Ketogenic Diet & The "4th" Macronutrient
Tired and hungry. Does this describe you? Judging by the way energy drinks and snack bars keep flying off the shelves, you’re not alone. But relying on these fixes to get you through the day might not be the best solution and could be contributing to another unwanted problem: weight gain.
So before you hit the snack bar, read on. Tweaking your diet in an unexpected way could help you stay energized and stay satisfied between meals, while allowing you to ditch some extra pounds in the process.
DIET IS A FOUR LETTER WORD
Sure, we all know the secret to weight loss and good health. Eat less and exercise more. Easy peasy. Or is it? The truth is what you’re eating may play a much bigger role than how much. The typical American diet consists of high-carb, low-fat meals with some amount of snacking throughout the day. Proponents have said that this way of eating keeps our metabolism burning at its peak and ensures that we always have the energy needed to make it from one task to the next. But judging by our nation’s growing waistline, this may not be the best solution and could very well be part of the problem of our increasingly hefty frames. We go around all day reaching for that next quick fix, while our energy levels plummet and our pant sizes balloon.
There are so many food philosophies out there, it can be hard to keep track. Don’t eat gluten? Avoid dairy? Fruits only? It’s no wonder so many can’t make heads or tails of nutrition or the dieting world. So when you hear about diets like Atkins, ketogenic, and paleo, no one could blame you if you simply shrug your shoulders and keep on keeping on with your regular routine. But instead of just lumping these diets in with all the other information that you are constantly being inundated with, you may want to take a second look. That’s because according to new research, ketogenic diets that are high in fat and low in carbs, similar to the Atkins and paleo diets, may be the ticket toward greater fat loss, more energy, and better overall health.
WHAT IS KETOSIS AND WHAT ARE KETONES?
Your body typically will use the carbs you eat from starchy, sugary foods as its fuel source, but there may be a better, more energizing way. By “starving” your body of excess carbohydrates with a high fat, low carb diet you’ll be able to achieve what’s known as ketosis.
Ketosis is achieved when the body no longer has enough glucose (the simple sugar derived from carbs) to support itself. Without extra carbs your body will begin breaking down fat stores and converting them into glucose and fatty acids, producing ketones as a byproduct.1 Ketones are an alternative fuel source that can be used by any mitochondria containing cells of the body, including the brain and muscle tissue. They will provide your body with the energy it needs for optimal physical and mental function. In fact, your brain may actually prefer using ketones over glucose for fuel.2
- The Three Ketones Produced By The Liver Are:
- 1. Acetone
- 2. Acetic Acid
- 3. Beta-Hydroxybutyric Acid
Ketones can have an anabolic effect on the body, protecting protein stores in the muscle and instructing your body to utilize fat even during periods of physical activity. Ketones also have a profound effect on hunger and satiety, helping you feel full and satisfied on less food.
Carbs are easy energy and provide your body with power to get you through bursts of activity. When you eat carbs, insulin is released to shuttle glucose where it’s needed and to send unused glucose into fat cells for storage. And here’s the problem: in terms of energy, the body will use only so much glucose before it is sent to be stored as fat. The energy derived from a high carb diet is fleeting and you’re often left feeling lethargic and having hunger pains that send you hunting for something, anything, to satiate your growling stomach, while your fat stores continue to grow.
Your body’s ability to utilize carbs can also diminish as you get older, which could account for the problems many have with dieting and weight loss as they age. And why you can’t eat they way you did as a teenager any more!3
Switching from a standard, carb-heavy diet to one that relies mainly on fats may seem counter intuitive if your goal is fat loss and more energy, but in reality it may prove to be the best thing you ever did for your waistline and your energy levels. Fats, all though generally higher in calories, stay with your body longer, providing more sustained fuel and appetite control. You’ll feel less hungry throughout the day and be able to focus on more important things than where the nearest snack machine is. Eating right does not have to mean you are going hungry in the process!
When you move away from a carb-heavy diet, your body won’t have those easy sources for energy. Instead it will be forced to look elsewhere. When you can no longer rely on the steady stream of carbohydrates, your body becomes very efficient at turning fat to fuel. Your liver will begin converting stored fat into fatty acids and ketones and using those for all your energy needs. Even a relatively lean person can have anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 calories of stored fat just waiting to be released! Ketones will help you tap into this seemingly endless energy supply, and have fat melting from your body.4
HOW TO USE KETONES
Ready to give ketones a shot? Now it’s time to change the way you view food. According to Dr. Dominic D’Agostino, Assistant Professor at the College Of Medicine Molecular Pharmacology & Physiology at the University of South Florida, to achieve ketosis your diet should consist of approximately 65% fat, 30% protein, and finally just 5% from carbs. But this may be a lot easier than you think. When trying to achieve optimal ketone levels in your body, a lot of your favorite foods probably have the green light. Choose foods from these groups.
- Fats - Avocadoes, MCT oil, Olive oil, & Coconut oil are great, healthy options.
- Protein - Fattier types of meat are good choices. Bacon, salmon, and certain cuts of beef, skin-on chicken,and eggs. Nuts and nut butters in moderation. Dairy products like full fat cheese, sour cream, heavy cream, and butter.
- Carbs - Carbs should mostly come from vegetables and leafy greens if possible. Good vegetable choices include kale, spinach, cauliflower, and broccoli. Some fruits can be eaten in moderation. Blueberries, strawberries, and cranberries are lower carb fruit choices.5
The important thing to remember is that eating this way does not have to feel restrictive. Let’s take a look at some favorite foods and how to easily tweak them to be more keto friendly:
- Eat a hamburger with bacon and cheese. Just swap out the bun for lettuce or leave it naked if you prefer.
- Use veggie noodles made from zucchini or other low carb veggies in place of pasta.
- Snack on nuts or pork rinds instead of chips or popcorn.
- Make cauliflower crust for your next pizza. Feel free to add pepperoni and extra cheese.
- Almond flour can be used to make delicious baked goods like bread without the high carb content.
- If you need a sweet fix, Stevia, Xylitol, and Erythritol can be subbed in recipes sweetening foods and beverages.
- Ditch the dairy milk for almond milk or other low-carb plant milks.
HELPFUL KETO SUPPLEMENTS
When following a good ketogenic diet, supplements can help you maximize the benefits of ketones, achieve optimal results, and pass through the “Keto flu” stage (a transition period when your body is getting used to your new diet) with ease. Check out these supplements that will help you smoothly transition to becoming a fat burning machine!
- MCT Oil & Coconut Oil - Coconut oil is made up of 60% MCTs (medium chain triglycerides). This type of fat can enter the bloodstream quickly and is an excellent way to get fast, long-lasting energy. Add coconut or MCT oil to smoothies or use it in place of other cooking oils when preparing food for a healthy source of fat.
- Vitamin D - Produced by the body when exposed to sunlight, Vitamin D is also found in fatty fish and mushrooms. Vitamin D supplementation is especially important during a restrictive diet for bone density & strength, absorption of minerals, & optimal cardiovascular, neuromuscular, and immune health.
- Fish Oil - Rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, fish oil can help lower triglyceride levels in the blood stream, support cardiovascular health, and improve overall health. Fish oil combined with a ketogenic diet has shown significant results at decreasing triglycerides and improving heart health.
- Fiber - Vegetables and fiber are critical components of a successful keto diet. But it can be hard to get in all your greens! If you’ve had all the kale you can handle for the moment, consider adding a fiber supplement to your diet to support optimal digestive health and help you feel full and satisfied throughout the day.
- Caffeine - The transition from high carb to high fat can be tiring, at least at first. While you’re waiting for the natural energy that a high fat diet can bring, you may benefit from a little help from caffeine. Caffeine can help you feel more energized and as a bonus will boost metabolism and lipogenesis.
- Spirulina - This blue-green algae will help reduce triglyceride levels, lower LDL cholesterol, and support optimal heart health. Spirulina is a complete protein source and is rich in amino acids, fiber, iron, potassium, and magnesium.
By following the 65/30/5 rule in your diet, and adding in some helpful supplements you may be able to achieve ketosis, or optimal levels of ketones, in your body in as little as 3 days. So what are you waiting for? You can enjoy food, naturally eat less, and have more energy by harnessing the power of ketones and putting them to work in your body. Stop denying yourself the bacon and the butter in the name of a smaller pant size and instead turn them into your new weight loss and energy tools! Dieting has never been so delicious.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU
- A Guide to the Keto Diet. 2013. Ruled.Me.
- Dominic D’Agostino: Mastering Ketosis – #85. 2015. Bulletproof Digital, Inc.
- Better Brain Fuel Source: Carbs or Fats? Glucose or Ketones? 2014. NootropicMind.
- The Science Behind The Ketogenic Diet. 2016. Weider Publications, LLC.
- Ketogenic Diet Food List. 2013. NO BUN PLEASE.