Ketones, the ketogenic diet, and anabolic fasting are all terms tossed around intermittently to explain some truly complicated biological processes. Ketosis and the ketogenic diet specifically are also mentioned often as a means to promote weight loss and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
To the uninitiated, many of these terms can be virtually indistinguishable from each other, and in many ways, confuse others.
Ketogenic diets are high in proteins and fat, and despite all of that fat intake, people seem to continue to lose weight while sticking to the diet. Why is that?
We’ll be taking a look at the vital role ketones play in the ketogenic diet, weight loss, and what you need to know about safely embarking on a journey with ketosis.
Ketones & Ketosis
The value of ketones comes far more from starvation and survival than weight loss.
According to the National Institutes of Health, we know that the body functions on carbohydrates and glucose to survive. Food eaten is broken down into simple sugars, and the basic components are used to power the body.
When the body is starving and needs energy, but no food can be found in the stomach, the liver begins to take action and work with fatty acids within the system to produce byproduct referred to as a ketone.
During this stage of starvation, the body begins to enter a state of fasting and utilizes ketones as the primary source of energy for the body instead of carbohydrates and glucose. Ketones are also naturally a byproduct of the body utilizing fat cells for energy.
When the body is solely or mostly reliant on ketones for energy, the body is said to be in a state of ketosis. This state is different than pure starvation, as the body can still consume and process food and remain in the state. This state can be accomplished with or without anabolic fasting—a similar concept in which the body is starved of carbohydrates.
Those who want to embark on the ketogenic diet are doing so to help incite weight loss. Special “keto-friendly” foods are eaten and recommended for their low values in sugars and carbohydrates. Over time, this constant deprivation of glucose in the body will trigger ketosis, and while on ketosis, the body will more easily burn fat cells.
To put it another way, when you eat regular meals, your body must first break down the glucose and carbohydrates within it and completely process them before turning to fat cells for energy. While on ketosis, your body can immediately turn to fat cells, because in a way, it is already starved for energy.
There’s a certain level of madness in the method of the ketogenic diet. Specific foods are picked out to keep the body in a state that is arguably designed for starvation. Because of this, people who first embark on the diet will experience symptoms of starvation, such as fatigue, headaches, increased lethargy, and others.
This is all commonly referred to in the keto community as “keto flu,” and dissipates once the body has adjusted to its new state.
Ketosis & General Health
All of this talk of starvation is bound to make a few a bit antsy to embark on the ketogenic diet, but rest assured, the state of ketosis as described by the ketogenic diet is not dangerous. In fact, this state has been shown to produce several side effects that are as good, if not better than weight loss.
For those with diabetes, blood sugar level monitoring is an important aspect of daily life. Glucose fluctuations in a body that cannot produce insulin to combat them can be dangerous if left unchecked.
On the ketogenic diet, such fluctuations are minimized and arguably eliminated. Most, if not all ketogenic foods lack enough sugars to fluctuate the body’s blood sugar. Several diabetics leverage the diet to fit their specific needs and requirements for their general health.
Most doctors are hesitant to go into the more specific details of the ketogenic diet, but there are also signs that staying on this diet keeps your body at a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. This comes again from the lack of fluctuation from high-sugar meals and a lessened impact on your liver to process them.
Speaking in general terms, entering ketosis can have a positive impact on your health. Your body is no longer riding the roller coaster of sugar highs and crashes, and the digestive system is under less stress processing ketones, which it already has in abundance.
By staying on ketosis, your body remains in a fat-burning, consistent state regardless of the size of the meals. This can be traced back to the reason why those on the diet report eating more food while losing even more weight than before they tried the diet.
Should You Try the Ketogenic Diet?
Clearly, there are many pros and a few cons to the ketogenic diet. Depending upon your starting weight and general health, it may or may not be for you.
As always, before making major changes to your diet, consult with a doctor to see if the ketogenic diet will work for your plan. This is especially important if you are currently taking medications for chronic illnesses.
Otherwise, the ketogenic diet is great for those who are struggling with weight loss and are willing to put in the work to exercise more and stick with the somewhat-stringent ketogenic diet. Many please foods, like brownies, donuts, and cookies will have to be sacrificed to make sure your body remains in ketosis.
If you feel as if you’re up to the challenge, study up on the foods you need to need to promote the saturation of ketones in your body and begin the process of entering ketosis. After getting over the initial struggle of entering that state, you should find that you can eat more, feel better, and lose weight faster than you ever expected to.