The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet, which forces the liver to produce ketones as a source of the energy needed to live; its main objective is weight loss, eliminating the excess fat stored in your body.
The purpose of this diet is get into ketosis, in this way, the consumption of fats is very high accompanied by a moderate intake of proteins. When the body does not find glucose, it looks for another source of energy, resorting to stored fats; hence your body becomes a fat-burning machine and loses weight quickly.
Then, the liver turns fats into ketones; ketones function as a source of energy and cause the body to get into ketosis.
Ketosis is the goal of the ketogenic diet.
What is ketosis?
When you are on a high diet in which you consume healthy fats and very few carbohydrates, your body will get into the so-called nutritional ketosis, a metabolic state where the body burns fat instead of glucose for energy.
Of course, if you are a bread, sweets and pasta lover you should think about it calmly, because this diet will be particularly difficult for you, although the effort will be worth it.
The ketogenic diet allows you a minimum consumption of carbohydrates in the form of green vegetables, which should never exceed 5%, while 20% will be made proteins and 75% healthy fats.
To help you get into the desired nutritional ketosis, I recommend:
- Limit the consumption of carbohydrates. You should not exceed 115 grams a day, and it is much better if they come from green vegetables and fiber.
- Protein intake should be 0.6 to 0.8 grams per pound of lean body mass.
- Fat intake is freer, because this is the source of energy in the ketogenic diet, and you can consume them without worry. However, try to be healthy fats such as those provided by avocado and olive oil.
- It is important to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and regulate body functions.
- This helps with the production of ketone bodies, and therefore it facilitates your body gets into a state of ketosis and promotes the oxidation of fats in the body.
How does the ketogenic diet work?
In the ketogenic diet the amounts of the macro nutrients change, the intake of carbohydrates is minimal against a high consumption of fats, which will cause your body to get into ketosis; that is, once the reserves of glucose stored in your muscles have been exhausted, your body will look for another way to obtain the necessary energy and find in the fats that required energy.
In this way, ketosis is induced. In this state your body begins to produce, in the liver, ketone bodies as the main source of energy. This is how you start losing weight without affecting muscle mass or your health.
Does the ketogenic diet entail any danger?
No, there is no danger to the body on the ketogenic diet; on the contrary, this diet is much healthier than other low-fat ones. By consuming carbohydrates and fats your body produces glucose as a natural fuel, begins by burning carbohydrates and storing fats as a reserve for future contingencies. As a result, you gain weight and begin to have health problems.
Why is it thought that the ketogenic diet is harmful?
Traditionally, it has been believed that the body needs a large amount of glucose, breads, cereals and sugar to function; hence the stigma of the ketone bodies. But the truth is that ketones or ketone bodies produce more energy than the carbohydrates, so their effectiveness in the body is much greater, resulting in improvements for the brain, for health and for the entire body.
This ketogenic diet was developed in the early twentieth century when it was still thought that the human being could not function without sugar and that a ketogenic diet would cause fainting, cramping and other symptoms of diseases that are not true.
Similarly, nutritional ketosis tends to be confused with diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a serious complication of diabetes that can lead to death.
To believe that the brain needs carbohydrates is another mistake, although the brain and red blood cells require glucose and sugars are not needed; the body will break down fats for it, this process is known as gluconeogenesis and occurs when you are in ketosis.
There are many benefits that result from the state of ketosis:
- Important weight loss.
- Increase in energy levels.
- Treatment of various diseases.
The truth is that most people can benefit from a low-carb and high fat diet.
Benefits of the ketogenic diet for health
Diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, autism, migraines, traumatic brain injuries and polycystic ovary syndrome are some of the diseases that respond positively to a ketogenic diet.
Dr. Raymond Swanson, a professor of neurology at UCSF (University of California, San Francisco) and a group of scientists discovered that implementing a ketogenic diet in patients could help stop brain inflammation, especially those who had suffered a stroke or brain trauma.
Joaquín Pérez-Guisado from the University of Córdoba (Spain) presented in 2008 a study on the different metabolic benefits that result from following a ketogenic diet such as reducing blood pressure and decreasing insulin resistance without side effects to the kidney or liver.
Today, there are more and more studies that support this nutritional process to lose weight quickly and safely, proving its effectiveness in improving the aforementioned diseases, increasing the endurance of aerobic athletes and the antioxidant power of the body, among many other benefits.
As you see, consuming large amount of fat will not cause a heart attack nor will alter your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels as the opponents of this keto diet have disclosed. Instead, it will significantly lower your insulin levels, which will allow you to take advantage of the fat you eat -or the one that is accumulated in your waist- as a fuel for energy.
Changes in foods habits
As I have already explained, the ketogenic diet is based on a high consumption of fats against a notable decrease in carbohydrates and a moderate intake of proteins. But it is not about consuming any type of fat, it should be good, healthy fats such as those contained in avocado, coconut oil, blue fish (tuna and sardines), egg yolk or nuts.
Effects of adaptation of the ketogenic diet
Now, when you start a ketogenic diet you will feel bad; these are the side effects that your body will suffer before getting into ketosis.
This process of adaptation is different for each person; for some only lasts 3 days, other people will take up to a week to get into ketosis and overcome all these uncomfortable symptoms of adaptation.
These are some symptoms:
- Bad breath produced by ketones in the body. Also sweat and urine can acquire a fruity smell.
- You will feel tired due to the adaptation your body is undergoing to receive the energy from carbohydrates to fats.
- Frequent urination.
- Constipation at the beginning of the diet.
- Need to consume sugar.
- Hair loss, which is normal in any change of diet.
These unpleasant symptoms that occur in the first weeks of the ketogenic diet are the cause of many people giving up the plan before appreciating the important positive changes that occur in their body with this diet.
Are there contraindications in the ketogenic diet?
Despite the multiple benefits of following this program, there are some contraindications.
This diet is not suitable for anyone. For example, skinny people with body mass index below 20 should not follow this diet. Pregnant women are also not candidates to follow the keto diet.
Children and adolescents who need all the macro nutrients to continue with their development, high-performance athletes during competitive events, and people with gallbladder problems or with extirpated gallbladder will not be able to absorb some nutrients that require bile in their decomposition process.
It also happens with those who suffer from uric acid and kidney stones, who can develop stones and gout.
People with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency or patients with rare metabolic diseases such as Gaucher’s disease or Fabry’s disease should not follow this diet either. In the same way, people with anorexia nervosa should not follow it either.
If you are one of these cases, it is better to consult a doctor to help you follow this diet (always under supervision) to avoid the risks and take advantage of the excellent benefits of this program, nor only to lose weight.