A word that’s becoming very popular when talking about diet and exercise is ketogenic, or ‘keto’ for short, with more and more people adopting this way of eating to improve their health and wellbeing. You may have also heard it called the ‘low-carb, high fat’ diet.
No matter what your fitness goal, keto offers some fantastic health benefits making it suitable for almost everyone. But to help you decide whether you should try it, here’s our beginner’s guide to help you better understand what exactly ‘doing keto’ is.
What is keto?
When you follow a ketogenic diet, you reduce the amount of carbohydrates and replace them with fat. This carb reduction puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. Your blood sugar levels get lower and your liver turns fat into something called ketones.
During this process, you become very efficient at converting fuel into energy, shifting the body’s metabolism away from carbs and towards fat and ketones.
But wait, won’t high fat foods make me fat?
Well, not necessarily. Regularly consuming too many calories makes you gain weight, no matter what that food consists of. So, it’s possible to gain weight eating only broccoli… though you’d have to eat 10kg of it per day!
Outside of overeating, the main reasons people gain weight are because they regularly eat high-GI carbohydrates such as white bread and crisps, or consume sugary, calorie-dense foods like sweets and chocolate.
Switching the type of fuel your body burns is designed to reduce insulin levels and increase fat burn. Making your body run almost entirely on fat helps make your fat stores more easily accessible and therefore easier to burn off. The only part of the body that still requires glucose is your brain. In a ketosis state, your brain will use a combination of ketones (produced in the liver from fat) and glucose (either from the small concentration of your diet that is carbs, or by metabolising proteins via a process known as gluconeogenesis).
Types of ketogenic diet
There’re several different types of keto diet, but the two main ones are:
- Standard: Low-carb, moderate-protein, high-fat. You should aim to divide your daily calorie intake into 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs.
- High-protein: Like above, but with slightly higher protein levels. The calorie ratio would be 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.
This is how you should divide up your diet when following a standard keto meal plan -
Keto diet plan meal ideas
Here's some quick healthy meals when following a keto nutrition plan:
Breakfast: Cheesy mushroom omelette
Lunch: Poached salmon with steamed greens
Dinner: Creamy chicken casserole
Snacks: Guacamole; canned tuna
Breakfast: 2 poached eggs with sauteed spinach
Lunch: Bell-pepper stuffed with cheese
Dinner: Meatballs served with courgetti (spiralised courgette) and parmesan cheese
Snacks: Peanut butter and celery sticks; kale crisps
Is keto suitable for everybody?
Outside of people with long-term conditions, keto dieting has been shown to be beneficial in all kinds of people. And we’ll get onto those benefits in a bit…
If you do suffer from a long-term medical condition, you should always consult your GP before embarking on a low-carb lifestyle, especially one as extreme as a ketogenic diet. Book an appointment with your doctor to discuss starting a new diet.
- For people with type 2 diabetes, this diet can help control high blood sugar levels, especially if all you take is Metformin. However, insulin-dependent diabetics may need to alter insulin dosages when carbohydrate intake is lowered so much.
- Taking medication for high blood pressure and using a low-carb diet can put you at risk of low blood pressure within a matter of days, so consulting your GP in how to manage this would be wise before starting.
- Athletes, bodybuilders, or anyone wishing to add a lot of muscle or weight to their body might not find the keto diet very suitable.
- DNA impact – Dependent on your genetics, it’s possible that you metabolise carbs and fats well or not so well. For example, if you metabolise monounsaturated fats well and carbs not so quickly, then you’re likely to be suited to a more keto style diet. Alternatively, a better metabolism of carbs but not fats could make you less suited to keto. Find out how well you’re likely to metabolise both of these with an Evergreen Life DNA Test.
5 benefits of a keto diet
- Shed the pounds
Cutting carbs is a great weight loss strategy. Studies show that keto diets help people lose weight faster than low-fat diets. This is because low-carb diets tend to eliminate excess water from the body. As your insulin levels go down, your kidneys start getting rid of excess sodium which leads to rapid weight loss. But after 6 months on a keto diet, the weight can start creeping back on as people revert to their old ways of eating. But don’t give up – it’s better to think of it as a healthy eating lifestyle so you can stick to it long-term.
- Beat the belly bulge
You may have heard that not all fat is the same. Something that’s particularly harmful is something called visceral fat – that’s the stuff stored around your abdomen that can lead to high inflammation levels as it’s lodged around your vital organs. But ketogenic diets are found to burn visceral fat better than other ways of eating.
- Improve those health stats
Keto diets have been shown to raise ‘good’ cholesterol, balance blood sugar levels and lower blood pressure readings.
- Exercise like a boss
In a study into the effects of carb intake on exercise, those on a ketogenic diet tended to have ‘extremely high levels of fat oxidation’ during marathon running. …In simpler terms, they were fat-burning machines and showed no more fatigue than runners on high-carb diets.
- Soothe your digestion
Some aspects of the keto diet can promote good gut health, like the elimination of processed carbs. Just make sure you’re adding enough fibre to keep your digestion healthy – about 30g per day is enough for most of us.
How do you know you’re in ketosis?
To make sure that the diet you’re following is having the right effect on your body (sending you into ketosis), you can purchase testing kits such as urine strips, breath analysers and blood tests.
These tests can give you an exact reading. However, there are some signs of being in ketosis that you can use as a guideline:
- Increased urination can occur in the early stages
- Increased thirst
- A fruity taste in the mouth
Take control while doing keto
Alongside monitoring whether you are in fact in ‘keto,’ Personal Trainer Matt Jolley advises to keep track of a few things while you’re using this new method of dieting. He says that “measuring your weight, body fat percentage, waist measurement, blood pressure and blood glucose would give you an all-round view of the major changes that keto is having on your body.”
You can keep track of all of these in the health and fitness monitor within the Evergreen Life app.
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