Keto for beginners - how it works & how to do it
The keto diet is everywhere you look. Touted for helping people achieve drastic weight loss, improve energy, and heal all sorts of chronic conditions, is there potential that it could be some sort of miracle diet?
Maybe not a miracle, but it’s definitely capable of restoring health and balance to people struggling with a number of health issues.
So, what’s all the hype with keto?
If you’re not familiar with the diet or know a bit about it but aren’t sure how to get started, you’re in the right place. This article is going to give you a rundown of everything you need to know about how to get started on keto.
What is keto?
The ketogenic diet was originally developed as a treatment for people with epilepsy because it mimicked the state of fasting, but has more recently transitioned to a diet that benefits a variety of health conditions. The keto diet focuses, first and foremost, on restricting carbohydrate intake, and secondly on increasing intake of healthy fats. That’s why you’ll also hear keto referred to as low-carb, high-fat (LCHF).
The idea behind keto is to restrict carbohydrates to limit glucose supply—the body’s main source of energy—which helps to increase production of ketone bodies; ketones are created by oxidizing (burning) fats for energy in the absence of glucose; in the presence of glucose, the body will preferentially use that. However, when blood glucose is low and glycogen stores are depleted, the body must switch to an alternate source of fuel. That fuel being fat. This happens because when you restrict glucose, you’re keeping insulin levels low. And with low insulin levels, it becomes that much easier to tap into fat stores and burn those as energy; insulin is actually a fat storage hormone, so when you aren’t working against something trying to store fat, it becomes easier to actually burn it.
A hallmark of the keto diet is being kicked into a ‘fat burning state’, also known ketosis. By limiting carbohydrate (glucose) intake, you essentially teach your body how to rely on an alternate source of energy, and we can change how our body’s use energy.
And for people who are overweight, the keto diet can be one of the easiest and most effective tools to get you there.
Who keto is beneficial for
Whether you struggle with weight loss or balancing your moods, the keto diet could be beneficial for a wide range of conditions, including (but not limited to):
- Metabolic syndrome
- Type 2 diabetes
- Parkinson’s disease
- Cognitive disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
- Mood disorders
How does keto work?
The idea behind how keto works is pretty simple.
When you’re consuming carbohydrates, those carbs are broken down directly into glucose, a sugar that serves as the main source of fuel for the body and brain. And where glucose is, insulin must follow; insulin is an anabolic hormone that plays a role in regulating the body’s metabolism and is required for glucose to enter cells.
However, when there is limited glucose coming in, there isn’t enough energy to supply to body’s demands, which means it has to look elsewhere. On the keto diet, energy is derived primarily from the oxidation of fatty acids in mitochondria (the cell’s powerhouses). When rates of fatty acid oxidation are high, large amounts of acetyl-CoA are generated, which leads to the synthesis of three ketone bodies in the liver: β-hydroxybutyrate, acetoacetate, and acetone. Unlike most other compounds (except glucose), ketones can cross the blood-brain barrier and provide energy for the brain; ketones actually burn cleaner than any other compound, which is partially the reason why keto can improve energy and reduce brain fog.
The reason why this doesn’t happen when people are consuming carbohydrates is because insulin is a storage hormone, and when insulin levels are high (they increase when glucose is consumed), the body can’t tap into fat stores to provide energy. As such, when you drop glucose levels, insulin also drops and you have a virtually endless supply of stored or incoming energy to pull from.
Basically, your metabolism does a 180; your body shifts from a carbohydrate and sugar-burning metabolism to a fat-burning metabolism.
Sounds great, right? So, how do you actually do keto?
The rules of keto, explained
One of the biggest sticking people face with keto is getting the macros right. Because there is essentially a “carb budget” you’re working with, it becomes a bit of a tedious process when first starting out to stick to this budget, which means careful tracking of everything you eat.
Basically, everyone has a certain carb threshold they must adhere to in order to keep their body in fat burning mode. And this threshold is more than just looking at the carb count of a food; it’s actually looking at the net carb count.
For most people, keto means around 5% total energy intake is coming from carbs, which translates to somewhere between 20 and 30g of net carbs.
Net carbs = total carbohydrates – fiber
This ‘net carb allotment’ is based around the amount of glucose that can circulate in your bloodstream while still allowing your body to produce ketones. Too much glucose and your body won’t create ketones; it needs to be that sweet spot that provides some glucose but not enough to actually provide you with substantial energy and limit ketone production.
However, even the 5% isn’t standard for everyone. Some people can afford to include a bit more, like athletes for example, whereas others maybe need less. It’s all about finding that sweet spot and it takes some calculating and trial and error to figure out.
The challenges with keto
Even for the most educated and refined keto followers, sticking to a 100% keto meal plan can be a challenge. And if you’re completely new to keto, all the number crunching, macro ratios, calorie counting, and planning can be bordering on totally overwhelming.
In an effort to make keto simple—because really, we don’t think eating has to be complicated—we’ve created a Simple Keto System that tailors your keto diet to the results you’re looking for. Whether it’s weight loss, increased strength, or better digestion, it’s a quick and easy way to get a customized meal plan to suit your goals and your unique biochemical makeup. Not every body is the same, so why should we all be following the same dietary plan? We shouldn’t.
So, if you’re looking to get the same great results as the classic keto diet while supporting your unique body, we highly suggest you give it a try! And best of all, it’s completely free.
Keto can be great for a lot of things, be it weight management, improved metabolic health, better energy, balanced hormones, and the list goes on. But if you’re looking towards keto to play a role in your weight loss journey, it’s definitely a great tool to have in your toolkit.
There’s no definitive answer as to how much weight you can lose, but if you’re curious about your weight loss possibilities AND want to get a keto plan that’s right for you to help achieve your health goals, take our free body type quiz and let’s get started!