Why is keto right for me?
What is Keto?
A keto, or ketogenic, diet is low-carb, moderate protein, high-fat diet. The idea is simple. By reducing your carbohydrate intake you can effectively limit your blood sugar peaks and valleys. Why is this important you ask? When you eat carbohydrates your blood sugar begins to rise. Your body then creates insulin in response. Insulin is important for fat storage and also plays a part in creating hunger signals so your body can get its next carb fix. When you reduce your carbs, you reduce your blood glucose and therefore your insulin levels. That means you're less likely to deal with sudden hunger and cravings that make weight loss so unbearable.
Wait? High-fat? I thought fat was bad?
The low-fat fad only began 40 years ago. After the new recommendations began we saw a dramatic increase in obesity and cardiac related issues. The world is starting to realize that we screwed up. Fat isn't bad. In fact, the only issue with it is that somebody decided to give the macronutrient the same name as the stuff on your body. When you eat fat it doesn't magically cross into your blood and plant itself onto your hips, belly, and thighs. It still has to be broken down like everything else you eat then reassembled later (with help from insulin, of course). Some people also might be concerned that fat has more calories than a carb. You might be asking yourself "Won't I be more hungry eating less with more calories"? The answer is no. You will be eating nutritionally dense and satisfying food. Imagine two cars. One car needs 10 gallons to fill and the other 20 gallons. They are both able to travel 400 miles on a single tank. Which car would you choose? Food is fuel. We should be eating to give ourselves energy and to get the nutrients we require. There is no sense in eating loads of food with little nutritional value versus foods that can really pack a punch in proper portions.
So fat isn't so bad, but are carbs necessary to live?
No. Carbohydrates in and of themselves are not required for survival. Your body does however need small amounts of glucose (such as for the retinal nerve) but the wonderful part about our bodies is that they are pretty smart. We have the ability to make our own glucose in a process called glucogenesis. Our bodies are also incredibly adaptive and can function perfectly fine on ketones. Let's look at whole-grain bread. The mantra has only been whole grains are healthy, right? What's actually in bread? Wheat which provides the carbohydrates (which we just learned are not a necessary supplement to our diet). Sugar or High Fructose Corn Syrup, need I really say more on this? Yeast for leavening. Salt, which is actually beneficial to a ketogenic diet as the diet itself has diuretic properties. Then we have a whole slew of preservatives (natural or not), flavors, colorants, and last but not least, enrichments. Enrichments are the vitamins and minerals they add to bread to make them "healthy". Would you grind up a multi-vitamin, sprinkle it over ice cream, the declare it healthy? No. This is the same concept.
Ketones? I thought ketones killed you.
Another common misconception. What people are referring to is ketoacidosis which is an entirely different medical condition. It is primarily a concern in Type 1 diabetics and with Type 2 diabetics who are not taking steps to reverse it. FYI, keto is a functional cure for Type 2 diabetes.
Ok, I'm starting to get it. What about protein?
Protein is necessary for life and it must be balanced. If you eat too little you will end up losing muscle mass instead of fat and if you eat more than you need it can interfere with weight loss. Protein sources also contain vital amino acids which are also called the building blocks of life. So don't skimp on the protein.
What about fruit?
Ah, fruit. Nature's candy. There is nothing in fruit (besides fructose) that you won't find in a vegetable. Seriously, there are many low-sugar vegetable alternatives. On keto small amounts of berries are generally regarded as acceptable. The good news is if you are on keto for strictly weight loss you can include fruit again as a lower calorie option on your maintenance plan.
Putting it all together.
Keto is all about balance. Carbs are a limit, protein is a goal, and fat to satiety. The best place to start is something called a keto calculator. There are a bunch floating around and you can find the one that you find easiest to use. My personal macros are 40g net carbs, 100g protein, and 110g fat. The traditional recommendation is that people starting out stick to 20g or less net carbs per day. When you become fat adapted you can play around with the numbers to see how your body reacts and to fit in different varieties of food. Protein is always going to be based on the amount of lean mass that you want to preserve, and fat is a buffer. You don't have to meet your fat goal daily, only if you are very hungry or consistently dangerously low on calories.
Keto Food Pyramid
Managing your lack of hunger.
One thing people say all the time is that since starting keto they just aren't hungry.This is significant since a lot of people become overweight by binging (often caused by the insulin produced cravings). The solution is pretty simple. Don't eat. Again, unless you are consistently eating extremely low calorie then don't sweat it. I have personally naturally fallen in a routine of eating a larger lunch and dinner and skipping all other meals and snacks. This is called intermittent fasting or IF in the dieting world. If your body isn't giving you signals that it needs fuel, why eat? It would be like filling your gas tank every time you drove past a gas station just because it's there.
Wrapping it all up.
Keto isn't right for everyone. Some people can make changes as simple as cutting out the 12 pack of soda a day or not eating snacks when they're bored. However, some of us need the relief from hunger pains, bloating, cravings, and binge eating cycle. Keto provides this much needed relief so that there is room to focus on the calories, which are king.
Where to go from here.
There are many, many keto resources. I have found that my favorite source for support and recipes has been Reddit. If you want to read other's stories and have a discussion about keto, pop on over to reddit.com/r/keto. Just be sure to read the FAQ to see if your question has been answered already. If you feel like this is right for you and you would like to see what kind of meals we're eating then check out reddit.com/r/ketorecipes.