I have easily lost weight a couple of times in the past by eating low carb. I always seem to fall off the wagon after a period of time though, so when I recently decided it was time to shed a few pounds once again and did some research to remind myself of the steps to take in getting started, I noticed the term “ketogenic” all over the place.
Since I didn’t know exactly what this term meant, I realized many of you may be confused too. If you are interested in a low carb diet plan, you will be familiar with the term “low carb diet”, and probably you have heard the term “ketogenic diet” also, as well as “Atkins” and “whole food” and “clean eating,” but really don’t know what they mean and how – or if – they differ.
Low Carb Eating
Before you can make the wise decision to improve your diet and make healthier choices, it is important to understand how it all works. It is important to understand that the Ketogenic diet is not a fad or a traditional diet, but a lifestyle, so you are not making a temporary change, you are making a lifestyle change.
With that in mind, we will discuss what the ketogenic diet is and how you can eat clean whole food that will make your new lifestyle a true success. (By the way, AtkinsTM is also a ketogenic way of eating, but usually when one refers to “keto”, it is referring to a plan that is similar to but stricter than Atkins TM
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
A ketogenic diet is a low carb, high fat, moderate protein diet. It limits your intake of carbs to about 20 grams a day but no more than 50.
The reason for this is that for it to be successful you need to enter into the ketosis stage, where the body begins to burn stored fat for energy instead of dietary carbs. Ketosis will not be triggered unless you are eating less than 50 grams of carbs per day.
Therefore, while you may be on a low carb diet, unless you are following a strict carb limit you are not likely to enjoy its main benefits.
What Is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic process that actually uses your fat stores for energy instead of dietary carbohydrates.
Generally, your body feeds on carbohydrates for energy, but the problem with this is that when you do not burn off all the carbohydrates you eat, the rest turns to fat stores.
This is a complex metabolic process that involves glucose, insulin, and glycogen.
- Carbohydrates (starches and sugars) are broken down into glucose in the bloodstream, giving the body its default energy source.
- At this point, the hormone insulin steps in to remove glucose from the bloodstream.
- Insulin converts glucose into glycogen. Some glycogen is stored inside the liver as a fuel reserve for the brain, and the rest is stored in the muscles as fuel reserves for everything you do.
- When that muscle glycogen is not used through a lack of energy expenditure or exercise, it stays in the muscles.
- The human body can only store so much glycogen, about 1800 calories worth. When that reserve becomes full, both the muscles and the liver send a signal to stop insulin production and excess glucose from dietary carbs begins to build up in the bloodstream, calling for more and more insulin to be released to remove it.
- Insulin levels surge, and eventually this may lead to insulin resistance.
- At this point, the liver then sends any excess glucose in the blood to be stored as body fat.
- As high dietary carb intake continues, glucose floods the bloodstream, insulin levels increase, and so do the body’s fat stores.
Many experts believe that the over consumption of carbohydrates has greatly contributed to the obesity epidemic in the United States, with one-third of adults being obese.
In the Keto equation, however, once carbs are greatly limited and their sources controlled, the body has no other option than to turn to its own fat stores for energy, and the metabolic process of ketosis begins.
There are other concrete scientific reasons as to why eating low carb promotes weight loss. When you eliminate sugar and starches, your blood sugar stabilizes and insulin levels, the fat-storing hormone, drop, so you burn fat and feel naturally satisfied with less food.
Health Benefits of Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet was created in 1924 by Mayo Clinic doctor, Russell Wilder to treat epilepsy (it is still being used for that purpose today), and is also supportive in keeping blood sugars stable in those with diabetes.
Harvard Health explains how the keto diet trumps low fat diets in numerous studies when it comes to the amount of weight lost, as well as its ability to lower triglyceride levels in the bloodstream to improve cholesterol profiles and reduce risk factors for heart disease.
More than 20 randomized controlled trials published since 2002 in respected, peer-reviewed journals, have shown low carb diets to be effective for weight loss, stabilizing blood sugars, general health and are also noted to be completely safe.
One of the longest studies, but not the only one, found that low carb beats low fat diets in improving good HDL cholesterol levels.
One of the most popular commercial ketogenic diets is Atkins™, which was created by Dr. Robert Atkins over 40 years ago. It has helped thousands of overweight and obese people lose the weight and keep it off.