The ketogenic diet and the metabolism of ketosis is a well-known subject for most of my readers. I must admit, the majority of Ketonians visiting Greek Goes Keto come here for the Keto Mediterranean recipes. However, each day I receive new questions, doubts and false claims regarding this revolutionary lifestyle. For this reason, I decided to write a new version of the beginner’s guide to the Ketogenic diet. In this particular article, I want to demystify and explain all the benefits of applying the ketogenic diet at any age.
Having to deal with family and friends who are against the ketogenic diet
Many of my clients, including social media followers, have to go through a small war with their family members and friends who passionately want to scare them away from the Ketogenic diet. This is particularly present after the recent systematic battle of mass media against the Low-Carb movement. Specifically, I decided to write a guide for all beginners and those who want to explain this healthy lifestyle path to their unsupportive family and friends. I will give my best to make it easy to understand.
Attempts To Scare You Away From The Ketogenic Diet
I believe that most of the information available online is covering the Keto diet safety. From a positive to the negative point of view. Therefore, it’s very easy to get confused and scared of the word Keto. For a better understanding, I will first outline the basics of human body metabolism.
There are three different macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Macronutrients are essential for the functioning of the human organism. Basically, they are converted into living energy. In fact, they are the building blocks of our bodies.
What Is Normal?
Under “normal” conditions, the body uses a combination of all three macronutrients. But the question remains, throughout the centuries, what was considered normal? Let’s talk about the last two centuries when carbohydrates became the basis of nutrition guidelines in most countries. This has created the human sugar-burner effect. Interestingly, all carbohydrates, except the fibre which is undigestible, end up as blood glucose! Therefore, the general diet guidelines aim to make all humans dependant on carbs as the main source of energy. The problem here is not only the epidemic of obesity caused by excess intake of starch, sugar and over-processed food! Today we know that various diseases are related to excess intake of carbohydrates.
Removing The Carbs
When carbohydrates are reduced in the diet, the body’s glycogen reserves are quickly consumed. The body is then finding alternative sources of energy. We have to remember one thing. There are no essential carbohydrates! On the other side, there are essential fatty acids and essential amino acids.
Fatty Acids – Yes They Are Essential
One of these sources comes from fatty acids that can be used as energy for most tissues in the body. However, not all tissues can use free fatty acids. For example, the brain and nervous system can not use them – but they can use ketone bodies. And, in most cases, these two systems start working much more efficiently when they start utilising ketones.
What Are Ketone Bodies?
Ketone bodies are a byproduct of the incomplete breakdown of free fatty acids in the liver. When the ketone bodies are being produced at a rapid pace, their blood concentration increases. The ketogenic diet, therefore, is a diet that promotes ketone body production and the metabolic state of ketosis.
The Ketogenic Diet Helps The Production Of Ketone Bodies
The body starts utilising ketones for energy and brain functions. In practice, this is achieved by a drastic limitation of carbohydrate intake. However, it also happens if you fast for a longer period of time. The body then switches to fat as the main energy source. In many cases, your body turns to your own body fat stores for energy. Therefore, it’s “eating” its own reserves.
Why Do We Keep The Protein Moderate?
There is also a reduction in the use of proteins as a source of energy. This is mainly to prevent the gluconeogenesis, a process which converts protein (and fat) into carbohydrates. Many people turn to the ketogenic diet to keep the muscle mass intact while losing fat. Ketones, in fact, protect the muscles and the only source of energy for the body remains in its own fat.
A Short History Of Ketogenic Approach To Nutrition
Before entering the details on ketogenic diet, we will make a brief historical review. The two primary conditions that were treated with the ketogenic diet are epilepsy and obesity. The goal here was to take the advantage of certain metabolic effects. Specifically, achieving the benefits of fasted state without prolonged fasting.
The Ketogenic Diet – Various Clinical Conditions Treatment
It all started with the treatment of children’s epilepsy. There are still records from the Middle Ages that write about fasting as a treatment for epileptic seizures. In the early 1900s, the prolonged fast was used as a treatment for seizures in children. However, this treatment could not be maintained for obvious reasons, so it could only temporarily control the seizures.
Fasting Therapy Effect
At that point, the researchers had to try finding a way to “mimic” the state of fast while allowing food intake. They found that diet with a lot of fat, extremely low carbs and a moderate amount of protein achieves the desired effect.
A Powerful fat-Loss Tool
The second sphere where the ketogenic diet has found its use for more than a century is the loss of fat tissue. Just as it was the case with epilepsy, it also started with full abstinence from food. This idea was appealing to some people because of the extremely rapid weight loss. But, it is clear that there are problems with this approach.
One of the major problems is the loss of body proteins, primarily from muscle tissue. In worst cases, half of the weight loss was actually a muscle mass loss, which is absolutely unacceptable. To address this problem, people have turned to the same solution as in epilepsy treatments – a lot of fat, moderate amounts of protein, minimal carbohydrates.
Ketogenic Diet Safety
I’m convinced that part of you heard about the ketogenic diet, but probably as something negative. Ask yourself: If a ketogenic diet is really harmful to the body as it is said, why is it still prescribed as a medical treatment for certain health conditions?
Most of the criticism of a ketogenic diet comes from a poor understanding of ketosis. Some claim that this condition affects the kidneys and the liver, which is not true. Others have a misunderstanding of metabolism itself, thinking that ketones are produced from (bodily) proteins, and we have already explained that they are formed from the fat.
Still Used For Treating Children’s Epilepsy
Some 30% of patients with pediatric epilepsy are not responding well to contemporary drugs. In this cases, they are routinely kept in deep ketosis for 3 years, and sometimes even longer, with no negative consequences. Just mention a short cycle of a ketogenic fat loss diet and many people will comment on kidney and liver damage. Furthermore, they will mention ketoacidosis, loss of muscle tissue, etc. If these would be the effects of the ketogenic diet, it would have long been abandoned by pediatric neurologists. However, they are still prescribing it!
The Most Common Concern is Ketoacidosis
This condition is characterized by extremely high concentrations of ketones in the blood and occurs only in people with type 1 diabetes if they don’t take insulin. Therefore, this is not a possible consequence of a ketogenic diet for people who are not diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Ketosis, on the other side, is a natural and safe state. In fact, we are being born in ketosis! It can be created by a low-carb or ketogenic diet or even by fasting. Here’s a wonderful article that will clear the difference between ketoacidosis and ketosis!
Saturated Fats Are Not Harmful
Many people worry about the intake of saturated fat and the risk of heart and blood vessel diseases. I could write a whole new article on this subject, but it has already been covered by many reputed experts. You can read an excellent article about the safety of saturated fats here.
The first and basic condition for entering ketosis is the carbohydrate restriction. It is a general recommendation that you need to intake less than 30 grammes of carbohydrate per day. Although there are small variations, adjusting the input to 30 grammes or less will work well for most people.
The Protein Need
If enough protein is not consumed, loss of body protein (loss of muscle mass) usually occurs. In the initial phase of the ketogenic diet, it is recommended to intake 1.7 g/kg body weight for non-active individuals and up to 2 g/kg of body weight for physically active people. After several weeks, when certain metabolic adaptations come in, the protein intake may begin to decrease.
Naturally, you will find the best protein source in the meat of all kinds including meat from internal organs. Furthermore, excellent sources of protein are eggs, seafood, dairy (preferably goat and sheep dairy), bacon, various cured meat products.
The Fat Intake
The fats allow us to perform the Ketogenic diet in the first place. Fat sources can come both fro animal and plant kingdoms. Various animal fats such as lard, butter, ghee, tallow and cream are the basis. Furthermore, coconut oil, olive oil, raw nut oil, avocado, and some kinds of nuts are
Why we don’t count fibre?
Fibres are useful to us and one of the reasons why we include vegetables in the ketogenic diet. They are technically carbohydrates, but we do not have enzymes for their digestion, so they have no energy value. When you look at the nutritional composition of some food, you need to take out the”fibre” content from the general “carbohydrates” to see how much carbs we really consume. This is well known to Ketonians as the Net Carb count.
The ketogenic diet is a diet with very low carbohydrate intake, moderate protein and high fat. Although such a diet might seem strange at first, it has been shown that the ketogenic diet is safe for health. In fact, many health problems can be helped by switching to Keto. The combination of fat and protein, with the addition of non-starchy vegetables, gives a remarkable sense of satiety so that there is no hunger. The level of blood sugar is kept under control so there are no severe drops in concentration and hunger. Many people reported reversing diabetes type 2 and other diseases by utilising a low-carb or ketogenic diet. Personally, I am promoting and developing meal-plans for Keto Mediterranean lifestyle which has three basic postulates!
Three postulates of Keto Mediterranean lifestyle
Let’s remember them quickly:
- Natural, healthy, fresh ingredients…
- Homemade, slow cooking, patience…
- Fun, laughter, comedy and enjoyment of sunshine and life…