The ketogenic diet (keto diet) has become incredibly popular in recent times. The main reason, I suspect, is because it works – brilliantly!
So what, exactly, is the keto diet, how does it work and how can it help you to lose weight?
What is the keto diet?
All the food we eat consists of three main things; protein, fat and carbohydrates. These are known as macronutrients. You’ll read loads about ‘macros’ as you get more into keto. In addition there are minerals, vitamins and various other things. The important bit, from the point of view of keto and losing weight are the macros. Clearly there are only three basic types of thing we can eat and if we reduce one then we must increase one or more of the others. In the keto diet we reduce carbs a lot so we have to increase proteins and fats in our diet. It used to be accepted that fats make you fat and carbs and proteins were ‘healthy’ We now know that fats are good for you (or neutral) depending on the sub-type, and that carbs, in the form of sugar, is making people fatter, diabetic and sicker.
So the bottom line is this: the keto diet is a high fat, moderate protein and low carb diet, what is known as a ‘Well-formulated ketogenic diet – WFKD’. A general rule of thumb is to have a diet that is 80% fat, 15% protein and 5% carb. You won’t go far wrong with this.
How does the keto diet work?
When we eat food a lot of complex chemical reactions break the food into smaller chemical types. So proteins are broken down into amino acids, fats into fatty acids and carbohydrates into simple sugars like glucose.
The sugars that are released go into the bloodstream and are then transported around the body, to be stored in the liver and muscles. This is all controlled by a hormone called Insulin. So long as we are ‘normal’ insulin balances sugar levels in the body and we don’t have problems. Sadly, a lot of us aren’t normal and experience a variety of problems such as insulin resistance and diabetes. Our bodies suffer from increased blood sugar and insulin levels and this causes weight gain and other symptoms.
By cutting our carb levels drastically we cut our insulin levels and our sugar levels. Obviously our bodies need fuel so they start using the fat we have in the diet (and in our bodies) as fuel instead. This causes us to become ‘fat burning machines and we lose weight and fat. This happens rapidly and very noticeably. The fat in our body and food is converted to ketones (hence ketogenic – literally, making ketones) and these are used as our bodies’ fuel instead of glucose.
How can the keto diet help you to lose weight?
The keto diet works brilliantly well. Not only does it work but it does so more effectively than any other diet, it is not restrictive once you know what you are doing and it is highly sustainable.
I’ll go into the research that backs up these claims as time goes by but I want to keep it simple here. Once you go keto and your insulin levels drop you will lose weight and fat. You will not lose much, if any, lean body mass, especially if you have a weight-training regime. If you do exercise things will go even better.
I’ll be adding recipes and links to other sites where there are great recipes. For the moment think about curries made with ghee, coffee made with with butter and coconut oil, fry-ups and NOT COUNTING CALORIES. Calories are effectively irrelevant to us on keto and you will rapidly see this to be true. I know it sounds stupid but please believe me or give me the benefit of the doubt until you try it and see.
So what can you eat on the keto diet?
As I said earlier, a well-formulated keto diet is about eating a lot of fat, a moderate amount of protein and a little bit of carb. The general percentages of your diet to aim for are:
- 75-80% of calories from fat (or even more),
- 10-15% of calories from protein, and.
- 5-10% of calories from carbs.
A list of foods you can eat as much of as you like;
- Meat – beef, lamb, pork, chicken
- Vegetables that grow above ground – incudingl all of the cabbage family (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts). asparagus, courgettes, aubergines, olives, spinach, mushrooms, cucumber, lettuce, avocado, onions, peppers, tomatoes
- Berries – strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries
- Dairy – full fat milk, cream, butter, cheese, Greek yoghurt
- Drinks – water, coffee, green tea, beef broth
- Nuts – almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, macadamia
These are foods to avoid;
- Sugar – soft drinks, candy, juice, sports drinks, chocolate, cakes, buns, pastries, ice cream
- Breakfast cereals
- Bread and related products (biscuits, crumpets, muffins,cakes) • Rice
- Potatoes and other starchy vegetables
- Beans and legumes
- Most fruit (excluding berries) • Fruit juices
- Flavoured yoghurts
What should I cook with?
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Lard or dripping
What shouldn’t I cook with?
- Vegetable oil
- Seed oils (canola, sunflower, safflower,cottonseed, grape-seed oil etc)
What about alcohol?
When you first go keto you will want to see awesome, rapid results. By not having any alcohol you will speed up your loss and feel amazing more rapidly. Once you are getting where you want to go then the odd glass of red or white wine, or spirits (without sugary mixers) should be OK. I’m afraid that beer is never going to fit in to this lifestyle as it is very high in carbs..