Diet; a word that literally means something we eat, in any shape or form. It is associated with a restrictive notion, specifically for losing weight but it is not really true. There are different kinds of diets like protein diet, gluten-free diet, Atkins diet, etc. As far as the ketogenic diet (Keto) is concerned, do we really know what it is about? If I hadn’t been a chef, I wouldn’t have had any idea too. (Read about my culinary journey here.)
What Is The ‘Ketogenic Diet’?
This diet came into existence as a treatment for epilepsy in 1923 by Dr Russell Morse Wilder, Sr. Ketogenic diet gained popularity in the 1990s. Lately, the interest has really spiked up. With various celebrities swearing by the Keto, people followed suit without fully understanding the diet itself.
The ketogenic diet is a very low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins diet. It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. The reduction in carbohydrates puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. Ketosis is a physiological state defined by the presence of ketone bodies in the blood. Ketone bodies are thought of as an energy source for the body, just like carbohydrates and fats.
Many tissues in our body can use ketones. You might be thinking, “What’s the use of ketones, if we can just use carbohydrates and fat?” Ketones are considered an “alternate” energy pathway. During starvation or starvation-mimicking conditions (like prolonged fasting or very low carbohydrate diets) and during low blood sugar levels, ketones become a fuel source for the brain and skeletal muscles. This may allow sustained performance and function. Thanks to our prodigious amount of stored fat, our ability to tap into this source of energy is nearly limitless. This way, the body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy.
Types Of Ketogenic Diet
One can customise ketogenic diet plans according to their goals. There are many different types of ketogenic diets. Mentioned below are the common types:
1. The Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)
The SKD is the most common type which is perfect for beginners. It helps with weight loss and improves overall health. It is great for anyone looking to improve a metabolic disease such as Type-2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome. The SKD meal plan should consist of:
- Low carbohydrate quantity: less than 10% of total calories per day.
- Moderate protein: around 20 to 35% of total calories in protein.
- High fat: around 70-75% of total calories in fat.
Most people who aren’t actively exercising and live a fairly sedentary lifestyle won’t need to alter their ketogenic diet at all. This is the perfect ketogenic protocol to follow for a beginner.
2. Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)
The TKD is designed for people who exercise often and have experience with the ketogenic diet. It is an advanced approach for people at the intermediate level of fitness and dieting. To start the TKD:
- One should consume simple carbohydrates 15 minutes to one hour before your workout or athletic competition.
- Avoid consuming carbohydrates from fructose (fruit sugars). They will be shuttled into your liver rather than your muscles, which is a big no-no for Keto.
- Carbohydrate intake must always be before your workout. This will give you the energy you need to fuel your exercises, without sacrificing storing glucose in your body.
- Follow SKD for the remainder of your nutrition protocol.
The goal of TKD is to consume just enough simple carbohydrates pre-workout. This will give you the extra boost of energy you need for your exercise.
3. Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)
The CKD is the most advanced ketogenic dieting protocol which requires more careful planning. Consider the CKD if you have already successfully adopted a TKD and want to take it a step further.
Here’s how the CKD works:
- For five to six days out of the week, consume SKD.
- For the rest of the days, consume a low fat, moderate protein, and high carbohydrate diet.
The purpose of this carbohydrate build-up is to fill your glycogen levels to fuel your muscles throughout the week. Lastly, eating larger amounts of healthy carbohydrates during these days will help regulate your hormones and thyroid functioning.
Also, it is crucial to keep fat low during the CKD days so as to avoid weight gain. Yes, that means you can’t just binge on your junk food!
This diet was originally developed to combat neurological disease like epilepsy. Other health benefits that studies have shown over time include improvement of risk factors of cardiovascular disease, reduction in body fat, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Alongside regulating blood sugar levels, a keto diet could selectively induce metabolic oxidative stress in cancer cells. This could help make the cells more sensitive to treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.
“Ketogenic diet interferes with tumour growth in many ways. Reducing glucose takes away a fuel source for cancer cells. Unlike healthy cells, abnormal cancer cells have difficulty adapting metabolically to a low glucose situation, compromising their ability to survive.”Dr. William Li, author of “eat to beat disease: the new science of how your body can heal itself“
Preliminary studies have shown that adhering to the ketogenic diet may help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 53 percent. It supports weight loss, potentially reduces seizures, improves Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Therapies that lower insulin levels and insulin resistance, as well as lead to weight loss may prove useful for treating PCOS. Recent studies have shown that a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet can lead to weight loss and improvements in insulin resistance.
What is Ketosis and How Does It Work?
Ketosis being a consequence of this diet, urges your liver to produce ketones. Ketones prove to be an immediate fuel to your brain in the absence of carbohydrates. They supply up to 70% of your brain’s energy needs, more efficiently than glucose. All those good fats in a keto feed your brain and keep it strong.
The ketogenic diet has the potential to decrease blood glucose levels. Keto is good for maintenance of good heart health as lower amounts of carbohydrates are consumed. It increases high density lipo-protein (HDL) – the “good” cholesterol. It turns on anti-inflammatory pathways and protects your heart from disease.
*Nevertheless, research into many of these areas is far from conclusive.*
Ketogenic Diet: Its Downsides
The ketogenic diet may have a range of health benefits. Alongside health benefits, there may be some initial side effects, referred to as the keto flu; which is usually over within a few days. Keto flu includes poor energy, increased hunger, sleep issues, nausea, digestive discomfort and decreased exercise performance.
Nutritionists and health experts do not always support this diet. Because avoiding carbohydrates causes you to miss out on the essential macro and micro nutrients. These include vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in fruits.
The bottom line is that Keto is a good diet to consider for weight loss. If you are pregnant, have kidney disease, or any fat malabsorption issue, you will want to discuss this diet with your doctor first. Keep in mind that not all fats are created equal. Saturated and trans fat can increase bad cholesterol levels. Do make the most of your fat calories from healthier sources of fat i.e. monounsaturated fats. These include avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.
Who Should Avoid This Diet?
Considering the risks mentioned above, there are some people who should avoid this diet. People with kidney damage, Type-1 diabetes, existing pancreatic or liver condition or individuals at risk of heart disease should not attempt it. It is not ideal for pregnant or nursing mothers too. It is important to discuss any intended diet plan with a doctor, dietitian, or trusted healthcare practitioner before embarking on this diet.
Check for diabetes, hypoglycemia, heart disease, or any other health conditions to ensure the Keto is safe for you. Do keep in mind that studies on the long-term benefits of the ketogenic diet are ongoing. However, newly discovered information are still trickling in, and are expected to do so for a foreseeable future.
Are you wondering what to eat and what to avoid when on a Keto? Don’t worry, it’s coming up in the next episode! Should you have any questions, or require more information, please visit Bakaytion.