Ketogenic dieting is a truly controversial subject, Joe public and even fitness enthusiasts accustomed to radical diet approaches claim it’s unhealthy and even dangerous!
Despite the hysteria, hundreds of thousands of fed-up dieters are drawn to Keto diets as a solution to their fat loss problems.
This guide seeks to present the facts in plain English so you understand how Keto works and whether or not it’s the right approach for you.
A Keto diet is a method of eating where carbohydrates are restricted (usually below 100 grams per day) in order for the body to begin burning fat for fuel.
Keto diets are often known as high fat diets due to the fatty foods that can be consumed, although strictly speaking any diet where carbs are restricted below 100 grams a day is considered to be a keto diet.
Keto diets have been around since the 1920’s in various forms and the consistent feedback from the dieters themselves is that keto diets appear to have the following benefits:
- Significant fat burning
- Body fat loss whilst retaining lean body mass (e.g. muscle)
- Energy whilst dieting (as opposed the usual low carb lethargy)
- Appetite suppression
- Tasty food that makes diet adherence easy
- Weekends allow for reasonable relaxation of the diet
Consider these benefits against the backdrop of “regular” dieting where muscle loss, hunger, bland food and low energy are prevalent and the appeal of a Ketogenic diet becomes clear.
Before we delve into this million dollar question, it’s important you understand where your body gets its energy from. I’ll try to make this as painless and non-scientific as possible!
Four Fuel Sources
There are four main fuel sources your body can use for energy, they are:
- Glucose (dietary carbs are broken down into glucose during digestion)
- Protein (dietary protein and your muscles which are made of protein)
- Free Fatty Acid’s (FFA’s)
The body’s primary fuel source is glucose which it receives via dietary carbohydrate intake. The reason glucose is the body’s first choice of fuel is because most people’s diets generally contain ample carbohydrates.
The body stores these fuels so if a fuel source is not available it can run on an alternative. This is the bodies survival mechanism in action.
Under normal circumstances where you have lots of glucose in your bloodstream, the body will mainly use glucose for energy. When you restrict carb intake, glucose stores quickly become depleted and your body begins burning alternative fuel sources in order to spare the little glucose it has available.
The preferred alternative is fat, both dietary fat and your body fat
Won’t You Lose Muscle if Protein is a Fuel Source?
We just learnt that muscles are (mostly) made of protein and that protein is one of the fuel sources your body can use, this is perhaps why it’s a common assumption that muscle loss will be a result of a keto diet.
The reality is in fact the opposite, keto diets are known to be protein sparing as the body uses fat for fuel before protein. However, this only works if you consume adequate amounts of dietary protein, if you don’t then you will lose muscle which is a complete no-no!
As we just discovered, when you remove carbohydrates from your diet the body begins to adapt to the restriction by:
- Conserving glucose stores and protein by not using them for fuel
- Beginning to utilise fat (FFA’s) and ketones for fuel
This is known as ketosis.
Upon entering ketosis, your body begins to use fat for fuel and produces ketones as a secondary fuel source, using a mixture of both. After approximately three weeks of keto dieting your body beings to favour fat over ketones.
Whilst ketones are no longer used for fuel by your body, they are used for fuel by your brain. Your brain usually uses glucose for fuel, but when it is not available it can actually use ketones to function normally.
75% of your brains energy requirements can be provided by ketones, the remaining 25% is supplied by your glucose stores which your body cleverly conserved for you!
Science Lesson Over!
Now that you understand keto dieting, I hope you are able to see why it can be so effective when it comes to fat loss.
The benefits of this approach are plentiful and there seems to be more pro’s than cons to keto dieting. Whilst it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of diet methods, I found it effective and easy to stick to and you could to!
The Complete Guide To The Ketogenic Diet
The single most complete guide to the ketogenic diet is Lyle McDonald’s The Ketogenic Diet, this is the book I used to drop 28 pounds in 16 weeks:
I can’t recommend this book enough, everything you need to make your ketogenic diet successful is in this book and it really is the ultimate companion which answers every question you can think of!