The Keto Diet: What is it?

by, mira

The simplest explanation is that the Keto Diet is an upgrade to your body’s operating system. The Keto Diet is more biohacking than it is a fad diet. Humans evolved a natural process for surviving situations where food is very scarce or inaccessible. This is called Ketosis.

What is Ketosis?

The word Keto is short for “ketogenic” which refers to ketosis – 

A metabolic state characterized by raised levels of ketone bodies in the body tissues, which is typically pathological in conditions such as diabetes, or may be the consequence of a diet that is very low in carbohydrates.

Keotgenesis ≠ Starvation Mode

Ketones are the alternative source of energy that your body starts producing when you’re put under metabolic stress. This process is called Keotgenesis and the Keto Diet artificially induces this process by heavily restricting your carb intake. 

It’s key to remember that you’re body doesn’t go into starvation mode. It’s just forced to use fat as its main energy source.

It basically means your body is forced to use fat stores to keep itself alive instead of carbohydrates. Ketones are molecules that actually get used by your cells’ mitochondria for energy. 

For most people, ketosis is achieved by consuming 20g of carbs or less every day for up to a week. 

You’ll need to plan out your meals and pay extra attention to nutrition labeling to make sure you’re below the carb threshold. 

So what are Ketones?

[insert graphics of molecules here]

Ketones are chemicals made in your liver. You produce them when you don’t have enough insulin in your body to turn sugar (or glucose) into energy. You need another source, so your body uses fat instead. Your liver turns this fat into ketones, a type of acid, and sends them into your bloodstream.

Web MD

Glycogenesis & Lipogenesis = Normal Mode

Glycogenesis is the process of converting your body’s excess glucose into glycogen. Glycogen is the stored form of carbohydrates in your body. It’s what you normally burn when you need to quickly metabolize some energy. It’s mostly stored in your liver, and muscles. 

Lipogenesis is the process of converting carbs into fat to be stored away. This happens when you already have enough glycogen stored. This is how the body gains weight in the form of fat. 

The Benefits of The Keto Diet

Mental Sharpness

Ketosis has been shown to improve cognitive function, improve memory, and even reduce cognitive impairment in elderly people

Weight loss

Because your body burns fat as it’s main source of energy while you’re in ketosis, it’s much more difficult to gain weight and much easier to loose weight. 

Reduced Appetite

Ketosis naturally reduces your appetite altogether. This happens because your blood-sugar doesn’t go through huge fluctuations anymore because you aren’t consuming enough carbs to cause spikes and dips. This means that your body just doesn’t have the same trigger for hunger anymore. 

Increased Sustained Energy

Because your body runs on fat, there’s not much of a difference between your body pulling fat from your fat stores (as long as you’re a healthy weight) and using the fat you eat for energy. 

When you run out of carbs, you experience a substantial dip in energy until you eat again, but with ketosis that wont happen because your body is already primed to seamlessly tap into your fat reserves if you skip a meal or eat a late lunch. 

Sugar Rush Without The Crash

Fat will give you a spike in energy the same way sugar does. Eating a nice serving of bacon feels as uplifting as a nice chocolate chip cookie. Except there’s one added benefit: No Crash. 

Since fat doesn’t cause a fluctuation in blood sugar, it won’t make you crash once you’ve burned it off.

Drastic Change In Pallet 

As your body adapts to this new source of energy your tastes will change drastically. Sugary foods may become uncomfortably sweet, or may taste bad altogether.

You’ll be able to walk through the bakery section, and candy isle fully unfazed.

Your Skin Will Look Amazing

Keto causes you to have reduced acne, and the high collegian intake will make your skin look younger and more elastic. 

The Side Affects  of The Keto Diet

Keto Flu (this suuuuucks)

When you first start the Keto Diet you’ll get sick. Very sick. If you’ve ever had the flu before it’s very similar with one key difference:

You’ll turn into a carb-craving monster. 

Many people who try to go Keto fail the first time because of having to deal with the Keto Flu. It becomes very tempting to give up and eat some bread or have a cookie. 

If you’re thinking about trying you’ll need to rid your house of all carbs, plan out at least a weeks worth of meals that you can easily access while your sick, and definitely start on a long weekend. You may not be able to go to work for a few days. 

Hormonal Shifts (this also suuuucks)

Particularly for women, ketosis can cause some severe hormonal shifts. This is due to the fact that estrogen is produced in your fat cells, and when you start burning all that fat at once it floods your system.

This can cause many different side-effects like:

  • Extreme Mood Swings
  • Reduced Sex Drive
  • Erectile Disfunction
  • Cramps
  • Menstural Irregularitys 
  • No Longer Getting Your Period
  • Rapid Weight Loss

And any other side-effects that can be caused by a drastic hormonal shift. These side-affects are almost always temporary though and shouldn’t last more than six weeks from the beginning of the diet. 

No Water Retention

Fun Fact: Glycogen is what binds to water in your body to keep you hydrated. Because you’re running on much less of it your body needs more water to stay hydrated. You’ll pee more and you’ll need to drink more. 

Severely Reduced Alcohol Tolerance 

Alcohol is sugar. When you’re in ketosis you become extremely sensitive to sugar and you’ll get drunk much easier. You’ll also probobly get a hangover even if you’re one of those rare few who usually never do. 

This lowered tolerance will likely be much less extreme once you’ve been doing Keto for over six weeks and have also re-acclimated yourself to alcohol. 

You’ll want to take it easy the first time you go drinking again after starting Keto. 

You may also notice that different types of alcohol like beer, wine, & various types of liquor will have very different affects on you. This is because you’re going to be very sensitive to sugar and different types of sugar do different things.

Muscle Gain Is Different

Keto won’t make you loose muscle at all, but at first it may feel like it because your muscles will technically shrink in volume. This is because normally your muscles hold onto a lot of water. You’re not actually losing any muscle mass even if it feels like you are. 

Because you’re body is in starvation mode, it’s not focused on gaining muscle, it’s focused on not dying. Because of this you’ll need to increase your calorie intake to have about 500 calories more than you usually eat. 

Interestingly though, keto has been shown to increase muscle gain by 100% in this study done by the University of Connecticut. 

The Risks

Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

It is possible that those who try the Keto Diet may develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This is pretty rare, and completely reversible though. You’ll see signs that something is wrong long before any real damage is done though. 

Keto Acidosis

This is a condition where your body produces too many ketones and the blood becomes acidic. This risk is much higher for those who suffer from diabetes, and would usually not happen in otherwise healthy individuals.

If you’re concerned about this issue, consult your doctor before you try the Keto Diet.  

Carb Hangovers

If you’re actually in ketosis and you eat something sugary you may experience a carb hangover. This feels very similar to a regular hangover. The symptoms can be mitigated by consuming a large quantity of fat and staying hydrated. 

Disclaimer

This is not a guide for starting the Keto Diet. This is just a basic overview of what the Keto Diet is, and how it may effect your body. If you’re thinking about trying Keto, I strongly recommend that you do as much research as possible and consult your doctor first. 

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