What is the ketogenic diet?
Although ketogenic feeding has been in the spotlight for a short time, it has been around since the early 1920s. Basically, this strict feeding protocol was developed for particular pathological cases, for example when people were suffering from severe epilepsy. Today, however, this type of diet is used for many reasons, such as in therapy for Alzheimer's or cancer. It is also very popular among sportsmen and women and to promote weight loss.
The ketogenic diet is based on a high intake of fats (lipids), medium protein and very low carbohydrates. In fact, there are many "types" of keto diets, from strict to flexible. On average, the fat: protein: carbohydrate ratio is 4:1, i.e. about 80% of the energy consumed comes from fat, while 15-20% comes from protein and only less than 10% comes from carbohydrates (even 5% for a strict diet). Thus, for a diet of 2000 calories per day, 1600 calories should come from fat, 300-400 calories from protein and 100-200 calories from carbohydrates. If we consider that 1 g of fat is worth 9 calories and 1 g of protein or carbohydrate is worth 4 calories, a person following a ketogenic diet could eat only 25 to 50 g of carbohydrates per day for 75-100 g of protein and 178 g of fat. Just for comparison, 1 apple contains an average of 20 g of carbohydrates!
How does the ketogenic diet work?
The aim of the ketogenic diet is simple: to reduce glucose (the primary source of energy for our cells) as much as possible to force the body to get its energy from fat, in the same way as when fasting. To sum up the catabolism process, when the body no longer has access to glucose to produce its energy, it begins the process of neoglucogenesis (to form glucose from fatty acids or amino acids) to provide a little glucose to the red blood cells (which absolutely need it to function).
On the other hand, and this is of interest to people on a ketogenic diet, the body begins to break down the triglycerides (fats) consumed, or those stored in our fatty tissues, into fatty acids, which are then oxidized and converted into energy for the liver (which produces gluconeogenesis). This process also leads to the formation of ketone bodies in the liver, which are then sent through the bloodstream to the organs (brain, muscles, cells in our tissues) and broken down to be used as a source of energy. The process of ketone formation is called ketogenesis and their breakdown in peripheral cells is called ketolysis. A person "fueling" ketone bodies is called ketosis. Basically, the body literally gets its energy from fat that is eaten or stored rather than from carbohydrates (carbohydrates). After a more or less long period of adaptation (a few weeks to a few months) to a strict diet, the body has been "educated" to produce energy from fat and can begin this process more easily from the fat reserves in our adipose tissue when we are not eating, promoting the loss of fat mass.
What foods are allowed in the ketogenic diet?
- quality vegetable oils (coconut oil, olive oil, linseed oil, MCT oil, etc.), coconut milk, unsweetened soy cream
- oleaginous: various nuts (whole organic almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, pecans), coconuts, various seeds (chia seed, flax, hemp, sunflower, pumpkin), nut or seed butters, derivatives of nuts and seeds such as almond flour or almond protein.
- Low-carbohydrate green vegetables such as lettuce, kale, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, etc.
- meat, especially fatty meats
- Fish, especially fatty fish (sardines, salmon, mackerel, etc.)
- full-fat dairy products (butter, cream 35%, milk 3.25% moderately)
What foods are prohibited in the ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet focuses mainly on carbohydrate-rich foods:
- white sugar, soft drinks, pastries, baked goods
- Bread, pasta, all cereals (rice, wheat, buckwheat, etc.)
- All sugars: honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, etc.).
- Root vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beets, etc.
- Squash, corn, peas...
- Almost all fruits (bananas, apples, pears, melons, watermelons, tangerines, peaches, nectarines, pineapples, kiwis, grapes, figs, dates, etc.), except those low in carbohydrates in small quantities (berries (blueberries, raspberries), citrus fruits (oranges, limes, lemons)).
- high-carbohydrate dairy products, such as yogurt
Ketosis as the basis for the functioning of the ketogenic diet
Also known as the keto diet, the ketogenic diet is based on a diet consisting mainly of fats (at least 70% of the diet) and foods that contain little or no carbohydrates. In a ketogenic diet, the diet consists of 70-80% fat, 15-20% protein and 5-10% carbohydrates. The keto diet is based on a special metabolism of the body to bring about lasting weight loss. This is the metabolic state called ketosis. On the scale of human evolution, the control of agriculture and animal husbandry is quite recent. In the past, periods of scarcity and abundance followed one another at the rhythm of the seasons. In order to survive during difficult times, nature has equipped human beings with a formidable auxiliary generator which enables them to draw a good part of their energy from their own fat reserves. Body fat thus becomes the body's main fuel, replacing glucose from carbohydrates. This is one of the main reasons for significant weight loss at the end of difficult seasons. From a metabolic point of view, ketosis is therefore a natural state of the human body where the body changes its main source of energy. The ketogenic diet aims to force the body to use a different type of fuel. Instead of relying on sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates (cereals, legumes, vegetables and fruit), the body now gets its energy from ketone bodies. This is a type of fuel that the liver produces from stored fat.
Improving sports performance
Since this special diet encourages the body to burn its own fat to meet its needs, it is an excellent way to lose weight. Numerous studies on the subject have shown very good short-term results. There are many reasons why athletes want to lose weight: to improve their power-to-weight ratio, to compete in a more favorable weight class or, in the case of an activity such as weight training, to burn as much body fat as possible for aesthetic reasons while maintaining muscle mass. In this sense, the ketogenic diet has the major advantage of allowing rapid weight loss without the known harmful effects of other methods of rapid weight loss. But ketogenic diets are not just for weight loss. Many athletes participating in endurance disciplines also turn to these very low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets to improve their performance. By forcing muscles to use fat rather than sugar, athletes gain a much greater energy reserve, allowing them to avoid the "wall" that awaits them when glycogen stores are depleted.
The ketogenic diet appears to have many advantages over many other types of energy-restricted diets. Even for a few days, the latter can create situations of deficiency or imbalance in essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and amino acids) that help control oxidative stress and inflammatory processes. A well-conducted ketogenic diet with sufficient amounts of protein (at least 1.3 to 1.5 g/kg body weight) is not an "extreme" diet, despite low carbohydrate levels (<20 g carbohydrates per day). It therefore does not cause metabolic imbalances that could have irreversible effects.
The ketogenic diet is an excellent way to lose weight quickly. But its implementation requires some understanding of how the human body works.
- This requires first of all a significant decrease in carbohydrate intake. That is to say between 20 and 50 grams of carbohydrates per day (it should be noted that a medium-sized banana contains about 27 grams of carbohydrates).
- It usually takes a few days to reach a state of ketosis.
- Eating too much protein can interfere with ketosis.
Because of the high fat content of the keto diet, those who choose to follow it must eat fat at every meal. In a daily diet of 2,000 calories, this corresponds to about 165 grams of fat, 40 grams of carbohydrates and 75 grams of protein. However, the exact ratio depends on individual needs. All healthy unsaturated fats are allowed in the ketogenic diet. Examples include nuts (almonds, walnuts), seeds, avocado, tofu, olive oil, etc. Although saturated fats are not prohibited, it is recommended that their consumption be limited because of their suspected link to cardiovascular disease. In any case, excess at any time is harmful. Care should therefore be taken to properly vary the sources of fat supply with healthy products. Some research also points to the stress that this diet could cause to the liver in the very long term. The liver is very active throughout the process.
Tips for Making the Most of It and Losing Weight
Obey the calls of your body
Although ketosis is a condition in which the body uses fat as an energy source to meet its needs, the body tends, by default, to use glucose to produce its energy. In cases where the Keto practitioner is subjected to extreme physical exertion, the body's mechanisms will therefore tend to quickly revert to glycolysis. This creates extreme, insatiable feelings of hunger and will cause a rapid drop in energy levels. This is why athletes are advised to opt for the keto only out of the competition season, when they are not training to reach a very high level of performance.
Common myths associated with weight and weight loss generally suggest that eating less or fasting helps reduce calories and lose weight. However, reducing the number of calories without a backup plan will stimulate your body's mechanisms, reducing its effectiveness. In such a scenario, the athlete will tend to consume more calories at the next meal, which is not a good thing for someone trying to lose weight and keep their body active.
Avoid adopting a new training routine at the beginning.
A physical training routine helps you keep your muscles active and lose weight. However, it is advisable not to try a new training program during the first few days of your keto diet. This could end up significantly reducing your energy levels, weakening your brain and making you very irritable. Therefore, it is best to stick to a moderate training routine or do only part of the usual routine you are following until your body has fully adapted to this new eating style. You should also ensure that your diet is consistent and appropriate before an event. If you are just a few weeks away from a competition, you should stick to your program and not make any unnecessary drastic changes. Therefore, if you have not yet started a Keto diet before an event, wait until it is finished and then start your new diet, instead of just before. This will prevent a significant drop in performance.
Consume adequate amounts of fat
The main source of energy in a keto diet is fat, and for your body to function normally an adequate intake of fat is necessary. But this diet will inevitably make you crave snacks all day long and will reduce your muscle mass considerably. In addition, when the body does not get enough fat, you will feel tired. This also hinders your efforts to lose weight. To avoid such inconveniences, make sure that you include enough healthy fats in your normal diet. The inclusion of omega-3 and other fats, preferably from coconut oil, avocado or cocoa butter, is a must when following a keto diet.
Opt for cardio to lose weight faster
The human body's metabolism is naturally structured to convert glucose or glycogen obtained from carbohydrates into energy, in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) or adenosine diphosphate (ADP). However, in ketosis, this process switches to breaking down fats to produce energy. To initiate this process, a large amount of external fat must be supplied to the body through a regular diet throughout the day. However, as soon as a person enters ketosis, they begin to lose weight drastically. To reinforce this transformation, a little physical activity does no harm. Aerobic exercises such as running, cycling and swimming can help you get rid of persistent fat stored subcutaneously and have a slim, athletic body.
Key Benefits of Ketogenic Plans:
Ketogenic diets contribute to belly fat loss
Contrary to popular belief, there are different types of fat that are stored in the body. The type of fat that many people tend to want to lose primarily through dieting and exercise is called visceral fat. Visceral fat tends to accumulate in the abdominal cavity, around the internal organs of the body. Low-fat diets can be effective in reducing body fat, but low-carbohydrate diets are much more effective in burning this visceral fat, resulting in a faster reduction in belly and waist. Not only is this result more aesthetically pleasing, but it can also be healthier. Too much visceral fat can cause various metabolic problems.
Ketogenic diets lower triglyceride levels
Triglycerides are another form of fat, specific molecules composed of three groups of fatty acids in addition to glycerol. If you are not yet aware of the risks of high triglyceride levels, you should be aware that these fats have a high risk of stroke and heart disease. Since triglyceride levels increase mainly because of carbohydrates, especially simple sugars, reducing carbohydrates lowers these levels and limits your risk of developing associated conditions. In low-fat diets, carbohydrates can often be increased, which will raise triglycerides. Therefore, choose ketogenic diets.
Ketogenic diets help control blood sugar levels
Blood sugar is one of the primary concerns of diabetics when designing or modifying their diet, and rightly so. Changing the amount of sugar in the body can affect insulin levels, which can have various side effects. However, when you systematically limit your carbohydrate intake, the body does not need insulin. This can give people with diabetes a more effective way to control their insulin levels and needs.
Low-carbohydrate diets can reduce blood pressure
High blood pressure is a risk factor for many people, especially with age and weight gain. Several diseases are linked to increased blood pressure, including stroke, heart disease, and several other fatal diseases. A low-carbohydrate diet reduces insulin resistance by eliminating spikes in blood glucose levels. Improving insulin resistance helps reduce blood pressure and all associated risks.
Ketogenic diets minimize symptoms of metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is not really a disease, because it is a breeding ground for them. The metabolic syndrome is essentially a precursor and an important warning of future diabetes or heart disease if no dietary changes are made. Symptoms of metabolic syndrome include abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar, increased triglyceride levels and decreased HDL levels. With the implementation of a low carbohydrate diet, all of these symptoms can be treated and improved quickly.
The structure of LDL cholesterol improves with ketogenic diets.
While HDL levels are increased by low-carbohydrate diets, the structure and levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in the body can also be improved. Basically, the larger the LDL particles are, the less they move around in the body.
Low-carbohydrate diets can help to make LDL particles larger, which will prevent them from being too present and moving around in the bloodstream. Smaller LDL particles are more dangerous because they can move more freely and gather to clog blood vessels.
HDL levels are increased by ketogenic diets.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL for short), or "good" cholesterol, are good for your body and help maintain and improve your heart health. HDL helps to push cholesterol out of the bloodstream and into the liver, where it is broken down and eliminated or reused by the body. Diets low in carbohydrates accelerate fat burning, which increases HDL levels in the body. This increase can also be achieved by consuming healthier fats, such as olive oil and nuts.
Ketogenic diet limits brain disorders
If you think a person's diet only affects them physically, you are wrong! Studies have shown that children with epilepsy, who suffer from seizures, have experienced a sharp reduction in seizures by following a ketogenic diet. In this study, more than 38% of children on a ketogenic diet experienced a reduction in seizures. Specifically, it should be noted that the burning of ketones in the brain can stimulate many brain areas that necessarily consume glucose. Studies are beginning to test this finding for many other disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.
Ketogenic diets reduce appetite
One of the main causes of diet failure is this constant insatiability. Snacking all day long and succumbing to cravings due to a feeling of endless hunger eventually leads to diet failure. A high-fat diet neutralizes the appetite, leading to better self-control and, consequently, more weight loss. This is directly related to the reduction in carbohydrates and the increase in protein and fat in the ketogenic diet.
Ketogenic diet reduces fat and increases energy levels:
Carbohydrates are broken down by the body into glucose (sugar). When you choose a high-carbohydrate diet, insulin levels increase after meals to help break down all the glucose you eat and turn it into energy while restoring blood glucose levels. However, insulin is a fat storage hormone, and at high levels it tells the body that it needs to store fat. In a low-carbohydrate diet, fat is used as energy instead of carbohydrates. The metabolic process called ketosis begins when the body adapts to a lower carbohydrate intake and compensates for this by burning fat for energy. By eating very little carbohydrate, insulin levels will never increase too much and fat storage is greatly reduced.
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