Understanding the Ketogenic Diet
If you are interested in health and fitness, then odds are you’ve heard of the ketogenic diet. The odds may also be that it has you a bit confused or you don’t understand what makes it special. In short, the ketogenic diet has many health benefits by allowing your body to mimic a fasting state, activating unique fat-burning and anti-cancer benefit. The science behind why these changes occur is more complex, and worth delving into. That is the purpose of this article, understanding the strange state known as ketosis which is brought on by fasting or the ketogenic diet.
When your body is in a fasting state for long enough, it begins burning your body fat as fuel. This is the purpose of your fat stores after-all: to provide food when there is none. When our body burns fats, it creates a biproduct called ketones. As it turns out, our body has the ability to burn ketones as fuel, and they are more efficient than sugar for our muscles and brain, while also causing less oxidative damage. This state is known as Ketosis.
Reaching ketosis requires unique circumstances where your body is using fats primarily, with some protein, and little to no carbs, and no processed sugars. The fastest way to enter ketosis is to fast, and go for 2 to 3 days or more without eating conventional food (amino acids and electrolytes are ok.) But there is another method which involves a high fat diet of 60% to 80% fats, and 20% to 30% proteins, and 0% to 10% carbohydrates. This is the ketogenic diet, and will allow your body to mimic fasting and enter into ketosis.
The benefits of ketosis are many, but it is most popular for anti-cancer benefits and weight-loss. The powerful thing about ketosis is that it represents efficiency at burning fat. If your body can enter ketosis, that means it is becoming better at burning fats and less reliant upon sugars. Obese people typically display broken metabolisms which rely very heavily on sugar intake and have poor ability to burn fats. This is reflected in their low insulin sensitivity, which is in extreme cases the cause of diabetes. Entering into ketosis raises our insulin sensitivity and allows us to more efficiently burn fats. It also boost human growth hormone, and can have powerful benefits in weightlifting. Finally, ketosis is very effective for treatment of most cancers. Cancer cells are metabolically broken, and die when deprived of sugar. Chemotherapy often attacks these cells by addressing this weakness. However, when you enter ketosis, you effectively starve your body, and the cancer cells, of sugar, while your healthy cells run on ketones instead. The cancer cells are not capable of using ketones as fuel, and they die.
As a final note, ketosis is a very particular state, and it requires measurement to know you’ve entered it. Many people who claim to eat ketogenic never actually enter ketosis. They are eating too many carbs and proteins, and not enough fats. Two sure fire ways to test are to get keto-strips: urine strips which turn red in the presence of ketones, or a blood ketone monitor. Another way you might be able to tell is if you begin having flu-like symptoms, or exhibit bad breath or body odor. Much of the time, when someone is new to ketosis, their body leaks excess ketones, creating a distinct smell known as “keto-breath.” Once your body becomes more efficient at ketosis, these symptoms go away, but for the novice they can be a sure-fire way of knowing you’ve hit ketosis. Just remember, not everyone displays these symptoms and many instead feel much better. The best way to know for sure is to measure directly.
For more information on the ketogenic diet, read the work of Dr. Dom D’agastino, or listen to interviews of him on The Joe Rogan Experience or the Tim Ferriss Show. I’d list some websites too, but these interviews are so top notch and such great introductions, I really can’t suggest you start anywhere else. Both interviews can be found on podcast apps for free.
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