Part I of Understanding The Ketogenic Diet discussed:
✓ A background history on the ketogenic diet
✓ Who may benefit from it?
✓ What are the proposed benefits associated with it?
Part II will be focusing on: How should you properly implement the ketogenic diet into your life to get the best benefit?
This article will also reveal whether there are any other benefits to the Ketogenic Diet besides fat loss.
When it comes to protein, one problem that is very common and is often a culprit for individuals unable to truly get into ketosis is that they will eat too much protein. Proteins main purpose in our bodies is to provide the body with amino acids that help aid in muscle tissue growth and repair. They do have the ability to be used as a secondary fuel source when other nutrients are not present. If you take a look at a lot of other articles, you will see recommendations from 1g/lb of body weight to all the way to 2-2.5g/lb of body weight, depending on the individual’s goal.
As explained earlier, if protein intake is too high, the body can detect this and begins to breakdown proteins as a form of energy during the process of gluconeogenesis. This would be a negative response, as we do not want to use all of our hard earned muscle mass for energy when the primary goal is body fat reduction. More protein is not always better. Protein is necessary to help the body recover from intense training sessions, but not in an extreme amount. A general recommendation would be in the range of 0.8-1.2 g/lb or roughly 20% of the daily intake. These sources can come from foods such as chicken (thighs preferably), turkey, duck, quail, eggs, Omega-3 rich fishes, shellfish (clams, oysters, scallops, mussels), fatty cuts of meat (beef, veal, lamb), pork, some cheeses, whole fat dairy, whey protein, etc. Be careful of added sugars to any of these foods as well as they can throw you easily out of ketosis.
Carbohydrates, although their intake is low on a ketogenic diet, are still necessary. These sources of carbohydrates are exclusively going to need to come from nutrient dense, non-starchy vegetables. Leafy greens like spinach, kale, broccoli, green beans, mushrooms, cucumber, zucchini, squash, green peppers, etc., are going to make up a majority of the vegetable and carbohydrate content. These vegetables are essential because they will provide the body with much-needed vitamins and minerals and fiber that have vital roles within the body. Without getting these vitamins and minerals, nutrient deficiency is likely to occur.
Fiber provides “roughage” for the body, but it can also help improve health and performance. It has satiation properties that can help an individual feel fuller for longer. Also, due to its inability to be broken down by the body, it moves slowly through the digestive tract while also keeping blood sugar levels stable and improving gut health.
Fruit should be limited while on a ketogenic diet. The sugars in fruit come in the form of fructose. Fruit is very high in these sugars and can put a huge dent in your carbohydrate intake. If you must eat fruit, berries can be eaten in low amounts. Anything sweet is most likely going to be filled with both carbohydrates and sugars. If something sweet must be used, opt for an artificial sweetener.
Always get in the habit of looking at labels because different brands will have different macronutrient breakdowns. Some brands will use binders, such as maltodextrin or dextrose, which have carbohydrates. Liquid sweeteners like stevia, sucralose, monk fruit, and erythritol are better options. Spices can also carry carbs depending on the kind of spice it is. Some spice mixes will have sugars blended in them, which can add up if used carelessly. Sticking with spices such as sea salt (essential on a ketogenic diet), lack pepper, cinnamon, chili powder, turmeric, garlic powder, cumin, parsley, rosemary, sage etc., will elicit the best benefit when it comes to both health and flavor.
There may come a point in time where refeeds are necessary. These times do serve a purpose of hormonal regulation and also mental rejuvenation. Leptin is a hormone that has a primary role in metabolic regulation. When leptin levels are elevated it triggers a response that ultimately leads to fat loss. During periods of lesser food intake, our body’s leptin levels will tend to decrease, which will slow our metabolism. By adding a structured and strategic refeed, we can help prevent leptin levels from dropping too low thus continuing fat loss.
I say strategic refeed, because the average person may reach for foods they have been craving, such as pizza, burgers, French fries, cakes, etc. A lot of these foods, although higher in carbohydrates, are often higher in unhealthy fats and sugars. Foods that would be more optimal in this situation would be white rice, some pastas, rice cakes, bread, pretzels, potatoes, oats, etc. These are all much better choices to include in this refeed.
Supplementation is something to also take into consideration on a ketogenic diet. As mentioned earlier, because carbohydrates are as low as they are, nutrient deficiencies can occur if certain foods are not eaten consistently. To help avoid this happening, a good quality multivitamin should be implemented into the diet. Supplementing with other vitamins and minerals can also provide benefits.
These can be:
✓ Calcium for bone and joint health
✓ Vitamin B for helping convert food into energy
✓ Vitamin C for collagen formation and protein metabolism
✓ Vitamin A for vision and cell growth
✓ Iron for protein metabolism and the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells
This only scrapes the surface, but it gives a brief insight on the major benefits that these micronutrients play. In reference to other supplementation like preworkouts, BCAAs, creatine, etc., the same applies for looking at the labels. Preworkouts and BCAAs can have added sugars and other ingredients added to them for flavor or other reasons. Creatine monohydrate, one of the most studied supplements on the market, has a role in supplying the muscle cells with energy during intense activity. Creatine is produced by the body naturally and is stored in the muscle cells to help produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the body’s primary energy product. Creatine can be gained from foods such as beef and fish but at roughly only 2-5 grams per pound. By supplementing with creatine, you can saturate the body with creatine and can augment its benefits, which include improved athletic performance, increased muscle protein synthesis, and increased muscle size. Recommendation for supplementation with creatine monohydrate is roughly 3-5 grams either pre or postworkout.
The ketogenic diet has a variety of other benefits as well aside from body fat and weight reduction. These benefits are not publicized due to the growing obesity epidemic and panic over weight loss and body image. Some of the proposed benefits, aside from weight loss via reduction caloric intake are reduction in blood lipids, brain and heart protection, protection against cellular damage, reduction in inflammation, sparing of insulin, appetite reduction, and improvement in athletic performance.
Does The Ketogenic Diet Have Any Other Benefits?
When it comes to brain protection, the ketogenic diet can increase kynurenic acid (acts as an antiexcitotoxic and anticonvulsant) in the striatum and hippocampus in the brain. As mentioned earlier, ketones have no trouble bypassing dysfunctional receptors in the brain and being used as energy. The state of ketosis also has anti-inflammatory effects and has the ability to reduce the amount of cytokines and other markers that are often found in chronic infections that can severely affect the nervous system. Ketones can also help clear “brain fog”, improve memory, and concentration. This can be beneficial information for individuals who are affected by dementia or Alzheimer’s.
The ketogenic diet can also protect the heart. Glycation and AGE formation can be prevented due to the lower blood glucose seen in this protocol. AGE is when glucose, combined with inflammation, can damage the cell walls and blood vessels, causing thickening, and accelerating the process of atherosclerosis formation. Improved energy production would improve the overall function of the heart as well.
Inflammation is common in many individuals, especially physically active individuals or people who are suffering from injury. Glucose is a major contributor of inflammation due to it being high in excess, which promotes insulin release and cholesterol breakdown. A ketogenic diet will eliminate a large majority of these simple sugars, thus helping reduce inflammation within the body. Natural anti-inflammatories in the form of glucocorticoids, are steroid hormones produced by the body in the presence of higher fat and cholesterol intake. In addition to these processes reducing inflammation, Omega-3 fish oil and the spices mentioned earlier, such as turmeric, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper etc, all have high anti-inflammatory properties.
Insulin response, one of the major differences between a ketogenic diet and the traditional American diet, is influenced mostly by the foods we are taking in. Carbohydrates and sugars will generate insulin release, as will proteins through gluconeogenesis. Fats, on the other hand, have no impact on insulin. Insulin, being a fat storing hormone, is often elevated far too much in a lot of the population, proven by growing obesity among many individuals.
By now, you should know that the main goal is to use fats to be broken down into ketones for energy. Ketones are directly converted into energy in the mitochondria of the cell and do not require insulin elevation to do so. This lesser insulin release can help improve blood sugar control. This makes it an optimal approach that has trouble-controlling blood sugar or often goes through energy dips and crashes.
Take Home Message
After reading Part I and Part II you should now be aware that there are many benefits to a ketogenic diet approach that can be implemented into everyone’s lifestyle. Is this way of eating for everyone? Absolutely not. It can help improve problems that individuals may be experiencing, so it is an option to try if wanted.
It does go against everything that has been said about nutrition before, but there is new information coming out every day debunking old myths about nutrition and what is deemed optimal. To me, optimal is what can be adhered to and maintained, while producing results. The best way to see if a ketogenic diet is for an individual is to try it out first hand. The most important thing however is to make sure that it is executed properly and careful examination of everything from every angle is taken into consideration.
Click the link to get the full article, Parts I & II, so you don’t have to go clicking between two articles. I know, we make it too easy for you: Understanding The Ketogenic Diet by David Rynecki