Do you want to burn fat, gain strength and improve health simultaneously?
Good, because when done right, the Ketogenic diet will do exactly that.
Regardless of what the conventional, dogmatic, government puppets labeled “nutritionists” and “health experts” will tell you, Ketogenic diets are extremely good for you and good ol’ objective science has my back on this one.
“We NEED carbohydrates to function” they’ll say (we need some glucose, but not necessarily carbs).
For those of you who have been on a Ketogenic diet correctly, you’ll know from experience how rapidly and efficiently your life improves on Keto compared to a conventional high carb, low fat diet.
I’m living proof of somebody who has been reaping the benefits of a Ketogenic diet. I train hard, I work hard, I sleep 6 hours a night like a baby and hustle from 4AM til 10PM, 6 days a week. Week in, week out.
I give Ketogenic dieting a huge amount of credit for my continually improving energy levels and obsessive work ethic.
The Foundation of Ketogenic Dieting
When you eat food, that food is converted to energy (obvious enough), depending on the macro nutrient profile of said food (whether it’s made up of carbohydrates, fats or protein), your body will respond to this food in different ways.
Since the agricultural revolution, humans have adopted a diet that is built primarily on carbohydrates, with a tendency to limit fat and protein intake.
Not-so-coincidentally, since that period, we humans as a whole have become:
- More depressed
- More diseased
In complete and deliberate contrary to government approved dietary guidelines, I largely blame the introduction of a diet high in grains and starch completely for the increasing diet-related health problems of human beings as whole.
Carbohydrates – They Get Priority
When ingested, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose which then enters the bloodstream and is used for energy. Any unused glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver, skeletal muscles, and as body fat.
Your body will prioritize burning glucose (carbs) for energy before it will look to fat.
Carbohydrates are always first in line to be used as energy, thus when you eat high amounts of fat with carbs, your metabolism gives priority to the carbs and the fat is stored away, as all energy needs are met solely from the carbohydrates and they are the energy source that is easiest to break down (the body wants to conserve energy remember).
This prioritization of utilizing carbohydrates before fat, coupled with overeating and lack of physical activity is what results in body types that resemble whales more than actual humans. As well as unhealthy cholesterol and damage to arteries and the cardiovascular system as a whole as the fat you are eating is not being used, it is being stored.
To illustrate this point:
If you eat a fat juicy grass fed steak (which on it’s own is excellent for you) with some white bread and potatoes, your body will break down the bread and potatoes, convert them to glucose and send it into the bloodstream to be used for energy.
The fat in the steak is not needed at this point in time and our bodies survival instincts that have treated us so well over the past millions of years are going to kick in and store the fat for when it’s Winter and we have to go months with little to no food because the weather conditions are too harsh to go outside and impale a mammoth.
The bodies of the obese have no idea that tomorrow they are going to effortlessly drive to the supermarket in 5 minutes and waddle through the baked goods section in a daze of anticipated gluttony, greedily and negligently pack their basket full of the price-reduced donuts, wherein the task demanding the most energy is deciding whether they want sprinkles on the fifth packet.
Our body is programmed for survival, but it has not yet caught up with out modern way of living. Thus, obesity.
When ingested, carbohydrates will undergo one of two processes; Glycogenesis and Lipogenesis.
Glycogenesis is where excess glucose (carbs) is converted to glycogen and is stored in your skeletal muscles and liver for energy at a later time. This muscle glucose is essential for high intensity training (heavy lifting) and this process is healthy and normal if you expend the right amount of energy and eat a the right amount of carbs (timing plays a part too), you’re going store what you don’t use in your liver and muscles only.
Whether deliberately or not they eat according to their energy needs and as such are fit, strong and lean.
When your muscles and liver are packed full of glycogen, all excess carbs are converted into body fat and stored, this process is called Lipogenesis.
This is why inactive people gain weight, they’ve got plenty of energy to burn stored in their muscles and liver, but their programmed minds are telling them they just need to have a big ol’ bowl of Coco Pops for breakfast for the “energy and focus”, and it gets mostly stored as body fat.
Insulin – The Fat Storing Hormone (Unless You Know How to Use it)
When carbohydrates are consumed your blood sugar levels rise, as the glucose is now in your bloodstream and is being used for energy. Your body naturally controls your blood sugar levels with a hormone called Insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels and is also responsible for delivering nutrients to our cells.
When you’re blood sugar increases (upon ingestion of carbs), appropriate levels of insulin are released from the pancreas in order to bring blood sugar levels back to normal.
When you eat a large amount of high G.I. carbohydrates (which are sugar molecules in their simplest form, thus they enter the bloodstream very quickly as they require minimal processing) in a short period of time, your blood sugar is going to spike dramatically. To mediate this, your insulin levels are going to shoot through the roof also.
This typically results in too much insulin in your system, and brings blood sugar levels down below baseline. This is what happens when you feel the afternoon crash after eating bread and/or sugar for lunch.
What also sucks about spiking insulin is that it’s terrible for fat loss, as insulin inhibits fat oxidization. This means that when your body has moderate to high insulin levels, your body cannot break down and stored fat for energy.
Ketones – The Premium Fuel Source
When your body has used up it’s supply of glucose (this excludes glycogen stored in the muscles), your body will start to utilize fat for energy.
Your body is now utilizing energy from fat for energy rather than from carbs, you are in what is knows as a the state of Ketosis.
Ketosis is an incredibly effective state to be in for fat loss, as insulin levels remain at a constant low which allows oxidization of body fat, meaning that your body is able to break down stored body fat for energy.
How Ketosis Works
The liver breaks down fat into fatty acids and glycerol. The fatty acid is broken down further into molecules called Ketones.
A Ketone body called Acetoacitate is produced from the breakdown of fatty acids, and will then be converted to molecules called Beta-hyroxybutyrate (BHB) and Acetone.
BHB is used as fuel for the brain, and it is your brains preferred optimal source. The longer you maintain a Ketogenic diet the more efficient your body becomes at converting acetoacitate into BHB, meaning that your brain becomes more and more optimized the longer you maintain Keto.
I know this first hand from experience of being on the diet, my thinking is crystal clear more often than not and I can instantly feel the effect of carbohydrates in my systems when I’m on my refeed days.
Acetone can be metabolized as glucose, but mostly it is excreted as waste in your urine. This is what gives you the reading when you piss on Ketostix (strips for urinalysis that detects ketone levels in the urine).
As I mentioned above, with time your body produces more BHB from aceoacitate and less acetone, meaning that your reading will not come up as high on Ketostix. You are still in Ketosis, but more aceoacitate is being converted to BHB, thus being used for the brain as fuel rather than being processed as acetone (excreted in the urine).
Gluconeogenesis – The Reason Why You Don’t Need Carbohydrates
Your body needs glucose for energy production. But in contrary to popular opinion, it does not need carbohydrates to produce glucose because of a process called gluconeogenesis.
Gluconeogenesis is the process of glucose production from non-carbohydrate based substrates. You can produce glucose from Fat (glycerol), Protein (amino acids), and Lactic Acid (muscle waste).
Essentially your body does need glucose but when you eliminate carbs from your diet, your liver has shit under control and starts producing the required glucose from fat and other sources as necessary.
Glucose derived from fat will not produce a large insulin response, as your body only creates enough glucose to keep levels at baseline. Thus you do not need to fear for spiking insulin (which will knock you out of ketosis) from gluconeogenesis if you are consuming the correct amount of fat.
If you do consume too much protein in a short amount of time however, you can trigger an insulin spike via gluconeogenesis.
My personal, anecdotal guideline is no more than 50g of protein within two hours when consuming shakes. I find it hard to eat too much protein too quickly when I’m eating fatty foods as it takes a long time to digest and break down.
With all this being said you can still eat carbohydrates and undertake a form of Ketogenic diet, and if you’re doing high intensity resistance training, I recommend it. This is called a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet, and it is where you will eat carbohydrates in a small, pre-determined window each week (typically one wake cycle).
Ketosis Is Great – Here’s 6 Reasons Why
Even if you are perfectly lean, Ketosis can still benefit you majorly.
Think of Ketones as the premium source of fuel for the body compared to glucose derived from carbohydrates, as there are many benefits to being in a state of Ketosis:
1. Improved Brain Function
As mentioned above, Keto adapted individuals will produce more and more Beta-hydroxybutyrate as Ketosis progresses. This fuel is the brains preferred fuel source and will make you feel like a genius.
I love the feeling of Ketosis on my brain so much that I dread my “refeed” day where I eat a shit tonne of carbs to load my muscles full of glycogen, because I often become tired, unfocused and irritable.
2. Ketosis Is Protein Sparing
Provided you are eating enough fat, your body will not break down protein or use muscle tissue for energy. Meaning you will not lose your gainz.
However if you do not eat enough fat, your body will break down muscle tissue and try to use protein for energy, which is bad as it can cause an insulin spike if you are consuming too much protein and not enough fat. So make sure you eat till your satiated. Keto is not about starvation.
Note: Know the difference between eating until satiated and being a glutton.
3. Improved Body Composition and Power to Weight Ratio
Generally speaking, you’re going to be leaner and stronger on a Ketogenic Diet compared to that of high carb, low fat diet.
4. Feelings of Awesomeness
Ketosis is your bodies optimal state of being, is the primary state we have evolved in for millions of years. If you don’t believe how good it feels, do it correctly and see for yourself.
5. Increased Thyroid Function
The thyroid is responsible for controlling energy output. On a Ketogenic diet your thyroid’s function becomes more efficient, meaning you have more fuel available in less time.
6. You Don’t Have to Starve Yourself
While some may disagree, I am of the opinion that counting calories is pointless on a Ketogenic diet, simply because when you eat fat, it’s almost impossible to eat more than your body wants if you’re paying attention to how you feel. Fat is very satiating, when you’ve had enough your body will tell you.
When you eat nutrient sparse carbohydrates, your body is not getting the nutrients it is looking for so it tells you to keep eating. This is why it’s easy to binge on chocolate and potato chips without really feeling full, but it’s almost impossible to binge on steak and eggs.
Also as I mentioned above, if you don’t eat enough fat your body may start converting protein into glucose, as it needs to get its energy from somewhere. This will lead to muscle loss, strength loss and possibly insulin spikes.
That is the basic premise of Ketogenic dieting and the processes that occur under the surface.
As I mentioned earlier, there are different types of Ketogenic diets that you can follow depending on your goals. Check out my other article – all you need to know about the keto diet – for more keto information.