All About Keto

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So what is the difference between low carb and a ketogenic diet? Low carb is not a well defined term. Many, who are accustomed to eating 300-400g of carbs per day, may consider 150-200g as low carb. I personally feel that low carb means getting under 100g of carbs per day. To reach dietary ketosis however, one typically needs to get at least under 50g per day. Many reduce to 20-30g per day to maintain a ketogenic level.

What is Ketosis?

Dietary or nutritional ketosis takes place when the intake of carbohydrate level is lowered enough to induce the body to burn stored fat for fuel. This level is different for everyone. When this happens, your body becomes adapted to using fat for fuel. This adaptation period can last from several days to several weeks and occasionally carries some side effects, like feeling drained of energy, or even flu-like feelings. However, once passed, your body now has an amazing source of almost unlimited fuel. When one is a “sugar-burner” or relies on carbohydrates (glucose/sugar) as its primary fuel, high insulin levels typically prevent these ones from burning fat as fuel. But once becoming a “fat-burner”, one can burn not only fat, but any small amount of glucose that comes in as well. In truth, the muscles and liver can only store a few hundred grams of glucose. But the body, even in a lean person, has thousands of calories available from stored fat.

Once becoming fat adapted myself, my energy levels soared. I can go full steam 16 hours a day with almost unlimited energy. This was such a huge improvement in the quality of my life, as when I was a “sugar-burner”, I could hardly lift myself off the couch! Look at the illustration above. Sugar burners only have access to the small fuel tank seen at the bottom. Fat burners have access both to that small tank, as well as the huge stores of fat, represented by the big tanks.

Ketosis is a perfectly natural state and is not harmful.  Nutritional ketosis is often confused for a deadly condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis  which can affect those with Type 1 diabetes who have BOTH too little insulin ALONG WITH very high blood glucose levels.  With nutritional ketosis, our insulin levels are normal (not too low) and our blood glucose levels are also normal (not too high).

Nutritional Ketosis vs Diabetic Ketoacidosis
Much of the backlash from mainstream beliefs regarding the use of carb restriction stems from the lack of understanding about the difference between nutritional ketosis and diabetic ketoacidosis.  I’m going to quote directly from Diabetes Daily Website.  Here is the content of their article entitled “Why DKA and Nutritional Ketosis Are Not The Same”…(read the full article HERE)
 
“There’s a very common misconception and general misunderstanding around ketones.  Specifically, the misunderstanding lie in the areas of:
  • ketones that are produced in low-carb diets of generally less than 50g of carbs per day, which is low enough to put a person into a state of “nutritional ketosis.”
  • ketones that are produced when a diabetic is in a state of “diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).
  • and lastly, there are “starvation ketones” and “illness-induced ketones.”
 The fact is they are VERY different.  DKA is a dangerous state of ketosis that can easily land a diabetic in the hospital, while nutritional ketosis is the result of a nutritional approach that both non-diabetics and diabetics can achieve in low-carb nutrition.”
 
Diabetic Ketoacidosis
“Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) is a very dangerous state where an individual with uncontrolled diabetes is effectively starving due to the lack of insulin.  Insulin brings glucose into our cells and without it, the body switches to ketones.  Out brains can function off either glucose or fat and ketones.  Ketones are a breakdown of fat and amino acids that can travel through the blood to various tissues to be utilized for fuel.  In normal individuals, or those with well controlled diabetes, insulin acts to cancel the feedback loop and slow and stop the OVERPRODUCTION of ketones.  Without this feedback loop, DANGEROUS LEVELS OF KETONES BUILD UP, acidifying the body.  This would register on a ketone meter at levels of 20 mmol/L.  The levels can build up to a state that is highly toxic.  If someone is in this state, they are usually accompanied with excessive thirst and urination, hyperglycemia, pain, nausea and deep labored gasping breathing.  These individuals need to get to an emergency room and get medical treatment right away!”
 
Nutritional Ketosis
“Nutritional ketosis, on the other hand, is a state where the body is using ketones as a fuel source efficiently and safely.  In individuals without diabetes or in those with controlled diabetes, having insulin on board to maintain healthy blood sugar levels keeps ketone production in a safe range.  This is achieved by reducing carbohydrate intake to below 50g, because when glucose from food is limited, but blood sugars are still in a healthy range and enough insulin is present, the body will begin to burn body fat for fuel instead, producing low levels of ketones in the blood stream.”  Ketone levels may be in the 1-3 mmol/L range, which is not acidifying to the body.  This often allows individuals to stay lean, because the body is burning more fat for fuel rather than just glucose.  Energy levels are sustained much longer.  Individuals often have better mental clarity.  “As long as blood sugars are maintained in the normal safe range, someone with diabetes can safely be in nutritional ketosis.  Due to very stable blood sugars, this may be the best state for diabetes management.”
 
When you’ve been in nutritional ketosis and not even known it
  • “when you skip breakfast and don’t eat until lunch or later, your body is burning body fat for fuel and likely producing low levels of ketones.
  • when babies are born, they are often in a state of nutritional ketosis for the first few days or week because they are consuming so little breast milk until the mother’s breast milk production ramps up.
  • when you eat a low-carb meal (eggs and bacon) for breakfast and don’t eat again until late lunch or afternoon…or…when you eat a low carb breakfast followed by a low carb lunch, your body is producing a low level of ketones until you eat a more significant serving of carbohydrates at dinner, etc.”
So, nutritional ketosis is a perfectly natural state.  Ketones, are not harmful.  People with or without diabetes can safely be in a state of nutritional ketosis, with normal blood sugars, without the threat of ketoacidosis.

Check in periodically as I continue to build this page to discuss the benefits of a ketogenic lifestyle. For now, check out these great resources…

Ketogenic Diet Resource HERE

Keto Adapted HERE

One of the most successfully recognized ketogenic diets, is Dr. Eric Westman’s “No Sugar, No Starch” or “page 4” diet.  Dr. Westman is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Duke University, and Director of the Duke Lifestyle Medicine Clinic. He is a co-founder of Innovative Metabolic Solutions.  His dietary approach has helped  thousands to attain a healthy weight and reverse Type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders.  This diet provides SPECIFIC food lists for those needing very concise direction in following a ketogenic diet.  Here are resources for his diet plan.

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