Traditionally speaking, the only way to lose weight is through a calorie deficit (less calories in, more calories out). So, what makes the ketogenic diet more effective?
- The Keto Diet is a great way to make sure we consume nutrient dense foods, so we maintain health and energy as we intake less calories.
- High fat and protein consumption helps satiate us more effectively than other traditional dieting methods, and teaching the body to utilise fat as fuel maintains a stable energy level through the day, unlike the ups and downs of carb consumption.
- Ketogenesis is correlated with improved sleep quality – better sleep, less hunger. Better sleep, better workouts.
How does it work?
In essence, the Keto Diet goal is to deplete our body of its glucose and carbs storage, so it will be forced to utilise our own fat stores as fuel – through a process of breaking fat cells down into ketonic bodies in the liver.
We can do that through a prolonged time span of consuming less than 20-60 grams of carbs a day. On the safe side, less than 40 grams of carbs a day (soft option). On the other side, and to quicken the process, less than 20g of carbs a day (harder option).
The process takes about two weeks on average, which are often the hardest to push through: in those two weeks you deplete your body’s glucose and carbohydrate storages, and your body has to “learn” to process its own fat effectively.
The time between those two things usually involves what’s called “the keto flu” – a few days where you can feel low energy and unfocused. During this phase, while we don’t consume carbs, the bacterium that typically process glucose and carbohydrates in the gut will begin to die out. During this process, these bacteria will tend to release hormones that create hunger and more intense cravings for sugar. As soon as they’re removed from your body, the cravings diminish tremendously and only really emerge again as social and habitual cravings, which are much easier to deal with.
The good thing is, after you break through the transition period, you usually experience a surge of energy and feel back on track with a renewed focus.
What foods are Keto-safe?
As we avoid carbs, we need to increase our intake of good fats (unprocessed animal fats mostly) and protein – fat, because our body will use it for fuel, and protein (because protein makes up our bodies’ cellular building blocks, but also because our body can turn it into glucose if it needs it).
Key foods, in order of priority:
- Cheese (the fatter the better)
- Green leaves
- Green vegetables
- Nuts (macadamia is the best)
- Natural oils (olive oil, coconut oil etc.)
Summary: an ideal Keogenic diet regimen consists of eating less than 20g of carbs a day, with a focus on eating animal products and a supplement of greens.
Recommended eating hacks
Confining our eating time to a small window in a day helps to regulate the calories we consume (since it’s harder to overeat in 1 meal than in 3), and it also gives time for the gut to heal between eating periods. It also allows the body to focus on things that are not digestion (so, recovery, healing, repairing any injuries or strains) and creates a more stable basis for your energy level through the day.
The added benefit is that we can schedule our meals alongside our bodies’ natural hormone cycles, which allow us to “hack” the body and funnel its resources in a way that we see fit. We can opt to build more muscle and store less fat – mostly avoiding the high cortisol levels in the morning, which create a stronger insulin response to food).
Intermittent fasting (IF) is usually done by either consuming all your food in an 8 hour window, then fasting for 16 hours, or eating regularly for 5 days, and then eating 2 days with heavy restrictions.
This fasting can also help to speed the process of transitioning into ketosis (which usually takes two weeks) but with intermittent fasting, this can take less than 10 days.
There several ways to break up your usual eating schedule:
- Easy – eat keto-friendly foods regularly, for your usual morning, lunch and dinner times
- Medium – skip breakfast in the morning, eat a late lunch and an early dinner
- Hard – one meal a day (omad), preferably around dinnertime
Tips to help satiate hunger during the fasting period:
- Sparkling water
- Black coffee or tea (no milk)
- Bulletproof coffee (coffee with butter and/or MCT oil)
- Small keto-friendly snacks here and there
Don’t think about your Keto Diet in terms of restriction and what foods you’re cutting out – instead, see it as a way to shift your focus from carb-heavy, highly processed food to food that is nutritious, healthy, and won’t cause intense blood sugar spikes and fatigue on a regular basis. The harder you work following the Keto Diet, the bigger and faster the benefits.