For lifetime optimizers, diet is perhaps one of the most effective ways to promote metabolic health and reduce the risk for disease. What you eat has a significant impact on how you feel and how well you age.
One diet gaining popularity among lifestyle optimizers is known as the ketogenic diet, also known as the keto diet.
If you’ve heard of keto, thought about trying it out, but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place. This article will discuss the basics of the keto diet and how to get started on your keto diet journey.
What is the ketogenic diet?
The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. It’s also moderate in protein. This means that most of what you’ll be eating on a keto diet will be foods high in the macronutrients fat and protein, with the third macronutrient — carbohydrates — extremely limited. Even though carbohydrates are limited, the keto diet is extremely flexible in what types of food can be included.
The macronutrient breakdown on keto looks something like this:
- 75%-80% fat
- 15%-20% protein
- 5% carbohydrates (or <50g per day of glycemic or net carbs)
This might sound a bit limiting, but the keto diet allows a lot of dietary flexibility — with plenty of room for non-starchy vegetables, leafy greens, and even a small amount of fruit. Plenty of fiber and color can be part of the keto diet!
The main effect of eating a keto diet is that it allows your body to enter into a fat-burning state known as ketosis. When you’re in ketosis, your body is breaking down fat from the food you eat or from your own body fat and using it to produce ketones.
When primary fuel sources are in short supply, your body creates ketones as a “back-up” fuel. You are considered to be in ketosis, when ketone levels in the blood are elevated.
What are ketones? These molecules can be used by our brain, heart, and muscles to produce energy, and are sometimes called an “alternative” energy source or the “fourth fuel.” For most of our lives, we don’t have significant ketones circulating in our blood. Eating a ketogenic diet, fasting, exercise, and using exogenous ketones are all ways to elevate blood ketones and put the body into ketosis.
Exogenous means outside the human body. Ketones you drink or consume as supplements.
Why should I try keto?
Maybe you’re wondering why you should try the keto diet — what makes it any better than other eating styles?
Many individuals adopt the keto diet because they find that it allows them to regulate their appetite. Keto includes many high-fat and high-protein foods, and fat and protein help increase meal satisfaction and reduce appetite in some individuals due to their high energy density. Some people have observed that eating carbohydrates (primarily refined carbs) can actually increase their hunger and cravings for unhealthy foods.
The keto diet is also fairly non-restrictive, other than the limitations on carbohydrates imposed by the diet. In fact, keto includes many foods that people love — butter, bacon, and cheese among the favorites! In recent years, there has been growing interest in applying keto diet principles to plant-based diets too. When planning a plant-based keto diet, there is great reliance on non-starchy vegetables such as green-leafy, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, and non-meat protein sources such as tofu, nuts, and seeds.
On top of the satisfaction with one’s food, there are many science-backed benefits of the keto diet.
- Weight loss: The keto diet is more effective for losing weight and maintaining weight loss when compared to traditional low-fat diets.
- Appetite suppression: Keto diets may reduce appetite and food cravings — in part because ketones actually have appetite-suppressing properties.
- Improve markers of metabolic health: Keto diets have been shown to improve metabolic markers of health.
- Healthy aging: A study in mice found that the ketogenic diet can reduce mid-life mortality, increase health span, and preserve memory in aging mice.
- Exercise performance: Some studies suggest that the keto diet can increase endurance and improve body composition.
Now that you have a good understanding of the keto diet, it’s time to get started on your successful keto journey. Luckily, we’ve got plenty of helpful articles on our site related to keto, fasting, and metabolic health, so have a look around!