Are you looking for a way to change up your diet, elevate your energy levels, and promote healthy aging and metabolism? If so, it might be time to try the ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet — also called the “keto diet” or just “keto” for short — has gained recent popularity as a weight-loss diet. But keto is backed by science for a wide range of health benefits that extend beyond shedding a few extra pounds.
And while many people associate the keto diet with bacon, eggs, and buttered coffee, this diet can include a variety of your favorite foods and does not have to be “restrictive” at all.
If improving your metabolism while eating nutritious, tasty food is something you’re interested in, then read on to find out everything on the keto diet and its benefits.
What is the keto diet?
“It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.”
You might hear this phrase uttered by adherents of the keto diet, and it’s somewhat true. Keto is something that a lot of people find sustainable and enjoyable — a way of eating to maintain throughout their healthy aging journey rather than a quick-fix diet.
The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, and is sometimes known as a “carbohydrate-restricted diet.” What this means is that keto requires you to drastically reduce the amount of carbohydrates (“carbs”) you consume in your diet — which are found in foods like bread, pasta, desserts, and even sugary fruits. Most of these are limited to non-existent on the keto diet menu.
On keto, the macronutrient breakdown — the percent of fat, carbohydrates, and protein that your diet consists of — is typically around 75-80% for fat, 15-20% protein, and 5% or less for carbohydrates.
What happens when you limit carbohydrates in the diet? That’s where the “keto” part of the keto diet comes in.
The keto diet puts you in a fat-burning state known as ketosis.
What is ketosis?
When you reduce the amount of carbohydrates you consume, you deplete your body’s form of stored glucose, also known as glycogen. When this happens, your body starts to break down fat from the food you eat and your own body fat stores.
Our liver takes these broken-down fat molecules and makes them into ketones, which are molecules that can be taken by the blood to our heart, brain, and muscles to be used for energy.
This is why ketones are sometimes called the “fourth fuel” — the other “fuels” our body uses being fats, carbohydrates, and to a limited extent protein.
Being in ketosis means that you have high levels of ketones circulating in your blood. Ketones are measured in millimolar (mM). A beneficial level of ketones is considered “nutritional ketosis” and begins at or above 0.5mM and can be measured using several devices that detect blood ketones, urine ketones, and even breath ketones.
How long does it take to enter ketosis on the keto diet? After about 3-4 days, you can expect to see elevated and sustained levels of ketones. During these first few days to weeks, some people experience side effects such as fatigue and brain fog. This is sometimes called the “keto flu” and happens as the body adapts to using this new source of energy.
After this initial adaptation period, your blood ketones should be consistently elevated, providing you with long-lasting, stable energy levels provided by your body’s own ketones.
What are the health benefits of the keto diet?
Why you choose to start the keto diet likely depends on your specific goals. Luckily, there are numerous science-backed benefit areas for the ketogenic diet, with new research coming out on a frequent basis.
- Metabolism: Long-term ketogenic diets reduce insulin and blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
- Shedding the pounds: Ketogenic diets are superior to traditional low-fat diets for short-term weight loss — helping you lose weight and potentially keep it off!
- Brain boost: Studies have found that high-fat ketogenic diets can be important for providing a highly efficient source of energy to neurons.
- Increased endurance: The keto diet may improve your endurance, but most evidence suggests that a high-fat meal plan is comparable to a traditional diet for athletic performance.
- Improved body composition: In addition to weight loss, many studies find that people who adopt a ketogenic diet for several weeks to months can improve their body composition — decreasing their body fat percent while maintaining lean muscle mass.
- Appetite regulation: a keto lifestyle may also help you regulate your appetite and eat less, which could help with weight loss. Exogenous ketones have even demonstrated appetite-suppressing effects.
- Healthy aging: While the long-term studies on the keto diet in humans have not been done yet, the above benefits suggest that ketogenic diets could promote healthy aging, allowing you to do what you want longer, and with more vigor and energy than ever before.
Time to give keto a try
The keto diet does not require the massive lifestyle change that many might think. It seems to be an enjoyable, sustainable, and healthy way to eat and live. If you think keto is right for you, the next step is to give it a try for yourself. You’ve got nothing to lose, and plenty of health to gain.