I gotta tell ya, as a Keto Coach, I get super jolly when I hear people decline bread because they’re “counting carbs.” Likewise, I light up when I pass an end-cap at Barnes & Noble chuck full of keto cookbooks. Because not only am I a nutritional nerd— but clearly, keto is catching on.
Beyond just catching on, the ketogenic diet is quickly becoming one of America’s top trending diets.1 The only problem is, with SO many people jumping on the keto bandwagon, there’s a lot of mixed information floatin’ around out there.
That’s why I’ve created the Keto Diet Masterclass. In this 3-part series, we’ll be diving into the how, what, and why of this trending diet by answering questions like, what is the ketogenic diet, and how do you get started with keto?
Prefer to listen to this masterclass? Click below to download your FREE video tutorial.
What is the ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, moderate protein, high-fat diet. Keto (as it’s commonly called) shares many attributes with primal diets such as paleo and carnivore.2
The ketogenic diet involves reprogramming the body to rely on fat (rather than glucose) for fuel. This is accomplished by eliminating sugar and drastically reducing carbohydrate intake. Doing so effectively prompts the body into a state of ketosis.3
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the body relies on ketones for fuel. Ketones are produced in the liver from fat. During ketosis, the body directly breaks down its fat stores into energy instead of slowly converting fat and muscle cells into glucose for energy. Essentially, your body is in a state of ketosis when it’s feasting on fat for fuel. You can achieve ketosis through diet (such as the ketogenic diet), fasting, exogenous ketones, or a combination of a few.4
Is keto a fad diet?
Now, to fuel the body with fat, you’re gonna need to take down a whole lot of it— in fact, far more than would ever seem reasonable. I know that seems absurd because it basically takes our current food pyramid and flips it on its head.
This is the point where I often lose people. Understandably so. For years we’ve been told that our body’s preferred energy source is glucose. But you know, that wasn’t always the case.
For hundreds of thousands of years, our paleolithic ancestors relied on ketones for energy when glucose sources were scarce. In fact, before the advent of agriculture, many populations thrived on a low-carb diet based on animals, plants, and insects.5
Today most Americans derive the bulk of their carbohydrates from beer, processed foods, bread, pasta, and pastries rather than veggies, fruits, nuts, and roots. So perhaps glucose is not our body’s preferred energy source, rather a necessary accommodation to our “evolved” dietary model.
Is ketosis natural?
So is ketosis natural?
Absolutely! Ketosis is a normal state of metabolism. In fact, most babies are born in a state of ketosis.6 Beyond that, there are still populations such as the Inuit or Kyrgyz that thrive on an ultra-low-carb diet.7 However, in our modern era of carbohydrate abundance, people rarely access ketosis, making it a dormant metabolic pathway.
How do you know if you’re in ketosis?
Fortunately for us, ketosis is not some elusive metabolic state. Ketosis is 100% measurable. To find out if you’re in a state of ketosis, you’ve got to test your ketone levels. There are three common methods for measuring ketone levels.8
3 Ways of Measuring Ketone Levels
1. Urine Testing
The first (and most common) option of measuring ketone levels is to test your urine. Urine testing involves peeing on a test strip (and often your hand) to measure excess amounts of ketones within the body.9 Urine testing may help to determine if you’re in a state of ketosis, but they aren’t always accurate. Adaptation and hydration play a major role in the outcome of your read — often resulting in misleading results.
If you choose to go this route, I’d recommend the brand Perfect Keto, they run around eight bucks on Amazon. Otherwise, you should be able to find an off-brand at your local Walgreens or CVS.
2. Breath Testing
The second method of ketone testing involves your breath. You can actually measure the amount of acetone in your body by using a breath meter.10 However, you should know— this is the least reliable method of ketone testing. And not one I’d personally recommend.
If you opt for a breath meter, the brand Ketonix is fairly reputable within the ketogenic community. Just keep in mind the manufacturer suggests waiting until all alcohol is out of your system before using the meter. Therefore, breath testing might not be the best way to go if you’re big on happy hour.
3. Blood Testing
The third method of ketone testing involves drawing blood. Blood testing is the most reliable way to test for ketone levels. But don’t worry— it isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds. By squeezing a single drop of blood onto a test stick, you can test the level of beta-hydroxybutyrate in your body. Blood testing will determine whether or not you are in a state of ketosis (down to the millimole). However, blood testing is the most expensive method available.11
If you’re a diabetic (or considering keto for the long haul)— you’re wise to invest. I’d recommend the Precision Xtra or Keto Mojo. Both brands measure beta-hydroxybutyrate and blood glucose, and both are backed by great reviews.
Understanding the Ketone Spectrum
If you’ve invested in a blood ketone meter— congrats— you’re clearly committed to keto! The next thing you’ll want to know is how to understand your meter read. You see, ketosis isn’t as simple as you’re in or you’re out. There’s a whole spectrum involved.
Dr. Stephen Phinney, MD, Ph.D., and Jeff Volek, Ph.D., RD suggest nutritional ketosis begins at molecular concentration levels of 0.5 mmol/L. This means, once you cross the 0.5 thresholds, you’re officially “in ketosis.” Now, it doesn’t stop there. Beyond “nutritional,” there are progressive zones of “optimal” or “therapeutic” ketosis.12
How do you know which zone is best?
Well, that all depends on your goals.
Ketone Spectrum Zones
- Weight loss— Nutritional Ketosis (0.5 mmol/L-1.0 mmol/L) If weight loss is your primary goal, then nutritional ketosis is a good starting point.
- Weight Plateau— Optimal Ketosis (1.0 mmol/L-3.0 mmol/L) As your weight plateaus (or if you’re up for the challenge), aim for optimal ketosis.
- Medical Conditions— Therapeutic Ketosis (3.0 mmol/L -5.0 mmol/L) Individuals seeking therapeutic benefits for medical conditions such as epilepsy, cancer, or metabolic disorders are generally encouraged to aim for therapeutic ketosis.
- Long-Term or Athletes— Therapeutic Ketosis (3.0 mmol/L -5.0 mmol/L) Long-term keto enthusiasts or athletes may want to consider advanced ketogenic strategies such as cyclical keto. And therapeutic ketosis is a solid goal before advancement.
- Warning!—Ketoacidosis (8.5 mmol/L -10.0 mmol/L) No one (no matter the goal) should aim for ketoacidosis. Anything above 8.0 mmol/L moves into the danger zone.
What is Ketoacidosis?
Individuals with type 1 diabetes need to be especially cautious of keto because they face the potential of producing a diabetic complication called ketoacidosis (DKA). Diabetic ketoacidosis is a life-threatening condition resulting from dangerously high levels of ketones and blood sugar.13
Although ketoacidosis is more prevalent amongst type 1 diabetics, type 2 diabetics should also be cautious due to insulin fluctuations. For this reason, I suggest consulting with your doctor before beginning a ketogenic diet and closely monitoring your blood ketone levels.
How Does Keto Work?
To understand how a high-fat diet promotes weight loss, we need to understand what causes weight gain in the first place.
What causes weight gain?
Basically, our body can make use of two types of fuel. The first type is glucose. Glucose is primarily derived from sugar or carbohydrates. And we can compare glucose to regular gasoline— less expensive, quick-burning, and a little dirty.14
The second type of fuel is known as ketones. Ketones are derived from fat (either stored or dietary fat). And we can compare ketones to premium gasoline— more expensive, clean-burning, slow, and sustainable fuel.15
By cutting back on either fueling system, you WILL lose weight.
For instance, Weight Watchers promises results by reducing fat intake. Physique competitors and models often take this approach as well.
Alternatively, the ketogenic diet focuses on cutting carbs to lose weight. In fact, low-carb diets such as Atkins, Keto, and Carnivore have been popularized in recent years due to their overwhelming effectiveness at slimming the waistline.16
How do carbohydrates affect the body?
After consuming carbohydrates, the body begins breaking them down into glucose for fuel. This process causes a rise in blood sugar. In fact, eating ANYTHING will cause blood sugar to rise— so carbohydrates aren’t the problem per se. The problem occurs when you eat too many carbs.
After consuming a heavy load of carbs, the body responds to the rising blood sugar by filling its cells with glucose. Once the cells are filled, excess glucose lingers in the bloodstream. Over time, excess glucose can cause insulin levels to rise— contributing to weight gain, clogged arteries, and inflammation.17
Worse yet, consistently high insulin levels cause cells to stop responding to insulin altogether. This is known as insulin resistance. And insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.18
How does fat affect the body?
In contrast, fat has significantly less impact on blood sugar than carbohydrates. In fact, when consumed alone, ingested fats have no bearing on the concentration of blood sugar whatsoever. And just so we’re clear, an excess of any carbohydrate, including both sugar and starch, are stored as fat. And despite what you may believe of “healthy whole grains,” ANY carbohydrate not immediately used by the body is broken down into glycogen and stored away as fat.19
Therefore, a sugary diet is the same as a starchy diet.
I realize this information may feel like a serious bitch slap because, like me, you’ve spent your whole life programmed to believe that eating cereal, skim milk, and fruit for breakfast was healthy. I’m sorry to break it to you— it’s time to reconsider EVERYTHING you think you know about fat.
Contrary to popular belief, fat is much more than a nasty blob of blubber. It’s actually an organ within our endocrine system. 70% of our brain is composed of fat. Fat is found within every single cell in the body— it actually supports the structure of our cellular membranes. Beyond that, fat regulates our hormones as well as protects and fuels our body.20
In fact, we can survive on a minimal amount of carbohydrates (which can actually be created by the liver as needed)— but we can’t go long without fat— fat is absolutely vital to our existence!21
The Bottom Line
The ketogenic diet (or keto, as it’s commonly called) is a low-carb, moderate protein, high-fat diet.22 Although keto is trending right now, the ketogenic diet is certainly not new. In fact, it’s suggested that a clean keto diet resembles a paleolithic way of eating.23
Even the fact that it’s trending right now is not something new. The ketogenic diet made waves in the 1920s as a treatment for neurological disorders such as epilepsy.24 And today, keto is gaining serious attention regarding the treatment of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even certain forms of cancer.25
But that’s not all! The ketogenic diet boasts a laundry list of additional health benefits. In fact, there are so many potential benefits of keto that I’m devoting an entire blog post to just that! Join me next week for part 2 of the Keto Diet Masterclass: Benefits and Side-Effects of the Ketogenic Diet.
Ready to “go-keto,” but have no idea how to begin?
Join me in a FREE online training where I’ll reveal my step-by-step process for getting started with the ketogenic diet.
If you want to learn:
- What to eat on a CLEAN ketogenic diet
- How to properly calculate your macros
- And how to optimize your health and weight loss on keto
Then you better save your seat— cause this training is for you!
Whether you’re well-versed or brand spankin’ new to keto life and looking for some help, you should check out Katie’s coaching program. Coach Katie lives keto all day, errryday. She keeps up to date on the latest science, so you don’t have to. But more importantly, she addresses your specific goals to help you achieve ultimate success on your keto journey. And it’s always better to have someone in your corner, guiding you along. So if you’re ready for total life transformation and ultimate keto success, schedule your FREE keto strategy sesh today!
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Katie Rodriguez nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.