 grams of fiber leading to 6 grams of net carbs.
As you can see, the ketogenic diet heavily focuses on the macronutrient ratio of 25% protein, 5% carb, and a whopping 70% fat.
Before we go into a typical ketogenic day, let's talk about why people do this diet and what the symptoms are that you're actually going into ketosis.
Top Six Reasons To Go Ketogenic
- Lowers blood pressure
- Decreases cravings
- Increases the good, HDL cholesterol
- Quicker weight loss because of the metabolism manipulation
- Increased energy
- Lowers blood glucose and hemoglobin A1C levels
Symptoms of Early Ketosis (Is it worth it?)
- Breath smells
- Fast breathing
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Brain fog
The Basic Diet – Foods to Eat
- Non-starchy veggies – lowest carb veggies are spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, green cabbage, collard greens, kale, and green beans
- High-fat dairy – hard cheeses, pasture-raised cream, and butter
- Nuts and seeds
- Natural no carb sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit, xylitol, and erythritol
- Other oils like coconut oil and other saturated fats like duck fat and ghee
Foods NOT to Eat
- Root vegetables like beets, sweet potatoes, and yams
A Typical Ketogenic Day
- 20-30 net grams of carbs
- 112-120 grams of fat
- 55 grams of protein
Breakfast: 2 eggs and 1 cup of kale cooked in 2 tablespoons of butter plus coffee with 4 T of heavy cream
Lunch: 4-6 oz. chicken cooked in 1 T coconut oil with 2 cups of cauliflower or cauliflower rice/mash (Trader Joe's sells it)
Dinner: 4-6 ounces beef cooked and 2 cups broccoli cooked in 1 T coconut oil
Dessert: 1 cup blackberries with xylitol/erythritol
PROS AND CONS – Should You Go Ketogenic?
The ketogenic diet is not for me personally, and I don't think it's for those with sensitive nervous systems or those with a delicate thyroid or adrenal glands. For those people (I am one of them), I think they thrive better on a steady release of glucose into their system via complex carbohydrates to shut off the fight-or-flight nervous system response in favor of living in the parasympathetic nervous system. This allows the thyroid and adrenals to also get fed, create a peaceful state of homeostasis.
For those who want to use the keto diet for the top five benefits listed above, consider doing a gallbladder flush before and after. This is a way for your body to move through the extra fat load and burden that is coming down the pike. And to know that you are giving your pancreas a bit of a rest from having to over produce insulin and that this will ultimately be helpful for its long-term health.
There are so many diametrically opposed nutritional theories out there, and your job is sort through what sounds good for you. What works for one person, does not work for another.
Leave a comment and let us know what you think will work for YOU.