The Ketogenic Diet has risen to fame lately as being an easy to follow, “cure all” diet… but is it just another fad or is there some actual science behind the thinking?
The diet itself is all about getting your body into a state of ketosis, which is essentially when your body burns fat (either body fat or dietary fat) as the primary fuel, instead of glucose from carbohydrates. Ketosis is created by eating high amounts of healthy fat, moderate protein and low levels of carbohydrate.
The diet originally came about to treat patients with epilepsy, as it was found to reduce seizures very successfully. The ketogenic diet is now being extensively studied as a treatment for Cancer, Alzhiemer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and is thought to be effective for many different ailments.
When you train your body to burn fat for fuel instead of glucose, endurance and stamina increase due to your body learning how to access energy.
When you burn fat for fuel, the need for oxygen goes down, suggesting an increase in your metabolism. Additionally, your body continues to burn fat when you sleep, highlighting a very effective weight loss method.
The main feature in the diet is the inclusion of intermittent fasting for 12- 18 hours. The way this is usually done is by finishing dinner by 8pm and then not eating until around lunch time the following day. This can promote autophagy, which is pretty much a self-cleaning session for your cells, plus, fasting can help you to build up stamina as your body learns how to deal with stress. The diet composition is typically 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbohydrates.
The fats include omega 3 fats (oily fish, chia, flax seeds), omega 9 fats (olives, avocados and nuts), and healthy saturated fat (coconut oil and ghee or grass fed butter); the protein includes fish, clean meats, poultry, and eggs; and the carbohydrates involve non- starchy vegetables.
To get into a state where you’re fat burning and in ketosis, it can actually take a couple of weeks to adjust, and you can feel a little rough during this time. However, the sense of alertness that people have documented afterwards is huge. The ketogenic diet continues for about 3-6 months and then it’s advised for most people that carbohydrates are re-introduced, otherwise health can begin to deteriorate (after all, cutting out whole food groups long-term is never really advised!).
Whilst this can be amazing for therapeutic results in serious conditions, intermittent fasting and the full blown ketogenic diet isn’t great for everyone… particularly women!
The bio-hacker Dave Asprey created the Bulletproof Coffee to assist the ketosis-like process but prevent hunger and possible side effects, in which coffee is blended with butter and MCT oil for a more sustainable morning. There is also a weekly carb “re-feed” day to prevent possible hormone-related side effects.
On the other hand, it’s been noted that there are particular groups of people who can experience detrimental results on low carb. This includes those with thyroid issues; highly stressed people, or those with adrenal fatigue; people with insomnia; or pregnant and post-partum women. The modification on the diet is then to add protein (like collagen) into your morning shake or Bulletproof Coffee and have a morning high fat meal (i.e. avoid the intermittent fasting), and stick to high fat, low- carb principles for the whole day, until dinner- time when starchy vegetables like sweet potato and squash are eaten.
As I always say though, it’s about finding out what works for your body, as we’re all individuals. Experimenting with a healthy version of low carb definitely has its perks, so long as you’re eating unprocessed, natural foods it’s well worth giving it a go. Just make sure you take on board the modifications for your own health.