INTRODUCTION OF KETOGENIC DIET?
The ketogenic diet is a special high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that helps to control seizures in some people with epilepsy. It is prescribed by a physician and carefully monitored by a dietitian. It is stricter than the modified Atkins diet, requiring careful measurements of calories, fluids, and proteins.
The name ketogenic means that it produces ketones in the body (keto = ketone, genic = producing). Ketones are formed when the body uses fat for its source of energy.
Usually the body uses carbohydrates (such as sugar, bread, pasta) for its fuel, but because the ketogenic diet is very low in carbohydrates, fats become the primary fuel instead.
Ketones are not dangerous. They can be detected in the urine, blood, and breath. Ketones are one of the more likely mechanisms of action of the diet; with higher ketone levels often leading to improved seizure control. However, there are many other theories for why the diet will work.
KETOGENIC DIETS: BEST WEIGHT LOSS PROGRAM
MY KETO PLAN
The best weight loss program for most people is one which they can maintain long term, and which addresses the root cause of the weight gain. This is where a ketogenic diet is most helpful. The diet addresses, and in most cases, fixes the underlying cause of weight gain: a hormonal imbalance.
Notice that I did NOT say that people gain weight because they don’t exercise and they eat too much. Instead, the lack of energy to exercise and overeating are symptoms of an underlying hormonal imbalance in the way the body uses insulin.
In other words, if your hormones, and specifically your blood sugar and insulin, are out of whack, you will be more likely to experience extreme hunger and overeat. You’ll gain weight, and energy levels will be lower, which will make exercising seem more of a chore.
As the ongoing arguments in the various “best weight loss program” camps can attest, yes, other factors are involved, but the primary fat storage hormone in the body is insulin, and I think it’s the best place to start to address a weight problem.
To put it simply, the best weight loss program is one that manages insulin. Let’s see how insulin works and why it’s so important to control it.
PROS OF KETOSIS
The immediately obvious pro of ketosis is improved fat loss. What better way to sculpt that fat from your body than to burn it off as energy? To do this, you have to eat fewer calories than you need for energy. You don’t have to eat a super-low calorie diet, either. Fasting, either a prolonged fasting in the morning (say, from midnight until noon) can really kick-start that ketosis. Here is more information on intermittent fasting.
When you combine ketosis with an exercise program, you’ll probably notice an even greater fat-loss.
So we’ve covered the fat-loss benefit, but did you know that there are medical reasons for going into and staying in ketosis? One of them is epilepsy management, and one is for cancer treatment.
- CONS OF KETOSIS
The major problem with ketosis is that some people don’t believe that high-level athletes can get enough energy from being in ketosis. These are people with high-energy jobs who also work out, or those who work out a lot, or those who are high-level athletes.
A second downfall to ketosis is that it is a very restrictive way to eat and a lot of people have trouble adhering to the diet. Social functions, outings, and trying to find appropriate foods at restaurants all work against someone who is on a ketogenic diet.
Also, a long-term, low-carb diet may damage the metabolism, particularly when combined with a low calorie diet and excessive cardio exercise.
- CARBOHYDRATES, PROTEIN, AND INSULIN
Carbohydrates create anabolism largely by setting off a cascade of hormone-driven events. (Just so we’re clear, you also get an insulin response from protein as well.) Chief among these events is secretion of a hormone called insulin from the pancreas. Many people realize that insulin regulates blood glucose levels, but insulin is not a one-trick pony.
It is so multifunctional that many experts believe it to be absolutely integral to muscle synthesis—among other things. For example, one of insulin’s many roles is driving amino acid uptake; in other words, it gets amino acids out of your bloodstream and into your muscles.
Thus, carbohydrates and the ensuing insulin response obviously have a great deal to do with muscle growth.
- CARBOHYDRATES AND PROTEIN SYNTHESIS
When looking specifically at protein synthesis, carbohydrates are not required. Leucine—found in egg yolks, for example—is an essential amino acid and is the primary driver of protein synthesis. That means protein synthesis can occur in the absence of carbohydrates1-3.
First off, anabolism is often incorrectly used as a synonym for muscle protein synthesis. I encourage you to take a broader view of anabolism beyond the mere combination of amino acids for building muscular tissue.
Anabolism encompasses the entire physiological process that supports muscle building! In that sense, yes, insulin is most definitely anabolic.
SIDE EFFECTS OF KETO DIET
- Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)
If you’ve been eating a higher carb diet, your body is used to putting out a certain amount of insulin to take care of the sugar which gets created from all that carbohydrate intake. When you suddenly drop your carb intake on a ketogenic diet plan, you may have some transient low blood sugar episodes that will feel very scary. See my reactive hypoglycemia page for more information on the symptoms, and what to do.
While your body is adapting to ketosis, headaches can manifest for various reasons. You may also feel a little lightheaded, and may experience some flu-like symptoms for a few days. In my experience, it’s usually a mineral issue. To see if it’s sodium loss, try putting a quarter teaspoon of salt in a glass of water and drink it. You should feel better in about 20 minutes.
Overall, it’s important at the start of the diet to up your salt and water intake. It will get better after 3-4 days. If it doesn’t, add a little more carb to your daily total. This is one of those low carb diet side effects for which I don’t have a solid explanation, and it seems to vary by person.