A Short History Behind the Ketogenic Diet
Popular during the 1980s and 1990s, the Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution had many dieters jumping on its ketogenic bandwagon. Overweight and obese individuals were able to quickly lose body fat with Dr. Atkins' diet. Though it was in opposition to what the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was advocating, dieters around the world were happy to follow the doctor's guidelines as it provided sustaining weight loss success.
Due to this popular diet and the success of many, the science community was very intrigued. Research has since proven that a ketogenic diet done correctly can have lasting success in both fat loss and wellness. Though Dr. Atkins' diet is still the most popular diet around, understanding the principles behind it will help you before jumping on this bandwagon.
What are Ketones?
Ketones, also known as ketone bodies, are byproducts of fat broken down in the body and used for energy. These byproducts occur when an individual’s diet consists of low carbohydrates and high fats. It may also occur during fasting, starvation, or prolonged exercise.
Are Ketones the Best Fuel for Burning Fat?
Have you ever pulled into a gas station to pump fuel into your car and wondered what those three numbers (87-89-93) on the pump really mean? Maybe you’ve heard that those numbers represent the rating of something called octane which is the measure of how much compression a fuel can withstand before igniting. The higher the octane rating (premium gas), the less likely the fuel is going to pre-ignite or explode at higher pressures and damage your engine.
Your body is much like a car as it also needs fuel to continue running. Food is your octane, but you too have choices on the type of fuel to use. You can either run on low octane (sugar) or high octane (fat). Running your body on sugar fuel is inefficient energy that will cause your body to explode out with fat and be damaged by chronic disease. On the other hand, fat fuel is highly efficient and will keep you lean, as well as protect and regenerate your body. This comes with the help of ketones.
How are Ketones Produced?
Ketones are produced when very small amounts of carbohydrates are eaten and the body breaks down fats, thereby creating fatty acids which are burned off in the liver during a process called beta-oxidation. Like fats, carbohydrates are one of the major types of food. However, they convert to sugar when broken down by the body which leads to obesity and health problems. On the other hand, the human body and brain prefers ketones as its primary energy source, and ketones are 70 percent more efficient than sugar.
From an evolutionary standpoint, this preference makes perfect sense. After all, carbohydrates weren’t easily accessible during prehistoric days. Cavemen had to hunt and gather their foods which were mainly meat and plants. They relied on ketones for energy as sugar sources were scarce. Even breastfed babies run on ketones. Now that people have an abundant source of fruits and other carbohydrates, they don’t access ketones as their primary source of fuel which leads to a dormant metabolic pathway.
Why Should Ketones be My Primary Fuel Source?
The state in which the body uses ketones as its primary fuel is called ketosis. As mentioned earlier, ketones are the byproduct of burning fats. They are produced when your body is low on sugar. When your body doesn’t have enough sugar to run on, you enter ketosis.
Just as your vehicle requires gasoline to move, your body requires energy to keep your metabolism regulated. That energy is stored as either glycogen or fat. Until your body needs energy, glycogen is stored in your skeletal muscles and liver while excess fat is stored in your body’s cells. If your body is storing glycogen, it will be converted into sugar when needed. Because it is easier for your body to use this source of energy, it needs to be used up before it can even start burning fat. If there is no stored glycogen, your body will then convert some of its stored fat to ketones which are then broken down and used for energy.
The average person stores about 600 grams of glycogen in the body – about 500 grams in skeletal muscles and 100 grams in the liver. It takes about one to two days for the body to burn through glycogen stores. With eating high carbohydrates throughout the day, your fat stores become much more difficult to reach. Today, an average person carries at least 15 to 20 pounds of stored body fat. That equates to about 53,000 to 70,000 calories. Based on this information, it would seem that using ketones to burn fat makes more sense.
What Foods Can I Eat on a Ketogenic Diet?
Many diet proponents and gurus have promoted the keto diet as it is the best for burning fat. The unfortunate thing is that many keto diet books lack the right foods and nutrients which cause cravings and out-of-control appetites. This leaves dieters with unhealthy bodies and eventual weight regain. Therefore, it’s important to consider the types of foods you eat while accessing ketones to help you reduce body fat.
Proteins should make up about 15 to 30 percent of your meals on the ketogenic diet. Be sure to include the following.
Most of your carbohydrates should come from dark green leafy vegetables and small amounts of fruit. The best fruits are berries as they provide powerful antioxidant protection. This would make up about 5 to 10 percent of your ketogenic diet.
The majority of your ketogenic diet should be dietary fat, and it will make up about 60 to 75 percent of your diet. Following is a list of the best dietary fats.
Ketogenesis is Beneficial for More...
Though the ketogenic diet helps deplete body fat, it is beneficial in many other ways. In fact, science has shown it to promote autophagy which is the natural process to remove unnecessary or dysfunctional components from bodily cells. However, the ketogenic diet is not for everyone. Those who take medication for diabetes or high blood pressure, as well as lactating mothers must be cautious of the amount of ketones they produce. Please refer to your family practitioner if you have one of these conditions.