What is a ketogenic diet?
- A carb restricted diet that uses fat as energy versus carbohydrates. When we severely restrict carbs the body starts producing ketones. When carbs are restricted the liver is forced to utilize fats and creates ketone bodies as byproducts to provide the body fuel. Approximately 50% of the fuel the body produces is used by our brain. The brain relies on glucose for its energy needs derived from carbs or protein. In the absence of glucose the brain begins to utilize ketones and over time will become ketone adapted.
What are ketone bodies?
The three ketone bodies are:
- Acetoacetate (AcAc)
- Hydroxybutyric acid (BHB)
How does the ketogenic diet burn body fat?
- Keto burns body fat because of the carb restriction. The drop in insulin and a rise in ketone bodies leads to fat loss. I have not found any empirical scientific evidence the proves this claim but there is a vast amount of anecdotal evidence that supports it. There is typically no difference in fat loss between keto and other diets as long as calories are matched and simple sugars are restricted.
- The research evidence of all diets seem to overlook the impact of insulin on body fat reduction. Insulin is mentioned but fails to establish the direct link between body fat reduction and insulin levels.
- The keto diet reduces insulin production and are effective in overcoming insulin resistance. Insulin resistance has been linked to fat storage.
- Keto diets are popular by many endurance athletes. Endurance athletes regularly face glucose depletion and ALL loss of energy. We have an almost unlimited of supply of fat stores to access which is beneficial to endurance athletes.
Does a ketogenic diet burn more fat than other traditional calorie restictive diets?
- Yes. The Keto diet leads to superior fat oxidation due to fat adaptation. The body needs energy and will adapt it’s metabolism based on the foods we consume. This does not mean more fat oxidation leads to actual fat loss. A direct correlation between fat oxidation and fat reduction has not been proved. The insulin connection is still missing from all the studies that I have read.
- Anecdotal evidence supports the claim of body fat reduction, increased insulin sensitivity, increased energy, and increased stamina.
Who is the ketogenic diet good for?
- No matter your personal opinion the ketogenic diet is a good choice for losing body fat. It is not about being the best choice because all diets have advantages and disadvantages and every individual is different. One of the diet’s advantages is that it’s very simple and offers a good selection of food choices - limit carbs and eat foods rich in fat and protein.
- Individuals who have trouble counting calories can see a body fat reduction if they lead an active lifestyle and avoid simple carbohydrates. Focus carb intake to green vegetables. Green vegetables are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, filling and are mostly very low in calories.
- Endurance athletes who may suffer from glucose depletion on a regular basis.
Should certain individuals reconsider a ketogenic diet?
- Every person should be careful when on a keto diet. Athletes are particularly at risk because there is an adaption period which can cause low energy levels and can cause performance to drop. Performance recovers over time and energy levels are restored.
- The research is mixed but several studies suggest that keto is not a good choice to other diets in maximizing strength, speed, and anaerobic performance.
- Anybody with a health issue should consult a doctor before starting any diet.
Is a ketongenic diet recommended for a bodybuilder?
- From an opinion standpoint it is a very effective diet for the beginning or intermediate bodybuilder who carries extra body fat. Most individuals carry 15-20+% body fat which is much higher than is required to compete or achieve that chiseled look.
- Advanced bodybuilders can use a ketogenic diet short term to quickly shed those last few pounds of body fat.
- There is a risk of losing lean muscle mass if not done properly. Even when done properly some loss of mass can be expected for most individuals.
- Enhanced individuals have an advantage on a ketogenic diet that the average person does not which reduces the risk of lean mass loss.
- It is critical to get enough protein and perform strength training on a regular basis.
- The ketogenic diet depletes muscle cell water and glucose storage. This depletion has a negative effect on body weight, muscle size and wet mass.
- I have found no scientific studies posted in the use of ketogenic diets for bodybuilders. And certainly not one that includes enhanced athletes.
What foods are keto friendly?
- Total daily carb intake determines if you are in ketosis and will remain in ketosis. Typically the average person should limit carb intake to 50g per day.
- Foods that are low in carbs, such as vegetables and meat, can be considered ketogenic but these foods will not create ketosis by themselves. Neither will eating a lot of fats initiate ketosis.
- When talking about ketosis it is helpful to look at that diet as a whole instead of the individual parts because no single food will cause ketosis. It is the absence of the macro nutrient carbohydrates that initiates and sustains ketosis.
- With the ketogenic diet, foods that contain large amounts of carbs should be avoided. I would say “limited” but success is increased if these foods are simply avoided. Many people are sugar addicted and just like any addict you wouldn’t tempt the addict with just a taste.
What is the difference between ketone production and ketone adapted?
- Ketone production is the natural response of the liver breaking down fatty acids. The natural process is happening all the time in an otherwise already healthy individual.
- Producing ketones does not necessarily mean you are in ketosis. By definition, to be in ketosis the circulating levels of ketones needs to be in a specific range (0.5mml/dl-5mml/dl) to be the bodies primary use for energy. Don’t worry about the range. We can’t measure ketosis accurately without blood testing.
- Ketone adapted means your are in ketosis and using ketones as the brains primary sources of fuel.
- In the absence of glucose/glycogen muscle will use ketones as fuel. As ketone levels increase the muscle will switch to fatty acids for fuel.
- On the other side, the brain uses ketones in proportion to the level of circulating ketones in the bloodstream. The less ketones the muscle uses for fuel the more circulating ketones that are available to fuel the brain.
- Once the muscles primary source for fuel is fatty acids and the brains primary source of fuel are ketones we become ketone adapted. The process takes time and varies for every individual.
How long is the transition period and what precautions should be taken?
- The transition period varies greatly between individuals and circumstances. Discipline and food avoidance will reduce the adaptation period.
- Transition time can be as short as a few days or as long as 4 weeks.
- Individuals may experience headaches, diarrhea, weakness, and fatigue during the transition period. This is normal and these side effects subside once the body achieves adaptation.
Can you drink alcohol on a ketogenic diet?
- My personal recommendation is to avoid all sugar. Alcohol is sugar.
- Alcohol is a macronutrient with seven calories per gram.
- Beer - barley, hops, water and yeast. Can you say liquid bread?
- Wine - will knock many individuals out of ketosis in small quantities.
- Spirits - Do not affect insulin levels and more likely will not affect ketosis as long as there is no use of sugary additives.
What is the recommended diet length for the first time keto dieter?
- For many ketosis is not just a diet but a lifestyle. This lifestyle is developed over time and can take much trial and error.
- For the first time dieter a good starting point is 6-12 weeks with 8 weeks being my recommendation.
What about supplements?
- Maintain your regularly scheduled use of vitamins and minerals.
- Increase water consumption and electrolytes. Keto diets have a dehydrating effect on the body.
- It is important to include a high potency quality vitamin B complex. Vitamin B is mostly associated with carbohydrates. Although there are many ketongenic foods that are rich in B vitamins. B vitamins are anti-stress vitamins and will assist in the transition time as well as to ensure you do not become vitamin B deficient while on the diet.
- Supplement several times a day with branched chain amino acids. BCAA’s make up approximately 33% of muscle proteins. BCAA’s are cheap, excellent anti-catobolics and will assist in preventing protein breakdown and muscle loss. On a reduced calorie diet or calorie deficit BCAA’s are a must due to the risk of muscle mass loss and decreased protein synthesis.
I hope the information is useful and helpful. By no means is this to be considered gospel or all inclusive. If you have any questions please post them and we will learn together to get the most accurate answer.