With 2/3rds of the general United States population overweight or obese, sorting out how to lose that extra weight has to be one of the most searched for answers online. With the inherent health risks that come from being overweight, we feel as if it is a noble cause to try and discover just how to drop those extra pounds.
There are millions of diets floating around online, with each recommending different ways of approaching the subject. Some cut calories—others cut carbs. Some avoid fat—others, sugar. It’s an intimidating ordeal that can lead to anxiety about eating in the first place.
However, one diet seems to stand out against the others. The ketogenic diet (also referred to as the keto diet or simply keto) is a diet that claims it will allow you to eat until full, mostly disregard calories and still lose weight at a rate far faster than most.
Keto is also notorious for a complex understanding not only of how our bodies metabolizes food, but how we can take advantage of that system for weight loss.
It’s a notoriously term-dense subject, but we’re here to give you a brief overview of the ketogenic diet, explain how fat burning works on it, and hopefully give you a better understanding of the biological process of a little thing called ketosis.
The ketogenic diet is based entirely on the biological process of ketosis. For our purposes today, we’ll be utilizing the National Institute of Health’s write up on this process.
When you eat, your body will utilize carbohydrates to fuel many parts of the body, and break down complex chemicals in your meal into glucose, which is also used as fuel. When you fail to use the available glucose during your normal day, that glucose is stored in pockets of glycogen.
Your body can only hold so much glycogen, so when enough food is eaten to fill up the glycogen stores, foods are turned into fat and stored throughout the body. This is the fundamental reason you gain weight. Too much food and too many calories means too much glycogen, and therefore, too much body fat.
This is why avoiding fatty foods is not necessarily conducive to weight loss. Those fat cells in food will not be transferred to glucose, but rather, other fatty acids and ketones. In fact, sugar, which is more easily turned into glucose, is often the cause of fat buildup.
The ketogenic diet attempts to bypass this vicious cycle of glucose, glycogen, and fat and works to start up ketosis. Instead of eating foods high in sugar and carbohydrates, the keto diet recommends you eat protein and fat.
This forces the body to deplete the glycogen reserves since it’s been trained to run on glucose. Once all of the glucose is gone, and your body is no longer receiving enough glucose to survive through food, it’s forced into ketogenesis. In ketogenesis, your body must utilize fatty acids and ketones to survive.
How Ketosis Helps You Lose Weight
Once your body has transitioned to ketosis and depleted it’s glycogen stores, you’re left with a simpler path to losing weight. Before ketosis, you would need to utilize the glucose and carbohydrates in your food, then deplete the entirely of your glycogen stores, before finally beginning to enter ketosis and burn fat cells.
On the ketogenic diet, once the food is fully digested, there are no glycogen stores to draw from. The body will simply start to dissolve body fat as energy the moment it needs to. This is why ketosis and the keto diet is one of the most effective methods of weight loss.
If you are hungry, eating the right foods until full won’t harm your diet. So long as you’re getting the vitamins and nutrients you need, trace amounts of carbohydrates, and lots of fatty and protein-rich food, your body will remain in ketosis.
What Foods Can I Eat?
Eating to maintain ketosis is a little unusual because many foods you thought were unhealthy are allowed—and vice versa.
For instance, many fruits have too many carbohydrates to keep your body in ketosis. While there is no denying the health benefits of fruits, if you’re going for this diet, you’ll need to cut them out.
Likewise, butter, cheese, beef, and chicken are all acceptable on the ketogenic diet. This is due to the focus being not on calories, but macronutrients or “macros.” The goal is to eat few carbs, a good amount of protein, and lots of fat.
Generally, you’ll want to stay away from wheat, bread, and most grains. That means sandwiches with bread are no longer an option. Avoid sugary foods, fruits, and root plants like potatoes as well.
What you can eat are meats, veggies, dairy, nuts, and sweets that don’t focus on high sugar and keep your carbs down.
This can be a little tricky at first, as you may need to do some rearranging of for pantry to accommodate new foods and cut out old ones. Replacements to guilty pleasures will also be necessary to keep you on track, so consider picking up some low carb peanut butter cookies or low carb chocolate mousse.
Also, be wary of the dreaded “keto flu.” Keto flu kicks in during the first week of entering ketosis, while the body depletes its glycogen stores and transitions towards fatty acids and ketones for energy. This feeling of lethargy and increased fatigue should only last a few days and is relatively harmless.
And that’s it! The ketogenic diet is a scientifically proven way to help you lose weight, combat obesity and heart disease, and eat enough meat and dairy to feel like you’re not on a diet. If you stick with it long enough, you can live a life without the ups and downs of blood sugar, easily burn off fat, and feel healthy and vibrant for years to come.