Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What is Ketosis?

So say you've been following a strict diet of whole, real food but you still have some- what you view as- excess weight you would like to shed. Working out is definitely helping but there's just some areas that are stubborn. Well then, I'd say you and I, and a whole lot of other people, have some things in common.

Enter the ketogenic diet.

Let me be the first to say that I despise the word "diet" and all that it stands for- which is usually just some self-deprivation for a short period of time that leads to a brief moment of ecstasy from fitting in your middle school jeans and then leads back down a road of despair once one gives in to molten chocolate cake.

So why did I decide to try keto in addition to Paleo? Pretty simple actually; I have a goal to meet short term and I want to prove to myself that I can do it. This is my means of doing so. Plus, if I can train my brain to stop eating carbs I know I no longer have limitations. (I have a terrible sweet tooth.)

Getting to the main point- what is ketosis? In the simplest terms, ketosis is the state your body enters when your body starts burning fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. Our bodies burn carbohydrates turned into sugars (known as glucose) as the fuel to live. This is why carbs are really to blame for making people gain weight rather than fat itself (see the infograph below). So when your body is deprived of it's main energy source, it starts making ketones which are chemicals that enable our bodies to burn fat as fuel. It's not as easy as flipping a switch and can take several days for the process to occur. People striving to reach ketosis are generally encouraged to eat less than 50 carbs per day, limit protein intake to a moderate level, and chow down on plenty of good fats such as coconut oil, avocados, and nuts. Too much protien is also thought to enable the body to avoid burning fat for energy, so that is why it's recommended in limitation as well. Leafy green vegetables are highly advised in large quantities. Once your body reaches ketosis, carbohydrate intake can be tampered with, sometimes up to 100-150 grams of carbs per day.

Of course, there are down sides. For one, fruit is kind of out the window, at least for a while, and at least in my case. And that's sad. Another thing would be that, depending on the studies you believe, keeping one's body in a state of ketosis long term can lead to premature aging. Lack of energy definitely does occur, so therefore it is often recommended to eat carbohydrate about 30 minutes prior to a workout- these will not be stored as adipose but are burned off during the exercise. The first few days when your body is changing over make you feel horrible- like a detox, but it does get better.

The positives are pretty blatant. Weight loss, which means a commercially sexier you. And for hundreds of years a keto diet has been used to treat serious illnesses like epilepsy, cancer, and other bad stuff.  Plus, eating the keto way means you can still eat bacon.

Obviously, a keto diet is not for everyone, but you can decide for yourself if it is something you may ever want to try.

*note, I'm not a doctor, so don't take anything I say as health advice, please.

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