What is a Ketogenic Diet?
A ketogenic diet (often referred to as “keto”) is a very low carb, high fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins diet, the Dukan diet, and several other low carb diets. It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake, and replacing it with increased protein and fat. The reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis, whereby the body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketone bodies (the chemical byproduct of the ketosis process) in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain.
What are the Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet?
The primary benefit of ketosis is that it increases the body’s ability to utilise fats for energy, while this same ability gets very lazy on a high carbohydrate diet (as the body expects an energy source to continuously enter at regular intervals). In a state of ketosis, however, the body has to become efficient at using fats for fuel.
Ketosis also has a protein-sparing effect, where the body actually prefers ketones to glucose. Since the body has large quantities of fat, this means there is no need for it to oxidise protein to generate glucose (a process known as gluconeogenesis), meaning that muscle-wastage is limited when on the diet. Another small but highly important benefit of a keto diet is that ketone production (combined with a relatively high protein intake) is shown to suppress appetite.
What are the Downfalls?
During the first 7-10 days of the ketogenic diet, the body must go through the “metabolic shift,” as Dr. Mauro DiPasquale (proponent of the “Anabolic Diet”, which uses ketosis as its base) calls it. While going through this process, the body will experience a degree of physical and mental fatigue due to the depletion of glycogen stores, as well as occasional dehydration as a result of increased water loss associated with ketosis-induced diuresis. However, once the body becomes more efficient at manufacturing ketones as the main energy substrate, many people find that they have far more energy compared to a non-ketosis state.
Ketosis Diet Examples
- During a ketogenic diet, you want your macronutrient range to reflect:
- Protein = 20-30%
- Fats = 60-70%
- Carbs = No more than 50 grams per day.
Straying from the above formula will result in failure to reach a state of ketosis, and the body must go through the metabolic shift once again by following the diet strictly from the beginning.
A typical day following this low carb diet would look something like this:
- Breakfast = Bacon and eggs, coffee with full-cream milk and no sugar, fish oil tablets
- Morning tea = Slices of cheese and non-starchy vegetable sticks
- Lunch = Chicken breast with leafy greens and nuts
- Afternoon tea = Avocado slices with salt and pepper
- Dinner = Fish cooked in coconut oil, non-starchy vegetables with butter
- Dessert (optional) = Skinny Cow ice cream, tablespoon of peanut butter
As with any diet, it’s important to consult with a dietitian or GP beforehand, and to supplement with appropriate vitamins and minerals (i.e. fiber and multivitamins). And, like most low carb diets, a ketosis diet is not ideal for continued use once your weight loss goal has been met.