It may be an unconventional diet now. But soon enough, everyone will be utilising the ketogenic diet to lose fat.
Low carbohydrate and high-fat diets have been controversial topics for decades. One such diet is the Ketogenic diet, formally created in the 1900s as a cure for many health problems. But somewhere along the line, this diet was demonised for its role in promoting a high saturated fat intake and its part in increasing cholesterol levels and triggering heart related diseases. As a consequence, the Ketogenic diet slowly withered away and was eventually disregarded.
However, times have changed. Since the new millennium, there have been over 20 human studies conducted on low-carb diets such as the Ketogenic diet. Almost every single one of these studies has resulted in significant weight loss as well as improvements to many risk factors, including cholesterol.
What is it?
The Ketogenic diet or KD promotes an environment where our body turns from a carbohydrate burning system to a fat burning machine. For this to occur, we must incorporate a diet that consists of low carbs, high protein and high fat. This combination of macronutrient balance will force our body into a metabolic state of ketosis, in laymen terms this triggers fat to become the body’s primary source of fuel. Just think of the ketogenic diet as a metabolic switch.
Note: Ketones are the end-product of the process metabolising fat.
7 Reasons Why the Ketogenic Diet is Amazing
Reason 1: Forces the Body to Use Fat for Fuel
This is the predominant reason people choose to embark on such an unconventional diet. By consuming a low number of carbohydrates, your body’s preferred energy source becomes limited. This forces your body to adapt, pushing it into a state of ketosis which promotes fat as the primary food source.
Reason 2: Spares Protein for Growth
Proteins are a key element to generating glucose through a process known as gluconeogenesis. However, since our body prefers to use fat over glucose for energy and our body already has an ample amount of fat stored on top of your high daily intake of fat. The ketogenic diet subsequently has a sparing effect on protein.
Reason 3: Fats Will be Secreted Through Waste
Another benefit of ketosis is when the body does not require ketones for energy, it simply excretes ketones through urea as waste. To clarify, while you are on this diet there will be periods where you will be urinating fat.
Reason 4: Promotes a Low Insulin Environment
High insulin levels prevent the metabolic process lipolysis which has the primary role of breaking down fat as energy. When insulin levels spike, lipolysis inhibits hormones, such as human growth hormone, from being secreted. For those who are unaware, HGH halts the enzyme lipoprotein lipase (LPL), whose primary role is to store fat. Furthermore, HGH is extremely anabolic, meaning it plays a large role in muscle growth.
Reason 5: Reduces Hunger
Although science has yet to pinpoint what reduces hunger in a Ketogenic diet, it has been suggested that a high protein diet promotes a satiated feeling resulting in less hunger. Others have hypothesised that it may have to do something with ketones and their contribution to 30-50 percent of metabolic fuel for the brain. This is also because the brain plays a hefty role in regulating appetite and that there is a chance that ketones somewhat manipulate the brain in reducing the desire to eat. Alternatively, perhaps it may be a dietary manipulation that includes multiple factors. But one thing is for sure, individuals have less of a desire to eat when on the ketogenic diet.
Reason 6: Treats Many Neurological Conditions
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, the Ketogenic Diet has proven to help 60% of children who have tried it. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has stated that the Ketogenic diet was initially developed in the 20th century to treat illnesses such as epilepsy.
Recent studies have now emerged displaying the roles a ketogenic diet has in curing many diseases such as: Alzheimers, Parkinson’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, cancer, stroke, mitochondrial disorders, autism, and the list goes on. Seemingly, as studies continue, more and more evidence continues to back up this dietary regimen in treating numerous health issues.
Reason 7: The Brain Runs Better on Ketones
Since our ancestors have been living tens of thousands of years without eating heavily dense foods, especially the ones drenched in sugar, our brains have evolved using a diet predominantly consisting of fats and protein. As a result, the cerebrum has shown to run up to 15 percent more efficiently while on a low carb diet. Nevertheless, this additional efficiency cannot be attained without the use of gluconeogenesis, a process that turns protein into glucose for the few areas of the brain that require glucose to function.
Ultimately, this shows that while carbohydrates are a great nutrient, we are still able to go on living without consuming them. This is not to say there are no disadvantages to a no carb diet, but it definitely will not cause drastic health problems; unlike a diet that focuses on consuming zero fats or protein would.
The Downfall of the Ketogenic Diet
As with every activity, including walking, there are always downsides and the Ketogenic Diet is no different. Having said that, there have been many false reprovals about this particular dietary regimen which I will be sure to set the record straight.
Downfall 1: Saturated Fats Cause Heart Related Diseases
Many people have been sceptical about the Ketogenic dietary regimen because it calls for the consumption of a high amount of saturated fats, which in the past have been associated with heart-related diseases. But the reality is, carbohydrates – not fats, are the real culprit for spiking blood sugar and insulin levels; the two primary factors that lead to heart diseases.
The STD (Standard America Diet) has exceedingly high amounts of both sugar and saturated fats, and both of these factors were studied as one entity as the cause of hypertension in the latter stages of the 1900’s. As a result, although saturated fats are healthy, they shared the blame for developing heart-related diseases when the fact is, it was solely the carbohydrates fault.
This speculation is further propelled in a study from John Hopkins University School of Medicine, which states that “high saturated fat intake is quite healthy for your body.” What the studies manifested was that Ketogenic diets that consist of high saturated fats increased HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), and that the low-carb aspect was the reason for the decreased triglycerides levels (high triglyceride levels lead to health risks).
Downfall 2: Kidney Damages
Although the state of ketosis will benefit the vast majority of people, there have been some concerns with a low carb and high protein diet as they have been rumoured to develop a strain on the kidneys. However, researchers from Indiana University School of Medicine have noted on the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (branch of medicine that deals with physiology and kidney related diseases), that low-carb diets do not cause any apparent harm to the kidneys.
Having said that, there has been research stating that a no carb diet can negatively impact your health, particularly the kidneys. Therefore, you should always consume some source of carbohydrate each day, which is advised in the Ketogenic Diet anyway. If you are still concerned or had pre-existing health conditions, especially those that involve the kidney, then it is best to consult a medical professional just to be sure.
Downfall 3: Ketoacidosis
Ketoacidosis, an extremely abnormal form of ketosis, is often confused by many people, including doctors. It’s a condition in which an abnormal number of ketones are secreted and are not regulated by the body properly; most often due to a lack of insulin, which encourages a heavily acidic pH, a precursor to death.
This, however, is not a concern for a non-diabetic since their insulin levels will be normal. On the other hand, a diabetic person attempting a ketosis diet is highly not recommended.
Downfall 4: Normal side effects
Switching to any diet, particular the Ketogenic diet, is not easy at first. This is because it will take time for your body to adjust to burning fat opposed to sugar. For this to happen, new enzymes must be created, and as a result will take some time.
Here is a great analogy by Dr. Mike Eades which explains the process:
“When you’ve been on the standard America high-carb diet, you’re loaded with enzymes ready to convert those carbs to energy. You’ve got some enzymes laying in the weeds waiting to deal with the fat, but mainly dealing with it by storing it, not necessarily burning it. All the pathways to deal with carbs and their resultant blood glucose are well-oiled and operating smoothly. Then you start a low-carb diet. Suddenly, you’ve idled most of the enzyme force you have built to process the carbs in your diet while at the same time you don’t have a ready supply of the enzymes in the quantities needed to deal with your new diet.
It would be like a Ford automobile factory changing in one day into a plant that made iPads. All the autoworkers would show up and be clueless as how to make an iPad. It would take a while – not to mention a lot of chaos – to get rid of the autoworkers and replace them with iPad workers. In a way, that’s kind of what’s happening during the low-carb adaption period.
Over the first few days to few weeks of low-carb adaptation, your body is laying off the carbohydrate worker enzymes and building new fat worker enzymes. Once the workforce in your body is changed out, you start functioning properly on your new low-carb, higher-fat diet. The carbs you used to burn for energy are now replaced to a great extent by ketones…”
What Does History Say?
If we look back at history, it’s easy to assume that the Ketogenic Diets are safe. We know this because for any species to have survived for millions of years, they must have been able to tolerate brief periods of natural starvation, which in itself is Ketogenic. In fact, every human approaches ketogenesis (the process by which fatty acids break down into ketones) while sleeping.
Ketogenic & Physical Performance
In the same study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism had participants perform physical activity while on a Ketogenic diet consisting of 83% fat, 15% protein and 3% carbohydrates. What the studies showed was that during the first two weeks, some individuals showed a decrease in energy output.
After this period, however, their peak aerobic power and sub-maximal endurance were restored. Suggesting that when individuals commence the ketogenic diet, their energy output will decrease initially as the body adjusts to using a different form of energy source. Nevertheless, after the body adapts, it’s able to return to its peak physical performance.
In the end, the studies ended up concluding that there was no great reduction of energy metabolism after adapting to the Ketogenic diet. Bear in mind though, these studies were performed over a 4-6 week period, a relatively short time to analyse energy differences between diets. Furthermore, although energy and endurance performance can be sustained, it has been suggested that Ketogenic diets are not ideal for vigorous activities, such as weightlifting or sprinting. This is because Ketogenic diets induce a low muscle glycogen storage which may hamper growth.
The Main Idea of the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet
There are many variations of the Ketogenic diet, but the ideal one for bodybuilders and athletes is the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD). It has the primary goal to completely deplete muscle glycogen between carb loading days.
Five Days Low Carb, Two Days High Carb
Usually, individuals put their high carbohydrate days on the weekend. However, in order to keep your muscle glycogen stocked evenly through the week and keep your physical performance up, it’s best to split the high carbohydrate days as far from each other as possible. The days after you carb load will be the optimal periods to perform resistance training.
On high carb days, eat at least 1000 calories of carbohydrates (250 grams) to refill your depleted glycogen stores. While on low carb days, eat between 30 – 60 grams of carbs so that your body will continue to stay a fat burning machine, this of course excludes fiber. You have the option of eating either complex or simple carbohydrates on your carb feed days.
In the same study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism showed that individuals must intake above 1.2 g/kg of protein for their body weight during a Ketogenic Diet. This amount proved to prevent lean tissue from being broken down as well as promoting an environment where physical performance is not hindered. As for fat intake, for every gram of protein you consume, you should also consume 1.5 grams of fat. You should also try to increase your meals so that you eat 5 – 10 times a day in order to keep your muscle cells saturated, providing an optimal environment for growth. In addition, the participants in the physical performance study also ingested 3-5 grams per day of sodium and 2-3 grams per day of potassium to effectively maintain the nitrogen balance essential for tissue preservation.
All Things Considered
Modern studies show that low-carb diets stand well ahead of high carbohydrate diets. Not only do they change your body so that it uses fat as the primary source of fuel instead of carbs. But most if not all studies conducted in the past 20 years have shown diets such as the Ketogenic Diet to be highly beneficial for health, particularly for treating neurological related diseases. Though it may be difficult for your body to adjust to it initially, the benefits outweigh the negatives by far. And it is a highly recommended diet to undertake if you are in search of a new diet that emphasises fat loss.
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