What are ketones?
Before we dive headlong into basics, let’s make a breakdown of what the new dietary mystery called ketones are.
Ketones are an organic substance produced in the liver by the body as a by-product of serious fat metabolism. Ketones are the result of more intakes of fats and excessive reduction in the consumption of all forms of carbs to the barest minimum. I know you may find it strange to grasp why consuming fats will help you reduce fat. This will come clear as you proceed further down.
Ketones are required in high quantity by the brain for a maximized performance. They are a substitute to the everyday consumption of glucose by the brain. Not just for the brain, the human body also runs on ketones. They are produced after being on the ketogenic diet. (we will extensively discuss this further below). The ketogenic diet can be a very effective solution to weight loss, especially when combined with some supplementing practices such as fasting at intervals and mild workouts.
Ketogenic diet: How it affects weight loss
The ketogenic diet is the new song in the mouth of dietitians. It is right now the most popular way to lose weight. But yet, there are a few factors to consider before opting for the diet.
Warning: Before deciding to start the ketogenic diet, it is recommended you see the advice or your dietitian or physician.
Ketogenic diet method is the practice of eating very few carbohydrates (starches, sugars, etc.), and using fat to replace the usual energy from carbohydrates. This practice makes the body simulate hunger, forcing it to burn fat.
The idea behind the ketogenic diet isn’t just to stick on fats alone while eliminating all traces of carbs in your meal. You can still add up the necessary vitamins and nutrients needed for a balanced diet and the day-to-day survival of the human body. As fat is likely to produce more feeling of satisfaction, you can maintain the body for a long time without feeling hungry. That said, it order to get into ketosis, you will need to be at a very low amount of carbs in your diet.
In recent years, the practice of letting the body burn fat while also avoiding excessive intake of calories has been used as a sure-fire technique of losing weight. However, you should note that this habit may badly backfire if you compromise on intake of carbs. Let’s say you consume about 40% of carbs and 40% of fats. Since your body consumes glucose for energy on default, what this means is your body system will have to store up the excess fat while the glucose from the breakdown of the carbs is used up. In extreme situations, excess carbs even ends up converted as fat in your body. That would be a terrible practice right? If you are eating very high fat and you let up and have a day where you eat a ton of carbs it will result in rapid weight gain.
In a simple explanation, when a day’s intake of carbs doesn’t exceed 50 grams, or simply put, less than 10% of carbs, about 10% of protein, with the rest constituting fat, such a diet can be called a ketogenic diet. 50 is the high end as many people try to stay under 25 grams or even 10. You have to figure out what works for you by tracking your macros.
Although the ketogenic diet began to get popular recently, the concept can however be traced back as early as 1920. At the beginning, ketogenic diet was used to treat children with epilepsy. After decades of research, the ketogenic diet is today still one of the treatments of epilepsy, even when there are many effective drugs used to treat it.
The principles of the ketogenic diet and the body’s energy utilization mechanism
By now, you may start asking: “how can I eat so much fat?”
The ketogenic diet is not a monster, there is a medical basis. In general, the foods we eat to provide body energy fall into three broad categories: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Carbohydrates in the body are usually broken down into glucose. Some part of the energy is stored in the liver in the formation of glycogen. When the body needs energy, glucose is first used and then glycogen is used. If both of these amounts are not sufficient, fatty acids and amino acids will be converted to new glucose for utilization. Finally, the fat will be decomposed into ketone bodies as calories source. Therefore, by the reduction of carbohydrate intake, body fat will be decomposed and burned as a source of energy to produce ketone bodies, to achieve lipid-lowering effect. In the simplest terms, when you eat fewer carbohydrates, excess body fats will be consumed.
On the other hand, fat is the most difficult to digest of all nutrients. And again, lacking carbohydrates can cause slower metabolism and can help to increase level of satiety. The fat can not be quickly burned to produce energy. This prompts the body to consume the accumulation of body fat to provide enough calories, hence, leading to weight loss.
Based on the above principles, by eating less carbohydrates and eating more fat, you can help the body burn fat. In a generally recommended balanced diet, carbohydrates account for about 55% of caloric intake, 15-20% protein, and 30% fat. A similar method to ketogenic method, known as the “Atkins diet” [text link: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atkins_diet], adjusts the proportion of carbohydrates to 20%. However, the “Ketogenic Diet” suggests a lower proportion of carbohydrates, less than 10%, that is, up to 50 grams of carbohydrates a day, while oils and fats make up more than 70%. It has been confirmed that such a nutritional ratio can achieve significant lipid-lowering effect in a short period of time.
Ketogenic diet menu
So what will the ketogenic diet menu be like?
According to the principle of ketogenic diet described above, to perform ketogenic diet, the menu must meet the following principles: more fat, protein, less sugar or totally sugar-free.
Most of the fats in foods are composed of long-chain fatty acids (LCT), but the shorter carbon chain of medium-chain fatty acids (MCT) copper is better. So, it is recommended that you add foods such as coconut oil, nuts, butter, bacon, avocado, cheese and other essential ketogenic diet ingredients. In order to achieve a balanced diet, while taking a lot of fat, do not forget to take the right amount of vitamins and cellulose. Take less sugar-based fruits and instead opt for vegetables, such as leafy vegetables, cauliflower, cucumber, green pepper, asparagus and so on. Since the ketogenic diet is effective because of its extremely low carbohydrate intake, sugars must be as low as possible. Try not to touch higher sugar vegetables such as beets, carrots, tomatoes, etc.
Eating on the ketogenic diet
It may seem easy to perform the ketogenic diet, but eating a low sugar diet may not be that easy for busy office workers whose meals are always on the go. The following choices can easily get you a non-compromised ketogenic diet:
- Breakfast: Two cups of bulletproof coffee
- Lunch: meat, omelette or scrambled eggs, with lettuce salad with olive oil only.
- Dinner: cheese roasted pork chop, hot vegetables and half avocado
In order to get enough fat, meat to grilled dishes is better. Bacon, grilled chicken, grilled fish, barbecue are a good choice. Eggs cooked with fat can supplement both fat and protein. The most missed vitamins in ketogenic diet can be added at lunch. Just remember not to touch the salad dressing.
Avocados are the most fat-rich fruits. They also contain rich nutrients. They are highly recommended for people on ketogenic diet.
Side effects of ketogenic diet
Although, it is a method which guarantees an effective weight loss, ketogenic diet, especially in long-term methods, is not without side effects. Some of them are:
- Imbalance in nutritional intake: Eating lots of fats and not taking sugars cause imbalance to the body’s nutritional system. Therefore, dietitians suggest that the longest period of taking ketogenic diet should not be for more than one and a half months.
- Ketoacidosis: The ketogenic diet will promote fat decomposition, resulting in a large number of ketone body. These ketone bodies must be excreted from the kidneys, too much may cause excessive burden on the kidneys. Ketone accumulation in the body will result in increased blood acidity, potassium loss, electrolyte imbalance, which is the so-called “ketoacidosis.” Common symptoms include dehydration, vomiting, and nausea. In extreme cases, it may even affect brain function and lead to kidney failure, coma. This condition may be life-threatening. When you start having any of these symptoms, please go see your physician.
- Dehydration: During the decomposition of fat, the ketone body consumes a lot of water, resulting in dry mouth and other reactions. Thus, during the ketogenic diet, I recommend you drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration.
- Gastrointestinal discomfort: The ketogenic diet can cause a slow-down in the emptying of the stomach. The gastrointestinal symptoms may be indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, gastro-esophageal reflux and so on.
- Increased risk of kidney stones: Due to the increased burden on the kidneys, the body is also dehydrated, which may increase chances of having kidney stones.
- Hypoglycemic coma: Lack of carbohydrate food intake is likely to cause hypoglycemia. When the body really needs epinephrine, it does not produce enough adrenaline and may cause a coma.
- Increase in chance of osteoporosis: Animal protein intake may impede the absorption of calcium, making chances of having osteoporosis high.
- Increase in risk of cardiovascular disease: Saturated fat and cardiovascular disease are closely related. A 2017 study published by the American Heart Association found that oils of highly saturated fatty acids such as coconut oil, butter, and tallow increase levels of low-density lipoprotein and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as myocardial infarction, arteriosclerosis, and stroke.
Note: In spite of the above-listed side effects, as long as ketogenic diet is short-term and plenty of essential nutrients such as water, vitamins and cellulose, the above side effects are not likely to occur.
Ketogenic diets are not recommended for people who have the following health conditions:
- Diabetes: Diabetic patients are not suitable for low-sugar diets such as the ketogenic diet. Some diabetic patients do improve their condition by reducing their intake of carbohydrates. However, the etiology of diabetes is very complicated. If the ketogenic diet is implemented in a hasty manner, the risk of ketoacidosis will be even higher than that of the average person and may even be fatal. For safety reasons, it is strongly recommended that patients with diabetes should discuss with their physicians and dietitians before making any changes to their eating habits and then formulate their own diet strategy depending on their condition.
- Hypertension, hyperlipidemia patients: Patients with high blood pressure and high cholesterol may have their conditions aggravated if they go on a ketogenic diet.
- Patients with kidney disease: Ketogenic diet can cause kidney burden. People who already have kidney disease should avoid taking this diet.
- Gout patients: Ketone body will increase uric acid accumulation, making the gout aggravated.
- Pregnant women, adolescent girls and children: Pregnant women, adolescent girls and children need a balanced diet. The ketogenic diet is not recommended for them.
The ketogenic diet is becoming a more popular diet due to its effects with short-term weight loss. However, due to the extreme dietary composition of the ketogenic diet, it is advisable to discuss it with a physician or dietitian before implementing it. It is not advisable to go on a long-term ketogenic diet due to the risks involved. However, if you need to drop some quick fats and you have none of the aforementioned health complications, then, building ketone body through ketogenic diet is something you should consider trying.
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