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What is a ketogenic diet?

Posted by Josh Atwell on

What is ketogenic diet and what is ketosis?

The metabolic state referred to as, ketosis, means that the quantity of ketones in the blood has reached levels which are higher than normal. When the body is in a ketogenic state, the body will start breaking down your body fat to power the body's normal, everyday roles. Ketones are produced if you consume very few carbohydrates and only moderate amounts of protein. Excess protein can also be transformed to blood sugar. Ketones are produced in the liver, from fat consumption.


A ketogenic diet is a diet that creates this state of ketosis within the body. Keto diets are carbohydrate-restricted, high-fat, moderate protein approach to macros. Here's how the macros look for most people:

  • Carbohydrates: 5-10%
  • Fats: 70-75%
  • Protein: 15-20%


When on a ketogenic diet your entire body changes its fuel supply to run almost entirely on fat. Insulin levels become low and fat burning increases drastically. This is great if you’re trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits. A ketogenic diet can be continued indefinitely or can by cycled with a carb refeed day. We’ll go into this in another article.



Weight loss

Creating a fat burning environment has clear advantages to weight loss. Fat burning is immensely increased while insulin levels drop. This creates the ideal circumstances in which weight loss can occur, without significant hunger pains. There are around 20 scientific studies that show, compared to other diets, low-carb and ketogenic diets effect in more efficient weight loss.


Diabetes type 2 control

A ketogenic diet is exceptional for withdrawing type 2 diabetes symptoms since it reduces blood sugar levels and the damaging impact of high insulin levels on the body.


Improved mental focus

Ketosis results in a steady flow of fuel, ketones, to the brain. On a ketogenic diet, you dodge big swings in blood sugar and insulin spikes. This state of ketosis often results in the experience of increased mental focus and improved periods of concentration.


A lot of people correctly use keto diets specifically for improved mental performance. After a few days, or up to a week of ketogenic diets people may have periods of difficulty concentrating, have headaches and can become easily irritated after this stage is passed the body and brain can run effortlessly on ketones. In this state, many people acknowledge a feeling of more energy and improved mental focus.


Physical endurance

Ketogenic diets can hugely increase your physical endurance, by giving you continuous access to all the power of your fat stores.

The human body’s supply of stored carbohydrates (glycogen) only lasts for a couple of hours of vigorous exercise, or even less. But your fat stores carry enough energy to last for weeks or even months. Humans have developed fat storage to last us in periods of limited food.

When you’re adapted to burning primarily carbohydrates fat stores are not easily available. This results in constantly having to fill up by eating before, during and after longer exercise sessions. On a ketogenic diet this problem is resolved. As the body and brain can easily be fuelled 24/7 by your influential fat stores.


Metabolic syndrome

There are many studies showing that low-carb diets improve markers of metabolic syndrome such as blood lipids, insulin levels, HDL-cholesterol, LDL particle size and fasting blood sugar levels. Developments have been shown to be even better when carbs and protein are restricted to the point of being steadily in nutritional ketosis.


The ketogenic diet is a established medical therapy for epilepsy that has been used since the early 1920s in response to the observation that fasting had antiseizure properties. Conventionally it has mainly been used in children with uninhibited epilepsy despite medication.

Recently it has also been tested successfully by adults with epilepsy, with similar results. Numerous randomised controlled trials demonstrate the effectiveness of the ketogenic diet in decreasing seizures in patients with epilepsy. To find out more check out this article from PubMed

Using a ketogenic diet with epilepsy symptoms has the benefit that it usually allows people to take less anti-epileptic medicines while remaining seizure-free.


Who should NOT do a ketogenic diet?

Most people can safely do a ketogenic diet. But in these three situations you may need extra preparation or adaptation:

  • Are you on medication for diabetes
  • Are you on medication for high blood pressure
  • Are you breastfeeding? 


What a diet can look like?

Meal 1:
2 eggs, 8oz skim, 1 tblsp olive oil

Meal 2:
4oz chicken breast, pepperoni stick, 1tblsp olive oil, salad

Meal 3:
2 pepperoni sticks, 1 tin tuna, 1tblsp olive oil

Meal 4:
1 6oz steak, 1 tblsp olive oil, salad

Meal 5: Cheddar cheese, 8oz skim, 1tblsp olive oil

How to test you’re in ketosis?

The most accurate way to check for ketosis is by using ketone urine testing strips, often referred to by the brand name Ketostix. These inexpensive testing strips are the seamless solution for instantly checking ketone levels in your urine.


A Ketogenic Diet for Beginners - Diet Doctor, (accessed April 02, 2017).

"How To Detect Ketosis | 8Fit". 8fit. N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Apr. 2017.

"Keto". N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Apr. 2017.

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