A Beginner’s Guide to Keto
You know those sketchy pop-up ads that go something like: “The life-changing diet your doctor doesn’t want you to know about!! Click here…” Well keto is sort of like that, except it really is life-changing, it isn’t sketchy, and it actually has decades of scientific research.
Many turn to Keto for treating health issues, for weight loss, or for boosts in athletic performance. And no, it is not the newest fad diet and here’s why!
What is the Keto Diet?
With thousands of different diets and “health revelations”, it has become hard to keep track of what’s good and what works. The Ketogenic Diet seems to be the new kid on the block but it has actually been around since the 1920’s, has been proven to treat a myriad of different health issues, and done properly will bring sustained weight loss.
The cornerstone of keto is that it is a low carb, adequate protein, and high fat diet. Your body is a sugar-burning machine, using glucose from carbohydrates as fuel. However, on a ketogenic diet, by reducing your intake of carbs, your body naturally creates ketones, which are byproducts of fat metabolism.
This bodily response is completely natural and healthy. By keeping your body in a constant state of ketosis, your body learns to immediately and efficiently break down fats for energy. Before we go into steps for carrying out a ketogenic diet, let’s go over the science behind it.
The Science Behind Ketosis
When your body attains the right macronutrients for ketosis, fat is converted into ketones and fatty acids in the liver. Ketones are signals that your body is burning fat for energy. They are very good for your heart muscle and brain, providing a positive alternative energy source.
At Keto-Snaps, we advocate for nutritional ketosis. Nutritional ketosis involves being at a safe ketone level where ketones function to supply vital organs in the body. You want your body to be at a level where it is consistently producing ketones, but not the amount released when in starvation mode. Being at this optimal ketone zone is essential to effectively utilize the ketogenic diet.
In the metabolic state of nutritional ketosis, your body uses ketones and fat as its primary energy source. Yes, your body does need glucose to function, but you don't actually need that much. Your body can actually attain the necessary carbs through converting parts of fatty acids and amino acids into glucose. Even in ketosis, your body can receive sufficient carbohydrates from your intake of vegetables, seeds, and nuts you consume.
How it Works
Now let’s go over some logistics for carrying out nutritional ketosis. There are many variations of the ketogenic diet, some are stricter than others, but it really comes down to what your body needs. The differences come down to the macronutrient ratio of your diet.
- Classic Keto - 90% fat, 6% protein, 4% carbohydrate
- Modified Keto - 82% fat, 12% protein, 6% carbohydrate
- Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) - 73% fat, 10% protein, 17% carbohydrate
- Modified Atkins - 65% fat, 30% protein, 5% carbohydrates
- Low Glycemic Index - 60% fat, 30% protein, 10% carbohydrate
- Intermediate Fasting - N/A (limiting eating window)
Macros needs to be adjusted for each individual, factoring variables like gender, size, and health condition. Avoiding too much protein is crucial. Many times, in hopes of avoiding carbs, individuals turn to protein instead. However, excess protein are turned into carbohydrates through a mechanism called gluconeogenisis. It is important to maintain a moderate amount to upkeep the healthy functions of organs and muscles, but at the same time, not too much. Necessary protein consumption is wildly overestimated by most and has been propagated by big food companies selling protein powders and health foods.
A key difference with nutritional ketosis is that, unlike a typical low-fat diet, you are not calorie counting. Eating to satiety is a key factor--after finishing a meal, you should be satiated. Thankfully, since your body has shifted to become a fat-burning machine, listening to your hunger and satiety cues will become a lot easier! We will go over this more later but you will find that after getting accustomed to keto, there will be an overall reduction of appetite.
Low-carb vegetables are a great way to intake key vitamins while on a keto diet. While fruits tend to be high in sugar, vegetables will be very helpful in attaining fiber and other nutrients. It is essential to get the necessary fiber to support your healthy gut bacteria and bowel regularity.
Something to remember is that fiber can or can not count in your carbohydrate total. When looking at the food labels, you will realize that fiber is under the carbohydrate category. However, fiber, specifically insoluble fiber, is not absorbable in humans and will pass through your system. As an example, let's say a cup of broccoli is 6 grams of carbohydrates and 2.4 grams of fiber. We can subtract 2.4 from 6 and find that a cup of broccoli is 3.6 grams of net carbohydrates. The term Net Carbs refers to Total Carbohydrates minus Fiber. Some ketogenic dieters believe in this, while others take the total amount of carbohydrates, which in this example would be 6 grams. As always, do what works best for you, but keep in mind fiber is essential for the health of your gut.
Keto is not a short term diet. It is shown that the ketogenic diet has the most positive effects when used for three or more months. Everyone experiences keto differently, but generally, performance drops in the first couple of weeks. Some even experience something called “keto flu” where the body is slowly acclimating to breaking down fat for energy.
However, from 6-12 weeks, keto begins to peak and almost all energy is burned from fat. Many experience benefits such as renewed energy, weight loss, boosted performance, and prevention or reversals of significant chronic diseases.
The ketogenic is not so much a diet as it is a lifestyle change.
Safety is Important
Even if you are very healthy, it will be good to let your doctor know if you are planning on starting a keto diet. For those hoping to use nutritional ketosis to treat certain medical conditions, you may need specialized medical support. Let’s go over some safety tips while undergoing this diet.
Make sure you get all your proper minerals.
- A lack of sodium can result in lightheadedness, dizziness, and/or fatigue. These are symptoms of a lack of sodium, not ketosis. During ketosis, your kidneys begin to function better and rid your body of a lot of salt. Especially when your diet becomes restricted to mainly fat and some protein, many forget to consume the needed amount of sodium. You will need to remember to intake salt at a consistent basis. High-quality sea salt is best.
- Potassium is very important. While we usually think of fruit when thinking of this mineral, this will come from your vegetables on Keto. Avocados, which are actually a fruit, contain more potassium than bananas.
- Particularly for those with diabetes, magnesium will be important. Deficiency can cause muscle cramps, so watch out for that and consume the correct foods or take supplements if needed.
- Calcium is crucial for bone, nerve, and muscle function.
If you have diabetes or are on blood pressure medication, you will need specialized medical support. However, if you are type 2 diabetes, you can likely get off of medication if prescribed by a doctor. For those with heart conditions or liver or kidney disease, you will need to ask a doctor if you have the physical ability to carry out this diet.
What to Eat on a Ketogenic Diet
Low carbs and high fat can be really scary for people. The idea of eating up to 90% fat can freak people out and leave them scratching their heads, wondering what to eat. Because your body breaks down fat more effectively, you can eat a lot of things that you would normally try to avoid. Many times, when we think of high fat we think of burgers, pizza, or fried bread things. That’s what makes it hard. We have to remember that you can’t pair fats with carbs or excessive amounts of meat. Trying to consume healthy fats is even harder!
Keto is hard. There is no denying that. As you try to balance extremely low amounts of carbs with high amounts of fat, all while eating only enough protein to sustain your body, it can feel discouraging. No worries! Here is a guide on what you can eat to get your correct macros every day.
- Avocados - eat them in salads, throw them in dishes, or eat them plain with a bit of salt and pepper!
- Full-fat cheeses (mozzarella, cheddar, cream cheese, etc)
- Full Fat coconut products (coconut milk, coconut yogurt, coconut manna)
- Healthy oils (coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, sesame oil, etc)
- Nuts and seeds (some are higher in carbs, be aware! Best choices on keto: macadamia, pecans & pili nuts)
Be careful with these! Too many proteins can have the same result as eating carbohydrates. Eat these for your muscles and organs, not for delight!
- Eggs - high in fat as well and a good source of nutrients - vitamin D, E and omega 3 fats!
- Salmon (has amazing healthy fats)
- Mackerel, sardines and other fish
- 100% Grass-fed Beef (try to get fattier pieces)
- Chicken (chicken is very low in carbs/fat, but high in protein - choose sustainably raised, hormone free
- Other meats and poultry
Remember that fiber is subtracted from the total number of carbohydrates! Try finding dark, leafy vegetables - they tend to be higher in fiber and lower in sugars. Above the ground vegetables are usually less starchy and lower in sugar as well.
- Green bell pepper
- Himalayan and Sea Salt
- Lemon or Lime
- Herbs and Spices
- Vinegar (not Balsamic)
Seem healthy, but should be avoided:
- Beans and legumes
- Grains and grain products
- Starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, squash, etc)
And of course, eat for sustenance. It will get easier as time goes on because your body will become accustomed to its new diet. Don’t give up!
For keto, you should try not to count calories, but you should still get a calorie counter. Yes, that sounds counter intuitive. Keeping a calorie counter on your phone or mobile device will help to count macros. Eye-balling what you eat, especially at the beginning of the diet, will not be accurate at all. By inputting all your meals and snacks, you can map out meals and calculate your daily macros to avoid falling out of ketosis.
The Benefits of the Keto Diet
Now we are on to the good stuff! A major part of Keto is the immense amount of credibility backing it from numerous peer reviewed journals and studies. After decades and decades of research, we have emerged with a plethora of ketogenic research and the positive effects it has on the human body.
Keto Teaches Your Body How to Burn Fat More Effectively
One of the scariest things for people is the immense amount of fat consumed during keto, especially with the bad rep surrounding saturated fats. A study was completed in late 2015 testing highly-trained athletes and their performance on a ketogenic diet versus not. Of these athletes, half were on a ketogenic diet and the others were partaking in a typical low-fat diet. After testing their abilities to burn fat, it was found that while the athletes on keto were eating 3x the amount of saturated fat, their blood levels of saturated fat were lower than those on a low-fat diet. In fact, those on keto, had twice the ability to burn fat for fuel. Their resting rate of fat oxidation was double their peers.
It is not the consumption that matters, but rather what stays in your body. While Keto initiates large amounts of fat consumption, very little is kept in the body because it has become a fat-burning machine.
Many experience extreme weight loss, especially in the initial weeks of Keto. While many tend to believe that it is mainly water weight, when doing research, Dr. Stephen Phinny found that only about ⅕ of the weight loss was water weight. One of the greatest revelations was that those on Keto tend to experience targeted fat loss around the abdominal area. Abdominal fat is the most dangerous fat we carry as it is linked to many serious conditions such as heart disease, insulin resistance, and cancer.
Many who are overweight or diabetic suffer with insulin resistance. By lowering the carb intake to 10% or even 5%, individuals can experience a significant improvement in insulin sensitivity.
A Reduction of Appetite
Your body becomes hungry because it wants sugar. After your body becomes accustomed to less carbohydrates, you will begin to feel less hungry. Fat and protein are more sustainable and eating less will leave you feeling full for longer.
Preventing or Reversing Significant Medical Conditions
Keto can prevent or reverse various chronic health conditions. Ketones are shown to be positive energy sources for many muscles and organs and have led to improvements in health diseases, inflammatory bowel diseases, seizures, and diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes and Prediabetes
Through nutritional ketosis, patients can reverse the root cause of type 2 diabetes. Through research done by Doctor Stephen Phinny, applying a keto diet and reducing carbohydrates promptly lowered blood glucose and insulin. The Ketogenic Diet improved insulin sensitivity in patients, preventing or even reversing the root of diabetes.
Protein stimulates insulin production and increases insulin resistance. That makes it necessary to only consume moderate amounts of protein. Only enough to maintain healthy muscle and organ function is needed.
Keto’s effect on seizures was what initially drew the attention of many. Doctors tend to recommend the keto diet to people whose seizures haven’t responded to many medicines. Over half the children who go on the diet experience a 50% reduction of seizures and 10-15% become seizure free. Higher levels of ketones tend to influence greater seizure control.
It has been found that cancer cells grow on glucose. By starving your cells of excess glucose, and using ketones as energy instead, many have experienced a cease of cancerous cell growth altogether.
Higher Energy Levels and Mental Clarity
While some experience keto flu at the initial stages, it has been found that ketones are a really efficient and effective form of brain fuel. They have even been tested in medical settings to treat memory loss and brain conditions.
So Why Keto-Snaps?
Keto can be hard. Restricting yourself from sugars and sweets poses a very difficult challenge. However, whether you have decided to fully carry out Keto or just try limiting carbohydrates, Keto Snaps will make that process easier. Because of the natural and healthy ingredients in our cookies, you now have the ability to sneak a snack without feeling like you’re cheating!