What is Keto and How Does It Work?
Keto or ketogenic diet is a very low carb, moderate protein, and high-fat diet. The main difference between the Keto diet and other healthy diet is that it changes the way your body converts certain food into energy. Generally, the body relies on carb (sugar) reserves as a fuel, but keto diet focuses on drastic reduction carbohydrates and replaces these carbs with fats. When this happens, the body enters into a state called ketosis, which is the ultimate goal of a Keto diet. Ketosis is a metabolic process in which the body starts using stored fats when carbs and sugar reserves are insufficient. Ketosis converts stored fats in the liver into ketone, small molecules, which are then supplied as a source of energy for the brain.
In short, the ketogenic diet switches the fuel supply to fats that are burned in the body 24 x 7 hours. As a result, this composition of the Keto diet significantly reduce insulin and blood sugar level. And, when fats start to burns and ketones are produced, it enables your body to tap into its greater energy reserves and burn excess fats, leading to weight loss and improved mood as well. Other benefits can be derived from this diet with reference to different health conditions such as:
- Heart diseases
- Alzheimer disease
- Parkinson diseases
- Diabetes (type 2)
- Brain injuries
There are several versions of the Keto diet, but a standard ketogenic diet contains:
- Fats: 75 to 90 %
- Proteins: 20 to 25 %
- Carbs: 5 to 10 %
The Science Behind Keto
Okay, so we know that a ketogenic diet is characterized by low-carb, medium-protein, and high-fat intake. The combination of these three ingredients will cause the body to go into ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic shift in the body in a way that allows the body to burn fat rather than carbohydrates.
The carbohydrates that are consumed are converted into glucose and insulin. Here, glucose is basically sugar. Glucose is the most convenient source of energy because your body can convert it to energy easier. As such, the body prefers using that up first. Another byproduct of carbohydrates is insulin, which is a hormone produced by your pancreas. This hormone helps process glucose in your body by transporting the glucose in the body to where it is needed. When your body has enough energy, the excess glucose will be converted to adipose tissue, or fat, as a backup. Of course, that does not mean that the body uses that fat first if there are carbohydrates available.
You see, the fat in your body is considered to be the backup source of power. Therefore, in a normal situation, your body would burn carbohydrates, then fats, then proteins, in that order. As such, the body does not burn fat as effectively. Ketosis promotes weight loss by making the body prioritize burning fat, thus resulting in more fat being burned.
Many ordinary diets contain plenty of carbohydrates, which are not bad in itself. It is only bad when you take in more energy than you spend it, which means you create an energy leftover which would be converted to fat. Day by day, your weight adds up very quickly. For such a diet, glucose is the main source of energy because it contains plenty of it. However, the glucose in your body can only last you a few days. Your body will convert glucose to fat if you do not use glucose up. So when your glucose store runs dry in a few days, your body will switch to another source of energy through a biochemical process known as ketogenesis.
When this process starts, your liver starts to take the fat in your body and break it down, creating an alternative source of energy. When that happens, your ketone level goes up and your body. This is the moment when you enter ketosis.
How to Enter Ketosis
You have a few options when it comes to entering ketosis.
The most direct one is by depriving your body of carbohydrates, therefore glucose, through fasting for a long period of time. When you stop eating altogether, your body will turn to burn fat as a source of energy because it has no glucose to work with. But of course, fasting and intermittent fasting is a whole different subject on its own and we will not cover that in this book. But do remember that fasting has its caveat.
Another option is to eat less. You just have to consume less than 20 to 50 grams of your daily carbohydrate intake a day. This will depend on who is fasting. Some require fewer while some require more, perhaps even more than 50 grams. However, the bottom line is that people who are on a keto diet only consume 5% of their usual carbohydrate intake.
But whatever method you use, it all boils down to this:
- Cut down on carbs intake to 5% of regular intake
- Increase fat intake to 80%
- The lack of carbs will force the body to burn fat instead
- When the ketone level in your blood rises high enough, you enter a state of ketosis
Keto diet is unlike any other diet that disappears just as abruptly as they appear. In fact, the keto diet has been practiced for far longer than you think. Its root can be traced back to the 1920s. A ketogenic diet is based on a solid understanding of physiology and nutrition science, so it is not some hogwash pseudoscience either. It is grounded on science and it has been proven to be effective.
Keto diet is very effective for many people because it provides a wide variety of benefits that anyone can benefit from, regardless of their gender or age. Some of the benefits are the direct remedy to weight gain such as hormonal imbalance (especially for menopause), elevated insulin as well as high blood sugar level. A keto diet is not only beneficial for the body either. The diet has therapeutic benefits that really help those who have brain disorders.
Of course, the main reason why people jump on the keto wagon in the first place is the fact that the keto diet is an effective way to lose weight. A diet that is rich in fat content but low in carbs such as the keto diet minimizes hunger in your body. It just does not feel as hungry when you are in ketosis. Not only that, but your body’s ability to burn fat is also boosted due to hormonal changes in your body.
When you eat normally by following an ordinary diet, the food you eat provides your body with carbohydrates. When they enter the system, your body releases insulin. Insulin helps regulate blood sugar levels by converting the excess into fat for later use. With a lower level of insulin, our body is more likely to use existing fat in the body for energy instead of storing the excess energy as fat.
Moreover, a keto diet that packs a lot of healthy fat and protein is very filling, which can help suppress your appetite and prevent overeating.
Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Diabetes and high blood pressure are some of the most common reasons that result in death among older adults. Keto diet is effective in this regard because it improves triglyceride and cholesterol levels that are associated with arterial buildups. It also leads to an increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and decreases in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles. All of this comes together to the improvement in blood pressure.
But high blood pressure can also result from cholesterol in the body, which is a consequence of excess weight.
Fights Neurological Disorders
Keto diet has been used in the past to treat neurological disorders or other cognitive impairments such as epilepsy. When your body goes into ketosis, your body produces ketones that help reverse neurodegenerative illnesses. Here, the brain just uses another source of energy instead of using the cellular energy pathway that is faulty in people with brain disorders. That means the keto diet can help prevent or treat disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.