A Ketogenic diet is the fastest way to burn fat while maintaining the most muscle mass. Bodybuilders have been using it for years, but recently it has been a growing trend among people looking to shed some excess pounds.
How Your Body Uses Food
Before getting into the specifics, let’s discuss how your body metabolizes fuel. The average person’s diet consists of a variety of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Our body turns carbs into glycogen to use for quick energy.
At any given moment, we have approximately 2,000 calories worth of glycogen in our blood. Proteins are broken down into amino acids which are then used to repair damaged cells and build muscle. Our body can turn proteins into glycogen if we need it for energy. Fat is digested and used throughout our body for insulation. We can use it for energy, or store it for use later.
Our bodies are wonderful and efficient machines. Any excess calories from proteins or carbs are turned into fat. This is good news if we don’t have access to reliable food, but bad news if we want to fit into that summer swim gear.
When Our Body Burns Fat
When glycogen is unavailable for our body to process, it starts burning fat. The fat molecules are turned into ‘ketones’ and are metabolized. Fat is actually a completely healthy and natural form of energy. Groups of people who don’t have access to carbohydrates like Inuits (Eskimos) are naturally on a Ketogenic diet their whole lives. Have you ever seen an obese Eskimo?
When you ingest carbs, your body breaks them down into sugars. These sugars are digested by insulin which is released by your pancreas. Insulin triggers ‘fat storage’ mode because it wants to gather all the calories you ate and store them for later use. On a Ketogenic diet, your body does not release the 'hoarder' chemical insulin, helping you burn fat much faster. Often, patients with diabetes are told to go on a Keto diet because it doesn’t affect their blood sugar levels.
How to Begin the Ketogenic Diet
The Ketogenic diet consists of fat, protein, and indigestible carbs, also known as fiber. You should eat a ratio of 70-25-5 of fats, proteins, and carbs respectively. Yes, 70% of your diet should be made up of fat. Common 'Keto' foods are bacon, sausages, burgers wrapped in lettuce, and pork. You can eat as many leafy vegetables as you want, but avoid high carb fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, pears, and corn. On a Keto diet, you cannot eat any form of grain or wheat. That means no bread, pasta, cereals, potatoes, or rice. Doing so will produce glycogen and kick you off ketosis.
Why the Diet Works
Since your body is using fat as its primary source of energy, you are constantly burning it rather than storing it. People have the misconception that if you eat fat, you will gain fat. In reality, gaining fat occurs only if you ingest more calories than you expend, regardless of their source. These calories can come from carbs or proteins as well as fat.
The main benefit of this diet is that however little you eat, you will never feel hungry or unsatisfied. The taste and texture of fat-containing foods stimulate our brains to feel full and appeased. With a Ketogenic diet, since you are eating a high level of fat, your appetite is satisfied so you don’t feel hungry as you do with traditional diets.
Some worry that cholesterol and blood lipid levels will rise to unhealthy levels. Studies show that because you are metabolizing fats so quickly, they don’t typically increase cholesterol or fat levels. In fact, many people find that their blood levels are much healthier on a Keto Diet.
With any diet, it’s important to talk to a medical professional such as your doctor or dietician before starting. A Keto diet is fairly easy to follow once you understand the types of food you should and shouldn't eat.
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