What is the keto diet and why should you choose to eat this way?
The thing is, there are as many different versions of the ketogenic diet as there are people who follow it, take a look at any of the many forums there are and it is not long before a row breaks out over what is and isn’t allowed. lots of people have valid reasons for following their keto path. The body builders have more protein, for example, some people have a lazy keto approach and that works for them, eating more carbohydrates or things that are not strictly keto as long as it fits into their daily allowance. I have a health condition so I am trying to reduce the inflammation in my body ,so I follow quite a strict protocol as much as I can. I have come to the conclusion that carbohydrates have an adverse effect on my body and for me they are best avoided.
The one thing we can mostly agree on is staying below 20g net carbs a day, (lazy keto says 50g is fine) This is the one thing that will cause ketosis to occur. To understand ketosis, you have to understand how our body uses energy.
Your body need fuel to work and it does this by making glucose, it takes the food you give it and converts it, it likes carbohydrates because they are already almost glucose and its quick and easy to convert, and when it runs out of glucose it sends you a signal-hunger- to tell you to eat more. This is a perfect system, except that we have started to eat for reasons other than hunger, we eat because we are bored: we eat to be sociable: we eat because it would be rude not to because some one has gone to so much trouble. Have you ever had to have 2 Christmas dinners at each set of parents because you wouldn’t want to offend either one? So what happens when you eat more than you need?
Make no mistake our bodies are fantastic and always know exactly what to do with the fuel you give it.
When you eat anything, insulin is released and tries to counteract the sugar in your food, Insulin is the fat storage hormone its job is to work out how much glucose you need and if you don’t need it it at that time it will store it away for another time, so by routinely eating more than you need you will store fat.This is because there is a ready supply of glucose and so your body never needs to access the long term fat storage to get more fuel. Let me explain further, imaging there is about to be a petrol shortage and so you take a Jerry can to the petrol station and fill it up at the same same as you fill your car up,you then take the can home and store it in the garage, you drive your car and use up the petrol and by the time it need filling up again the petrol shortage has been resolved and you fill up your tank again at the petrol station.Your car is full and the spare can is still in the garage untouched.
If there are no carbohydrates for a period of time, your body has a second mechanism for producing fuel. The liver calls upon the fat that is stored to release it and converts it into keytones and uses that for fuel. It will only do this if no glucose is present. The body is quite lazy and will at every opportunity use glucose over ketones so for that reason it is not a way of eating that can be easily dipped in and out of, but is is a very efficient way of using your stored fat.
So it makes sense that we will lose weight if our body is using ketones for fuel rather than glucose, but our body are more complicated than that and there are other factors that come into play. I have tried every diet on the planet, or so it seams and they will start off favorably and then I stop loosing weight, most of these diets have been some form of calorie constriction and what I now know is that when you reduce your calorie intake your body adjusts to make the most of its meager rations. It stops unimportant things and concentrates on making sure you have enough energy to keep your vital organs going, and then readjusts to work on less fuel. You may feel grumpy on a diet, you may feel cold, you may feel tired all the time. These are all example of a low calorie diet not allowing your body to fully function.
On a ketogenic plan, we eat a lot of fat, fat keeps our body happy, it makes our brain happy, it sends the signal to our brain that food is plentiful and there will not be a famine anytime soon, this allows it to function fully without any problems, because it knows that if it can’t access glucose it has a back up option of ketones. Fat should not be feared, it does not make us fat, it has no effect on insulin production so it can’t be responsible for body fat storage. What it does do is it keep you feeling full as it is more calorie dense and if you have ever only eaten lettuce and cottage cheese for lunch on a diet you will know how important that feeling is.
So what can you expect?
Do not underestimate how much of a drug sugar is, it cannot be said enough that your body wants you to have sugar and carbohydrate to convert into glucose and it will initially object strongly in a ‘feed me , feed me now!’ kind of a way and while you are running down your store of glucose you will feel rubbish and go through what is known as the keto flu. For some people this kicks in after a few days and only lasts a few days, during this time you will feel like you have no energy, you may have a headache. It is temporary and you may be sick but it is so worth it when you come out the other side.These side effects can be helped by taking plenty of electrolytes, mainly magnesium and salt.
In the early days you can forget about calorie counting, you want to feed your body with fat and protein and green carbs, this will be counter intuitive to everything you have done in your whole life. You will not feel like you are on a diet because you will not be hungry, you will sleep better, you will wake up feeling refreshed and you will stay wide awake all day, no mid afternoon energy slumps,which are due to the ups and downs of glucose and insulin trying to permanently correct your blood sugar levels.
You should be pleasantly surprised by the reading on the scales after the first few days ( I would recommend throwing away the scales but more on that another time). After a short while, a few weeks, sometimes as long as 6 months you will become fat adapted, this is an individual thing and represents the body going back to it original basic , happy state. If you have always yo yo dieted for example your body will be in a constant state of ‘ ok what will they eat today, will I have enough food to do my jobs with ‘ and once food is plentiful it will start to release its fat storage, for this reason your body may hold on to your fat and you consider yourself to be a slow looser but it is just making sure it ok to let it go. This is the stall and whooshe theory. A lot of people loose a lot of weigh quickly on this way of eating but its important to realise that as individuals each person has different energy uses and food intake so you should not compare yourself to anyone else. I view this plan as and anti-inflammatory way of eating that is healing my health issues with the added bonus of loosing weight, that way if our main focus is not the weight loss then we can never be disappointed with the scales.
When fat adaption kicks in you will have more energy than you had before and a way of clear thinking that makes you wonder if you have spent your whole life viewing though a fog.You are unlikely to feel hungry and you may only feel like having one meal a day, or you might continue to have 3 meals a day both ways are correct. The important thing is you do not eat for any other reason than your body says its hungry.This can lead to eating only once or twice a day,this is a good thing as its during these rest or fasting periods that out body will access the fat stores. This is what gives us the freedom, listening to your body and your hunger signals means that you will never again eat more than you need to fuel your body. It is true that you will have to adjust your fat intake to make sure your body uses your own supply rather than the fat you are giving it, but if you have been overweight for a long time every ounce lost is a step in the right direction, and they wont show on the scales. Your body may distribute your fat before it uses it for fuel and you will find your shape change and dress sizes lost. You have to find what works for you and I am so pleased I found this way of eating.
I have been eating this way since September 2016 and in the first 11 months to date I have lost 4.5 Stones and gone from a size 24/26 to a size 18, I consider myself to be a slow looser but in reality I have lost more than 1lb a week in that time which is about right. I am not medically trained and am sharing what I have learned over the past year because most of the information available is from the US sites and they phrase things a bit differently to us in the UK so I can only give you some guidelines as to what I do and that may or may not work for you.