What's a Keto Diet?
Reviewing Everything You Need to Know About Ketosis
What is the ketogenic diet and how does it work? The process was initially developed in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder as an effective, non-pharmacological treatment for intractable childhood epilepsy.
The process works when the body is put into a metabolic state called ketosis, where ketones become the main source of energy for the brain and body to function. The keto diet plan is high in fat and low in carbohydrates while supplying adequate protein to the body. This specific combination changes the manner in which your body uses energy. Additionally, while reducing epileptic seizures, this process lowers glucose levels while improving the body’s resistance to insulin.
So, How Does Ketosis Work?
I know a lot of you are probably wondering "what is ketosis?" By definition, it is when your body goes through a metabolic state in which the body transforms the ketones that are created from fat into energy, as opposed to using energy created from converting carbohydrates. What exactly are ketones, you ask? Biochemically speaking, ketones are organic, carbon-based compounds that contain a central carbon atom double-bonded to an oxygen atom and two carbon-containing substituents, denoted by “R.”
Sounds complicated, huh?
Ketones are considered simple compounds because they do not contain chemical groups that are readily reactive. The liver for energy production oxidizes fatty acids in the body. There are 3 different ketone bodies produced in the mitochondria of the liver: acetone, acetoacetic acid, and beta-hydroxybutyric acid.
Liver, for energy production, oxidizes some of these fatty acids while others can be partially oxidized to form the substrate acetoacetate, which is then converted to beta-hydroxybutyric acid. These bodies produced in the liver are referred to as endogenous ketone bodies. Exogenous ketone bodies, on other hand, are those ingested via nutritional products.
How Does It Affect Our Liver?
While our livers produce endogenous ketones, it is these bodies that provide you with an instant supply of ketones to utilize, even if your body is not in the ketosis state yet. When consuming a low-carb meal while in the keto diet, the levels of the hormone insulin are reduced, and in turn, fatty acids are released from the fat stores in our body.
Glucose levels drop, lipase releases stored triglycerides, and these fatty acids are transferred to the liver and oxidized into ketones. Once created, they can then be used by all the tissues containing mitochondria, including the muscles and the brain.
Unlike fatty acids, they have the unique ability to cross the blood-brain barrier to provide energy to the brain in the absence of glucose. The process naturally occurs during pregnancy, infancy, fasting, and starvation. The benefits are numerous as it not only reduces epileptic seizures but leads to weight loss and lower blood sugar levels.
What Do I Have to Do to Reach a Full State of Ketosis?
For the body to go into a state of ketosis, people must follow a very strict diet menu, which involves consuming less than 50 grams of carbs per day and sometimes as little as 20 grams per day. To achieve this, certain foods must be eliminated from your diet. You must be following a strict meal plan, removing all sweets, candy, cookies, soft drinks and desserts. Other carbohydrate-rich foods that should be avoided are bread, cereals, rice, and potatoes.
Stricter forms of the ketogenic diet should also include pasta on this list. In the classic version of the keto diet, fats should comprise 60 to 70 percent of your daily caloric intake. Proteins should be around 20 to 30 percent, and carbohydrates should not exceed 50 grams per day. Someone consuming a "traditional Western diet" has a blood ketone level that's typically around 0.1 to 0.2 mmols.
However, when constricting yourself to a right ketogenic diet plan, the menu on this particular diet can look something like 75 percent fats, 20 percent protein, and 5 percent carbs—your blood ketones can raise to somewhere between 0.5-5.0 mmols, putting you in a state of "nutritional ketosis.” Numerous studies have concluded their research that high-fat diets result in obesity, and high levels of bad cholesterol can lead to resistance to insulin and cardiovascular disease.
The keto diet, however, is not just a high-fat diet, it's also a high-fat, low-carb diet, and this is an important distinction. A typical person's diet of high-fat, high carb intake usually leads to many health problems. According to the research conducted by Robert R. Wolfe, after doing a keto blood test, they found that when they injected fat directly into the bloodstream, the fat was used as fuel.
When the researchers infused the fat along with carbohydrates, they discovered that the fat was prevented from being converted into fuel and the resistance to insulin began. Their conclusion was that fats rely on an enzyme known as CPT1 to transport them into the mitochondria of cells. When high amounts of insulin are present, they act as an inhibitor, preventing the transport and oxidation of fat.
This is the reason that the ketogenic diet works, for it requires a shallow level of carbohydrates as not to impede the process of fats being turned into energy.
What's a Ketogenic Diet Plan?
Jumping into a ketogenic diet or a ketosis diet (whatever you want to call it) without a rock-solid meal plan is just setting yourself up for failure. By now, you should already know that this process is all about calculating what you are consuming, which is why knowing what a ketogenic diet menu looks like, what the diet foods are, and what the amount you should be consuming is, is crucial to reaching your ketosis goals.
Now I bet you want to know the answers to the following questions: What exactly goes into a ketones diet? What are the different types of food that I can eat? What will my keto diet plan look like? Well, we're actually working on a full ketogenic diet guide for you guys as we speak, but in the meantime, I'll just quickly break down the basics for you here.
What Foods are Part of the Keto Diet Plan?
Eating keto is a process, and like most significant dietary changes, it can be a bit of a challenge at first. It’s essential you take the time to understand how the ketogenic diet work and how to create a diet plan that suits your own dietary needs and lifestyle.
For instance, cooking three meals a day seven days a week on keto isn’t going to work if you’ve always been the type to “grab and go” because of your busy life. You need to make adjustments that work for you to have long-term success eating keto.
What Kind of Carbs Should I Avoid?
Keep in mind that the more restrictive you are with carbohydrates, the faster you’ll enter ketosis. However, firm restrictions aren’t right for everyone, so be willing to make adjustments depending on how your body responds. Some people can handle decreasing to fewer than 15 grams of carbs per day immediately, while others need to decrease gradually while also gradually increasing fat intake.
No matter how quickly you reduce carbs, you’ll want to turn to only certain sources for your carbohydrate intake. Keto diet eaters get their carbs from nuts, vegetables, and dairy. You should not eat any grains, including wheat, corn, rice, or sugar, including most fruit. It’s also a good idea to avoid starchy vegetables because they are high in sugar. Cut out potatoes and yams if your goal is to eat healthy on keto.
Which Vegetables Should I Eat?
An essential part of the keto diet, and should be a necessary part of all foods, is vegetable consumption. The ketogenic diet should include plenty of leafy green veggies that are high in micronutrients, and above-ground veggies like cauliflower and broccoli. Some fruits are OK on the keto diet, including avocado and berries. When considering fruit, look at where it ranks on the glycemic index—the lower, the better.
You still have plenty of options, even though people think the keto diet is restrictive. Meat can be an essential component of the keto diet (though it is possible to be vegetarian or even vegan and be on the lifestyle as well).
How Much Protein on The Keto Diet is Too Much?
But before we get in too deep, let’s break it down first; there is a massive misconception in the world of dieters about protein and low-carb diets. It is true that protein doesn’t make you fat as it is just a nutrient that our body needs to build and repair muscles. But if you’re trying to get into the state of ketosis, you will have to moderate it. Why? Because there is this process called “gluconeogenesis.”
On the keto diet, the primary source of energy is fat. So, if you consume too much protein, your body will start burning the protein to turn it into energy fuel instead of the fat which defeats the whole purpose of the diet. Also, once your body starts processing all the protein, it will then turn to your lean muscles for fuel. Yikes!
What this also means is that, even if you take high amounts of healthy fats but do not take the right amounts of protein, you are still not going to achieve ketosis. Your body only needs a moderate amount of protein for it to do its job correctly.
What's the Most Important Thing About it?
Fat is an essential part of the keto diet, and you should incorporate plenty of it into your diet. The good news is, it’s convenient to increase your fat intake when making other changes in your keto diet. For instance, oils can be added to fresh or roasted veggies to make a delicious meal and to increase your fat intake.
Another reason it can be easy to make the transition to keto is that many of the foods pair well with each other. Though mono-meals can be a useful option, you should also try incorporating different foods into your meals at least once or twice a day. Doing this while on the ketogenic diet is easy. For instance, a salad topped with chicken breast, steak, or salmon, drizzled with olive oil and garnished with pecans will feel you up and keep you satisfied. Bonus: It tastes great.
Don’t forget to season your food too when eating keto. Depending on how you ate before you decided to adopt the ketogenic diet, the taste of your food can make the transition tough. People who were eating a diet of processed food that was high in salt might find meals on the keto diet bland. The good news is it’s easy to spice things up as long as you check the labels of spice blends. Most people find that it takes just a couple of weeks for their taste buds to adjust to this new way of eating and they crave foods that a few weeks ago they would’ve never wanted.
Finally, if you find you need to sweeten foods and beverages, turn to natural, low-carb sweeteners, such as stevia, monk fruit, and erythritol. These can also be great sweeteners for anyone who is diabetic but not ready for a full-fledged keto diet.
Here's a quick summary of what we just discussed:
What are Macros?
Ok, so here is a simplified list of the foods you can eat, but how much of each should you be having? That's why counting your macronutrients is a part of the game when you're delving into this world. If you don't like counting macros, then this isn't for you.
When it comes to consumption, here's how the macros end up looking like for most people:
There is a lot to discuss when it comes to this subject, which is why we thought we would create a complete guide dedicated to explaining the keto diet plan and what it involves precisely. But in a nutshell, this is what your nutritional lifestyle might look like if you choose to proceed.
What are the Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet Plan?
There are so many benefits to adopting a ketogenic diet into your lifestyle, the main one being the body’s ability to utilize fats for fuel. Studies in the field of nutrition have led many to believe that a high-carb diet is essential for maintaining energy levels and endurance. However, in a study conducted in 2004 by Stephen D. Phinney, the conclusions presented seemed to clarify the difference between a ketogenic diet vs. a high-carb diet on test subjects both athletically training and on patients that did not train.
His conclusions stated: “Both observational and prospectively designed studies support the conclusion that submaximal endurance performance can be sustained despite the virtual exclusion of carbohydrate from the human diet."
This result does not automatically follow the casual implementation of nutritional carbohydrate restriction, however, as careful attention to time for keto-adaptation, mineral nutrition and constraint of the daily protein dose is required. The lack of awareness can explain contradictory results in the scientific literature to these lessons learned (and for the most part now forgotten) by the cultures that traditionally lived by hunting.
Therapeutic use of this diet should not require constraint of most forms of physical labor or recreational activity, with the one caveat that anaerobic performance (i.e. weight lifting or sprints) is limited by the low-muscle glycogen levels induced by a ketogenic diet, which would strongly discourage its use under most conditions of competitive athletics. When a person is on a high-carb diet, the body expects energy to keep entering the system whereas, with a ketogenic diet plan, the body becomes efficient in transforming fats into energy.
How Ketones Help Reduce The Rate at Which Cancer Tumors Grow
Studies show that constricting yourself to these certain foods also increases the efficiency of all your other cells. Cancer cells behave differently than other cells as something in the regulatory mechanism breaks down and they start growing and dividing rapidly. The cancerous cells then begin hoarding energy from the blood while manipulating their surroundings to develop and support that rapid growth. These cells produce and multiply with fermentation which requires glucose, so by limiting this you are taking away that fuel they need to grow and survive.
Although it doesn’t prevent the cells from sapping energy from gluconeogenesis, it will aid in cutting off a source of fuel for them to grow faster. Any low-carb regime like the keto diet lowers blood levels of the hormone insulin and IGF-1. This reduction results in these cancer cells receiving fewer signals to grow and divide. Ketone bodies have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in cultures. Certain instances of patients with tumors, when put on a ketogenic diet plan and limiting their carb intake, shows positive effects on their treatment and cure.
The tumors stopped growing or became indolent which made the cells vulnerable to treatments and therapeutic drugs. A study in 2012 on 10 advanced cancer patients yielded promising results. The patients took part in a low-carb ketogenic meal plan for approximately 28 days. After the trial ended, 4 out of the 10 patients continued to see the disease progress, while 5 remained stable and 1 had a partial remission.
The patients on this diet plan that had the highest ketone levels and the lowest insulin levels improved the most. A study conducted in 2014 by Bryan G. Allen and other researches yielded some exciting results and theories as to future treatments. In their findings, they state that “keto foods have been studied as an adjuvant to cancer therapy in both animal models and human case reports."
As early as 1987, Tisdale et. al. saw decreased tumor weight and improved cachexia in mice with colon adenocarcinoma xenografts after eating the foods allowed on the keto diet.
Additional studies have shown that the ketosis diet has reduced tumor growth and improved survival in animal models of malignant glioma and colon cancer, gastric cancer and prostate cancer. Furthermore, it has been hypothesized, with some supporting evidence, that it can potentiate the effects of radiation in malignant glioma models as well as in non-small cell lung cancer models.
Fasting, which also induces a full state of ketosis, has been shown to enhance responsiveness to chemotherapy in pre-clinical cancer therapy models as well as possibly improve some of the normal tissue side-effects seen with chemotherapy. Fasting cycles are also reported to retard the growth of tumors and sensitize a range of cancer cell types to chemotherapy.
During this same study, the researchers noted that in a case study with two female pediatric patients with advanced staged malignant astrocytoma, the patients demonstrated a 21.8% decrease in tumor SUV when put on this ketogenic diet plan. It was also noted that they experienced no long-term or severe adverse effects while on the diet; in fact, it reduced insomnia in the patients and improved their emotions. In their conclusions of this study, they note that the current treatments for cancer via chemo-radiation lead to serious adverse effects on the body. This outlines a need for less toxic therapies with adverse effects that enhance the response to cancerous cells vs. normal tissues.
Another study was conducted in a 12-week period on 16 advanced-stage cancer patients, and it was found in the research that a ketogenic diet vastly improved the quality of life of the patients and stopped the progression of cancer for the 5 who completed the study.
In 2010, a study conducted by Robert Krikorian and other researchers revealed that nutritional ketogenic diets improved the memory in patients with mild cognitive impairment. The research was done on 23 older adults afflicted with mild cognitive impairment. They were given either a high-carb diet or a very low-carb diet. Over a 6-week span, they observed an improvement in verbal memory performance from the subjects on the low-carb diet, which made them discover that ketone levels were directly correlated with memory. They also noted that low carb consumption, even in short-term periods, can improve memory function in elderly adults with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This as in addition to a reduction in weight.
Some More Benefits of Ketogenic Diets:
Another great benefit of the ketogenic diet is portion control. When the body has adapted, you then begin to see benefits such as suppressed appetite, which of course leads to increased weight loss. A contrast to this would be a diet high in carbohydrates which increase the hunger levels. It is its weight loss effects that attract people to try this diet the most.
The most exciting benefit of the keto diet is the number of illnesses and ailments this lifestyle aids. It is thought to reduce risk of heart disease by cutting down blood triglycerides, cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. For people with type 2 diabetes, ketosis boosts their sensitivity to insulin up to 75% and in some cases, some diabetics are able to stop using their insulin treatment altogether.
This process also reduces triglycerides, excess stomach fat, and high blood pressure, all symptoms of metabolic syndrome. A study conducted on patients with Parkinson’s disease showed the symptoms improving after only a month of a sustaining this diet.
How Long Should a Person Be On a Ketogenic Diet?
A lot of people ask me this question all the time, but to find the answer, you must ask yourself another question (sorry for getting all Yoda on you) "how long does it take to get into ketosis?" Most treatments suggest a period of up to 3 years if treating seizures.
If no improvement is seen within the first few months, you should stop your diet immediately. A study was recently conducted with obese patients who were put through the process. There were 83 patients, 39 men and 44 women with a body mass index greater than 35 kg with high cholesterol, high glucose, and blood glucose. The study was conducted and monitored over a 6-month period.
The results were significantly positive. It reduced the body weight and body mass index of all the patients while decreasing the level of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and blood glucose and increasing the level of HDL cholesterol. Some studies suggest that after about 2 weeks, blood ketone levels rise and that is when people on a ketogenic diet get back their mental alertness, focus and drive.
Once this happens, the body is in a state known as keto-adaptation which is the fat-converting metabolic state. The average amount that an overweight person uses during exercise is about 30 grams per one hour. According to Dr. Phinney’s research, after only six weeks of keto-adaptation, these individuals are already able to use about 90 grams of fat each hour during their exercise.
It is essential that people allow a long enough time to go into adaption because a lot of people will give up on the keto diet before their bodies ever fully adapt. Although things like cognitive quickness and performance during exercise drop in the beginning, they quickly recover once the body adjusts, and an individual in this state can gain as much mass and strength as they would on a high-carb diet. Overall, the results are promising.
As for how long one can safely stay in ketosis, refer to this article.
Are there Products that Help You Stay in the Diet?
There are numerous products out there to choose from today, which come in the form of capsules, oils, ketogenic protein powders and even specially made keto drinks. Some are good and some not so much, but to make life easy, here are the best ketogenic products on the market. Making a decision on which will benefit you most varies greatly on the goals you've set for yourself while you're on the lifestyle and your current nutrition habits. While many brands boast specialty ingredients that make their product special, there are 4 main types of exogenous ketones that you can utilize depending on your needs.
Note that if you are consuming a reasonable amount of protein already, you don’t need a high protein product to add to that daily intake anymore. I've tested each of these brands to compare my health before and after taking each one, and every single seemed to have a positive effect on my body.
BHB is usually found in most natural foods like milk and eggs. The salts are like acids, and a lot of ionic bonds binds its bases. So, when your body absorbs it, it goes into your blood where all the chemicals that were bonded are released into separate chemicals because of it being a water-based solution.
Check out our reviews of 2019's top BHB salts: click right here.
These fats are easily absorbed by the body and will be on its way to your liver right away. When they get there, they will create a thermogenic effect that can affect your metabolism in a positive way. This way, these MCTs will be burned by the body and used as energy fuel instead of being kept where it will become stored fat.
Find the top MCT products by clicking this link.
These reduce high levels of triglycerides in your blood cells. This is important because high levels of triglycerides have been linked to some cardiovascular diseases.
Sodium and Potassium
Your body upon starting a ketogenic diet will shed any additional water along with sodium. This occurs when insulin levels drop. Most people already consume a higher amount of sodium in their daily intake, so a reduction is healthy but should be continuously monitored as you proceed.
Magnesium is stored in the bones and is one of the most vital nutrients in our body. When on a low-carb ketogenic diet, the body secretes more ions. Patients can start to feel a loss of energy along with things like muscle cramps. Magnesium plays a vital role in the ketogenic diet, and a blood test can determine whether or not you have optimal magnesium levels.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient. A small amount acts as a hormone in the body, optimizing ketosis. Our bodies only produce this vitamin when exposed to sunlight, and it is not found in many of the foods used in the ketogenic diet plan, so it is necessary to supplement that. This is probably one of the most important things to add for it helps your body absorb calcium during ketosis and helps to strengthen your immune system.
Are There Any Side-Effects to the Diet?
Yes. Ss with most nutritional vitamins and therapies, there are always side-effects. The first thing most people want to know is, is it dangerous or safe to do? Of course there can be some keto diet dangers; however, the ketosis symptoms from the process are rather mild, and by staying in the state longer, those will be reduced over time.
The side-effects and keto flu symptoms that can occur after taking these products include: electrolyte imbalance, halitosis, GI distress (flatulence), and hypoglycemia, to name a few. The electrolyte imbalance stems from the lack of water retention during ketosis and frequent urination, which you can test with ketosis sticks.
Taking these BHB salts will likely increase the frequency of urination, but will do so without depleting glycogen stores. A solution would be to consume beverages with electrolytes before and after taking any products.
Whether your liver is converting fat to energy, or you are ingesting exogenous ketones via supplementation, halitosis or bad breath is also another common side-effect. This effect does not seem to last very long and there are various mints, washes and gums that can solve this problem. When your body is adjusting to being in the keto diet, it will have some reactions to it, mostly being minor. These conditions will start to improve as your body adapts to the process over time.
The last side-effect we're going to mention is hypoglycemia. When ingesting exogenous ketones, your blood glucose levels can get pretty low, but you will not experience the symptoms of hypoglycemia, where you can feel a cold sweat. This is on account of your ketone levels, because once they're high enough, they will take over as fuel for the brain and you will generally operate despite the low blood glucose in your system.
But in hindsight, there are no significant side-effects to taking these products that aren't temporary and easily managed. This whole process has shown very minimal side-effects, and in comparison to pharmaceutical medicines, it seems to be much safer.
There are also many symptoms of ketosis that a person will probably experience, especially in the initial stages. Some people can feel a lack of energy or even nausea caused by a sudden change in their diet. Again, these symptoms are very manageable and temporary, and once your body adapts to your new nutritional intake, you can experience significant benefits from it.
Keto Diet Before and After Results...
If done right a ketogenic diet can have a significant impact on your weight loss results and once your body has trained itself to burn the fat intake, you are eating each day and use it as a ketogenic resource of energy you probably won't even recognize yourself. Do yourself a favor and document your journey by measuring and weighing yourself throughout the whole process. Better yet you should take before and after keto diet picture so you can see the proof for yourself.
After starting this website, I have had hundreds of people send me their before and after keto diet pictures and the weight loss effects were astounding. It's certainly a wonderful feeling knowing that other people have seen the same results as me, which I'm sure has changed their lives forever.
I've collected so many of these before and after photos that I now have a giant collage of all the people hanging on the wall of my living room. Almost every morning during breakfast, I stare at the hundreds of faces in that collage. It's a great feeling that somehow I may have played a part in helping them, which is why I continue to test the best supplements on the market. I've become addicted to finding and sharing information, and if I'm helping my community by doing this, then that's even more awesome.
Some Tips That Can Help You Manage Your Diet
Eating keto can seem overwhelming at first. It’s a drastic dietary change and can bring on stress and panic. The good news is there are some tips and hacks that can help to make things easier.
#1 Keep it simple
You’ll eventually gather a collection of delicious (and possibly complicated) keto-friendly recipes, but you don’t need to be a gourmand right out of the gate.
Simple mono- or poly-meals are a great option if you are new to keto.
Trying to overcomplicate things just sets you up for failure and this diet is too effective to give up on within a few days because of frustration.
#2 Meal prep in advance
A great way to save time and frustration is to prepare food in bulk. Set aside a few hours one day or evening during the week to prepare a big batch of keto-friendly foods you can grab in a pinch. Some people like to cook up a bunch of chicken breasts and roasted veggies for lunch for the entire week.
Some people find that even if they do not have time to meal prep an entire week, they can save time by making a little extra at each meal. Make just one extra serving of each meal you cook for dinner, and then you can heat up the leftovers the next day for lunch.
If meal prep doesn’t work for you, at least set aside some time for meal planning. Your food might not be ready in advance, but if you have assigned certain foods to specific meals, it’ll be easier to avoid the temptations you’ll encounter along the way. It also helps you avoid that late afternoon panic feeling you get when you have no idea what to make for dinner.
If you’re the type of person who has found convenience foods such as meal replacement smoothies or bars helpful, then you can find keto versions of these foods. There are plenty of options for smoothies and juices on the keto-approved produce list, and you can even add keto-friendly protein powders to your smoothies if you lack enough protein or calories. And the key to choosing premade bars and juices that are keto-friendly is to read the ingredient list. They’re out there, but you’ll need to take a few minutes to read your labels.
Our Final Ketogenic Diet Review... Does it Work?
There you have it -- everything you need to know about ketosis and how to execute a ketogenic diet plan is here. As you can see, the evidence suggests there aren’t any serious negative effects from living this type of lifestyle. You also might have noticed the positive results, which I listed in this review. Just remember that in most cases the side-effects of ketosis are usually minor compared to the potential benefits.
Worst case scenario is you don't see any benefits from this ketogenic diet plan. If that's the case then you can cease the experiment altogether.
If you are considering doing this, you might also want to check out some of the ketogenic products that we have reviewed on this site. I guarantee that you will see the benefits in the first few weeks and you will most certainly enjoy having more energy, weight loss and enhanced cognitive function throughout the day.
End of the line, folks! If you have stayed with me to the very bottom of this article, congrats. You must be serious about taking on this challenge. If that's the case, I suggest you check out our top-rated brand for getting into ketosis quickly which is Perfect Keto. You can also check out our best ketogenic supplements reviews page so that you can start optimizing your results.