Keto can be confusing at first. My goal in this article to explain keto simply.
The Keto Diet works simply by restricting carbohydrates to 20-30 grams per day which forces the cells to release stored fat. Your liver converts that fat into ketones which you use as energy.
You lose weight (fat) and as the body gradually adapts to burning fat, you have less hunger and cravings, and health improves.
Keto works by lowering the hormone (insulin) that is responsible for fat storage. Insulin is a “key,” that unlocks the cell to allow sugar to enter and be used for energy. With low sugar energy (muscle glycogen), the cells revert to the alternate energy source (fat).
Your stored fat is released as fatty acids and your liver converts those into ketones. When you’re fueling your body with ketones you are in a state of ketosis.
What are the advantages of the keto diet?
Of course fat loss, but there is so much more. Low blood sugar and insulin reduces inflammation and improves biomarkers. Also, keto when combined with intermittent fasting, can increase and improve your lifespan. In other words not only can you live longer, but healthier. Not only will you look better, but you’ll feel better.
“Increasing the levels of ketone bodies will also extend the lifespan of humans and that calorie restriction extends life span at least in part through increasing the levels of ketone bodies.”Ketone bodies mimic the life span extending properties of caloric restriction
When people ask me for a simple keto diet explanation I sometimes struggle.
I tend to make it more complicated than it is. The word “keto” is just short for ketogenic and that just means your body is breaking fat down into ketones and you’re using that as energy.
The success of the Keto Diet can’t be ignored
In 2018, the search term, “What is the Ketogenic Diet,” was the 8th most popular search term in the diet category. It was searched for on average 6,600 times per month. The keto diet is getting more and more popular and for good reason. This article explains why keto is getting so popular all of a sudden.
“Following a low carbohydrate diet over time forces the body to use stored fat as energy”Robert Bryant
A proper explanation of keto must also include its negative aspects or downsides of keto. Understanding the challenges will help you succeed.
So how is the Keto Diet different?
It can be explained like this: Keto looks at weight-loss from a different angle. It’s a low insulin diet and not necessarily a low-calorie diet. You don’t need to count calories on keto, you count your macronutrient intake. You focus on keeping your daily carbohydrate intake to 20-30 grams a day.
The three macronutrients are:
The ketogenic diet macronutrient ratio:
- 60-75% of calories from fat
- 15-30% of calories from protein
- 5-10% of calories from carbs
Feeling like you have low blood sugar in between meals is a sign you are inching towards pre-diabetes
Have you ever felt jittery, uncomfortable, and “hangry” in-between meals? The ketogenic diet can stop that hangry feeling by stabilizing your blood sugar. Also, and even more importantly, due to its blood sugar lowering power, Keto can even reverse type 2 diabetes in most cases.
It’s not so much what you can eat, it’s what you can’t eat
The non-keto-friendly food list:
- Sweet potatoes
- Fruit and fruit juice
- Coffee creamers
- Diet sodas
An explanation of keto has to include the glycemic index (GI).
You want to focus on foods that are low on the glycemic index (GI). The glycemic index assigns a number value to food based on how much ( and the rate) the food raises your blood sugar (glucose). I recommend reading all about the glycemic index here. Meats, fats don’t have a GI score, so they are acceptable.
Instead of worrying about what you can put into your mouth, you focus on what you can’t. By cutting out all high glycemic carbohydrates you lower your glucose, which in turn lowers your insulin.
Some Simple keto-friendly foods to eat:
- Olives and olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Nuts: macadamia, pecans, walnuts
- Kefir and heavy whipping cream
- Leafy green vegetables
- Cucumber and pickles
- Green beans
- Brussels sprouts
- Water, sparkling water, tea
- Keto Coffee (Bulletproof coffee)
- Unsweetened flax milk and macadamia nut milk
- Unflavored whole milk Kefir
- Keto Superfoods
- Keto crust pizza
- Apple cider vinegar
Check this resource out for a more extensive keto diet food list.
A good place to get keto-friendly foods on a budget is Costco. See our Costco Keto Shopping List.
Without carbohydrates for energy and in a low insulin environment, the body readily releases fatty acids into the bloodstream. The liver then converts those fatty acids into ketones. Your body can use those ketones as energy.
There has been a lot of negative publicity and false myths relating to the Ketogenic diet, but that hasn’t slowed it down. In fact, The Keto Diet is making a serious dent in the diet industry. Weight Watchers is taking a hit. On Wednesday (02/27/19), its stock fell 35% in morning trading.
“Right now, we have a keto surge, it’s a meme, it’s not like a company. People have keto donuts and everybody on the diet side looks for the quick fix. We’ve been through this before and we know we are the program that works.”Mindy Grossman, CEO Weight Watchers
She’s partly right, Keto is not a company that is selling something. It’s just a different way to eat based on modern science.
If I had to give someone an explanation of what the keto diet is I would simply say it’s a modern approach to healthy eating. It’s not a diet per se, but a lifestyle. Keto is not just a meme or a fad. Keto is the antidote to type 2 diabetes and yo-yo dieting.
The Ketogenic diet is based on emerging science that focuses less on overall calorie restriction and more on reducing the master storage hormone (Insulin).
“Insulin actively blocks the breakdown of stored body fat, meaning that as long as insulin is high, it will be very difficult to lose weight—even if you are eating very little.”Dr. Sarah Hallberg, DO, MS
Why all the negative press towards the Keto Diet?
Weight Watchers is not the only corporation scared of the Ketogenic Diet. Keto is a legitimate threat to the profits of multiple, billion-dollar industries. The grain, sugar, weight loss, and pharmaceutical industries are all terrified of Keto.
When explaining keto to people it’s important to stress that keto is the best long term diet because it controls blood sugar and insulin.
Transparency Market Research (TMR) is reporting the global diabetes drugs market is predicted to rise from $43. 1 billion in 2016 to $58.4 billion by the end of 2025. Type 2 diabetes holds a leading share in the overall market due to its higher prevalence.
We know the Ketogenic Diet can reverse type 2 diabetes without any expensive drugs.
In 2017, approximately 11.18 million metric tons of sugar was consumed by the US population. According to a new report from BCC Research, the global market for sugar rose from $77.5 billion in 2012 to $97.2 billion in 2017.
As you can see, if the Ketogenic Diet continues to gain momentum, it could impact billions of dollars of corporate profits. There are a lot of very rich people trying to sabotage the Keto diet.
Our computers are constantly being updated, new models of cars come out every few years and science has vaccinations for most communicable diseases these days. But our dietary guidelines have changed little over the years.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans has been published jointly every 5 years since 1980 by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The mission statement of the Department of Agriculture is: “It aims to meet the needs of farmers and ranchers, promote agricultural trade and production.”
Yes, they do mention added sugar now, but they still focus on calories and reducing saturated fat and sodium. There is still no mention of reducing high glycemic carbohydrates that raise insulin.
More importantly, the dietary guidelines still do not warn Americans about how unhealthy simple sugar is. It looks to me like The Department of Agriculture has a conflict of interest.
The keto diet explained simply and broken down into 4 phases:
The keto-adaptation phase:
There is a transition period where your body adjusts to using fat as fuel instead of carbohydrates. The adjustment period can last between 3-6 weeks. When the adjustment period ends it gets much easier, it’s what’s known as becoming fat or keto-adapted.
Keto Coffee can help you get fat adapted.
While increasing your fat intake it’s important to understand the difference between good fats and bad fats and not follow the lazy keto diet.
Many people get what is known as Keto-Flu as they are getting keto-adapted. It’s not really the flu, it’s just your body fighting the sugar addiction.
For those that stick with it and fight through the fat adaption period, will be rewarded with a lifetime of excellent health and ideal body weight.
Expect to lose 10-15 pounds in the first few weeks. Most will be water weight though so don’t think it will be that easy forever.
The healing phase:
This is the phase where it gets much easier, but also where most people hit a weight-loss stall or a keto weight loss plateau.
Insulin resistance has to improve and the liver has to heal and get accustomed to converting fat into ketones. Many people that begin keto have a fatty liver and the liver isn’t efficient yet. In the healing phase, it is even possible to reverse type 2 diabetes with a ketogenic diet.
The weight loss phase:
They also call this the whoosh effect. The fat just whooshes out of your fat cells and you really start losing weight. Everyone is different, but it’s usually about 4-8 weeks for this phase to set in.
A scientific explanation of keto is in order here.
When you burn fat for energy your liver converts the fat into ketones. Ketone bodies are composed of three compounds (acetone, acetoacetic acid, beta-hydroxybutyric acid).
During this phase, you will have very few cravings, have plenty of energy and can easily skip meals and “Fast” without any problems.
You can start fasting and eating one meal a day (OMAD) here. You won’t get low blood sugar because of gluconeogenesis. This is where you can also experiment with different techniques like an egg fast.
Gluconeogenesis is the endogenous production of glucose in the body, especially in the liver primarily from lactic acid, glycerol, and the amino acids alanine and glutamine.
The sustainment phase:
The phase is difficult and could take up to a year. You have reached your target weight and have settled into a good, sustainable low carbohydrate eating routine.
It’s difficult because it’s easy to get complacent. You might start introducing some carbohydrates back into your diet like beans and sweet potatoes.
I am in this phase now and check my weight daily. When I see my weight climbing back up I start fasting longer, working out more, and eating more keto-friendly superfoods.
Lowering blood sugar and using ketones as energy, even occasionally, can help prevent that hangry feeling.
The Ketogenic Diet makes you a fat-burning machine. When you’re using ketones as energy, you have less hunger, optimum health, and improved metabolic flexibility. Ketones are the super fuel that makes the Ketogenic Diet so successful.
So, this is just a simple keto diet explanation, if you need more information here are a few powerful resources: