Over the last year or two, ketosis, or rather the “keto diet” has gained a lot of popularity. One of the biggest reasons for this boom in popularity is because of how effective this diet is for weight loss.
Before I give an introduction on how to implement it properly, I’m going to explain why it works so effectively here in part 1.
Sugar is our Rapid Source of Fuel
Our body normally breaks down carbohydrates and sugar into glucose. That’s the form it can effectively use for fuel. Not all carbohydrates and sugars are broken down at the same rate. Sugar and carbohydrates come in simple and complex form. Complex sugars and carbohydrates are broken down slowly while simple sugars and carbohydrates are broken down rapidly.
The body stores some of that sugar in muscle tissue, but it can only keep a limited amount of glucose in the blood stream safely. When we eat complex sugars and carbohydrates, our body digests and breaks them down slowly. Think of it like an IV, dripping slowly.
A small amount of glucose is being produced at a time. Essentially, your body will be using that glucose as it’s being broken down and newly formed.
Fast Digesting Carbs & Sugars
However, if we eat a lot of simple sugars and carbohydrates, our body is forced to break them down rapidly and releasing a surge of glucose into the blood stream. Since our body can only handle a small amount of glucose in the blood, the pancreas releases insulin to store that excess sugar in fat cells as fat. If we continue to eat simple carbohydrates and sugars, this process will continue to repeat itself. Too much energy goes in, some is used, most is stored.
Naturally thin people will store less of that energy and use most of it. That’s where hyper activity, restlessness and sleep problems emerge to compensate for that extra energy.
Either way, this process is highly inflammatory over a long period of time.
Simple sugars and carbohydrates are often times referred to as refined carbohydrates and sugars. An example of a simple carbohydrate is bread. Bread is made from grains. Grains are refined into a fine powder and then baked with yeast to make bread.
Complex and slow Digesting Carbs
An example of a complex carbohydrate is broccoli. Broccoli is consumed in its raw form. A lot of the carbohydrates in broccoli come in the form of fiber. Fiber is a non digestible form of carbohydrates and aids in the slow digestion of them.
In this case, broccoli will digest much slower than bread. The process in which our body breaks down sugars and carbohydrates into glucose for energy is called glycolysis.
Ketosis and Dietary Fat
Now onto keto. Keto is short for ketosis. Ketosis is the process in which our body breaks down fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies to use for fuel.
Ketosis is essentially a state of starvation. Basically when our body runs out of food, we need to tap into our fat stores for energy. Since we no longer have sugar in our system for fuel, our body makes the transition over to using fat as that primary fuel source.
Our liver begins to send out hormones to break down fat in the fat cells and allows them to escape. Those fatty acids are transported to the liver and the liver converts them to ketones.
During this process, the body is in a low energy, adaptation state. The person will feel tired, lethargic and generally weak until the body becomes keto-adapted.
It may take a few days to up to two weeks to become fully adapted, but the symptoms I mentioned above should subside within two to three days.
I did mention that ketosis is a state of starvation, so why is this a diet?
While it is induced during actual starvation, it’s not necessary to achieve the state of ketosis.
We can simple enter the state of ketosis by starving ourselves from simple sugars and carbohydrates. When the body has an insufficient amount of sugar and carbohydrates to use for fuel effectively, it will begin transitioning to using fat. The body will be able to readily use any fat we eat for fuel as well as the body fat we have on us in between meals. This is called nutritional ketosis.
Nutritional Ketosis and the Benefits
Nutritional ketosis can be beneficial in a lot of different ways. For example, in the 1950’s, epilepsy patients were prescribed ketogenic diets to control their seizures. A lot of recent studies have also shown positive effects from ketogenic diets on other neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
The human brain seems to run a bit more consistently on ketones and fatty acids than it does on glucose. Also, glycation is the byproduct of glucose once it’s burned for fuel. This byproduct has been documented as potentially disruptive to those with neurological conditions.
However, the primary reason the keto diet has become so popular over the last two years is its outstanding effect on weight loss.
Stay tuned for part 2. In Part 2 I will go into the step by step of how to enter a ketogenic state. I’ll go over who should and who shouldn’t maintain ketosis long term, how to do so eating out and how to do so on a budget. I will go into great detail on how to maintain a ketogenic state consistently with proper habits.