The ketogenic diet is a fairly simple approach to eating healthy foods that are low carb, high fat, and moderate protein. The lack of carbs forces your body to burn fat rather than glucose to produce energy. Ketones do not turn into fat when unused, like glucose does. So, eliminating carbs from the diet results in ketone production, which aids to support weight loss, increased energy, improved mental health and clarity, along with a myriad of other health benefits.
what is a keto diet?
The best time to dedicate your health to a better diet was last year. The second best time is right now.
Welcome to the first step.
So what is keto? The ketogenic diet, known to the cool kids as keto, isn’t a difficult concept to understand, but it can be tough to master. That’s why we’re here: we will help you along the path and hold your hand when you need it or smile, wave, and wipe away a tear as you set out on your own.
At the bones of it, keto is the near elimination of carbohydrates from your diet and replacing that caloric gap with healthy fats and a moderate amount of protein.
Wait, wait, come back, we can already feel you leaning away from your screen. There’s a very important evolutionary and scientific reason for cutting sugar and instead eating healthy fat; it all has to do with how you fuel your human machine.
When eaten, your body and liver turn carbs into glucose, which is just a fancy way of saying sugar.
Your body recognizes glucose as a source of fuel that it can convert into a quick shot of energy. Fat breaks down at a much slower rate and your body looks at the difference between the two and, being the smart biological mechanism that it is, decides to use the faster burning sugar first so it can get rid of it and focus on the more long-term producer of energy: fat.
The problems arise when you supply a constant stream of carbs and your metabolism never gets a chance to switch away from the glucose so it can start burning the better fat. So what happens? Your body makes a judgment call and parks the fat you’ve eaten off to the side and says, “I’ll get to you when I can. Just as soon as I finish with this glucose.”
More fat enters, no fat leaves, and suddenly the nation has a problem with bellies, love handles, and all sorts of weight related illnesses.
How does Keto fix this?
Keto steps in and gets rid of the source of the glucose by eliminating carbs. Instead, keto promotes eating fat so your body switches back to fat for its energy source and it can finally get to the accumulated fat that’s been waiting around for its turn to be burned off.
This process is called entering the metabolic state of ketosis. “I’m in keto,” you may hear a lot from ketoers. That means they’ve cut their system off from carbs and the stores that were already in their body have burned off. Now, instead of producing glucose to burn, their body is producing ketones for energy.
Whoa, whoa, there you go leaning back again. Ketones are easy to understand. When you eat a healthy-fat heavy diet, your liver turns the fat into ketones instead of glucose. Simply put, you’re switching to a new, more efficient fuel. It’s like putting premium in your gas tank after a lifetime of 87 octane.
So to answer your question, Keto is the elimination of 99% of your carbs and replacing them with yummy fats like avocados, nuts, butter, bacon, olive oil, and just about any meat. This switches your system over from a sugar-based fuel that leaves you always wanting more to a ketone-based energy source that leaves you satisfied longer and helps you cut the fat you’ve already got hanging around.
science behind keto
The Science behind Keto
There are two important components to the science behind keto. First, how the metabolic transformation occurs within your body by changing your diet, and second, the history of misinformation we’ve been fed about the dangers of fat under the guise of scientific study.
It all starts with that first bite. Food is energy. We all know that, nothing new here. But how does that jumbo-sized number 5 burger and fry meal with extra sauce become the fuel that keeps us moving?
Once that big meal hits your stomach, it’s time for your metabolism to get to work. Using acid and enzymes, your stomach breaks your food down to a molecular level and converts all of those carbohydrates into glucose, a sugar. Glucose is easy to make and use immediately so your body says, great, put it to work. Call the pancreas and tell it to release insulin.
Insulin is the chauffeur that carries glucose sugars through the blood. Insulin also regulates the amount of sugar in the blood, and if you’ve eaten more sugar that you can use for energy at the moment, insulin will store the glucose in your fat cells for later use.
This storage of glucose is where sugar can become dangerous. If your glucose stores keep getting larger as you eat more and more carbs and starches, you gain weight and can’t burn off the stored fats that your body burns only after the glucose is used up. When your cells reach their threshold and can no longer hold any more glucose, the glucose is forced to stay in your blood stream and the insulin whose job it is to park the excess glucose can’t do what it was designed to do, creating an insulin resistant state that leads to diabetes.
Now, imagine instead of the jumbo number 5 burger and fry combo, you eat a piece of meat, some cheese, and a little sour cream: a meal with very few carbs and a high percentage of healthy fats. Now imagine you ate this way all the time, not giving your body any new glucose, until all of your overcrowded glucose stores were completely empty and your insulin was given a chance to recover.
This is the state of Ketogenesis and you’ve just switched your human engine from a low-grade, quick-burn fuel to a more efficient and longer lasting one.
Metaphors are great, but what on Earth does that mean in practical terms? What’s happening in the body now that keto is the boss?
Recognizing that all of your glucose is gone, and there’s no more quick fuel for energy, your liver takes over and creates molecules called ketones (specifically acetoacetate, acetone, and beta-hydroxybutyrate) from fatty acids (fat) that can be converted into the energy that runs our cells.
The one nice thing about glucose being such a wham-bam, quick energy burn is that it only takes a matter of days to rid your system of years’ worth of sugar over indulgence. This period of depletion where you specifically get rid of all remaining glucose stores is known by keteors as getting into ketosis or transitioning to keto.
Once you hit keto, your liver begins happily cranking out ketones as your energy source, using the fat you eat in combination with the stored fat that glucose was forcing to the side.
The reason people have so much weight loss success on keto is that it creates an insulin sensitivity rather than resistance. Ketones don’t need to be usher around by insulin. This keeps your pancreas from over-producing and stops your body from resisting it’ insulin system. It also takes longer for your body to break down the complex fats you eat which leaves you feeling fuller for longer. Feeling full prevents binging and consuming excess calories. Because ketosis uses fat for fuel, if you haven’t eaten recently, and there isn’t new fat for your body to metabolize into ketones, your body will use it’s fat stores to keep the ketones rolling.
Understanding the “Science” of Fat.
As you can see, dietary fat and eating fat are not the enemy we’ve been taught to believe for our entire lives.
No doubt we’ve all had a food package in our cupboards or fridge with one of these claims plastered on the side, usually in a bright color and big letters.
If fat is a great source of energy, and it’s sugar that’s the real harm in the American diet, why do we all have this misconception about fat making us fat?
Marketing and a campaign of misinformation. Basically, lies for profit.
The truth about how fat got it’s bad rep seems, on the surface, like a page right out of conspiracy theory for dummies. But it really is a sordid tale that we encourage you to look up on your own.
Start with typing “sugar report on fat” into a search engine and you’ll see that in the 1960s a group called the Sugar Research Foundation paid three Harvard scientists the modern day equivalent of $50,000 to publish a study finding that sugar has little to no ill health effects in the U.S. diet. Keep reading and you’ll see that just saying, "sugar isn’t bad" wasn’t enough. If sugar wasn’t to blame, what was? The Sugar Research Foundation –now known as the Sugar Association since they’ve dropped all pretense of doing actual research- decided that dietary fat was a good scapegoat.
This is where another false scientific report comes into play in the war against fat. The Sugar Research foundation and the Harvard researchers decided that fat would be the villain based on Dr. Ancel Keys’ study of cholesterol and fat’s relation to raising cholesterol in the blood.
Dr. Keys gathered information about diets from 22 different countries in support of his theory that fat was unhealthy. Keys’ report influenced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and had a direct effect on the creation of the now debunked food pyramid.
The problem with Key’s report? It was later discovered that when the data from his research didn’t support his theory, Dr. Keys decided to ignore the facts and evidence that proved his theory false. He only included the observations that slightly supported his argument.
Using this manipulated study, it wasn’t that difficult to get people to associate eating fat with getting fat. Suddenly, fat was being removed from foods, taking the flavor with it, and leaving dinner tasting the way a wet shoelaces smells.
So how do you get the flavor back that left with the fat? Sugar!
Is it a coincidence that the report was commissioned in the mid-1960s and the national obesity rate has steadily risen ever since?
We at niKETO encourage you to do your own research and see for yourself how the false vilification of fat snaked it’s way into our collective psyche.
what is a carbohydrate?
Carb for short, a carbohydrate is one of the 3 recognized macro nutrients that can give you the energy to run your bodily machine. Carbs are molecules made of sugars that, when eaten, are transformed in your body into glucose that is then quickly converted to energy.
That’s the quick rundown of what a carb is. But here’s what a carb isn’t: necessary. That’s right, carbs are the only macronutrient that you can live without. The only function a carb performs is the quick transformation into blood glucose for energy. That’s it.
But energy is important. How can we possible live without energy? We can’t, that’s why fat also metabolizes into energy, in addition to its duties creating new neurons for our brain and sheathing our nerves. Protein repairs and grows our muscles and helps strengthen our bones.
Carbohydrates don’t serve any purpose in the health or healing of our bodies the way fats and proteins do. And too many carbs can lead to insulin resistance, weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and whole host of other problems.
If carbs are mostly not good for us, and the keto diet has a vendetta against carbs, why does the keto diet still recommend we get 5% of our daily calories from carbs?
Some carbs carry offsetting advantages like vitamins, minerals, and fiber that will make your keto life easier and improve your health. But make no mistake, all carbs are not created equally.
Technically, you can have a hot fudge sundae and remain within your keto-acceptable carb limit for the day. But what did you get from those carbs? Sugar and a spike in insulin that will leave you feeling logy. Plus the guilt, can’t forget the guilt.
Instead of simple carbs, which are carbohydrates made from a single sugar, keto recommends more complex carbs made of 3 bonded sugar molecules. Complex carbs come from vegetables and fruits that offer the vitamins that keep you from getting sick or the mineral electrolytes that your body uses for hydration and alertness.
The rule for carbs on keto is the greener the better. Green veggies are lowest in carbs and offer the best punch of vitamins and minerals. Greens provide something else that’s important, fiber. Fiber is considered a carb even though it can’t be broken down into glucose. When eating a fiber-rich food like broccoli, kale, green beans, etc. you don’t even have to count the portion of carbs that come from fiber as they pass right through with no affect on your blood sugar.
Fiber is an important carb because it acts like an anti-carb. Fiber helps lower bad cholesterol levels, and it helps process glucose sugars out of the blood. To be honest, we don’t want to blow fiber’s cover, but we’re pretty sure it’s a double-agent helping keto from behind enemy lines.
The important take-aways about carbohydrates are that they are just sugar molecules that your body can live perfectly fine without. However, some carbs come attached to things that can really help you on your keto journey, like vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. For that reason, it’s acceptable to eat 20 grams of carbs or fewer everyday as long as they come from the best, greenest sources. That and the minimal amount of glucose created by only 20 grams is quickly burned off before it can affect your blood.
what are ketones?
A ketone is your reward for breaking the carb cycle and switching your body over to the more efficient fuel of fat and fatty acids. Ketones are the fuel source created by the liver when the glucose has run dry and there aren’t enough carbs coming in to make more. If you’re following a ketogenic diet and eating 75% healthy fats, your liver is taking the fatty acids from your food and turning it into simple molecules known as ketones.
The ketones that the liver creates and throws like confetti into your citric acid cycle which is responsible for their conversion into usable energy, are known as ketone bodies. The three ketone bodies used in the ketogenic process are:
BETA-HYDROXYBUTYRATE (shortened as BHB)
Your liver uses the fatty acids created from your keto diet to make Acetoatate ketone bodies. As the glucose stores in your cells burn off, and it’s clear that you aren’t going to be supplying your body with any more carbs to make new glucose, your system takes this Acetoatate and converts it into another ketone body, BHB.
BHB is the super ketone that fuels your brain, muscles, and becomes the source for your body’s processes and energy. Once you’ve become adapted, and you’re considered in keto, the production of Acetoaacetate, Acetone, and BHB becomes a well-oiled production line that leads to one of keto’s biggest benefits, a surplus of energy.
Receiving a consistent stream of more efficient ketones, your body can function with a steady energy level throughout the day without suffering the rollercoaster of ramps and dips in energy that come from spiking and falling insulin levels as a result of a glucose-based fuel.
Ketones are a great new energy, cool. But wait, there’s more! Ketones do more than just provide you with a new energy source, they have some great ancillary benefits as well.
Ketones have therapeutic uses that can help protect against the aging of your nervous system and can assist in regeneration after nerve or even brain damage occurs.
Ketones help maintain muscle mass. This is important when you use keto for weight loss as you want to lose fat, not muscle. Many traditional diets just accept muscle loss as part of the process. But because muscle is difficult to cultivate and maintain as you age, losing it may mean you’ll never get it back and that can significantly impact quality and length of life.
Ketones help to starve cancerous cells! That’s right, cancer loves glucose but can’t grow if ketones are the prevalent fuel source in your body. Starve those cancerous cells!
Ketones help mitochondria grow within your cells. More and healthier mitochondria in your DNA and cells means more energy and overall healthier cells. Since we’re all basically just giant towers of cells, this means better everything.
Your body loves ketones, and has your entire life. This is where it gets a little after school special: the ketones have been in you all along.
That’s right, you’ve been making ketones forever, just not enough to edge out the glucose for energy supply. But your heart and your kindeys’ renal cortex prefer ketones and ask the liver for them by name.
So add a happier heart and kidneys to the list of the ketone benefits.
what are macro nutrients?
Everything we eat fits into three nutrient categories that provide us with the calories that keep functioning: Fat, Protein, Carbohydrates.
(Technically water and alcohol are macronutrients too, but while water is absolutely necessary, it provides no calories, and alcohol is a non-sustainable calorie source).
But is it? Not really.
Not all three macros are equal:
9 calories per gram.
Fat is necessary for hormone production, skin and hair health and recovery, and the protection of the nervous system.
4 calories per gram.
Protein is important in maintaining, repairing, and gaining muscle.
4 calories per gram.
Carbohydrates only purpose is a source of quickly accessible energy. It’s also the only one of the 3 major macros your body can live without.
The first thing most people notice is that fat carries 5 more calories per gram than either protein or carbs, and they starting thinking, “there it is, proof that fat makes you fat.” But fat isn’t providing you with more calories per gram because it’s an evil little macro.
We have to remember that a long time ago when dinner meant tying on the loincloth and chasing animals through tall grass with a sharp stick, calories were much harder to come by. So in truth, fat has been helping us survive since the dawn of time by giving us more caloric energy than protein or carbs. It’s not fat’s fault that we no longer have to chase our food and we instead decided to try deep-frying twinkies and covering them with frosting.
How do the 3 macros work when it comes to ketosis and the keto diet?
Fat is the champion of keto and is responsible for delivering the fatty acids that our bodies turn into ketones, the new fuel of keto.
Fats are considered 90% ketogenic. That remaining 10% is glucose that’s created during the ketone and triglyceride conversion.
Protein is necessary for many of the body’s important processes. The keto diet relies on eating moderate protein to maintain muscle mass while you lose weight.
Protein is roughly 45% ketogenic. Meaning 55% of protein is not friendly to the ketogenic process because too much protein can raise insulin levels in the blood through a process known as gluconeogenesis where excess protein is metabolized into glucose, sabotaging the entire basis for keto.
Carbohydrates are not necessary. This is not hyperbole nor fat aggrandizing, it’s a fact, you can live without carbs just fine. (read about why we don't need carbs here in chapter 6).
Carbs, as you’ve probably guessed, are 0% keto friendly. Carbs make glucose and glucose prevents the production of ketones, the better bodily fuel.
That’s all well and good, but how do you do all this math to figure out the correct ratios to do keto the right way?
The ideal daily caloric intake to maintain a ketogenic diet is 75% healthy fats, 20% from protein, and 5% from carbs – greener veggies being the best option for this 5% But don't stress too much about this, we’ve got you covered:
Thank you technology for doing the math for us. Our KETO CALCULATOR asks a few questions to get your body composition and activity levels right and spits out the correct ratios for you to follow.
Following the numbers from the keto calculator will ensure that you get enough fat to produce ketones for energy while keeping protein in just the right range to prevent muscle loss while at the same time making sure you don’t get too much and fall into gluconeogenesis which will kick you out of keto.
what is ketosis?
Keto is short for ketosis, the metabolic state you are putting your body in when you embark on the keto journey. Keto is short hand for the Ketogenic diet and many ketoers will say, “I’m doing keto,” or “I’m in keto” once they've reached a state where their body has burned off the stored glucose and begun producing ketones.
ketosis vs ketoacidosis
Many of the people who oppose keto will point out the ill effects of the keto diet without properly researching what it is they are so firmly standing behind as fact. Sadly, there are a number of people who are against keto, but they’ve never done what you are doing right now, learning about it by researching and gathering facts.
One argument that continues to pop up in opposition to the ketogenic diet is the idea that living the keto lifestyle can lead to ketoacidosis, which can kill you.
At face value that claim is scary, sensational, and it even has a hint of believably because Ketogenic and Ketoacidosis begin with the same four letter. It’s not hard to make the leap from one to the other if you haven’t educated yourself, they sound similar. It’s those 4 letters in common that make this false claim so conceivable on the surface, and such an ongoing stigma that keto has to continually fight.
Fist off, thank you for taking the time to research this and get it right when so many only read a scary headline and allow it to form their opinion on an entire body of scientific research.
A Ketogenic diet and the metabolic state of ketosis are perfectly safe and have a plethora of health benefits.
Ketoacidosis really is dangerous to the point of being deadly, but it is NOT a result of eating a ketogenic diet.
Ketoacidosis is a complication of diabetes. Most commonly it affects people with Type 1 diabetes, also know as juvenile diabetes. It can also affect those with type 2 diabetes as it’s directly related to insulin.
This dangerous process begins with a shortage of insulin. When the body can’t produce enough of it’s own insulin it can’t efficiently deliver glucose from the bloodstream into cells for storage and later use. Without insulin to perform this task, the body doesn’t get enough glucose to use for energy and it switches over to producing ketones from fat instead. A high concentration of ketones combined with a build up of unused and unparkable glucose produces acid in the bloodstream that grows to lethal levels.
The ketogenic diet also produces ketones for fuel but does so by design. A body with no insulin production issues MUST deplete its glucose stores before it can begin making enough ketones to use as it’s primary fuel. This is the process of getting into keto and it’s why ketosis has a 2 day to 2 week waiting period. Your body will metabolize all sugars before it jumps to ketones, making the clash of glucose and ketones an impossibility in those who don’t suffer an insulin imbalance or production issue.
While both of these situations begin with the prefix KETO and both use ketones, ketoacidosis is dangerous and should be treated immediately, while ketosis can actually help reverse type 2 diabetes and result in many other health benefits.
And now you know the truth about the link between ketosis and ketoacidosis, there really isn’t one.
types of keto diets
Despite the reputation keto has a strict, unyielding, knuckle-smacking-Nun of a diet, it’s actually very versatile and can be designed to suit your health needs and fitness goals. From the keto newbie to the seasoned, fat-adapted workout monsters, keto has a version for everyone… if you know what to do. That’s where niKETO comes in as your master’s class on all things ketogenic.
Let’s jump right in.
There are three variations of the keto diet that will help you accomplish your fitness objectives.
THE STANDARD KETO DIET (SKD)
The Standard Keto diet, or SKD for short, is the base from which all other versions of keto stem. It’s important to fully understand the standard keto diet before moving into the others. SKD is simply the regular keto diet with fancy new initials.
(Ketoers love initials, hence HWC when it’s just as easy to say heavy whipping cream).
For a quick refresher on standard keto, click here. SKD is a great starting point if you’re using keto for fitness or athletic performance. Standard keto will get you into fat adaptation and adjust your body to it’s new ketone fuel. It’s not unheard of to begin with Targeted or Cyclical keto, but for a majority of the population it’s best to treat the keto diet variations as steps along a fitness path. Beginning with standard keto also helps burn off flab and fat stores, trimming you down and making it easier to build muscle and improve athletic performance.
THE TARGETED KETO DIET (TKD)
Targeted keto is perfectly named as it requires targeting your workouts outs and consuming small amounts of carbs right before, during, or directly after to give you a performance boost. TKD is meant to help you keep going during high-intensity training or workouts with longer durations that require constant effort. When you are giving max effort for longer periods it can help to have glycogen in your system for your muscles to draw from and keep you performing at peak level. Now make no mistake, yoga, a quick jog, or a bike ride around the block do not require glycogen replenishment and therefor don’t necessitate switching to targeted keto, the good old, tried and true keto diet will serve you just fine for moderate workouts.
TKD is for those workouts where you pour sweat, where 10 seconds of going hard feels like an hour, and where the pain makes you contemplate what kind of floral arrangement you want at your funeral.
When you make serious demands of your muscles it can be a good idea to give them a shot of carbs for a boost of fuel. TKD works because it provides the glycogen bump that keeps you from slowing down during max effort, but the exercise that the carbs are fueling is strenuous enough to make sure that the carbs are completely burned up by the time the workout is done.
Consuming 20 grams of carbs right before an intense work out or dispersing it throughout gives you the benefits of glycogen for peak performance but leaves you in ketosis when the workout is done. Some how it feels like cheating the system, but like getting too much back on your tax refund, do you care?
THE CYCLICAL KETO DIET (CKD)