How the Ketogenic Diet can get you shedding fat and building muscle faster than you knew was possible.
Disclaimer: Always follow the recommendations of your doctor before implementing any new dietary changes.
Many people judge the keto diet. It’s built around tons of fats and almost no carbs – and that doesn’t seem like a very healthy diet. I mean how do people lose weight by devouring bacon and eggs or adding oil and cream to everything?
But surprisingly, the keto diet is one of the fastest way to get into the fat burning stages we all hope for. And even if you love bacon or other delicious fats, this can be a very tricky diet to follow. But if you can successfully commit, you can reap huge fat loss rewards.
What is the ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet is a highly controlled carb diet. There is no room for error and cheat meals come with big side effects. Now we know most diets are low carb, but the keto diet takes this to a different level. It is very low carb and very high fat. But it’s a super successful diet for dropping fat and slimming down.
When you eat carbs, your body turns them into glucose. Insulin then turns the glucose into usable energy. That’s how you function. How you run, train, and survive your draining work days. Through those insulin spikes. [If you want a carb refresher, check out this post here].
The problem is, those insulin spikes give you big problems with your energy levels, your fat burning, and your hormones. And when you eat too many carbs, all of that glucose can’t be used for energy. The extra glucose gets stored in the fat cells.
Tired, cranky, hormonal and fat. Not a good system to live by. Yet that’s the diet most of us follow daily.
The keto diet nixes all the junk. It reduces how many carbs you eat so you don’t have enough glucose in your blood to use for energy.
Now our bodies are used to running on glucose for energy. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you don’t have any glucose for your body to use for energy, your body gets it from another source. And that source is your fat.
Those fat stores can be burned for energy. Instead of your carb feeding glucose. And the ketogenic diet can be your guide into burning that fat.
Isn’t this just another one of those paleo things?
The keto diet is more than just low carb and it’s not the same thing as paleo.
On traditional low carb diets, the only thing you control is your carb intake. And depending on what type of low carb plan you follow, what you eat instead of those carbs changes – low fat, high protein, it just depends on your diet. The keto diet is low carb, but it’s very high fat and moderate protein. And the ratio of carbs to fats to proteins is very specific. Most traditional low-carb diets don’t follow those same guidelines.
And keto is not paleo. The general goal of the paleo diet is to make nutritional choices based on evolutionary history – you know, eat what your cavemen ancestors ate. But paleo does include carbs, like fruits or sweet potatoes. So paleo does not necessarily mean low carb, but it could if you wanted. It’s more of a set of guidelines on what types of foods you should eat. The keto diet is a very controlled diet – keeping a very specific ratio of fat to carbs to protein.
So keto is low carb. It has a controlled ratio of carbs, proteins and fats. But what is it exactly?
The ketogenic diet is high in fat, moderate protein and low in carbohydrates. The ratio is very specific depending on your diet and your personal numbers, but this combination changes the way energy is used in the body. Because you’re no longer using glucose for energy, your body takes fat and converts to fatty acids and ketones (the by products of burning fat).
And that is exactly what we want – to be burning our fat for energy.
Let’s say you are a fancy-pancy car. And you are supposed to use the premium gasoline (because you cost a pretty penny, so will your fuel). But you accidentally put a lower grade of gas into the car. Now it would probably run, it could get you from point A to B, but not very fast or efficiently. And by the time you get to point B, your engine is not looking too hot.
That low-grade fuel is your glucose – all those carbs you’ve been living off for energy. It can get you through your day. It can get you through your workout. But it will also leave you looking a little rough… with a few sugar spikes, a few extra stores of fat, and a little extra jiggle.
Now, if you switch your fuel to fat, the premium grade you were designed to run on, you could have a seamless drive to whatever beautiful beach you are cruisin’ to. Wind blowing in your hair, a lil’ John Legend bumpin, taking in the delicious sights and sounds around you.
That’s what fat as fuel does. Drives you efficiently and smoothly.
So once your body makes the change into burning fat instead of glucose, we say you’re in ketosis. But ketosis isn’t always easy to reach. For some people, it can be as quick as a few days. Other folks may spend weeks following the strict diet and barely get into ketosis.
It’s just dependent upon your body and your diet and how the two mix. But as soon as you have a cheat meal or eat outside of your ratio, you’re going to kick your body out of ketosis and have to stat the process over of getting back into it. It’s a very tricky and sensitive diet.
But it can be awesome for losing fat once your find what works for you!
But what about your brain?
Now some folks will say that you have to eat carbs for brain function. And it’s true that some parts of your brain need glucose to function. But actually, your body can turn ketones (one of the byproducts of burning fat) into glucose for those specific parts of the brain (that process is called gluconeogenesis).
You don’t have to eat carbs to fuel your brain. And researchers actually show that your brain functions better on ketones than it does on glucose! Not only do those ketones improve the processes your brain uses to make energy, but ketones help you make more energy!
And your brain is an energy sucker. So yes, you want energy for your body and your workouts, but your brain needs lots of energy too.
So of course you want a smooth and productive energy source for that noggin’.
And to add some cherries on top, ketones even improve your cognition and brain function, protect against memory loss and give you mental clarity. That’s right folks, the researchers studied it all and still came to the conclusion that ketones are better for your brain.
Okay, so your brain loves ketones. But what about your muscles?
Don’t you need glucose to build up big muscles?
When the keto diet was first developed, it was to treat pediatric seizures. So we know it impacts your brain.
But after some time, researchers realized the huge health benefits and started testing it for how it helps the average Joe Schmo.
Now we know it burns fat like crazy and improves your brain function and energy. But what about your muscles?
Can you build muscle or bulk up without glucose and glycogen stores?
The reviews on this are a bit mixed because there are only a handful of real, scientific studies. Most of the evidence is just personal case studies and experiences. But here’s the general consensus.
As long as you still eat an adequate amount of food for your body, you have natural protectants against losing muscle mass. Now I know, “not losing muscle” isn’t the same thing as building it. But it’s good to know that you aren’t going to wither away your strength with the keto diet. And this has been studied.
So can you build muscle?
It seems like yes. Remember, there’s not much research out there. And most of that research has been done in animals since our ethical guidelines don’t want us tinkering with human subjects. So from that research, it appears like you [don’t need carbs for protein synthesis to occur] (what we need to grow our bad boy muscles). So even though most people claim you need glycogen stores to activate your muscle growth, in the absence of that glycogen, you might still be able to gain muscle.
Okay, so I won’t lose muscle, and if the rats are right, I might be able to gain muscle. But what does that mean for my workouts?
Let’s cut to the chase:
- Does ketosis enhance aerobic capacity? Most likely
- Does ketosis enhance anaerobic power? Probably not but it also doesn’t hurt it.
- Does ketosis enhance muscular strength? Probably not, but maybe
- Does ketosis enhance muscular endurance? It sure seems likely
Now these Magic 8 Ball –esk answers don’t seem very helpful. The problem is research on these topics are few and far between, but each study also only attacks a small pieces of the puzzle.
But overall, nutritional ketosis may increase your muscle efficiency, but does that lead to bigger or stronger muscles? Who knows? Certainly not any researchers. Yet.
There are plenty of case studies for advocates of a timed keto diet that claim they experience muscle gains. That means staying within your keto carb restrictions, but timing the food to coordinate with your workouts.
The takeaway muscle building point: It’s unknown if keto can help you increase your muscle. It can decrease your fat and increase your muscle efficiency, but it’s probably a slow muscle gaining road for keto bulkers.
But we do know it turns you into a fat burning machine. Research has shown that.
So what does a fat burning machine eat?
Bacon and eggs? Yep.
Steak and chicken? Yep.
Coconut oil and nuts? Yep and yep.
Ketoers eat proteins, the lean and fatty cuts, lots of vegetables and a butt ton of healthy fats.
That means add some extra servings of bacon to my eggs, please.
What is nixed from this diet is anything that your low-grade fuel needed: breads, pastas, rice, cereal, sugars.
Because even though those sound delicious, and sometimes seem healthy, they spike your insulin and increase your fat stores. The opposite of what we want.
Keto is your new best friend. And Keto wants to get you shredded. And keep you happy. I mean, who can’t be happy eating steak, bacon, and guacamole everyday?
Because people in ketosis get all the perks:
1. High Energy: Burning fat is a more reliable and consistent energy source than glucose. So no more hitting the snooze or an afternoon energy lull.
2. Fat Loss: Whoa, that’s a big one. Being a fat burning machine gets you shredded.
3. Stable Blood Sugar: Way fewer carbs means lower glucose and no insulin spikes. Sugar stability sure sounds like a good thing. Even the researchers agree.
4. Satiety: Remember how traditional dieters tell you that fat and protein together keeps you fuller for longer. Well that’s true. So imagine a diet of mostly fat and protein. Cravings or hunger pangs are nowhere in sight.
5. Lower Cholesterol: Despite what claims were made in the past, a high fat diet actually improves your arteries!
6. Clear Skin: Keto even brings out your beautiful, glowing and clear skin. Goodbye acne.
7. Less Inflammation: Cutting out the carbs reduces the swelling around your joints. That means more flexibility and mobility and less pain and aches.
8. And the keto diet seems to protect against many disease or cancers.
Lots of perks for the ketoers.
Okkkkaayyyy… I might want to try out this keto-ness.
So how do I follow the ketogenic diet?
Now remember, what works for your neighbor might not work exactly the same for you.
But for most people, you can start producing ketones by eating between 20 and 50 grams of carbs per day. Now, you might be someone who needs less than 10 grams per day or you might only need less than 100 each day. It just depends on your body.
But as a general rule, 20-50 grams is a good starting point for making ketones. But you have to stay committed to your numbers. As soon as you go over your carb threshold, you kick your body out of ketosis which stops the fat burning.
Here’s what a diet looks like:
Not very many carbs at all. AND keep in mind that veggies are carbs. And of course you need your veggies. Which means that 5% of your food should come from low carb veggies like broccoli or spinach.
And 25% protein isn’t that much either. Protein is important to monitor within the keto diet because eating too many carbs OR too much protein can kick you out of ketosis.
The head honcho in this diet is the fat.
After following your macros for 3-4 days, your liver will start producing those fat burning ketones.
And after about 3 weeks of commitment, depending on your diet, you should start becoming keto adapted.
Once you hit this stage, your body starts preferring the premium fuel for energy. Your hormones change, you carry less water weight, and your entire metabolism shifts.
That means you are a machine. The fat burning machine.
But how do I know when I hit ketosis?
Now, some people just want to see the fat dropping, their energy increasing, skin clearing up and notice the brain clarity. So feel free to give yourself a few timed math tests and see if you improve.
But if you want to officially know if you are in ketosis, you can buy ketone test strips. You pee on these and compare them against a color chart. That chart will tell you what stage of ketosis you are in.
Now, ketones in your urine are not always the same as the ketones in your blood. Because your levels of hydration could change your urine ketone numbers.
So if you want to be super accurate, go get a blood test. But for most people, the pee strips are fine.
Now, let me give you a few warnings before you try this diet. It’s incredibly successful, but like all good things in life, it takes a little work.
Your body is used to using carbs. It has to learn how to walk again when the carbs are cut out!
So the first few days you might feel the keto-flu.
Some headaches, fogginess, agitation. It’s like PMS for everyone. But it’s just your body learning how to use ketones instead of glucose. To use fat rather than carbs.
But don’t jump ship when this hits.
Once you surpass those first few days, your body learns how to run on the new, premium fuel source.
And then you hit the shift into adaption. Into fat burning. And into shreddedness.
Now, if this diet works so great, why are there so many naysayers?
The standard American diet is built around grains. Because our economy is built around agriculture (which is a whole other topic…). What is best for our economy is not best for your body.
But there are plenty of people that don’t read the nerdy science journals. They don’t keep up with the facts. And they only rely on information from decades old textbooks or folks only looking out for agriculture’s bottom line (hint, hint: quit following the food pyramid).
And that junk info tells you that high fat diets are bad. And that you need carbs. But research shows you don’t. Research shows that a low carb, high fat diet is a more efficient fuel source and a more efficient method for getting that lean and strong body you want.
But since many folks don’t understand this diet, there are plenty of silly statements out there that might make you think the keto isn’t healthy.
Silly Statement #1: But your body needs carbs.
Your body runs more efficiently on burning fat than carbs. And yes, there are some parts of the brain that require glucose to function. But your body can actually turn that protein into glucose to fuel that specific part of your brain. So your body needs fat to survive. And your body needs protein to survive. What it does not require are carbs.
Silly Statement #2: There are better ways to lose weight.
Sure, there are plenty of other ways to lose weight (start starving yourself or cut off a limb). What we are after is losing fat. Shedding that muffin top, beer belly and cottage-cheesiness. And so no, there isn’t a better way to lose fat than by burning it.
Silly Statement #3: Eating all of that fat will kill you.
Sorry Charlie, wrong again. High fat diets actually lower your cholesterol and protect your arteries. So no, heart attacks and clogged arteries aren’t the result of too much coconut oil, almonds, or avocado.
Silly Statement #4: But I read this thing, awhile ago, from some blog…
Let me stop you there, if you want to challenge the healthiness of the ketogenic diet, look for real facts. And you don’t have to trust this blog, you can find some scientific journals to back up your claims.
Silly Statement #5: People can die from being in ketosis.
Now this is one where even doctors get confused. Because they assume nutritional ketosis (your keto diet) is the same thing as diabetic ketoacidosis.
A person that has diabetes doesn’t produce enough insulin to use their glucose for energy. They could have plenty of glucose, but they can’t convert it without insulin. And if they go without insulin for too long, their body assumes there isn’t any usable glucose and starts making ketones. Now in a person with diabetes, once they start producing ketones, their body produces them on overdrive. And that ketone overdrive could put them in metabolic derangement and a critically ill spot. But this only happens because they have a hormonal deficiency.
For any person that can produce insulin, a non-diabetic, this ketone overdrive doesn’t happen. You have natural protectants against ketone overdrive. So for any average Joe Schmo, no, your keto diet is not deadly. Of course, if you have any insulin, diabetes, or health concerns, you always need to listen to your doctor.
But don’t assume that ketosis is dangerous.
Now I know, the ketogenic diet isn’t for everyone. Your body might need something different.
If you want to try the keto diet for yourself to see how your body responds, there are plenty of great resources out there from the researchers and scientists that invented and study this diet.
Or if you just want a diet based around bacon, have at it.