The “keto” in a ketogenic diet comes from the fact that it makes the body produce small fuel molecules called “ketones”. This is an alternative fuel for the body, used when blood sugar (glucose) is in short supply.
Ketones are produced if you eat very few carbs (that are quickly broken down into blood sugar) and only moderate amounts of protein (excess protein can also be converted to blood sugar).
Ketones are produced in the liver, from fat. They are then used as fuel throughout the body, including the brain. The brain is a hungry organ that consumes lots of energy every day, and it can’t run on fat directly. It can only run on glucose or ketones.
On a ketogenic diet, your entire body switches its fuel supply to run almost entirely on fat. Insulin levels become very low, and fat burning increases dramatically. It becomes easy to access your fat stores to burn them off. This is great if you’re trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits, such as less hunger and a steady supply of energy, keeping you alert and focused.
When the body produces ketones, it’s said to be in ketosis. The fastest way to get there is by fasting — not eating anything — but nobody can fast forever.
A keto diet, on the other hand, can be eaten indefinitely and also results in ketosis. It has many of the benefits of fasting — including weight loss — without having to fast.
Different Types of Ketogenic Diets
There are several versions of the ketogenic diet, including:
· Standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This is a very low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. It typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs.
· Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This diet involves periods of higher-carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days.
· Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): This diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.
· High-protein ketogenic diet: This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more protein. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.
However, only the standard and high-protein ketogenic diets have been studied extensively. Cyclical or targeted ketogenic diets are more advanced methods and primarily used by bodybuilders or athletes.
Foods to Eat
You should base the majority of your meals around these foods:
· Meat: Red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken and turkey.
· Fatty fish: Such as salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel.
· Eggs: Look for pastured or omega-3 whole eggs.
· Butter and cream: Look for grass-fed when possible.
· Cheese: Unprocessed cheese (cheddar, goat, cream, blue or mozzarella).
· Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
· Healthy oils: Primarily extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil.
· Avocados: Whole avocados or freshly made guacamole.
· Condiments: You can use salt, pepper and various healthy herbs and spices.
· Low-carb veggies: Most green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
Foods to Avoid
Any food that is high in carbs should be limited.
Here is a list of foods that need to be reduced or eliminated on a ketogenic diet:
· Sugary foods: Soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc.
· Grains or starches: Wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc.
· Fruit: All fruit, except small portions of berries like strawberries.
· Beans or legumes: Peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
· Root vegetables and tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
· Low-fat or diet products: These are highly processed and often high in carbs.
· Some condiments or sauces: These often contain sugar and unhealthy fat.
· Unhealthy fats: Limit your intake of processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
· Alcohol: Due to their carb content, many alcoholic beverages can throw you out of ketosis.
· Sugar-free diet foods: These are often high in sugar alcohols, which can affect ketone levels in some cases. These foods also tend to be highly processed.
Health Benefits of Keto
The ketogenic diet actually originated as a tool for treating neurological diseases such as epilepsy.
Studies have now shown that the diet can have benefits for a wide variety of different health conditions:
· Heart disease: The ketogenic diet can improve risk factors like body fat, HDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood sugar.
· Cancer: The diet is currently being used to treat several types of cancer and slow tumor growth.
· Polycystic ovary syndrome: The ketogenic diet can help reduce insulin levels, which may play a key role in polycystic ovary syndrome.
· Epilepsy: Research has shown that the ketogenic diet can cause massive reductions in seizures in epileptic children.
· Parkinson’s disease: One study found that the diet helped improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
· Alzheimer’s disease: The keto diet may reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and slow its progression.
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