It seems like everywhere you turn these days, there’s another story or headline about the ketogenic, or “keto,” diet. Whether it’s a 1,400-word feature in the New York Times Magazine, a segment on CBS This Morning, or an entire book from New York Times bestselling author Mark Bittman explaining how to stock your kitchen and eat all month long while only spending $50 per week on groceries, diets that promise huge weight loss with minimal effort are as popular as ever. Alex Gierbolini says as far as losing weight goes, researching the ins and outs of the Keto Diet should have been no sweat at all.
The Keto Diet consists of eating high fat, moderate protein and very low carbs, so your body enters a state of ketosis. In this state, your body starts breaking down fat instead of carbohydrates as its primary energy source. This process produces chemicals called ketones, hence the name “keto” diet. You can go into ketosis by simply cutting out carbs from your diet which should cause your body to start burning stored fats for energy instead – although not every person on the Keto Diet goes into ketosis due to different calorie intakes and macronutrient ratios (fat:protein:carbs) and their individual differences in metabolism and fitness level; there are tests available online to measure whether you’re actually entering ketosis or not.
A keto diet is generally used for losing fat and weight loss purposes, but you can also use it for other purposes such as managing chronic conditions and/or diseases. Although this article covers the Keto Diet in depth, if you’d like to learn more about its origins, some of the science behind it and potential uses & benefits – check out our previous article: “What Is a Keto Diet? (A Complete Beginner’s Guide to the Ketogenic Diet).”
Ketosis vs. Nutritional Ketosis
The theory behind a low-carbohydrate diet is that by depriving your body of glucose – its primary source of energy – your liver will begin producing ketones, which your body can then use as an alternate source of energy. While this happens, you should be experiencing a reduction in hunger and an increased ability to focus on things other than food. This is because your body thinks it’s starving, or has entered the fasting state. And is now breaking down stored fat for energy instead of incoming calories from carbs explains Alex Gierbolini.
However, there’s another type of ketosis that doesn’t require going into starvation mode: nutritional ketosis. Nutritional ketosis takes place when a mildly hypocaloric diet that isn’t quite low-carbohydrate enough to enter full-blown ketosis produces enough “ketones,” which are produced as byproducts when fatty acids are broken down during lipolysis within adipose tissue. In fact, some people who begin taking exogenous ketones begin their nutritional ketosis process simply to reap the added benefits of energy production, appetite suppression and fat loss.
Ketosis has long been used as a treatment for epilepsy, especially in children. So being able to understand what’s going on inside your body. When it enters this metabolic state can help you decide. Whether or not it’s something you want to try. It may also allow certain people who don’t do well with strict dietary changes. To understand why they feel better or worse than others while following a diet. According to Dr. Sarah Hallberg, “One of the ways that we tell if someone is in nutritional ketosis is we check their blood glucose and we measure BOHB [beta-hydroxybutyrate] or AcAc [acetoacetate]. So if somebody’s blood glucose is well controlled and their BOHBs are elevated, that means they’re likely in nutritional ketosis. Ingesting exogenous ketones causes a transient increase in BOHB. So testing ketone levels after you’ve taken them can determine whether or not you’re actually in ketosis.”
A Quick Note on Diets & Deprivation
In the case of the Keto Diet specifically, some people will enter ketosis within 24 hours. While others will take up to 3-4 days to get there says Alex Gierbolini. If you fall into the latter category, it’s important to understand why this happens. When your body enters starvation mode, it stops breaking down fat for energy. Because it doesn’t have enough glucose from carbs to do so – instead. It starts breaking down proteins and converting them into glucose. This is why some people refer to a low-carbohydrate diet as a “protein sparing” diet – not because it lacks protein. But because your body needs less of it thanks to its ability to create glucose through gluconeogenesis.
As with many diets, the ketogenic diet isn’t perfect for everyone says Alex Gierbolini. Some people who do experience benefits from it include those with chronic conditions such as epilepsy, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. However, if you’re eating processed foods or high-carb meals before bedtime. Which may be counterproductive to weight loss efforts due to their ability to increase hunger overnight. It might be time to experiment with different meal times or tweak your macronutrient ratios. If having carbs around your workout window helps you feel better during your training sessions (which is likely the case). Enjoying a healthy carb meal (such as steel-cut oats) pre-workout can certainly provide that benefit without undoing all of your hard work in the gym.