Feeling run down?
Suffering from brain fog?
Craving a leaner line?
If you’ve Googled solutions for any of the above, you’ve probably come across the Ketogenic Diet. Keto, as those in the know call it, has gone so viral that three of my clients last week asked about it (and my clients aren’t your typical miracle diet seekers).
What Does Ketogenic Mean?
Eating a diet that’s ketogenic means that your body has shifted to a state of ketosis where you’re burning ketones for energy.
But wait a sec–what are ketones? Here’s Mark Sisson’s explanation from his book The Keto Reset Diet:
“Ketones are a source of caloric energy in the body that are used by the brain, heart, and muscles in the same manner as is glucose (sugar.) They are produced in the liver as a by-product of fat metabolism when–owing to extreme restriction of dietary carbohydrates–insulin, blood sugar, and liver glycogen levels are very low. Most people go through life never getting anywhere near this state, and never experiencing the almost magical effects of this natural superfuel.”
How Do You Go Keto?
In general, a Ketogenic diet is framed as a high-fat/moderate protein/low carb way of eating. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? That’s my general approach in The Wonderfulness Program’s Nourish Plan. It’s the basic way to break your body’s dependence on glucose for energy so it can begin using fat (in particular, your own stores of body fat) instead.
But, as Dr. Cate Shanahan explains in the Primal Blueprint Podcast’s Keto Episode #216, the main factor to being in keto isn’t the ratio of macronutrients–fat, protein, carbohydrates–but the inhibition of insulin. Here are three important points she makes :
In the fed state, the liver produces cholesterol for storing energy. In the fasted state, the liver produces ketones for producing energy. Insulin helps the liver know which state it’s in.
Eating more fat does NOT equal making more ketones. You have to be relatively fasted.
Eating high fat can help in modulating your hormones and producing ketones, but it’s unnecessary. The most important factor is to fast for periods–no snacking between meals and only eating 1-2 meals daily
This is also similar to the The Wonderfulness Program’s Nourish Plan. I advise that you fast for at least 12 hours daily (if you’re done with dinner at 9:00 p.m., eat breakfast at 9:00 a.m. or later), skip breakfast (or any particular meal) if you’re not actually hungry for it, and avoid snacking.
So Is the Nourish Plan Actually a Ketogenic Diet?
The short answer is maybe, sometimes.
The proliferation of info about keto makes the process seem very straightforward and simple. It’s not. You can take my word for it or listen to the Dr. Cate Shanahan interview mentioned above to hear how incredibly complex it really is.
There’s even confusion about knowing if you’re actually in ketosis. You can (fairly) reliably test for the presence of ketones with portable blood or breath meters, but they’re expensive. Urine test strips are cheap but also very unreliable.
To make matters even more confusing: Even if you do use a reliable method, the presence of ketones doesn’t mean everything’s great. As Dr. Cate points out, high levels can come from the burning of amino acids that comes with the breakdown of muscle.
You don’t want to break down muscle.
(A side note here that hopefully will clear up any confusion about the possible dangers of ketosis. There’s nothing inherently dangerous about your body using ketones for energy. We evolved doing this. They’re an effective, efficient, clean-burning fuel.
What is dangerous is a state known as ketoacidosis. This occurs mainly in diabetics or people with severely-impaired liver function who can’t produce enough insulin to deal with periods of high blood sugar. This leads to the blood becoming acidic–not a state you want to be in.
Skipping a meal, or even a few meals, won’t do this to you. Eating higher fat with lower carbs won’t do this to you. But, as always, let your body be your guide.)
So the longer answer is the Nourish Plan may put you in ketosis and it definitely switches you over to fat burning, making it a very wonderfulness way to eat!
The Nourish Plan Is Still Your Best Plan
There are studies that have looked at the benefits of being in ketosis, such as the modification of gene expression that may reduce cancer, turn on longevity genes, and modulate the immune system. But (and once again, I have to credit Dr. Cate for this insight) “those studies are looking at people on ketogenic diets–not necessarily whether they’re actually producing ketones or not–so these beneficial genetic modifications may actually come from burning fat.”
Burning fat for energy is pure wonderfulness, especially when that fat is coming from our body stores. And it’s easy to do: Nourish your body with a colorful array of vegetables, healthy fats (avoid those industrial seed oils!), and a moderate amount of high-quality, pastured (or vegetarian) protein. Eat more when you’re hungry. Eat less when you’re not. Drink plenty of water.
You’ll probably go in and out of ketosis when you’re on The Wonderfulness Program’s Nourish Plan, which is how we evolved eating. Feasting and fasting. Moving and resting. Moments of stress and moments of calm.
Remember: This isn’t revolutionary, this is evolutionary!
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