*Disclaimer – I am not an expert on ketosis by any means. But I do have a working understanding of anatomy & physiology and am intrigued by the science of how this diet works. I have done a lot of research in the past six months and like to share the knowledge that I have gained! This will most likely be the only “science-y” post that I add, as I am not a scientist. However, I feel that those just starting out can benefit from some basic information on ketosis! I have done my best to fact check all of my information from varying sources, but again…I’m no scientist. So as with everything you read on the internet, do additional research if you feel anything here is questionable!
While it isn’t completely necessary to understand ketosis to have success with a Ketogenic diet, it is good to know how it changes your body processes. A working knowledge of ketosis is also helpful because once you start seeing weight loss results, friends and family often have lots of questions…and sometimes even criticism. While I have never been told this personally, I see lots of other Keto’ers complaining of friends and family who are misinformed about the Keto diet, stating that ketosis is unsafe and can lead to ketoacidosis. This is simply not the case. If your body is healthy and your pancreas is functioning normally, your body will not enter a state of ketoacidosis. It’s always good to have a little knowledge in your back pocket, right?
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body produces ketones. This can be a product of a low carb diet (called nutritional ketosis, generally 50 grams of carbohydrates or less per day) or as a result of conditions such as diabetes or alcoholism. For clarification, here we will be discussing nutritional ketosis. When glucose is not readily available in our diets, our bodies must rely on the liver to go to work. The liver will produce ketone bodies from fatty acids in our diet or body fat, these ketone bodies (known as BHB, acetoacetate and acetone) are released into the bloodstream and become our bodies primary source of fuel. Our organs and brain use up as much BHB and acetoacetate as it needs, then the excess is excreted in our urine (hence, the science behind why we pee on Ketostix). Acetone, is volatile in nature, and cannot be used by the body, so it is excreted though the lungs (often causing what is referred to as keto breath).
Why Does Ketosis Work For Weight Loss ?
As explained above, when carbohydrate consumption is kept extremely low, our bodies must find an alternative source of fuel. And that fuel is fat, and your liver doesn’t necessarily care what kind of fat it metabolizes into ketones. It will metabolize fat from our diet or fat from your body when carbohydrates and dietary fat are limited. I often hear people saying that they need to hit their macros for the day, but it must be clearly understood that dietary fat in the ketogenic diet is used as a lever for fat loss vs. satiety. You must eat enough fat to keep your hunger satiated and your energy levels up, but not so much that you provide your body with excess fat to metabolize for energy or your body will not metabolize body fat. If you are not looking to lose body fat and are looking to maintain weight or are utilizing the Ketogenic diet for its many other benefits, then hitting your fat limit becomes more important to maintain energy and other Keto benefits.
What Are The Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet?
The first and foremost benefit is weight loss. For many of us, this is the reason we began the Ketogenic diet. While giving up carbohydrates is not easy, a Ketogenic lifestyle is somewhat easy to maintain, due to the high fat and moderate protein consumption. It is easy to become satiated eating foods we love!
Another benefit of the Ketogenic Diet is appetite control. No one likes feeling hungry. And those of us who have tried traditional diets, know the miserable feeling of dieting and being hungry. Part of the beauty of the Ketogenic Diet is that the lack of carbs helps control hunger by reducing spikes in blood sugar and insulin production thus reducing cravings and hunger.
Lowered Triglycerides and higher levels of HDL (the good cholesterol) are often seen in the Ketogenic diet. These changes are due to the higher levels of good fats we begin to add to our diet. This is something that I researched extensively in the beginning. All our lives we are told that dietary fat is bad and causes high cholesterol, so this was something I had to work to mentally get over. But not only does all the research show this, I actually saw my own husband’s total cholesterol drop 46 points, from high to normal in the first three months of following a Ketogenic Diet.
Nutritional Ketosis vs. Ketoacidosis
Nutritional ketosis is a controlled, insulin regulated process which results in limited release of ketones as a result of a diet low in carbohydrates. It is simply your body’s evolutionary, metabolic process of burning body fat for fuel. Nutritional ketosis is safe as long as your pancreas is working effectively at producing insulin. Exceptions to the this can possibly be those that are diabetic and lacking insulin production and those that are considered heavy alcoholics.
Ketoacidosis is driven by the lack of insulin within the body. Insulin brings glucose into our cells and without it glucose cannot enter the cells and the cells begin to starve. With the lack of glucose for energy, the body switches over to ketones for fuel. This results in the production of an excessive and abnormal amount of ketone bodies.
The Ketogenic Diet and Nutritional Ketosis can be an amazing thing. And knowing how your body responds to macronutrients can help you on your Ketogenic journey. The Ketogenic Diet works for weight loss and overall well being, but being informed can help you boost the benefits of this diet and allow you to reach your long term goals! And you get to do it eating bacon and cheese and avocado! How great is that?