Keto is a new and trending diet right now. The hype started a few years ago, but I feel like it’s getting it’s big boom right now. I want to shed some light on this style of eating though, because it actually shouldn’t be treated as a diet or weight loss strategy at all. What it really should be viewed as is a long term lifestyle.
What Is Keto?
For most people, Keto means eating very low carb, high fat, and moderate protein. Specifically, the goal for most people is usually to stay under 25g of net carbs per day. Net carbs are calculated by subtracting the grams of fiber from the total grams of carbs. For most people, if you stay under 25 grams per day, you will eventually enter what is called Ketosis.
Many people confuse Ketosis with Ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a very serious diabetic complication that causes a production of excess blood acids (ketones). Usually hospital treatment is needed with fluid and electrolyte replacement as well as insulin therapy.
Ketosis is a completely safe and very healthy normal metabolic state. In Ketosis, your body burns Ketones for energy. Ketones are a special type of fat that provide long lasting energy to both your body and your brain. Ketones play many important roles in the body, including producing powerful brain protective anti-oxidants and facilitating the production of mitochondria.
When your body enters a state of Ketosis, it means that your blood sugar levels are low enough and your liver glycogen is no longer able to produce glucose as a fuel for cellular energy production. For those of you who have learned over the years that glucose is the bodies’ main fuel source, that information is now known as false. Your body will definitely choose to burn glucose first if it is readily available, but it is not the PREFERRED fuel source. It’s just the easiest to access and burn.
In Ketosis, you are a fat burning machine. Burning fat is a much more efficient state to be in than burning carbs. When you train your body to burn fat for fuel instead of carbs, the result is longer lasting energy, reduced hunger and “hanger”, improved mood, improved digestive issues, less brain fog, more clarity, and less inflammation.
Contrary to popular belief, we don’t actually need ANY carbs in our life. There are essential proteins and essential fats that we need to survive, but there is no such thing as an essential carb. If the body needs glucose for any reason, it can produce it through a process called Gluconeogenesis. I won’t go into too many details about that, because I am not a scientist, but basically it is a metabolic process of making glucose from non carbohydrate sources such as protein, lactate, and the glycerol component of fatty acids.
What About Carbs?
So essentially Ketosis happens when you reduce your carb intake to the point where there is no longer excess glucose in your body to use as fuel. At that point, you start producing Ketones, which then become your bodies’ primary source of energy. The key to this process though is making sure that you consume enough fat. Most people who follow a Ketogenic diet eat around 60-80% fat. From a macronutrient breakdown perspective, the average would probably be 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbs.
A lot of people may wonder how you could possibly lose weight eating a diet so high in fats, but let me remind you of something very important that you should repeat to yourself over and over… FAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU FAT. Carbs make you fat. Well, carbs combined with sugars and fat make you fat. But fat alone does. not. make. you. fat.
You don’t actually have to eat completely keto to go into ketosis either. A lot of people are able to train their body to burn fat for fuel and enter ketosis by just following a lower carb diet that is not quite as low as the traditional keto guidelines. Everyone’s body is different, and a lot of it depends on your activity and stress level as well.
What About Athletes?
Curious about Athletes and Keto? I was too. I have now learned that Keto is a healthy lifestyle for ANYONE, even athletes. In fact, being in Ketosis can give athletes a serious leg up. It allows you to have much more consistent energy for longer workouts, you don’t need frequent carb loaded snacks to avoid “hanger” or “bonking”, and your body has plenty of fat stores to keep you fueled for the entire duration of your workout. One your body learns to burn fat for fuel instead of carbs, you simply don’t need carbs anymore to stay active and energized. There is nothing unhealthy about it. In fact, it is a much healthier state to be in, especially for active individuals.
What Do You Eat To Get Into Ketosis?
In my opinion, there are two ways you can “do” Keto; the dirty way and the clean way. “Dirty Keto” is basically eating low carb, but not avoiding certain foods that are still going to have negative effects on your health. For example, consuming refined oils like canola, peanut, safflower, corn, and soybean are all very inflammatory, lead to risk of heart disease and cancer, and have no benefits for your health at all. BUT, they have 0 carbs. So some people choose to eat meats or other foods fried in these oils because all they care about is staying low carb. Some other examples of foods that people often eat in large quantities are cheese and bacon. Although both are not terrible for you in small amounts, I would not recommend eating large quantities of cheese and highly processed cheap bacon on a regular basis just because it is low carb. A few other examples of “dirty keto” foods would be cheap pork rinds, diet soda, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Dairy Whipped Topping. Non of these foods will make you feel good or improve your health in anyway.
As for “clean keto”, this is more of the style of eating that I follow, and that I would encourage others to follow as well. “Clean keto” can mean a lot of different things, but basically it avoids processed and refined foods, and often times dairy as well. Some people eat dairy in small amounts, some eat higher quality snacks like better brands of pork rinds, and some people just stick to whole foods like meat, veggies, and healthy fats. I like to eat only fats that are anti inflammatory such as coconut, avocado, olives, and their oils. I also eat mostly grass fed beef, free range chicken, pasture raised eggs, and meats without any nitrates or other additives. I try to buy organic vegetables whenever possible, and I focus on eating whole real foods instead of anything processed. That is my version of “clean keto”.
There Is No Such Thing As A “Keto Food”
One of my favorite people to follow on social media is Diane Sanfilippo. She is the creator of the 21 Day Sugar Detox, Practical Paleo, and she just came out with her new book, Keto Quickstart. Diane always says that a food cannot be keto, and I totally agree with her. Meat is not keto. Meat is low in carbs and high in protein and sometimes fat. But eating meat will not make you keto. Eating low carb makes you keto. In fact, sometimes if you eat too much protein, you can get kicked out of Ketosis. It is a delicate balance of finding the right combination of macronutrients for your own body. So just like meat is not keto, that does not mean that an apple is not keto either. Just because an apple has 30g of carbs (more than your entire daily allotment on a keto diet) does not mean that an apple is not keto. Some people can still eat a higher amount of carbs every once in a while and still remain in Ketosis. In fact, some people, especially women, often thrive off of having a few extra carbs here and there during the week. Depending on your activity level, some foods with slightly higher carbs may actually help you stay in Ketosis depending on your individual needs. So just because you ate a potato, it doesn’t mean you didn’t eat keto. There are no keto foods. There is just the state of either being in Ketosis or not. And everyone’s ability to go in and out of ketosis is very different.
Is This A Healthy Way To Eat Long term?
The short answer? Yes. Definitely. Eating low carb is definitely the healthiest style of eating for both your body and your mind. If you have never read the book Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter, I highly recommend it. It is a very eye opening scientific look at how carbs negatively effect our brain and our health. Excess carbs in the form of grains (even whole grains) are simply NOT good for you. You may not believe me, and I know that is a controversial subject, but the science doesn’t lie. Read the book.
Now there may be an argument to why staying in Ketosis all the time is not ideal or necessary, but that is different for every individual person. Some people may thrive off of a strict Keto diet, while others may need to dip in and out of ketosis from time to time. Sometimes women have a need for slightly more carbs. Sometimes your lifestyle just doesn’t allow you to maintain a state of ketosis for whatever reason. Eating low carb is definitely a healthy foundation for your life, but staying in Ketosis specifically may be more of a personal thing that you need to explore.
Either way, what this all comes down to is that maintaining a low carb lifestyle is definitely what I would recommend to anyone looking to make changes to their health. In the long term, you will be looking at less chance of disease and illness, higher brain function, more energy, and less inflammation. Inflammation is the root of all disease, and you know what causes inflammation? Processed and refined foods, sugars, grains, and excess carbs.
How To Go Keto Safely
If eating a ketogenic diet is something you are interested in, I do recommend you do some research and ease into it SLOWLY. This is not something you can just change so drastically in a day. If you are eating a standard american diet, you are probably consuming anywhere from 150-400 grams of carbs per day. Going from that to less than 25 grams per day is going to be a HUGE shock to your system. Instead of trying to do it all at once, I encourage you to slowly ease out of your carb consumption. Figure out what you average for a day, and then cut that number in half. Try to eat that way for a week or two. Then cut that number in half again and eat that way for another week or two. Give yourself a good few months to allow your body to learn how to burn fat for fuel.
A lot of people experience what is called “the keto flu” when they first start out. Basically it is flu like symptoms, extreme exhaustion, headaches, nausea, cravings, hunger, and various others. This occurs because your body is detoxing from all the excess glucose, but also because you are losing a lot of water and salt from this new way of eating. Carbs hold a lot of water, so when you take them out of your diet, you will initially lose a lot of water weight. Also, the foods in the standard american diet are packed with tons of salt, and when you are eating low carb real whole foods, your salt consumption is significantly lower. Salt is crucial though, and it’s also very good for you, especially when eating low carb, so you need to be sure to keep your salt intake high when going keto. A lot of times your flu symptoms will improve if you up your salt and water intake. It probably just means you are dehydrated and need electrolytes.
Ok, that’s my quick overview of Keto for you. There is SOOO much more information I could share, but that gives you a basic idea for now. If you are interested in trying Keto, please feel free to email me with your questions or concerns! I would love to help you on your health journey in any way I can. And don’t forget to check out my Instagram (@toriakselrad) and follow me on my Keto Whole30 journey right now!