Your body explained: What is the ketogenic diet?

what is keto diet

You probably have heard a lot about low carb diets and the effect that it can have on losing weight. But have you heard about ketogenic diet and its magical benefits on your fat loss journey? The ketogenic diet is slowly becoming the superstar of dieting world, mainly because it’s effective and sustainable.

A ketogenic diet is something you want to test out if you have been hopelessly dealing with weight issues without getting any real results. A ketogenic diet is a very powerful fat burning method that is especially effective for anyone who is overweight, obese or has type 2 diabetes.

Okay, but what is the keto diet?

Ketogenic diet in a nutshell

So, a ketogenic diet by its nature is very simple, it’s a very low carb diet and by very, I mean very. More precisely high fat, adequate protein, and low carbohydrate diet. Removing carbohydrates from the daily menu will force the body to start finding new sources of energy. This will result in a situation where the body will start using fat as the primary source of energy. The amount of protein and fat can vary, depending on the goals but the absence of the carbohydrates is a must.

At the end of the day, it’s difficult for your body to burn body fat if you keep feeding it with sugar and starch at every possible moment. Once those fast energy sources are out of the way, your body will start switching over to a state called ketosis and start running on fat instead.

What is ketosis?

In everyday life, in normal eating, your body runs on a mix of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. When you increase your fat intake and reducing the carbohydrates, you will force your body to switch into a metabolic state called ketosis – where your body is not using glucose anymore for energy. In other terms, your body goes from sugar burner to a fat burner mode.

Ketosis is a metabolic state where your liver starts producing ketone bodies (small organic molecules). More precisely once you are in ketosis, the liver starts converting fat into free fatty acids (FFA) and ketone bodies. Fatty acids will be used by most tissues in the body, brain and nervous system will use ketone bodies as a primary source of energy. [1]

One of the reasons humans can survive so long (about 45-60 days, as long, as they are properly hydrated) without eating, is that humans have this biological superpower – we can turn fat into ketones and convert ketones into an effective energy source. At the other hand, if we would need to rely on glucose, we would die in a few days. If we need to rely on protein we probably would live couple more days but would be become physically completely weakened and powerless. [2]

So only ignore carbs and that’s it? 

Well not quite. The ketogenic diet is high fat, low carb and adequate protein – which means you need to observe your protein intake as well.  As the protein can and will be converted to glucose in the liver. This is why in most keto diets, the protein quantity is restricted to about 25% of total caloric intake. However, if you fall far below of your required protein quantity, your body will start breaking down your muscles to produce glucose, so it’s important to stay between required limits and to not go too much off the course.

The three types of ketogenic diets explained

The ketogenic diet can be amazing when the goal is fat loss, but you can also gain power, build muscle when on ketosis. There are three main types of ketogenic diets – standard, cyclic and targeted.

Standard Ketogenic Diet (STD)

This is the basis of TKD and CKD. The standard ketogenic diet (SKD) is what most think of as the ketogenic diet – low in carbohydrate, and moderate-high in both protein and fat (typically 70-75% fat, 20% protein, 5-10% carbs). This approach is good for anyone whose main goal is to lose fat fast and as little workout as possible.

Cyclic Ketogenic Diet (CKD) 

Popular among athletes, sports enthusiasts, and other high performers. Cyclic aka carb-cycling is a low carb diet with intermittent periods of high or moderate carbohydrate consumption. Often used as a way to maximize fat loss while maintaining the ability to perform high-intensity exercises. The term cyclic refers, that you are going to cycle between periods of high carb/low (usually one day per week) fat days and low carb/high fat days. In this case, diet consists a weekly carb loading phase in order to refuel your glycogen levels.

Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)

The idea is pretty simple, a diet where carbs are allowed twice a day (on workout days) – before and after the workout. This will give your body the energy to perform the workout properly, lift higher volume at a higher intensity level. Consumed carbs will not be stored in the body as fat, as they will be quickly depleted.

Hopefully, now you understand the differences between ketogenic diets – which will help you to choose the right one for you. Awesome beans, but which one should I choose? Well, the experimentation is the way to go. It depends on your goals and on how active you are. If you are first starting out, fighting with losing fat and are not the most active person on the planet, then I would suggest you, to start out with the standard ketogenic diet. Give it a chance and follow it at least 14 days.

Biggest benefits of ketogenic diet and being in ketosis

Okay, one thing is clear – sticking to a ketogenic diet can be very effective for losing weight fairly quickly. While the ketogenic diet is excellent for fat loss – thanks to ketosis which is utilizing the stored fat as a primary energy source, there are many other benefits that may be even more drastic than losing weight fast already is.

Type 2 diabetes

The ketogenic diet is especially beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes (who aren’t on insulin medications) and pre-diabetics who are trying to reverse their situation. Thanks to ketosis, your insulin levels are down which will reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and in some cases even cured type 2 diabetes. The ketogenic diet will also reduce the blood pressure and insulin secretions. [3][4]

Cancer cure

Different studies have found that may have a natural curing effect on cancer – as it simply starves the cancer cells. Normal cells in the human body have the metabolic flexibility to adapt from using glucose to using ketone bodies. Cancer cells lack this ability so when you reduce carbs to only non-starchy vegetables, it is possible to starve the cancer cells. [5][6]


In 1920 a New York physician, Dr. Galen, reported significant success in treating epilepsy by initiating a program of fasting. Further studies confirmed the effectiveness of fasting as an effective treatment for seizures. When in the state of ketosis, the elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood will lead to a reduction in the frequency of the epileptic seizures. [7]

Reduced risk of heart diseases

During ketosis, your cholesterol levels will drop dramatically, as your body has less glucose from which to make it. The ketogenic diet will optimize your cholesterol levels and improve your overall health – resulting in lower risk of heart diseases. [8]

Reduced appetite

Unlike many other diets, during ketosis, when you are consuming fat as a primary source of energy, higher levels of a hormone called leptin is released. Leptin is an amazing hormone that helps to regulate your energy balance by restraining the hunger feeling.

How can I get into ketosis?

Okay, so by now you probably know that you need to reduce your carbohydrate intake. When we talk about carbs we talk about net carbs. Keep in mind that net carbs are not something you can find from a nutrition label on your favorite box of cereal. Fortunately, you can easily calculate them: you should count grams of net carbs, which represent the total carbohydrate content of the food and subtract the dietary fiber and sugar alcohols (if in the product).

Net carbs = Total carbs – Dietary fiber

The classic ketogenic diet is usually using a 4:1 ratio by weight of fat to combined protein and carbohydrate. This means, when you are first starting out, you initially want to limit your daily net carb intake up to 20g per day. Over time your body will be more adapted to this and you will be able to increase your net carb intake up to 50g per day. This will happen usually during 50-80 days, assuming, that you can keep up this diet for such period of time.

You may be wondering, how long does it take to get into ketosis when I am just starting out? Well, your body can only store about two day supply of glucose in the form of glycogen. This means, that after two days of consuming up to 20 grams of net carbs, most people get into ketosis. [9]


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