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What is the Ketogenic Diet

A ketogenic diet (remember Dr Atkins and the Atkins diet?) is a diet that is low in carbohydrates (typically under 30 grams a day) which causes the body to produce ketones. The reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. Once the liver starts producing ketone bodies it shifts the body’s metabolism away from glucose and towards fat utilization. When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. The fat that is converted into ketones in the liver can supply energy for the brain 

Originally the ketogenic diet was a "high-fat", adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine was used primarily to treat difficult-to-control (refractory) epilepsy in children. As previously sated, if there is very little carbohydrate in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. The ketone bodies pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source. An elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood, a state known as ketosis, leads to a reduction in the frequency of epileptic seizures.

A "traditional" Ketogenic Diet (keto) (not necessarily for fat loss) consists of eating high/moderate fat, moderate protein, low/no carbs.

• 60-75% of calories from fat (or even more),
• 20-35%% of calories from protein, and
• 5-10% of calories from carbs.

Now the above numbers are just a rough estimate and do not need to be adhered too as everyone is different - bodyfat level is different, goals are different. Do you want to eat keto for health reasons, fat loss reasons or both.

What is a properly designed ketogenic diet/ratio? It depends on your goals. If weight (fat) loss is NOT one of your goals or the main goal then your ratios may look like the %´s above....

If your goal is healthy fat loss and body recomposition and you like to exercise then high protein and lower fat ratios (but still adequate) will be better suited for your goals.

As mentioned above, the ketogenic diet was never a "diet" for fat loss it was a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine was primarily to treat difficult-to-control (refractory) epilepsy in children.

The high fat:protein ratio's that people think is a ketogenic diet is in fact "Therapeutic ketosis", which involves reducing the insulin load of our diet to achieve high ketone levels, a therapy for a range of chronic conditions. Higher ketone levels can often make it harder to lose body fat.

Some key notes:

Fat consumption and higher ketone readings do not lead to fat loss, calorie restriction does. Now, the just "eat less and lost more" statement many always hear does not always work for everyone and calories in versus calories out is considered by some very over simplified and doesn’t account for the intricate metabolic pathways that various foods go through. In addition, certain foods affect people differently and are metabolized differently and have varying effects on hormones.

Many people who follow a ketogenic diet do it because of the way it makes them feel as well as helps with appetite control, keeps their blood glucose under control etc. BUT it is not the consumption of fat that is the reason for the success of a ketogenic diet but the restriction of carbs and lowering of calories overall that lead to fat loss.

There are though some instances where a higher fat intake and higher ketone reading would be advisable especially for those with Alzheimer's, epilepsy or even certain cancers that thrive on glucose. There is a lot of new on going research with the application of a ketogenic diet and cancer but more research is needed.

The easiest and safest way to reduce calories on a ketogenic diet is to lower fat. Eat as much fat as you need as fat is important for many hormonal processes but there is no goal with regards to how much fat you should eat per day. As mentioned previously, higher fat intake and higher ketone readings may be warranted for certain metabolic diseases. 

Protein is the most important macro-nutrient (amino acids are the building blocks of life) and need to be kept at healthy amount. Studies show it is rarely ever a good idea to restrict protein.

Types of ketogenic diets:

There are 3 types of ketogenic diets that vary a bit in the macronutrient break down.

Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD) – keeping carbs around 30gms or less per day - best suited for the general ketogenic dieter.

The Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD) – keeping carbs around 30gms or less per day but consuming 5-10gms of carbs pre-workout

The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) – strict SKD for 5-6 days a week followed by 1-2 days of a reefed or “carb up”. Often followed by extreme fitness enthusiast or bodybuilders.