Keto. Ketosis. Ketogenic. Three words that have grown in popularity over the last year and are tossed around over on The Shrinking Violet Facebook on the regular. So what the heck is keto? And more importantly, why do I blab about it so much?
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which fat provides most of the fuel for the body. Ketosis is when the body is producing ketones out of fat, and using them for energy instead of carbohydrates. You can get into ketosis by following a very low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet but it also happens during pregnancy, infancy, fasting and starvation.
Now carbohydrates are turned into glucose within the body which is their ‘fuel’ state. It’s a common misunderstanding that the brain doesn’t function without ingested dietary carbs (glucose). Ketones can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and provide energy for the brain in the absence of glucose. For the small amount of glucose the brain does need, your body can use protein to produce it during ketosis. This process is called gluconeogenesis. Therefore, ketosis and gluconeogenesis are perfectly capable of fulfilling the brain’s energy needs, meaning that we don’t need as many carbs as a lot of people make out!
But wait, I’m a type 1 diabetic; isn’t ketosis bad?
People often confuse ketosis and ketoacidosis. Ketosis is not the same as ketoacidosis. While ketosis is part of normal metabolism, ketoacidosis is a dangerous metabolic condition that can be fatal if left untreated. In ketoacidosis, the bloodstream is flooded with extremely high levels of glucose (blood sugar) and ketones. When this happens, the blood becomes acidic, which is seriously harmful.
Ketoacidosis is most often associated with uncontrolled type 1 diabetes. It may also occur in people with type 2 diabetes, although this is less common.
So what are the benefits of ketosis?
Ketosis is a highly anti-inflammatory way of eating. Therefore it may help with a number of autoimmune, chronic and metabolic health conditions including (but certainly not limited to):
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Heart Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Metabolic Disorder
- High Cholesterol
It can also help with improving energy levels, sleep and mental clarity as well as depression and anxiety. I know several people who’s mental health improves when they go keto with their effects of depression and anxiety lessened incredibly. The benefits are believed to be a result of the anti inflammatory nature of a Ketogenic Diet. The reason I go into keto cycles are due to the anti inflammatory nature alone, however the improved focus and mental clarity is a big part of it for me too. I will often do a 20-30 day keto cycle after I come back from overseas to decrease any inflammation that my body may be going through due to consuming foods I wouldn’t usually such as seed oils when out for meals. Keto isn’t something thats simple to do long term as it really does narrow down your food choices. Also, for women, it’s not something you should do long term because there’s not enough research of its effects long term on the female sex hormone (however short term there are many benefits).
I have personally seen so many benefits within myself when I go keto. As I said, the anti inflammatory properties, mental clarity, improved focus… not to mention it’s wonderful for losing the last few kilos. I don’t tend to talk about it for weight loss and I would rather people started off with a good lifestyle change (*cough* 10 Week Challenge *cough*) since its a more gentle approach and why go full blown keto if you can start off with something that’s easier to stick to.
How does keto differ from paleo?
These are two very different eating styles. For me, ketosis isn’t a lifestyle. Paleo is. Paleo is a certain group of foods you eat and a group of foods you avoid, whereas ketosis is a set of macronutrient (carb/protein/fat) percentages that you stick to. You can technically eat any kind of food when you’re ketogenic as long as it fits your macronutrient percentages. I personally combine the two when I’m going into a keto cycle. I am always paleo, but only sometimes am I ketogenic.
I thought keto was all meat and cheese?
Well, for a lot of people it can be. However as I mentioned, I usually use ketosis for reducing inflammation. For me, this means dairy free. Also, if you have an autoimmune disease, removing dairy is pretty much essential for you too since dairy is a common allergen. Instead of dairy, I consume a lot more coconut based products.
Also, over consumption of meat whilst trying to go keto can lead to you not reaching ketosis. Your body can only utilise so much protein. Any protein that your body doesn’t use, gets excreted through urine and anything you don’t pee out gets turned into glucose – and well, too much glucose means you’ll be burning that before your body thinks about producing ketones.
I also like to take advantage of my daily carb allowance to maximise my vegetable intake as I find most people forget about vegetables when they go keto. I incorporate a lot of avocado (ok this is a fruit), spinach, broccoli, courgette and cauliflower when I’m keto since they’re lower in carbs. Vegetables are an important part of any healthy diet so it’s always important I get these in.
You’ve sold me – how can I go keto!?
Well, funny you should ask! I actually run a program called Keto Reset which starts on the first Monday of every month. I would be shooting myself in the foot if I gave you all of the info right here. However it is definitely out there if you want to put the time in to find it. However Keto Reset is a great starting point since we give you the entire run down as well as the tools and recipes to start with. Keto Reset is a 30 day program where you have recipes, meal plans and also support from myself and behavioural nutritionist Sara Evans. It’s also super reasonably priced at $59NZD for a round.
How do I check I’m in ketosis?
So you’ve put in the time to do the research and you’re eating the food – so how do you know if you’ve reached ketosis? Well the timing differs for everyone. Most people take a few days to reach it, however once you become an efficient fat burner then you can reach ketosis faster. These days I can get into ketosis in less than 12 hours which I think is pretty freaking incredible!
You can check using keto stix – a stick you pee onto and it tells you the level of ketones in your urine. These generally only work for the first week however. After that, you can purchase a ketone breath monitor, or you can use a blood glucose machine that has the ability to read ketones with keto blood sticks. I personally use the blood glucose machine. The brand I have is a Freestyle Optium Neo (which I bought in Australia for around $50AUD and the sticks were $10 a pop!). You can get them in NZ, but I believe you can only really buy them online.
I tend to take my blood reading around 8pm – a good 2 hours after eating my final meal/fat bombs (fat bombs are snacks you eat purely to get your fat intake up) for the day. You’re in ketosis when your ketones read over 0.5. Optimal readings are usually over 1.0. I find mine sits around 1.2 usually.
What is Keto//OS?
Keto//OS is a supplement I have talked about a few times. It is Pure Therapeutic Ketones. Basically its a supplement you can take that delivers ketones straight into your body and puts you into ketosis within 60 minutes. However you don’t stay in ketosis unless you continue to eat a ketogenic diet or ingest more ketones. This is a supplement that I love and use as a tool. I personally take these just before a workout as I find it really helps my performance. These are also useful in the first few days as you begin to convert to a ketogenic lifestyle as I find it helps with sugar cravings and ultimately aids the process as you go into a ketogenic diet. They are an amazing supplement, however they can be quite expensive. I have helped many clients order these with loads of positive feedback. I find these most beneficial for people who want the benefits of keto but don’t necessarily want to eat a keto diet. You can take these with a LCHF/Paleo diet and reap many of the benefits of keto when you drink it daily.
Please note: this is in no way, shape or form a miracle weight loss shake!
It took me awhile to talk about them as I’m not much to push products and didn’t want my audience to think I was trying to sell them a fad product. The truth is, I have used Keto//OS for a year and a half and I love it. They are a supplement that speaks for itself. For more info, check out www.theshrinkingviolet.experienceketo.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
So, to summarise…
A ketogenic lifestyle is certainly something I can advocate for. It’s not easy, because you really do have to diminish your carbohydrates extensively and increase your fat intake by a whole lot. It also means counting everything you eat because it has such specific macros. But the benefits of it are enough for me to put up with the tricky nature. It’s not something I do all the time, but 3-4 times a year with good gaps between is good enough for me!
If you do want to give Keto a go, I am definitely biased and recommend my program because it pretty well spoon feeds you everything you need to know to get prepared – www.ketoreset.co.nz
Hope you enjoyed my keto blab, and that it all makes a little more sense for you now!