What is the keto or low carb diet?

what is the keto diet

The ketogenic, or “keto” diet first became popular in the 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy and diabetes. The keto diet is still used today to treat epileptic children who don’t respond well to anti-epileptic drugs.

The keto diet has now suddenly emerged almost as a fad diet, gaining a lot of popularity because of the dramatic weight loss results dieters experience.

How does the keto diet work?

On the keto diet, the body goes into starvation mode and taps its fat stores for fuel.

When you eat a lot of fat, moderate amounts of protein and no more than 50 grams of carbohydrates a day, your metabolism goes into a state of ketosis, where your body burns fat instead of carbs for fuel. 

The keto diet thus changes the way your body converts food into energy.

When your body is unable to get glucose from carbs, your liver converts fatty acids from your diet into ketones, an alternative source of energy. Burning ketones instead of glucose reduces inflammation and spurs weight loss.

The health benefits of the keto diet

  • Improved fat burning. Being in a state of ketosis means you are burning fat for energy. If you have excess body fat, you will be able to burn it at a much more efficient rate.
  • Reduced appetite: Ketones suppress ghrelin, your hunger hormone, and increases cholecystokinin (CCK), which makes you feel full. Reduced appetite means that you can go longer periods without eating, which leads to weight loss.
  • Clearer skin. Excema, acne and psoriasis are often rooted in chronic inflammation which attacks different structures of the skin, resulting in unwanted skin conditions. 
  • Improved mental clarity & sharpness: Ketones provide an immediate hit of energy for your brain, and up to 70% of your brain’s energy needs when you limit carbs. Fat also feeds your brain and keeps it strong. Your brain is at least 60% fat, so it needs loads of good fats to keep it running. Essential fatty acids such as omega-3s help grow and develop the brain, while saturated fat keeps myelin, the layer of insulation around the brain, strong so your neurons can communicate with each other.
  • Increased energy: Mitochondria are basically your energy generators. Ketosis helps the up-regulation of mitochondrial function within your cells. More energy in your cells means an increased energy for you so you get more done.
  • Anti-aging: Aging causes your telomeres to shorten. We are only beginning to understand the profound impact that mitochondrial health has on the aging process, because of its impact on energy production, inflammation levels, and gene expression – and therefore overall function of the body.
  • Reduced risk of chronic disease: The combination of anti-inflammatory effects along with improved mitochondrial function allows the body to heal more effectively and could protect you against major degenerative diseases such as:
    • Cancer
    • Auto-Immune Conditions
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Neurodegenerative Processes
    • Autism
    • Chronic Fatigue
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Diabetes
    • Heart Disease

What to eat on keto

The keto diet consists of mostly fats (75 percent of your daily calories), moderate amounts of protein (20 percent) and a small amount of carbs (5 percent). Choose low-carb foods such as meat, fish, eggs, lots of green and leafy vegetables, as well as good fats.

Click here for more on what to eat.

The different types of keto

Everyone is different, with different needs and different metabolisms. Within the realm of low-carb and keto there is no one-size-fits-all. So it’s important you find your body’s own sweet spot for the amount of carbs you limit yourself to and for the type of keto diet that fits your particular lifestyle.

The standard keto diet

On the standard keto diet you limit your carb count to between 20 and 50 grams of net carbs per day, depending on how much you want to lose and how fast.

The cyclical keto diet

The Bulletproof Diet falls into this category. On the cyclical keto diet you limit your carbs to the same as the standard keto diet (less than 50 grams of net carbs a day) for five to six days of the week. On day seven, you increase your carb intake to around a 150 grams. This called the carb refeed day.

Carb cycling helps to avoid the negative effects some people experience when they restrict carbs long term, such as thyroid issues, fatigue and dry eyes.

The targeted keto diet

This is the same as the standard keto diet, excepting that you eat extra carbs 30 minutes to an hour before a high-intensity workout. Supposedly the glucose boosts performance, but there is no scientific basis for this.

The dirty keto diet

Dirty keto follows the same ratio of fats, proteins, and carbs as the regular keto diet but with no concern for healthy, whole foods. So dinner could be a bunless Big Mac with Diet Pepsi.

How to know when you’re in ketosis

You can test your ketosis levels by using urine sticks, blood sticks or a blood meter. An alternative is to test for acetone levels in your breath by using a breath analyzer. Your ketone levels measure 0.8 (millimoles per liter) when you are in ketosis.

However, you will get to know the signs that mean you are in ketosis:

  • Flu-like symptoms (Keto flu): When you first start out, you may experience symptoms of the keto flu, like headaches, chills and lightheadedness. More about keto side effects.
  • Loss of appetite: Ketones suppress your hunger hormones, helping you feel full for longer.
  • Keto breath: You may experience a metallic or fruity taste in your mouth due to raised ketone levels.
  • No afternoon crashes. You feel more energetic.
  • You wake up feeling focused and alert.
  • You feel much better, with less aches and pains. Inflammation clears up.
  • Weight loss – of course!

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