What is Keto?
Keto is a way of eating that is low in carbs, moderate in protein and high in healthy fats. Keto comes from the word “ketogenic. This is where the body produces ketones and uses them for energy. Keto is also known as Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) and Banting.
To understand the reasoning behind keto, it helps to have a basic understanding of carbs; how they work in the body, and why keto limits them.
Carbs can be divided into two groups, complex and simple.
Foods such as peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables are complex carbs.
Simple carbs are found in foods that have little nutritional value and are easy to overeat. Foods in this group include most alcoholic beverages, highly processed foods, sugary sweets, ice-cream, white potatoes, white flour, white rice, white bread, etc. These contain starches (sugars) that are easily digested and converted to glucose. Glucose is what our bodies use for energy when we eat a carb based diet.
If the energy we consume closely matches the energy we expend, all is good! Healthy, happy human!
A sedentary lifestyle and too many starchy or sugary carbs often lead to excess body fat!
These days many of us lead busy but physically inactive lives. Add this to a standard, carb-rich diet, and you have the perfect recipe for sugar cravings and excess weight. Carbs are converted to glucose. When we have more than we need to fuel our body the excess gets stored as fat!
Keto works by limiting excess sugars and starches, eating some protein and healthy fats.
More and more people are discovering a keto diet. Based on low carbs, moderate (not high) protein, and healthy fats, it’s helping people lose weight without hunger or cravings! The “energy in/energy out model” is based on calories in/calories out. However, there may be something more at play when it comes to keto. Exactly what that is remains a mystery. However, numerous studies report people being able to lose more weight, despite consuming higher calories when eating a keto diet, compared to a diet rich in carbs.
Unlike carbs, which produce glucose for energy, a ketogenic diet relies on ketones for fuel. When carbs are reduced, the glycogen level in our body drops. Glycogen is related to water retention, so once the level drops, our bodies release fluid via the kidneys. Therefore, some of the initial weight lost with keto is due to extra visits to the loo.
During this initial phase of keto our bodies are adapting to using ketones for energy instead of glucose. Some people may experience “keto flu” (headaches, grogginess, etc) but this usually subsides in a week or so. Adding some extra salt to food, eating keto chicken soup or drinking broth can help. Eat a varied diet that includes lots of healthy lower carb veggies (fresh leafy greens, lots of colored veggies). Low-sugar fruits (mainly berries) may also be enjoyed sparingly (no more than half a cup a day, a few days a week). Raspberries are amazing!
Bonus: In addition to tasting great, low carb veggies and fruits are bursting with health-giving nutrients and naturally occurring antioxidants.
Will Keto work for everyone?
It’s impossible to predict exactly how keto will work for any single person. However, the experience of myself and many others suggests most people do well. Prior to keto, I followed every new version of the so-called healthy food pyramid diet (SAD – Standard American Diet). I did lose weight initially but suffered from unbearable hunger, irritability, and feelings of inadequacy. Any weight I lost was quickly regained. Year after year, I became more desperate, more miserable—and fatter!
Keto is so different! It’s definitely not a miracle diet and does require a period of adjustment, but the rewards are many. As long as you follow the keto guidelines you really can eat healthy, tasty food, that keeps you full while you lose weight. At the time of writing, I’m 48 lbs/22kg lower than my highest weight!
Do I need to weigh food or count macronutrients (fat, protein, carbs)?
People tend to fall into two camps; those who like a “laid back” approach and those who prefer a more structured regimen. Each is valid and keto allows for both.
For the “ease into it” crowd, start keto with a process of elimination. This will not require any counting. Simply cut out “white” foods such as bread, flour, and rice. Next, ditch sugar, junk food, fruit juices, milky drinks, high sugar fruits, and starchy vegetables. This will reduce your carb intake significantly. Replace your usual meals with keto recipes (there are many online). Once you become accustomed to the changes in your diet you can then start looking at the “numbers”, i.e. your daily carbs, protein, and fat if you want to. Or continue along, just as you are. If you feel good and are losing weight, then “lazy keto” may be all that you need.
For those wanting a more standard approach to keto, it all starts with macronutrients; fat, protein and carbs.
Keto uses a ratio to determine the amounts for each macronutrient:
- 60-75% Fat
- 15-30% Protein
- 5-10% Carbs
The built-in range offers some flexibility. For example, a person on 1,500 calories a day may choose keto macros of 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbs. Their macros would be 116g fat/75g protein/37.5g carb. This is based on fats containing 9 calories per gram, and protein and carbs having 4 calories per gram each. This method works well for those who like to keep an eye on their calories as well as their keto macros.
There are also keto calculators online that can help you to work out your macro percentages. A Google search should return a number of choices.
It helps to create a list of your preferred keto foods and meals
Most people are creatures of habit and tend to eat the same foods most of the time. Keep a record of the carbs in your regular foods and build up your own personal keto food list. You may choose to count whole carbs or net carbs. Many prefer to count net carbs (carb grams minus fibre grams) but once again, the choice is yours.
Once you are more familiar with keto you may be able to eyeball things more and may not need to weigh foods to calculate macros. However, if your weight starts to go up or stalls for more than a week or two, it’s probably time for a quick refresher. Best to stay on track and nip any excesses in the bud at the outset. Learning which foods contain the least carbs and sticking with those most of the time is usually sufficient for most people.
Need more info?
Check out the Keto/LCHF Guidelines
Remember, on the keto journey, slow and steady wins the race!
There’s no need to rush or be perfect. Just make the best choices you can, as often as you can. It’s what you do most of the time that counts!
Maintain a positive attitude
Try not to dwell on any setbacks. Expect some detours along the way (life happens!).
Most of all—ENJOY!
Eat well, drink well, and lose weight.
Once you get the hang of things, keto really is a piece of (cheese) cake!