Understanding Ketosis and the Ketogenic Diet

Most of us are now familiar with the term keto diet, and we have heard the testimonials regarding how effective it is for weight loss. At the same time, we have also heard many warnings about how this is just an unhealthy new fad where people are eating tons of fat and how they are going to end up with heart disease.

With so much of confusing dietary advice and decades of mental conditioning that fat is bad, it is not so easy to jump on the ketogenic bandwagon. Gathering the right knowledge is the first step towards dietary success. So let’s focus on understanding what exactly is a ketogenic diet.

What are Ketones?

The ketogenic diet is known by many names such as the low carb diet, the no carb diet or the LCHF or the low carb high-fat diet. It’s basically a diet in which the carb content is so low that it forces the body to run on ketones instead of glucose. The common human diet is based on carbohydrates which are broken down into glucose by the body for energy.

Carbohydrates are easily and quickly digested by the body. When carbs are eaten and the level of blood glucose starts rising, the pancreas produces insulin which helps metabolize the glucose. Since carbs are such an easy source of energy, the fats in the food do not get used up and instead, they get stored as body fat. The hormone insulin is also known as a fat storage hormone. Insulin also suppresses fat burning which leads to weight gain.

Ketones are the result of the body burning fat for energy or fuel. When the ratio of carbs are very low in the diet when compared to the protein and fats, the body is forced to turn to fat burning to fuel itself. This is a natural, evolutionary mechanism of the body for surviving when food is scarce. The “keto” in a ketogenic diet comes from the fact that the body produces small fuel molecules called “ketones” as the alternative fuel when glucose is in short supply.

The aim of a ketogenic diet is to bring down the carb intake long enough for the body to get into ketosis. The idea behind it is not calorie reduction, but carbohydrate restriction for weight loss. The human body is incredibly adaptive to the food it receives. In the absence of glucose and the abundance of fats, the body will begin to burn ketones as the primary energy source. But the moment you up your carb intake, your body switches back to its easier energy source of glucose.

Getting into Ketosis

As those who have been on a keto diet will testify, the ketogenic diet offers a lot of mental and physical health benefits and is easier to follow than most of the weight loss starvation diets out there. Ketones are produced in the liver, from fat. They are then used for fuelling the entire body, including the brain. When insulin levels become very low, fat burning increases dramatically. When the body switches to a fat burning mode, it becomes much easier for it to access its fat stores and burn them off. A ketogenic diet provides a steady supply of energy as fat molecules have more than double the calories of carbohydrate molecules. It burns as a slow and steady source of energy, unlike carbs which get burned up quickly. People losing weight on a keto diet find that they are less hungry and at the same time more alert and focused.

The fastest way to get into ketosis is to starve – not eat anything, eventually, the body will turn to its stored fat. But this is dangerous, foolish and has a lot of negatives associated with it. A ketogenic diet, on the other hand, is satisfying, can be undertaken for an indefinite period of time and you can enjoy its multiple health benefits including the weight loss without having to be hungry at all.

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