In last week’s post, I explained how the general ratios of a ketogenic protocol were determined. In simple terms, ketosis mimics how the body feeds itself in a fasted state, or when the body has not eaten food for a period of time. When a person does not eat, the body breaks down its own energy stores in the following ratios: roughly as 70-75% fat, 20-25% protein and 1-5% glucose (Jaminet & Jaminet, 2013; Hall, 2016; Wang, 1992). Thus, eating foods in those ratios can have a similar effect to fasting in the sense that both fasting and eating this way result in nutritional ketosis.
The benefit of being in ketosis is that you can get similar benefits to fasting without actually fasting.
Wait, what the @*%9?#& is ketosis and who cares about being in ketosis?
Being in ketosis, or following a ketogenic nutrition protocol, enables a person to produce ketone bodies as a primary source of energy. Most people eat carbohydrates, making glucose the body’s primary energy source. If you are fueled primarily by ketone bodies, however, then your primary energy source is produced from fatty acids, either from fats eaten in your diet or from your own body fat.
That’s right: when you are in nutritional ketosis, your primary energy source is either the fats you eat or stored body fat.
But aren’t carbohydrates the body’s preferred energy source? No. Actually, check any biochemistry book you can find. It will confirm that carbohydrates are not even a required food for the human diet. Ottoboni & Ottoboni (2002) explain that while carbohydrates can be important vessels for numerous micronutrients (meaning they contain vitamins and minerals that humans need), carbs are not an essential macronutrient (or food) based on the body’s biochemistry.
If carbohydrates are not essential foods, then what foods are? Fat and protein are essential. This means that without eating fats and proteins, human beings would die. The primary energy source of someone who eats a ketogenic (or keto) diet is fat. When the body receives dietary fat, it converts the fat into ketone bodies which fuel many functions in the body, including the brain.
You may be thinking, aren’t carbohydrates required to fuel the human brain? Well, the brain does burn approximately 600 calories or 150 grams of glucose. But it turns out that 60-75% of the brain’s functions can be fueled with ketone bodies. The remaining glucose needed can be converted from protein in the absence of dietary carbohydrates through a processed called gluconeogenesis. It can also be converted from the backbone of triglycerides.
The point is, while there is an essential need for glucose, there is no need for people to eat carbohydrates. The body can make what it needs from protein or can replace those glucose needs with fats (in the form of ketone bodies).
Eating carbohydrates in small quantities can be helpful for supporting metabolic and endocrinologic processes in the body, but I will discuss this in a future post. However, the amount of carbohydrates that are beneficial to the body are minimal compared with the amount eaten by most people in the world. It has been argued by those who advocate eating a low carb, keto diet that it is the ideal human diet for optimal health.
A ketogenic diet can be beneficial in numerous ways:
- It can reduce hunger (McClernon et al., 2007, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17228046).
- It can lead to more weight loss than a high carb, low fat diet (Volek & Westman, 2002, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12430970).
- It can improve triglyceride and cholesterol levels, both of which can be risk factors for heart disease (Wood et al., 2006, http://jn.nutrition.org/content/136/2/384.short and Foster et al., 2003, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12761365).
- It improves insulin levels, blood glucose levels and can reverse type 2 diabetes (Noakes et al., 2006, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16403234).
- It has neuroprotective benefits and other disease modifying effects (Gasior, Rogawski, & Hartman, 2006, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2367001/).
Given the many benefits, ketosis may be worth considering for helping you reach your goals. If you are interested in learning more about how to adopt your own keto diet, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Gasior, M., Rogawski, M. A., & Hartman, A. L. (2006). Neuroprotective and disease-modifying effects of the ketogenic diet. Behavioural Pharmacology, 17(5-6), 431–439.
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Wood, R. J., Volek, J.S., Liu, Y., Shachter, N. E., Contois, J. H., Fernandez, M. L. (2006) Carbohydrate Restriction Alters Lipoprotein Metabolis by Modifying VLDL, LDL, and HDL Subfraction Distribution and Size in Overweight Men. J Nutr., Vol 136, No. 2: 384-389.
Noakes, M., Foster, P. R., Keogh, J. B., James, A. P., Mamo, J. C., & Clifton, P. M. (2006). Comparison of isocaloric very low carbohydrate/high saturated fat and high carbohydrate/low saturated fat diets on body composition and cardiovascular risk. Nutrition & Metabolism, 3, 7. http://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-3-7