The Logic Behind Keto Diet: How It Really Works
Science of Keto Diet
Keto diet or Ketogenic diet is a low carbohydrate, high fat and moderate protein diet that aids in burning fat more effectively. You may wonder how a high fat diet does not make you fat but can help to burn fat better instead. There is a science behind it.
1. The normal human diet – breakdown of carbohydrate
In the normal human diet consisting of moderate to high carbohydrates, these carbohydrates are broken down in our bodies into glucose which goes into our blood stream. Glucose is the simple sugar that is a component of carbohydrates.
When there are high levels of glucose in our blood stream, the pancreas is triggered to release insulin. This is the hormone produced to regulate the amount of glucose in the blood. Insulin causes the glucose to be transported to cells like muscle cells or liver cells so that they can be converted to produce immediate energy. For example, the energy needed to walk up a flight of stairs.
When it is unused and not converted into energy, however, the glucose in your blood is stored in the liver in another form known as glycogen. Because there is limited space to store it there, glucose is also converted to triglycerides in our fat cells and stored there as fat.
2. Breakdown of fatty food
On the other hand, when we eat fatty foods in our diet, the fat is broken down into compounds known as glycerol and fatty acids through the process of lipolysis. These compounds are then converted into triglycerides as well.
These triglycerides travel to our muscles, liver and fat cells to be broken down again into glycerol fatty acids. They are then finally used to produce energy.
3. How does keto diet help?
By practicing keto diet, the state of ketosis is encouraged. Ketosis is a metabolic process that occurs when the body has insufficient glucose to produce energy. The reason for lack of glucose is because of the low carbohydrate content of the Keto diet. Since the body cannot convert glucose to energy, the body burns our stored fats straight away instead in the form of ketones. The liver processes fat into ketones which are basically by-products of the breaking down of fat for energy.
This can happen because in ketosis, the insulin and blood sugar level in your body drops. This enables your fat cells to release the water that they have been retaining. The fat cells are then small enough to enter into your bloodstream and be transported to the liver where they are converted into ketones and burned to be used as energy.
The Keto diet originated as long ago as the 1920s when doctors started to use it to control the seizures and epilepsy that patients faced. It was a nutritional plan for patients to force the body to use fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. The Keto diet is believed to enhance the brain’s ability to withstand metabolic challenges through studies done by the Emory University School of Medicine. It is used as medical treatment for epilepsy but usually only considered when at least two suitable medications have been used on patients but failed to work.
Those practicing moderately low-carb diets typically consume 20-50 grams of carbs a day while those practicing liberal low-carb diets consume 50-100 grams a day. Those practicing the standard Keto low-carb diets, however, only consume less than 20 grams of carbs a day. That is, net carbs. Net carbs are basically total carbs minus the fibre.
Protein levels of the Keto diet are kept low to moderate because excess protein is converted to glucose in the body. This is done through gluconeogenesis – the process where glucose is made out of protein in the liver and kidneys. Hence, the ratio of fats to proteins plus carbohydrates is typically 3:1 to 5:1 in a classic Keto diet.
Some Keto-friendly foods include butter, nuts, chia seeds, leafy vegetables and meat. Foods to avoid during a Keto diet are those high in sugar and starch content like cakes, ice cream, bread and pasta.
Alcohol should also be avoided as many types of alcohol are high in carbohydrates. It also has empty calories. This means that it does not contribute any sort of protein, fibre or nutrients to your diet. In other words, it is simply taking up your carb count without benefiting your diet. Some people still choose to consume alcohol in moderation or with a high fat meal with some protein. However, I would suggest keeping it to minimum.
Myths of Keto Diet
Myth 1: Putting your body into ketoacidosis
One myth about the Keto diet is that it puts your body into ketoacidosis. This is a significantly wrong statement to make. Ketoacidosis is a complication of diabetes due to insufficient insulin in the body when your ketone levels are high at the same time. Undergoing Keto diet does not cause us to go into ketoacidosis, but we enter the process of ketosis as mentioned above. Do not get confused with ketosis and ketoacidosis!
Myth 2: Ketosis is dangerous
Next, ketosis is not dangerous! If you hear about ketosis being dangerous, know that it is a myth. Ketosis is a metabolic shift from the normal way your body works but it is not dangerous just because it is different. In fact, there are benefits that come with ketosis.
One benefit is that ketosis improves brain health as shown by several studies. That is why it is commonly used as treatment for epilepsy. Ketones help to improve brain health through improved mitochondrial functioning. Mitochondria is what produces energy in our cells. Although the body may take time to get used to going into ketosis which results in some side effects when you first start the Keto diet, these side effects are typically short lived and have remedies.
Myth 3: You can eat much fatty food as you like
Another myth about this diet is that since it is a high fat diet, you can eat as much of fatty foods as you wish! As good as that sounds to me, unfortunately that might not be the healthiest way to eat. Although the fat intake for the Keto diet is likely more than your average diet, you should prioritize healthy fat over unhealthy fat. That means focusing more on food high on unsaturated fat such as avocados, flaxseed, eggs and olive oil. Foods high on saturated fat such as bacon and cream should be eaten in moderation.
Some people may also believe that since you are restricting carbohydrates, you can replace all the bread and pasta with a lot of protein like bacon and chicken. Unfortunately, this is a myth and you will need to control your protein intake as well. This is because our liver has the ability to convert protein into glucose when in excess.
This is the process of gluconeogenesis. This is definitely not what you want in a Keto diet because you do not want to hinder the state of ketosis. You also do not want too much protein in your diet which may cause other problems such as allowing bacteria to thrive.
You can check out this video for confirmation on this fact.
Myth 4: Fasting is compulsory
One last myth about Keto diet is that fasting is compulsory. While intermittent fasting is encouraged during the Keto diet, it is not a must. In fact, it is usually only recommended after you have eased into the process of the diet and not straight away when you start. Intermittent fasting is basically a way of eating where you alternate periods of eating and fasting. It comes with its benefits like accelerating the results of weight loss, but it is not a requirement to achieve ketosis.
About The Author
Losing weight has always been a hard thing for me. I would stick to a strict diet, eating as little as I possibly could to only lose a few pounds. Sadly, after a sweet buffet dinner, I would gain all the “lost” weight back. Keto Diet allows me to consistently lose and maintain my weight while enjoying the most fattening food I can possibly imagine. Let me show you how.