TL;DR: The ketogenic diet forces the body into making ketones which are an alternate energy your body uses to function. They can improve mental function and facilitate weight loss. Remove carbs from your diet and increase fat; measure your ketone levels by doing a blood test, urine test or breath test.
What is fat?
Let’s start the discussion here. Building a strong foundation for you to understand what actually happens in your body if you choose to begin the ketogenic diet.
In the figure above, the fatty acids are characterized and the reccomended level of consumption is indicated by the color of the bubble.
The diagram reflects how there are “good” fats and “bad” fats, and that there are very different types of molecules characterized under the broader term “fatty acid.”
A good look at the diagram will give you a good overview of types of foods that contain moderate to high levels of the given fat, and it will give you a good overview of the term “fat.”
The Ketogenic Diet
The point of the ketogenic diet, low-carb/high-fat intake, is to enter ketosis: a natural state where the body produces ketones by breaking down fat in the liver. Ketones . The metabolic state of ketosis is achieved through reducing carbohydrate intake to “trick” your body into survival mode.
When carbohydrates are low, the body can longer sufficiently fuel your body by the conversion of carbs to glucose. It turns to an alternate route where it breaks down fat into ketones through beta-oxidation.
As seen in the “The Body in Ketosis,” the main source of energy and fuel come from the ketone bodies and NOT from the glucose because of the limited carbohydrate supply. This is why many people switch to the ketone diet to improve mental energy levels and stamina.
The figure above displays the use of different molecules formed when fatty acids are broken down into acetoacetate which is further broken down into acetone and beta-hydroxybutyric acid.
These molecules are the reason why the ketogenic diet is so successful in increasing energy and
Ideal Foods for Ketosis
- Dairy: high-fat cheese, whole milk
- Leafy/Green Vegetables: spinach, kale, seaweed
- Nuts: macadamia nuts and almonds
- Protein: beef, chicken, pork, eggs
Foods to Avoid
- Fruit Juices & Soft Drinks
- Whole Grains
- Baked Goods
- Potatoes and Pastas
Ideal Ketone Levels
Low: <1.5mmol Midrange: 1.6-3.0mmol Ideal: >3.0mmol
Through blood testing, urine testing and/or breath testing, your ketone level can be measured. However, they vary in accuracy so they are best used in conjunction with one another.
Urine Testing for Ketones
Pros: Easily found at your local pharmacy. Buy strips specifically for testing ketone levels if they are availible. It’s convenient and easy for beginners.
Cons: Aren’t always that reliable for testing ketone levels. It’s possible the test can indicate a lower level of ketosis than you’re actually in because your body can become better at using them. Readings easily effected by your electrolyte and hydration level.
Recommendation: Best for beginners because it is most effective when starting out and it is cheap.
Blood Testing for Ketones
Pros: Incredibly accurate because few factors affect the BHB levels in your bloodstream. Quick and easy with only a pin prick to your finger.
Cons: Expensive if you test frequently. Can cost as much as $5-10 per strip.
Recommendation: This is the best way to measure BHB since it passes through your blood, so it is best for those willing to invest in this method.
Breath Testing for Ketones
Pros: Incredibly affordable and it is a one time purchase. Easy method, simply blow into the device.
Cons: Not as reliable because it measures acetone levels in your breath which can be affected by a variety of other factors.
Recommendation: Use this in conjunction with either the blood or urine test.
The ketogenic diet is great: it can facilitate weight loss, improve mental focus, and lower bad forms of cholesterol. However, it is a starch change of lifestyle and there are some negative side effects associated with the ketogenic diet.
If you are willing to commit to your long-term health, take the leap. Buy cheese, eggs, oils, nuts, kale, chicken etc. Cut out sugary drinks, whole grains, potatoes, baked goods etc. It will become part of your lifestyle, and the vast majority of people feel better once entering ketosis.
I wish you the best of luck on your journey!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Take my advice at your own discretion.