What is the Ketogenic Diet?

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

carb zone

The concept of ketogenic dieting is not new – it has existed in many forms and in many variations. It has many similarities to the Banting and other popular diets. It is even similar to what we do at Sonlandpark Pharmacy’s The Diet Everyone Talks About. The basis of all these diets rests on the same fundamental idea that you avoid carbohydrates and consume more fats and proteins. It can be described as a medium to high-fat and protein diets, with low-carbohydrates.


A ketogenic diet is quite simply any diet that forces the body into a process called ketosis, whereby fats are burned instead of carbohydrates for use as energy. A proper ketogenic diet calls for the dieter to consume decent amounts of fat, moderate amounts of protein, and very low amounts of carbohydrates.

Our bodies are used to turning carbohydrates into glucose to send all over the body as energy. When we enter ketosis by sufficiently limiting our carbohydrate intake, our livers start breaking down fat cells into fatty acids and ketones, to be used as energy. This is why we sometimes experience bad breath or body odours when we lose weight – we are excreting ketones.

Check out this really nifty infographic from Faithfully Free


Why does the ketogenic diet work?

Initially this diet was known for its ability to treat difficult-to-control (refractory) epilepsy in children and depression in adults. But the ketogenic diet works much like any other diet: by limiting the amount of calories you consume, thereby creating a caloric deficit where the body burns more energy than it takes in. That is the fundamental science of weight loss.

Some diets will argue that 100 calories of carbohydrates is the same as 100 calories of fat, but few will argue that all successful diets rely on caloric restriction, one way or another.

The main difference in a ketogenic dietavoided carbs is that carbohydrates must be limited or avoided initially. This is because of our blood glucose levels. When we eat carbohydrates, our blood-glucose levels rise rapidly.

By eating a low carbohydrate diet, we keep our blood sugar levels low and steady, and as a result, carb-induced hunger spikes are avoided.  Reducing insulin levels is paramount to success with any diet, as insulin is the hormone that tells our bodies to store fat.  By keeping our insulin levels low, we create an environment within our bodies that limits fat storage and promotes fat lipolysis.


What do I eat on a ketogenic diet?


Image courtesy of http://www.theketogenicdiet.org/what-is-the-ketogenic-diet/


It is generally recommended that ketogenic dieters should consume about 60% of their macronutrients from fat, 35% from protein, and 5% from carbohydrates.


Carbohydrate intake should generally be limited to less than 50 grams per day. When starting out, it is recommended that you limit your carbohydrates to 10 grams per day, as being strict initially will make sure you enter ketosis, and help you learn the ins and outs of successful low carbohydrate dieting. If you refer to the image above, you will see exactly which foods to eat sparingly, and which to enjoy in abundance.

What are the benefits of a Ketogenic Diet?

Typically, most diets have similar benefits, these are: lowered cholesterol, lower blood pressure and of course weight loss. Ketogenic diets have the added benefits of regulating your blood sugar (which means curbing your cravings and hunger pangs), giving you more energy and helping to reduce unpleasant skin conditions such as acne.

Initially you might see some restrictions or physical limitations when you start your diet, especially if you are a very active person. But your body will adapt and soon you will have a lot of energy, more than you know what to do with!

Because of all the changes happening in your body during this change in your diet you might experience other symptoms. As your body becomes induced into a ketogenic state, your body will naturally use what’s left of your glucose. This means your body will be depleted of all glycogen in the muscles – which can cause a lack of energy, and a general lethargy. In the first few days, many people report:

  • Headaches
  • Mental fogginess
  • Flu-like symptoms(known as the “keto-flu”)
  • Dizziness
  • Aggravation
  • Yep, it’s pretty much a week of PMS for everyone!

Most of the time, this is the result of your electrolytes being flushed out or a process of ‘detox’, as ketosis has a diuretic effect. Make sure you drink plenty of water and keep your sodium intake up. In fact, you should go overboard with the salt – salt EVERYTHING! This will help with water retention, and help replenish the electrolytes.

There is no real danger in starting any type of ketogenic diet, but to be safe – always check with your pharmacist and doctor first!

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