You’ve heard of ketosis. But do you know what the health benefits of this popular keto diet are? We outline the main benefits to be had from following a ketogenic diet, and other benefits you could reap to help against certain illnesses.
What is Keto?
By now you know the keto diet is a high fat, high protein and low carb diet that is designed to shift your body from burning carbohydrates to fat as its primary fuel source. By using fat vs sugar as the primary fuel source, your body begins to break down fat reserves and protein for energy, resulting in ketosis.
Ketosis results in weight loss because your body begins to burn fat instead of storing it.
It is usually achieved by reducing carb intake to less than 50g per day and increasing your fat intake to approx. 70-75% of total calories consumed, with protein making up about 20%. Carbohydrates fill up the remainder, 5%. If you continue this for a few days, you’ll eventually begin to feel the difference – you’re more energised, you no longer crave junk food and ultimately feel healthier.
This happens because your body begins to produce ketones.
How does Keto work?
Ketosis results in your body producing Ketones.
Ketones are chemicals made in your liver in the absence of insulin which usually turns sugar into energy. When you’re on a low-carb diet, your body cannot produce enough insulin, so your liver converts fats into ketones – which is transported into your blood stream to be used as energy by your muscles and organs [source].
The 4 Main Benefits of Ketosis
While ketosis has a host of benefits (and disadvantages), this is really why you start ketosis in the first place. We outline the top 4 primary benefits of adopting the keto weight loss diet.
1. Weight loss
The primary benefit of ketosis is the weight loss – and getting rid of that belly fat without even going to the gym! Well, kind of. The reason for this is your body begins to use the fat more efficiently, burning fat for energy instead of storing the sugars in carbohydrates.
If coupled with weight training or other exercise, because the keto diet requires you to consume a higher level of protein, you build more muscle mass and increase your BMR, therefore burning more calories just to stay alive.
During Keto, as your body is essentially being starved of sugar (which also means you don’t get the sugar highs or lows!) you end up getting a steady flow of energy through fats, which also helps build up self-control to not go for that mid-afternoon snack, or that extra serving. This reduction in empty calories helps initially to lead the weight-loss efforts.
There are concerns that ketosis may result in you not consuming the full spectrum of nutrients one needs to remain healthy, and we’ll review this in due course. However, it is always prudent to supplement with extra vitamins and minerals, particularly if you’re following the vegetarian keto diet, or the vegan keto diet.
2. Control Diabetes
If you’re able to modify your diet to a low-carb intake, the keto diet can help reduce your insulin to a more controllable level.
Studies have found by adopting the keto diet and limiting carbohydrate intake to less than 50g per day, and even stretching to less than 20g per day, could have an impact in reversing type-2 diabetes. Research has indicated that reducing carbohydrate intake has a direct impact on blood sugar levels, and helps to eventually reverse insulin resistance.
Type 1 diabetes is a little trickier to resolve with diet completely. As a type-1 diabetic, it means your body cannot produce any or most of the insulin you need, hence insulin needs to be administered through injections.
3. Brain Health and Protection against Alzheimer’s
In the absence of glucose (sugar), ketones feed our brain for its source of energy.
Brain cells become more efficient, as inflammation is reduced. Ketones have neuroprotective benefits as they give the brain the opportunity to balance the neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA.
Glutamate essentially promotes stimulation and fires neurons, whereas GABA inhibits. By adopting a Keto diet, one can balance the production of Glutamate and GABA, which helps reduce the excess firing neurons and help provide a better mental focus .
A result of this can also reduce stress and anxiety and help with mental calmness. Ketone bodies have been identified as effective energy source for the brain .
Can Keto make you smarter? Research indicates that dieters have reported less confusion, more clarity and more mental attention to tasks . So, keto could make you smarter I guess.
It has been researched that a diet high in carbohydrates can impair cognitive performance, and a ketogenic diet may as a result help protect against Alzheimers disease .
4. More Energy
Along side mental focus, a ketogenic diet can help with feeling more energised. To begin with, people often report feeling tired when starting a low-carb keto diet. This is known as the “Keto-flu” and usually lasts a couple of days as your body shifts from burning carbs to fats.
However, once you reach ketosis, your liver begins to produce ketones which is used for energy. Ketones are the only internal fuel source that can contribute significantly to brain and body mechanics .
Research indicates that the steady flow of energy (as fat takes longer to digest than carbs) and increase in protein help contribute to elevated levels of energy in participants .
Some of the downsides of Keto
With everything good, there are some downsides you need to be aware of when adopting the keto-diet. Not all diets are safe and the keto is no exception.
Because you’re restricting your foods to high fatty foods such as coconut oil, avocados and nuts you are unlikely to obtain all your dietary nutritional needs during the keto plan.
This can be even tougher for vegetarians and vegans who are even more restricted in what can be eaten.
As such, you may experience symptoms related to low levels of iron, or Vitamin C and begin to feel tired or ill more frequently.
It is important to supplement your meals with a high quality vitamin when on the keto diet.
Tough lifestyle choice
The keto diet is tough. During the first couple of days, you will go through a trying process where your body feels tired, achy, you feel dizzy and may suffer from constipation.
This is because your body is going through the transitional phase, called the “Keto-flu”. This will pass-over in a couple of days, however it can be tough and is often where people fail the diet.
Going through the keto-flu phase is even tougher for vegetarians and vegans due to the more limited food choices available.
The Keto Diet is not for everybody. If you’re determined to make this diet work, then you will reap the benefits that come with ketosis;
- Weight loss
- Control of diabetes for those who are border line
- Greater focus and brain health
- More energy to begin living and enjoying life
A good starter plan is to try 3 days on 2 days off to cycle yourself into the routine of this intense diet. Most people will do a cyclical diet, to help control the mind and develop self-control, while also maximising the benefits of losing weight and getting more energised – before a holiday for example.
Have you tried the keto diet? Let us know your experiences in the comments below, or reach out to us. We may even feature your story here!