WHAT IS THE KETOGENIC DIET

what is the keto diet

Everyone is talking about the Keto Diet. So, what is the Keto Diet? Let me show you what it is and how it works…  

The Ketogenic Diet was successfully used for over a hundred years as a treatment for children with Epilepsy. It is also being studied for its benefits for Diabetes, Cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease. Recently it’s become very popular for its weight loss benefits.

Although the Ketogenic Diet proves to have tremendous health benefits, there are still many misconceptions about it. Some people think it is the latest fad diet. Some think it is similar to Atkins and Banting.  

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

The Keto Diet is a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb diet. When you follow a ketogenic diet your body’s metabolism shifts from using glucose (carbs) as a source of fuel to using fat as its source of fuel. The Ketogenic Diet is also defined by a specific macronutrient ratio. Quite a few variations of the keto diet have developed over the years.  

The Standard Ketogenic Diet’s macros consist of 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs.

The Ketogenic Diet Is A High-Fat, Low-Carb Diet Moderate Protein Diet

  • High Fat– The keto diet is a high-fat diet. This means that 75% of your daily calorie intake will come from fat
  • Low Carb– The keto diet is very low in carbs. Only 5% of your daily calorie intake will come from carbs.
  • Moderate Protein– The keto diet is moderate in protein. Only 15-20%% of your daily calorie intake will come from protein.

Many people are still stuck with the mindset that a high-fat diet is bad for you and will raise your cholesterol levels. Years of indoctrination of the low-fat diet craze which was founded on false scientific claims have demonize saturated fat. Although the latest research and several books have debunked these beliefs, there are still some doctors that believe these myths and warn their patients against high-fat diets. If you are still unsure about whether being in ketosis is good for you, check out our “Ultimate Guide To Ketosis”.

Origin Of A Ketogenic Diet

Fasting, Starvation and Water Diet

Fasting has been used to treat epilepsy and other kinds of ailments since at least 500 BC.  Jesus cured an epileptic boy and told his disciples “this kind can not come out except by prayer and fasting.” Fasting has been practised by Christians, Greeks, Buddhist, and in all corners of the world for as long as time.

The Ketogenic Diet evolved from what could be considered “starvation” to “a water diet”.  The Ketogenic Diet was first introduced by modern physicians as a treatment for epilepsy in the 1920s. During the period between the 1920s to the 1930s, the Ketogenic Diet was widely used and with great success.  

The Charlie Foundation

With the rise of pharmaceutical companies, the use of the diet was soon replaced for a prescription. The use of drugs was found to be more convenient than the effort and trouble to maintain the strict control the diet required.  Children and adults could now enjoy a normal life and eat all types of foods freely.

All traces of the Ketogenic Diet would have been lost during the following decades had it not been for Dr Freedman and his dietitian, Millicent Kelly at the John Hopkins Hospital.  Still working with patients following the Ketogenic Diet protocol, they were discovered by a father, desperate to find an alternative to the anti-epileptic drugs that left his son in a vegetative state.  Within days of starting the ketogenic diet at John Hopkins, Mr Abraham’s son seizures became less frequent and under control. It is an inspirational story that led to the foundation and works still carried on today by The Charlie Foundation.

Hundreds of studies have shown the therapeutic benefits of the Ketogenic Diet for a variety of diseases. Initially studied for its effects on epilepsy, the diet is now showing promise for a multitude of illnesses such as Obesity, High Blood Sugar, Metabolic Syndrome, Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and Cancer. 

Different Types of Ketogenic Diets

Ketogenic Diets are high in fat, adequate in protein and low in carbohydrates. Slight changes in the macronutrient ratios are what differentiates each of the different types of Ketogenic Diets from one another.

The Original Ketogenic Diet Therapy

The original ketogenic therapy used for the treatment of epilepsy was called the Classic Ketogenic Diet. The ratio for the classic KD is a 4:1 ratio. This is four parts of fat for every one part of protein and carb.  Since fat has a higher caloric content versus protein and carb (fat has 9 calories per gram, while both protein and carb have just 4 calories per gram), 90% of calories come from fat in a Classic Ketogenic Diet, while 6% come from protein, and 4% come from carbs. 

Therapeutic Keto Diet Variations
Therapeutic Keto Diet Variations

The Classical Ketogenic Diet evolved into other alternatives such as the Modified Atkins, Medium Chain Triglycerides Ketogenic Diets.

Modified Atkins: An individualised and structured diet that provides specific meal plans. Foods are weighed and meals should be consumed in their entirety for best results. Macronutrient Ratio: 4:1

Modified Ketogenic Diet: Modifying the restrictiveness of classic keto can be helpful when starting the diet, or when tapering down to a more sustainable, long-term diet. Macronutrient Ratio: 3:1 to 1:1 (range)

MCT Ketogenic Diet: An individualised and structured diet containing highly ketogenic Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT), allowing for more carb and protein than classic keto. Macronutrient Ratio: 1.9:1

More Variations Of The Ketogenic Diet

As the diet became popular for its weight loss benefits it evolved to the following variations that we are most familiar with today:

  • The Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD): The Standard Ketogenic Diet Keto is classified with a macronutrient ratio of 75% of your caloric intake consisting of fats, 20% of your caloric intake will come from protein and 5% from carbs. 
  • The Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD): The Targeted Ketogenic Diet utilises the increase in carbohydrates around exercise. TKD is ideal for athletes. They would typically increase their carbs about 30 minutes prior to their workout.
  • The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD):  The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet would typically mean being in ketosis for 5 days of the week and then increasing carbohydrate intake for two days. CKD is one way for people who still believe they cannot live without carbs can take baby steps to transition into a more traditional Ketogenic Diet.

The Death Of Keto?

keto variations compared
keto variations compared

Two other variations that have become quite popular, are called “Lazy Keto” and “Dirty Keto”. Both of these variations focus on keeping carbs below 20g per day. Lazy Keto does not track macronutrient ratios and just does low-carb. Dirty Keto, on the other hand, focuses on macros but said macros can come from any food source, even if it is processed and unhealthy ones. These variations could just be the reason why so many people are confused about what exactly keto is. Can you eat your whole carb allowance in cookies? Can you eat McDonald’s patties to fit your protein macros?

Dirty Keto Is Just Wrong – Don’t Do It To Yourself!

Eating keto and cheating with seemingly “healthier” keto foods isn’t good for your health. What tends to also happen with these variations, especially Dirty Keto, is all the bad habits such as cravings, binge eating and junk food addiction is replaced with seemingly “keto-friendly” foods. Instead of eating pizza take out every night, it is replaced with fat-head pizza every night – and even though fat-head pizza is a healthier derivative of a normal pizza, it is not nutrient dense and you can easily exceed your daily caloric intake by eating a fat-head pizza. Also, indulging in peanuts and protein bars is not keto! Those same cravings that are caused by eating all of these highly refined, hyperpalatable foods are still exactly the same receptors in the brain that are stimulated as with junk food. Read this Blog on The Perfect Keto Diet Plan. 

Processed foods and alternative sugars are allowed on Dirty Keto. Alternative sugars such as sucralose, Ace-K, maltodextrin and maltitol are really bad for your health. Even in the smallest of quantities and will affect your gut and your blood sugar. You owe it to yourself to at least try to eat as clean most of the time. Read some more on the Keto foods that you should avoid.

Conclusion

The Ketogenic Diet is not another fad diet. Its origin or purpose is founded in its health benefits and therapeutic use. Eating processed or highly refined foods as mentioned above defies the purpose of following a Ketogenic Diet. Although these foods can still be eaten and you could technically remain in ketosis, the health benefits of following a Ketogenic Diet, such as lowering inflammation, won’t be achieved when eating this junk. 

Keto is a wonderful tool to help heal your body.

Following a Ketogenic Diet is a huge learning curve. You need to find the macronutrient ratio that works for you, listen to your body and be very intuitive with what you eat. The type of Ketogenic Diet you follow will be highly dependant on your goal. Follow keto, keep it clean and experiment with what works for you.  Read some more on Keto Macros and what foods are acceptable Keto foods.

If you want to follow a Ketogenic Diet and you can’t afford grass-fed meat and free-range eggs, that’s okay. Follow keto within whatever means you are able to, but give it your best.

Watch this video with Dr Oz and Dr Josh Axe on doing keto the healthy way.