This is a short ‘not-too-technical’ explanation of the keto diet when used for losing weight.
What is the keto diet? Isn’t it that new fad diet?
The keto diet, or ketogenic diet to give it its official title, has been around since the 1920s. So, it’s not new at all. It’s been around all these years, helping kids with epilepsy keep their epilepsy under control. The only ‘new’ thing about the keto diet is that now it’s also used to help those who need to lose weight.
Oh okay! So, what is the keto diet, then?
It’s a high-calorie diet that can help you lose weight and lose it very quickly.
It does so by severely limiting your carbohydrate intake.
But isn’t this just a low carb diet?
Well, yes and then again, no.
Technically, a low carb diet is any diet of less than 150g of carbs per day.
In fact, just eating healthy, unprocessed whole foods such as those of the paleo diet, whole30, and the Mediterranean diet will, more than likely, place you within this low carb range. The result is weight loss.
And how is the keto diet different?
Keto takes this a bit further. It puts your body into ketosis.
Ketosis is a natural metabolic state of the human body. Ketosis happens when your body does not have enough carbohydrates to power it. Without available carbs, your body will turn to another energy source – fat, and turn those fat molecules into ketones. Ketones are an alternative energy source to power your brain and body. In fact, science suggests it’s a far better and more effective source of fuel for you than carbs. When there are lots of ketones in your blood, you are said to be in a state of ketosis.
Most people, when eating 50g or less of carbohydrates, will enter ketosis.
Isn’t this the Atkins’ Diet by another name?
The Atkins’ Diet Revolution, to give it the original title, went mainstream in 1972. Since then, it has been chopped and changed – a lot. Nowadays, there is the Atkins’ New Diet Revolution as well as Atkins 20 and Atkins 40 and also Atkins keto. In fact, there are so many permutations it’s challenging to say.
The most constant difference throughout all the Atkins’ diets and the keto diet is between protein and fat content. For Atkins’ dieters’ protein takes precedence over fat. For keto, protein is moderate, and fat is substantially higher.
Another point of difference is with the allowed proportions. For keto, these remain constant, while throughout the Atkins’ diet, carbohydrates increase gradually over time. In addition, you don’t need to accurately count protein at all. The last, rather glaring difference, which has changed in recent years but still holds for the original 1972 version of the Atkins’ Diet Revolution that this particular website follows, is regarding total carbs versus net carbs. The original version of the Atkins’ diet worked with total carbs, although recent versions have moved to net carbs. Keto has always used net carbs.
People often liken keto to the first phase of the Atkins’ diet, the Induction phase. However, the daily carb allowance of the original Atkins’ diet was far lower even than keto – Atkins’ used the term ‘biologically zero’ carbs.
What are net carbs as opposed to total carbs?
Total carbs are all carbohydrates contained in a food that is starches, fibre and sugars. Net carbs are the total carbohydrates minus the fibre.
Err…Why are we counting them differently?
While fibre is, technically, classed as sugar, the human body does not digest the fibre. Instead, it passes through your gut effectively unused. So, because you don’t absorb it, the evidence says it does not affect weight gain or loss. Taadaa! Free food!
[ Note: In the UK and the rest of Europe, the nutrition label gives the net carbs as carbs and the fibre as fibre. In the USA, carbs are total carbs and then fibre. This means that you must subtract fibre from carbs in the USA to keep a record of your net carbs consumed in a day. For Europe and the UK, you must record the number of carbs as they are written on the nutrition label. ]
So, what do I do for this keto diet thing?
The keto diet requires a ratio of 5-10% net carbs, 10-30% protein and 70-80% fat based on less than 20-30g a day of net carbs. The exact ratios and amounts differ depending upon age, gender, exercise, weight loss required and current weight.
[ Note: The actual ratios of the medical ketogenic diet used for epileptic children are much more precise and much more rigid. Absolutely, and under no circumstances ever, should a medically required ketogenic diet for this purpose be done without medical supervision. This website, I Recommend This, is for generalised adult health and dieting only. Those requiring specialised advice are best consulting their doctor.]
How do I get into ketosis?
First, you need to drastically cut your daily carb consumption. This will force your body to then turn to its glycogen storage. When your glycogen store is finally empty, your body will raid your fat stores and break down the fat into ketones. Then, these ketones are used for energy.
So, why don’t I eat lots of protein instead of fat and carbs?
If you eat more protein than your body needs, it turns the excess into glucose. It’s called gluconeogenesis. And, it’s the last thing we want. Glucose, as we already know, is the weight loss enemy. Essentially more protein than your body really needs means no weight loss. Solution? Reduce your protein intake to the amount your body actually needs – simples!
Should I go without protein then?
Absolutely not! Protein is super important for your body to function. You need it. You just don’t need more than you need.
How do I know if the keto diet is for me?
The keto diet is strict. If you waiver or deviate even a little, then you’re sunk. Not only will you not lose any weight, but you might well gain some.
Ask yourself some hard questions before you start, and be honest with yourself.
Do you need the odd cheat food as a reward? Try the paleo diet.
Is everything good, but you need to be a bit careful? Try paleo-ish, a paleo diet template.
Are you dieting because of digestive problems rather than weight issues? Try the whole30 diet.
Do you tend to start off strong on a diet but lose focus as time goes? Then, try the Atkins’ Diet.
- Are you all or nothing?
- Can you dedicate yourself to your diet, including the weighing, measuring and calculating, if you know you will see an end result?
- Have you previously only failed because you got hungry?
- Do you want results and want them quickly?
If so, then keto is probably the diet for you.
There is no right or wrong here. Think carefully and be honest about what you can stick with. Only you can decide.