What is Keto?
So before we get started, some of you may be wondering what is keto? Keto is short for a ketogenic diet. It is a diet that turns your body into a fat-burning machine. This is a diet that involves high volume intake of fats and very low intake of carbohydrates. Due to it being such an unorthodox diet many people like to portray it as a highly dangerous diet. Like there is with any change in diet there is some risk, but only a very small subset needs to worry about health risks when on this diet. DISCLAIMER: As always, consult a physician when going on any kind of diet that changes your routine as much as keto does.
The goal of the keto diet is to get into a state of ketosis. While in ketosis the body burns fat at an insanely high level. Ketosis also allows for very high mental and physical focus. Once some people achieve a state of ketosis, they decided that it is the only way to live.
So how does one get into a state of ketosis? Simply put, by producing ketones. Sounds simple enough, right? Oh, you don’t know what ketones are? That’s OK, most people don’t.
What are Ketones?
Ketones are produced when you eat a very low amount of carbs. Ketones are produced from fat, in the liver. They fuel the entire body, including the brain. The brain consumes lots of energy every day. It is actually a very hungry organ! That said, it cannot run on fat directly. It must run on glucose or ketones.
So when the body starts producing these ketones it is in ketosis. One way to get there is by fasting. Obviously, fasting is not a long term solution as you need food to survive.
A ketogenic diet, though, can go on forever and it also results in ketosis. A ketogenic diet has many of the same benefits of fasting, including fast weight loss. This is something that can work long-term, unlike fasting. You are still able to provide your body with all of the vitamins and nutrients needed while on a ketogenic diet.
What to Eat When on a Keto Diet?
Below is a graphic that shows the typical foods that people can eat when using keto. The numbers next to the foods are net carbs per 100 grams. If you are unsure what that means, don’t worry we will get to it.
The #1 most important thing to do when trying to get into ketosis is to avoid carbs. It’s that simple. At the very least, you need to stay under 50 grams of net carbs per day. If you want to be sure to get into a state of ketosis then you will want to take it a step further and stay under 20 grams of net carbs a day. The fewer the carbs you consume, the more effective your diet will be.
What are net carbs? I told you I’d get to that. Net carbs are…
Grams of total carbohydrates – grams of fiber.
For instance, if a food has 6g total carbohydrates and 4g of fiber, then that food will have 2 net carbs. Simple enough, right?
How Does Keto Improve Mental Focus?
When someone is in ketosis, this provides a steady flow of ketonesn to the brain. Additional to that, it also avoids huge swings in blood sugar. These things combined help to increase focus and improve concentration.
There are many people out there who go to a keto diet with the main reason being they want that increased mental performance and concentration.
There has long been a misconception that carbs are brain foods that greatly improve brain function. If ketones are not available, this is true. But you should always make ketones available as the first and best option for the mental clarity to be there.
At the beginning of keto, there can be some fog. For a few days up to a week there can be some difficulty concentrating, headaches and even irritability. After that initial time, which is referred to as keto-adaptation, the brain becomes locked in and becomes very focused.
How Does Keto Increase Physical Endurance?
At this point, you may be thinking “man, this keto stuff is too good to be true.” It really seems like it may be, but trust me, once you get into it you will find all of this stuff to be 100% true.
Another great characteristic of the ketogenic diet is that it can increase your physical endurance big-time. Your fat stores energy and keto gives you constant access to all of this energy.
The other way the body supplies energy is from stored carbohydrates. This is lucky to last through a couple hours of intense exercise. Stored fat is much better. The fat stores so much energy that it can last for weeks or possibly even months!
Most people are adapted to burning primarily carbohydrates. When this is the case, you are unable to reach your fat stores, so they cannot fuel the brain. What does this result in? Having to constantly eat right before and immediately after long exercise sessions. Heck, some people even have to eat during exercise sessions. They also need to eat several times throughout the day just to avoid being “hangry.” Surely you know what hangry is. If you don’t, it’s when you are hungry + angry. It’s a deadly combination and should be avoided at all costs. Perhaps you are familiar with when your significant other becomes “hangry.”
So when you are in ketosis, whether you are are just looking to achieve mental focus or if you are looking to be a world class athlete, ketosis provides you with what you need to go where you want to be.
Potential Side Effects of Keto
The good news is, for the most part, ketones are unable to get dangerously high. The one exception of this is people who have type 1 diabetes. For these people the pancreas does not create enough insulin. If someone forgets to take their insulin injection this person can get dangerously high ketone levels. Other situations, such as breastfeeding or type diabetes medications, can also cause high ketone levels, in rare situations.
What is the result of ketones getting too high? This can be life threatening. The person will become sick, feeling nauseous and weak. Do not panic if this happens to you because there is an easy cure for it. Quickly eat some carbohydrates. You know, those things you used to devour before keto: sandwiches, fruit juice, a piece of fruit, etc. If you do not start feeling better immediately after doing this, call 911 immediately and get emergency treatment.
While keto is very safe, there are a few things that can cause a few side effects. No worries these side effects are easily resolved.
The Keto Flu
This is not like the real flu, it is not nearly as bad. This happens when people are switching over from sugar burning to fat burning. Some of the symptoms of this are cramps, headaches, nausea and fatigue. When someone feels these symptoms there are two things that can be done to resolve the issue:
- Drink water with salt and lemon in it – or drink a cup of bouillon daily.
- Slowly reduce carb intake – instead of stopping all at once in the beginning, gradually lower the amount of carbs you eat. This prevents the symptoms that can potentially happen when one stops all at once.
Isn’t a keto diet the same as a low-carb or Atkins diet?
While they both emphasize low carbs, there are some differences. Keto also moderates the amount of protein taken in and instead it relies on fat to supply energy.
One thing to note is that a low-carb diet will create ketones. With a few diet tweaks the keto diet gets the people even further and deeper into ketosis.
Another way to describe keto diets is a super low carb diet.
Will very high ketone levels make you lose weight quicker?
This is a very complex question to answer. It can go either way. Eating less carbs and protein along with intermittent fasting definitely speeds up weight loss and it also lowers insulin and raises your ketones.
That said, you can add as much fat as you want and it will not raise the weight loss. MCT oil supplements also do not raise the level of ketones. These two methods actually put the fat burning process in reverse. it gives your body alternative fuel opposed to burning body fat. On top of that, these supplements are quite expensive. Eating extra fat does tend to make you feel more “full” and delay the next meal more.
How and when should you test ketone levels?
First off you should test the same time every day. This is for consistency’s sake. For instance, if you test every day right when you wake up this promotes consistency.
That said, testing in the evening result sin higher values. Keep that in mind when testing. If you want to have more typically higher results, test in the evening.
Now how do you test? By peeing on a stick, of course. Peeing on ketones sticks reveals if you are in ketosis and how significantly. Here are the ketones sticks we suggest.
Who Should Not Keto?
Almost all people are able to go on a ketogenic diet but there are three different situations where the people may need to prepare and adapt a little more before starting.
- If you are on medication for diabetes, such as insulin
- If you are taking medication for high blood pressure
- If you are breastfeeding
Learn about 5 easy keto breakfast ideas.