Ketogenic Diet: How Does It Work?

The keto diet is one of the most famous weight-loss diets, and it's become popular in recent years due to its low carb, high fat intake. The ketogenic diet has been shown to be effective for weight loss, but many are skeptical about its long-term effects. 

Ketogenic Diet: How Does It Work?
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This article will explore what the keto diet is, the possible health benefits (and risks), and how it works.

What Is the Keto Diet?

According to, the keto diet is a way of eating that involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake. It is typically used as a short-term diet to help the body transition to using fat as fuel instead of glucose (sugar). This diet feature can help combat insulin resistance, one of the health problems tied to modern diets. 

There are a few different versions of the ketogenic diet, but the one we're going to be focusing on in this article is known as high-fat or "ketogenic" as it relates to nutrition. What this means is that your body will use fat for energy instead of glucose. 

This is exactly the opposite of what many diets are based on, and it's considered a clean-eating diet as opposed to a bad-for-you or abnormal way of eating. 

The main goals of the ketogenic diet are:

1) Allow the body to use fat for fuel, which will help with weight loss.

2) Keep blood sugar levels stable

3) Decrease insulin levels. 

These goals can be accomplished by restricting carbohydrate intake to 20 grams or less per day.

How Does It Work And What Is The Purpose? 

The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that helps to burn more fats and produce ketones in the body. Ketones are a byproduct of fat breakdown due to decreased carbohydrate intake. In other words, when you stop eating carbs, the liver produces ketones instead of using them to produce glucose for energy. 

The primary goal of this diet is to enter into or stay in a state known as "ketosis." This means having elevated levels of beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) in your blood. Ketosis occurs when the body does not eat enough food for conversion into glycogen and glucose due to carbohydrate restrictions. 

As a result, fat is used for energy instead. The liver takes fats and converts them into BHB for burning. A diet that is high in fat and low in carbohydrates will naturally lead to ketosis since there are not enough carbs for the body to convert into glycogen and glucose. 

Fats are the largest source of energy in the body. They also take less time to digest compared with carbohydrates, which means they are released quickly into your bloodstream for use as fuel. 

Carbohydrates, on the other hand, will take more time to break down into glucose, and they tend to have a larger impact on blood sugar compared with fats. When carbs are eaten, you might experience blood sugar spikes followed by crashes due to insulin spikes, enabling faster carbohydrate breakdown.

How Many Carbs Are You Allowed To Eat?

On a ketogenic diet, carbs are typically limited to 20-50 grams. This is a very low amount of carbs. Carbs are usually your body's preferred and most readily available form of fuel, so without them, your body will start breaking down other sources of energy to use. 

The main benefit of "ketosis" on a ketogenic diet is that it helps you burn fat instead of carbohydrates. Glycogen, sugar, and fat are the three sources that your body uses to create the fuel it needs.

What Can You Eat On Keto?

That is one of the most frequently asked questions from those considering the ketogenic diet. The answer, at least for beginners, is simple: fat. 

Fat will make up between 70-90% of your total daily caloric intake. Protein will take the remainder, while carbs are deliberately kept to a bare minimum. 

Keto-friendly foods include leafy greens, nuts, meat, eggs, full-fat dairy, avocados, and olive oil. 

You've probably heard that obesity rates have skyrocketed in recent years -- some estimates put it at over 60% of adults in the US alone. This is due to an increase in sugar intake and a lack of physical activity due to technological advancements that have made everything more convenient but less active.

What You Can't Eat On Keto

You can't eat foods like bread, cereals, pasta, and rice on the keto diet. You can eat butter, meats, poultry, and low-carb vegetables in moderation. You're not allowed to eat any fruit. Bear in mind, this diet is designed for people who want to lose weight, so you'll have to be conscious of the calories you consume and watch out for hidden carbs. 

Some low-carb breakfasts are hard-boiled eggs with avocado, bacon, or sausage; breakfast burrito with cheese and salsa; 2-3 scrambled eggs mixed with salsa for breakfast tacos (add avocado if desired); bacon, sausage, or ham slices. 

For lunch, you can eat a spinach salad with chicken breast, avocado, and olive oil. This meal is high in protein and healthy fats. For dinner, you can mix together a grilled bison steak with veggies and a keto salad dressing. 

Tasty keto meals require a little bit of thinking but are worth it in the end. If you play around with different ingredients and recipes, you'll be able to find a meal that you enjoy. Reaching a keto weight loss goal takes time, especially if you're not starting from a clean slate. 

Expect to need 2-3 months to reach your optimal weight using this approach. Once you're at your goal weight, it will be easy to maintain your new physique using the tips provided above.

Are There Side Effects?

The ketogenic diet does have side effects, but most of these are mild and temporary, which is why it's such a popular diet choice. It makes weight loss quick and easy, and many people who have tried the keto diet over the past few years swear by it. 

Some ketogenic side effects include an increase in cholesterol, bad breath, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, dry mouth, indigestion, and heartburn. Some people have reported experiencing hair loss during the first few weeks of being on keto. Most of these side effects are temporary and stop within a few days to a few weeks. 

The length of time an individual will feel like this depends upon the person and their previous diet. 4-6 weeks is really where you hit the sweet spot on the diet and will continue on from there. That's when the changes start to become really apparent to people, and you're on a natural high.

What Are The Health Benefits?

Ketogenic diet benefits include weight loss, improved mood, reduced inflammation and pain levels, improved athletic performance, and more. The diet has quickly become a popular and effective way to lose weight and improve health. How effective is it? A meta-analysis of 13 studies involving 1,876 participants who followed a Ketogenic diet for six months on average found that more than half lost between 5-10% of their body weight, and a third lost at least 15 pounds! 

Research also indicates the diet improves the resistance to insulin and blood sugar levels in diabetics. Some studies show that the ketogenic diet may help treat Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cancer, and other diseases.

If your main goal is weight loss, then sticking within the keto guidelines is a must. You also need to aim to be in a caloric deficit because if you're eating the right foods but in the wrong quantities, you'll still gain weight. 

The keto diet will take willpower to adjust to initially, so make sure that this is something you want to do before starting. Once you get in the groove, though, the weight is consistently falling off each week as you adjust your calories downward over time. 

There's plenty of great-tasting food so that you don't feel restricted on the diet. Think about your goals, and make sure you stay consistent!

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