When I first started losing weight, I was ecstatic due to the rapid weight loss I was witnessing. Six weeks had flown by and I had lost over 7 kilograms (15.43 pounds), thus I was excited to keep going and more motivated than ever. However, when I slowly started reaching my ninth and tenth kilograms lost, I realized that it was seriously slowing down.
Hunger Pains & Frustration
Not only was I hungrier than ever, but no matter the amount I would eat and the time I would exercise, I would barely see a difference on the scale. Weeks were passing by, and I was losing less and less weight.
Nevertheless, one thing I did lose was my motivation, and I wasn’t bothered to hit the gym anymore; what was the point? I was way more interested in getting ice cream with my friends and going for a glass of wine or two on Fridays than continuing something that clearly wasn’t working.
However, I then met a nutritionist who invited me to switch things up, and who told me that I may be hitting a plateau because I was eating the same foods now that I was back when I was severely overweight. Thus, I sat down together with her, and she introduced me to nutritional ketosis.
You may have heard about nutritional ketosis; the state in which one’s body has adapted and is able to use up fat rather than sugars or glucose as fuel (1). This is a state that is achieved by following a certain diet, most commonly known as the Ketogenic diet; one that can help you overcome weight-loss plateaus, one that finally allows you to eat what you really love without feeling bad or being worried about compromising your results.
Why go Keto?
Indeed, this diet has a myriad of pros to it and has been researched extensively worldwide. As it is gaining in popularity, the ketogenic diet has become one of the most documented both online and offline, as well as monetized as we see multiple trainers and nutritionists selling it as a part of a healthy lifestyle. Thus, you may want to find out more about it, such as the positive side effects of the ketogenic diet, what a typical ‘keto’ day of eating looks like, and what the science says about it.
The Diabetic Connection
The ketogenic diet has become famous for a variety of reasons, one of them being its effect on insulin resistance, and thus diabetes (2). Diabetes has a few types, but the most common ones are Types I and II. Type I diabetes is inherited and something that isn’t preventable, whereas type II diabetes has been acquired, most likely due to an unhealthy lifestyle with little exercise and high sugar consumption (2).
In type I diabetes, one’s body does not produce insulin, whereas in Type II diabetes, one’s body does not react to insulin or isn’t able to produce enough of it (3). Now the question is, what does this have to do with the ketogenic diet? To understand this, one must take a look at how foods are normally metabolized, or broken down, during digestion.
Changing Metabolic Fuel Types
From allowing your brain to function to make your muscles move and your eyelids blink, every single activity that your body does is fueled in a certain way. So, how does your body use food for fuel? First, of course, it begins with the action of eating. The macronutrients are broken down into micronutrients: for example, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose. The stomach and the small intestines will first absorb the glucose, then transfer it into the bloodstream. This glucose will then become available to be consumed as energy.
However, when one does not use this glucose, it is transformed into glycogen which is then stored as fat, a processed regulated by hormones and by the liver. This process is regulated by the hormone insulin, produced by the pancreas, which affects how or when the glucose is used up and/or stored.
When one eats something that is very high in carbohydrates, such as pasta or cake, the glucose level in one’s blood rises, and one’s pancreas secretes insulin to regulate it. When one eats too many carbohydrates, for example in the form of sugary goods and processed foods, one is at a higher risk of developing diabetes type II, which as mentioned is a disease in which one’s body becomes unresponsive to insulin. This is how the body becomes unable to deal with the excess glucose, and therefore the blood sugar remains high rather than declining, which is what normally happens in healthy individuals (3).
The Ketogenic Connection
This is where the ketogenic diet comes into play; this diet requires you to eat foods that are very low in carbohydrates, moderate in proteins, and high in fats. This way, your body turns to another kind of molecule for fuel: ketones, rather than glucose. Thus, the insulin-glucose-glycogen loop that your body is used to and depends on for energy, which is at the very root of diabetes, is stopped and your body becomes adapted to fat as fuel. Ketones, which are created by your liver when it breaks down fat, becomes your body’s main source of fuel (4).
It’s extremely important to keep an eye on your ketone levels the longer you follow the ketogenic lifestyle. In the beginning, it doesn’t matter so much, as you are still learning and adapting, but once you are fat-adapted, you would want to know your ketone levels. Especially to see how your body reacts to different foods and time of the day. There are three main ways to measure your ketone levels – ketone strips, blood meter, and breathalyzer. The last of being my favorite. It’s painless, fast and accurate. If you are serious about following the keto diet then I suggest checking out this guide on measuring breath ketones.
Other Benefits of Keto Diet
If diabetes is not something you are worried about, you may be wondering why you should consider keto at all. After all, there has been a craze regarding fats in the past, with many scientists saying that the fat you wear is the fat you eat. However, this isn’t true– the sugar you eat is the fat you wear (5).
Aside from this, through the ketogenic diet, you may be able to control your hunger more easily as proteins and fats are more satiating than carbohydrates on the longer term (6). Furthermore, if you are aiming for weight loss, this diet can be of help as it lowers your insulin levels and gets rid of extra water (7). If you are looking to shred some belly fat, the ketogenic diet can help as low-carb diets have been proven to be a great way to lose it due to their effects on insulin regulation (8).
If you are worried about your triglycerides, which are a strong risk factor for heart disease, eating keto (but especially reducing your fructose intake) can be of serious help as low-carb diets tend to lower triglyceride levels in the blood (9, 10). If your blood cholesterol is bugging you, the ketogenic diet could also be a good option for you. You have two types of cholesterol: the good (high-density lipoprotein (HDL)) and the bad (low-density lipoprotein (LDL)). Eating fat increases your level of good cholesterol, thus keto is a great way to do this (11, 12, 13). This diet could also lower your blood pressure if this is something you are aiming for (14).
The ketogenic diet has also been proven to be a great diet for those who wish to improve their bad cholesterol, which is a strong risk factor for heart attacks. The bad cholesterol increases in size which is positive as it is linked to a healthier heart (15). Furthermore, this diet is helpful for those with metabolic syndrome (16), which is characterized by:
- obesity (namely in the abdominal area),
- high blood pressure,
- high fasting blood sugar,
- high triglycerides
- and low HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).
Also, check out in-depth beginners guide to keto diet by Bodyketosis here.
Different Types of Keto Diets
There are three different kinds of ketogenic diets; the ‘Targeted Ketogenic Diet’ in which one eats only a few carbohydrates, and that takes place before and/or after workouts, as well as the ‘Cyclical Ketogenic Diet’ in which one eats low-carb almost every day of the week, but then also eats a high-carb diet once or twice every week. Finally, there is the ‘fully ketogenic diet‘, in which one simply eats keto every day without exception (17).
The type of diet you choose to embark on is your sole decision. Keep in mind your personal goals and your lifestyle choice; for example, you may be a very social person that enjoys having a cocktail on the weekend. If this is your kind of lifestyle, the cyclical version may be the best, as you do not want to make yourself miserable by cutting out all foods and drinks you like forever.
However, if you are currently struggling with serious health issues and are looking for a diet that will, for example—lower your bad cholesterol, blood pressure and bring you down to a normal fasting blood sugar level—you may want to prioritize your health over short-term things like cocktails.
By now, you should have a better idea of the extent to which the ketogenic diet could help you. It is a great investment in your health that you will, hopefully, not regret! So go ahead and buy some ketone strips, make a high fat and protein meal plan using the countless resources available to you online, and start your keto journey on a great note.