Fat! That is probably the most manipulated word in the history of food thanks to clever, cynical media. As a personal trainer, the number one thing gym members and clients worry about is fat!
So you can imagine their surprise when I tell them they can eat FAT and still lose weight on the ketogenic diet (keto for short). What’s a ketogenic diet they ask, and you may be wondering the same thing!
I personally have been using a ketogenic way of eating for over ten years but before I divulge my personal experience, let’s look at what a ketogenic diet really is before I move on to a keto diet guide.
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that, as the theory goes, emulates our paleolithic ancestors way of eating.
I do need to stress here that when I say FAT, I’m referring to essential/good fats and not just any old fat. You may know them as omega 3 & 6. We now know that even natures saturated fat (in the form of coconut oil) can be used for health and energy.
Eating this way forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. Normally, carbohydrates contained in food are converted into glucose, which is then transported around the body and is particularly important in fuelling brain function. However, if there is very little carbohydrate in the diet, the liver naturally converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies.
The ketone bodies pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source. As the blood has elevated levels of ketone bodies, it is in a state known as ketosis.
What exactly is ketosis?
The metabolic state of ketosis simply means that the quantity of ketone bodies in the blood have reached higher than normal levels. When the body is in a ketogenic state this means that lipid energy metabolism is intact, which basically means the body will start breaking down your own body fat to fuel the body’s normal, everyday functions. Great for when you want to lose weight!
Reasons for using a ketogenic diet
Using a ketogenic has many outstanding benefits that I can personally testify to. It does take a little time to get your head around the idea and for your body physically adjust.
So here is a thorough keto diet guide
The main benefit being that it increases the body’s ability to utilise fats for fuel. When on high carbohydrate diets the body can usually expect an energy source to keep entering the body. But in the state of ketosis the body has to become efficient at mobilising fats as energy. Using fat as the primary fuel source means you won’t hit a ‘runners’ wall when exercising for long periods of time.
Fat not only gives you the most energy per gram but because your body’s ability to store fat means it can be called on for longer sustaining energy. So you can keep going for longer without dropping energy levels. Helpful if you want to run a marathon.
The good thing about being in a state of ketosis is that if the body has no further use for ketones they can simply be excreted through your urine as a waste product. So unlike excess carbohydrates that get stored as fat, your body will actually be secreting it out. Good news for those of you losing weight!
Acne, rosacea, psoriasis, dry skin, and wrinkles are all affected by your diet. Increasing dietary omega-3 fats is an important step towards healing the skin. High levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to decrease inflammation and may reduce the risk of acne and other skin problems like eczema by decreasing insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and preventing hyperkeratinization of sebaceous follicles.
Conditions such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis have been shown to be positively affected by supplementation with omega-3s from fish and krill oil.
Another beneficial reason has to do with the low levels of insulin in the body, which causes greater lipolysis (breakdown of fatty acids) and free glycerol release compared to a normal diet when insulin is around 80-120. Insulin has a lipolysis blocking effect, which can inhibit the use of fatty acids as energy (which is what happens when you consume too many carbohydrates).
So when insulin is brought to low levels many beneficial hormones are released in the body such as growth hormone and other powerful growth factors.
Another important benefit of the ketogenic diet is that when in the state of ketosis, it keeps hunger in many people to a minimum. Compared to low-calorie carbohydrate diets that leave you with constant hunger pangs! Consuming more good fat keeps you fuller for longer because it takes longer to break down thus reducing hunger and the opportunity to consume bad snacks!
The last benefit has to do with the fact that a ketone body is an inefficient fuel source due to fat providing the highest concentration of energy of all the nutrients. One gram of fat gives you 9 calories. This calorie density, along with our seemingly unlimited storage capacity for fat, makes fat our largest reserve of energy.
One pound of stored fat provides approximately 3,600 calories of energy. And that’s a lot. For those of you that wish you bulk up and improve strength, taking essential fats is a great way of increasing your ‘clean’ calories. Personally, I’ve added up to 3-4kg using this way of adding ‘clean’ calories to my diet.
My personal experience
Going back about 12 years, my then diet was based on lots of carbohydrates, low fat and adequate protein. How did I feel eating this way? Not great! In fact, I suffered from severe asthma, hay fever and a little eczema. I would have 10 hours sleep and still couldn’t get out of bed. I was tired, low on energy, had bad mood swings and suffered from mild depression!
Now while this wasn’t all down to the exclusion of essential fats, it was down to my diet being packed full of carbohydrates, processed foods, ready-made meals and fruit juice drinks. By cutting out all those forms of foods and juices and implementing essential fats, my health and physical condition totally changed.
This didn’t happen overnight and wasn’t a quick fix but over the weeks, months and years, the transformation has been incredible! So what benefits have I seen? Numerous!
My skin has a natural healthy glow and I rarely suffer from dry skin let alone the eczema that plagued parts of my body. I also haven’t suffered from depression or bad mood swings (which my friends and family are rather grateful for). My energy levels completely surpassed my old energy levels when consuming carbohydrates.
I never have a midday lull and I have more energy to complete my workouts in the morning without having breakfast! This has greatly improved my fitness, stamina and cardiovascular.
But the most telling benefit is the very important fact is that for the past 7-8 years I haven’t had to use my asthma medication and inhaler, which is a godsend!
I had used inhalers since the age of 10 when I was first diagnosed with asthma and I can tell you, it isn’t good for our bodies to take prescribed drugs for long periods of time. Recent studies show that an intake of supplementary omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the inflammation that triggers the asthmatic mechanism.
Essential fatty acids support the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and nervous systems. The human body needs essential fatty acids to manufacture and repair cell membranes.
A primary function is the production of prostaglandins, which regulate body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood clotting, fertility, conception, and play a role in immune function by regulating inflammation and encouraging the body to fight infection. Very important benefits of why being on a keto diet can Improve your general well being and internal health.
From what we know of our paleolithic ancestors (cavemen) and the way they ate, their natural way of eating would have closely resembled a keto diet. Fat is the body’s preferred fuel source and is what we’ve evolved to eat and use, just like other mammals.
Until our ancestors cultivated wheats and grains and became farmers, carbohydrates that we know today didn’t exist! From an evolutionary standpoint our physical body’s haven’t changed since our earliest ancestors dating back nearly 200,000 years. So what worked for them still works for us!
There are several sources of foods that provide essential/good fats. Below is a list of the common foods you can incorporate into your healthy lifestyle.
Foods that contain essential fats:
– Sunflower seeds
– Pumpkin seeds
– Sesame seeds
– Flax seeds
– Brazil nuts
– Olive oil
– Nut butter (cashew or Almond)
– Extra virgin Coconut oil
– Quality fish oil
Data exploring the potential neuroprotective effects of ketosis are still scarce, but more studies need to be done to gain conclusive proof of the long-term effects, if any. Yet versions of the ketogenic diet have been used to successfully treat drug-resistant epilepsy in children since the 1920s.
Emerging evidence from animal models and clinical trials suggest keto may be therapeutically used in many other neurological disorders, including headache, neurodegenerative diseases, sleep disorders, bipolar disorder, autism and brain cancer with no apparent side effects.
The brain is happily deriving energy from ketones, but why would this be protective against such a variety of brain diseases that we see today?
One answer may be energy. Despite their superficial differences, many neurological diseases share one major problem, deficient energy production. During metabolic stress, ketones serve as an alternative energy source to maintain normal brain cell metabolism. And maybe a more efficient fuel than glucose, providing more energy per unit oxygen used.
A ketogenic diet also increases the number of mitochondria, so-called “energy factories” in brain cells. One study found enhanced expression of genes encoding for mitochondrial enzymes and energy metabolism in the hippocampus, a part of the brain important for learning and memory. These cells often degenerate in age-related brain diseases, leading to cognitive dysfunction and memory loss.
With increased energy reserve, neurons may be able to ward off disease markers that would usually exhaust and kill the cell. This could have great potential for dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Sounds too good to be true? In truth we really don’t know but it does look promising!
What exactly is going on in the brain, organs and other bodily functions on a ketogenic diet? I can only speak from personal experience as I’ve been using a keto diet (with a few tweaks) for around 12 years and I’ve never felt better.
My advice would be to enlist the services of a nutritionist before trying the keto diet but certainly for the short term the effects look very positive!
I hope this keto diet guide has been helpful!