Ketosis, or keto, is a natural body stage that functions mostly on fat instead of glucose. On a ketogenic diet, the goal is to have a deficient intake of carbohydrates, moderate proteins and many healthy fats.
As babies, we are all born in a ketosis state and remain so until we start eating solid foods. The breast milk is almost entirely fat! Have you ever noticed how healthy babies have remarkable physical and mental development? 😉 Another moment, we might go into a state of ketosis during prolonged periods of fasting, including while we are sleeping.
When depriving the body of glucose (mostly carbohydrates and sugar), the body needs to find another energy source. Alternative fuel is called ketones, which are produced from stored fat.
When minimal carbohydrate is eaten, the body first pulls stored glucose from the liver and temporarily breaks down muscle to release glucose. If this continues for 3-4 days, and the stored glucose is fully depleted, blood levels of a hormone called insulin decrease, and the body begins to use fat as its primary fuel. The liver produces ketone bodies from fat, which can be used in the absence of glucose.
When ketone bodies accumulate in the blood, this is called ketosis. How soon ketosis happens and the number of ketone bodies in the blood is variable from person to person and depends on body fat percentage and resting metabolic rate.
On keto, the goal is to reduce total carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams a day, and net carb be as low as 20 grams a day. Generally, the suggestion is an average of 70-80% fat from total daily calories, 5-10% carbohydrate, and 10-20% protein. (source)
A lot of people wonder about the brain needing glucose to work. The amount the brain needs can be filled by the protein that also can turn into glucose.
Ketones provide sustainable energy, unlike carbohydrates, which are metabolized into glucose, giving the body an explosion of life and increasing insulin levels. Soon, all this energy ends. The glucose is burned quickly, leaving the body depleted of power, while the rest of the glycogen is stored in the liver or as triglycerides in fat cells.
Those of us who follow a ketogenic lifestyle change our fuel sources for the way when we were born: we run almost entirely from fat.
In addition to weight loss, ketogenic people experience balanced energy, mental focus, physical endurance and a number of other health benefits, such as prevention, treatment and cure of chronic diseases.
WHY IS THE PROTEIN AMOUNT LOW?
The protein amount on the ketogenic diet is kept moderate in comparison with other low-carb high-protein diets because eating too much protein can prevent ketosis. The excess of protein in the body is converted into glucose via gluconeogenesis and is stored as fat in our cells.
However, the low consumption of proteins can impair the strengthening of lean mass and cause nutrient deficiencies. In the ketogenic diet, it is recommended that 25% of our daily calories come from protein.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OTHER LOW-CARB DIET?
There are many low-carb diets with specific strategies and benefits. Remember: the best diet is the one you like and works for your body!
- The Atkins diet, super popular, follows a protocol where the intake must be based on a very low-carbohydrate and high-protein.
- The basic concept for a Paleo diet is to eat mostly whole foods like fruits, veggies, meat, fish, and poultry, and processed foods, grains, legumes, and artificial sweeteners are off-limits. It is also a low-carbohydrate and high-protein type of diet.
- The Dukan diet is a high-protein, low-carb weight loss diet that is split into four phases. The duration of each phase depends on how much weight needs to be burned.
In contrast, keto is distinctive for its high-fat content, typically 70% to 80%, though with only a moderate intake of protein and very low-carb.