A Primer for the Ketogenic Diet

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First Things First: What’s the Best Diet?

There are all sorts of diet plans easily available. Simply search the internet, and you will find hundreds of different types of diets—all claiming to be the best. It can be confusing to say the least. So which one is the best? Why are there so many different plans? How can so many experts disagree on the best plan?

One of the reasons there are so many different diet plans is because there are so many different people with different preferences, genetics, experiences, and tastes. Many plans are really healthy and good for you. Some are kind of crazy and should generally be avoided. But still, which one is the best one?

I am honestly not sure if there is a “best” one. The one that is best for you may not work for me.  So the best one for you is the one that works. It’s the one you can actually live on and is healthy for you.

This blog is about the ketogenic diet. It may not work for you. I know it can work for most people, but it may not fit your lifestyle or preferences.

Bye, Bye, Carbs!

The bottom line to weight loss is to use up more calories in your body than you put in. It’s as simple as that and as hard as that. Most of us cannot exercise enough to overcome bad eating habits (and we all have them). So any diet that accomplishes the net negative calorie intake should do the trick. However, not all calories are created equal. While it is true a hundred calories is a hundred calories no matter the source, our bodies are far more complicated than the simple math would imply.

It’s not hard to understand that a hundred calories from an apple is probably better for your body than a hundred calories from a candy bar. The food we eat contains far more than just calories. It actually communicates with our bodies in some wonderful ways.

One of the reasons I like the ketogenic diet is that it generally doesn’t make me as tired as some other diets I’ve tried. The idea behind the ketogenic diet is to limit your total carbohydrates to fewer than 50 grams a day and preferably around 20 grams of carbohydrates. Many of the foods I enjoy probably have 20 grams of carbs in each bite!

When we limit our carbs, our bodies have to turn to fat for energy. Generally, our bodies use glucose or sugar as its primary energy source. It’s easier to get the energy out of sugar as compared to protein or fats. When we don’t consume carbohydrates, our bodies will start to burn fat (a very good thing) for its energy needs.

When we start to burn fat instead of sugar, one of the byproducts of the fat metabolism is ketone formation. When we have ketosis, it tends to curb our appetites and we feel full longer.

Another positive benefit of the ketogenic diet is our insulin levels remain lower. Insulin is a pro-growth hormone. It makes us sluggish and tells our livers to store more fat. Insulin can also stimulate our appetites. High insulin levels lead to insulin resistant diabetes.

When we eat carbohydrates, our blood sugar immediately goes up. When blood sugar goes up, so do our insulin levels. High insulin levels are not good! When insulin levels increase, so do our appetites. That’s one of the reasons it’s hard to eat only one cookie or just one chip.

Eat the Fat

One of the problems with diets that are high in protein and low in carbs and fats is fatigue. It is amplified if you are exercising. The ketogenic diet allows for healthy fats. The fats give us energy and will help with exercise. It does take some adjusting. I find it hard to work out really hard when I am strictly on a ketogenic diet. It takes some time for my body to get used to it, but I can still get a pretty good workout in.

There are several lists of healthy fats on the web. In general, avocados, olive oil, nuts, and butter are good sources of healthy fats. Fish and other meats will also have healthy fats. Several sauces are considered acceptable on a ketogenic diet. I found this website to be very helpful with an overview of foods to eat and not eat: www.ruled.me/ketogenic-diet-food-list/. (I am not affiliated with them in anyway but do appreciate their work. They have some plans you can purchase that are more detailed. I have yet to get one but have thought about it.)

Break It Down

Ideally, on a ketogenic diet, you will get about 70–75% of your calories from fats and about 20–25% from protein. Try to limit the carbohydrates to about 5% of your total calorie intake.

Your calorie input will vary on your needs or desire. A general rule is to take whatever weight you want to weigh and add a zero to it. So if you want to weigh 150 pounds, simply add a zero and that equates to 1,500 calories. If you exercise, you can calculate how many calories you burned and add them back to your total for the day. If you burned about 300 calories working out, and your target weight is 150 pounds, then you should be able to eat about 1,800 calories that day.

One of the really tough things on a ketogenic diet is to control what you snack on. If you slip up and get too many carbohydrates, it will defeat the purpose of getting into ketosis. Healthy snacks you might consider would be walnuts, pecans, and pistachios. One of the sneaky secrets to watch out for is that each kernel of nut will have about 10 calories. The count can add up quickly.

Check Yourself

Don’t be surprised if you have increased urination during the first few days. Stored fat being burned for fuel will release a lot of water during metabolism. You will also want to be sure to drink plenty of water.

One of the benefits of a ketogenic diet is decrease in hunger. That is a major clue you are in ketosis. Ketosis will help suppress your appetite. Some people will purchase “keto” sticks for urine testing. It will allow you to know if you have ketones in your urine. Ideally, you will. If not, go back and look and see if you can find where the carbs sneaked in.

I hope this has been helpful information. Life is too short not to enjoy some birthday cake or some special food for a celebration, but I do believe most of us can improve our health with improving our diets. This is just another tool for you to use. Keep trying and eventually you will find a plan or combination of plans that fit you and your lifestyle.

Wishing You an Amazing Life,

Dr. Curtis Brown