What is Keto?

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I’m just a former Type 2 diabetic sharing my experiences and learnings that led me to a healthier life. Any significant changes in diet should be discussed with your physician prior to being undertaken.

So last week I posted My Keto Manifesto. This was really the “why” of pursuing a ketogenic diet/lifestyle. But it occurs to me that I may have jumped the gun and some might be out there wondering, “What is Keto?” in the first place.

So the term Keto usually refers to the state of ketosis or the ketogenic diet that leads one to reach that state. Ketosis occurs when your body stops using glucose & glycogen (stored glucose) as its main fuel source and instead starts producing ketones, primarily from your liver to be used instead. The body uses nutritional fat (that you eat) and stored fat (last holiday’s treats) to create the energy to make those ketones.

Why would you want to do this? A person whose body is running primarily off glucose is going to experience a number of insidious side effects. First, glucose is a form of sugar so it raises your blood sugar levels. As I shared in Healing Begins with Acceptance, over 50% of Americans have elevated blood sugar levels and are on the path to Type 2 diabetes. Second, this also raises the level of insulin in your body. This is your body’s primary response to lower your blood sugar levels. However, insulin tells your body to store fat immediately, which means that all the fat you ate in that ice cream sundae or juicy hamburger will not be burned off but stored (probably in your gut or butt). There is a correlation between the amount of fat you carry and your body’s insulin production. This means that you will constantly be producing insulin so much so that it will become completely ineffective in managing your blood sugar levels. This is known as insulin resistance and it is the state of most Type 2 diabetics. This keeps you from metabolizing the glucose efficiently which means your cells are basically starving. They can’t get ketones from fats (as they aren’t being burned) and they can’t use much of the glucose you consume (it’s being converted to fat and stored as well). This is a death spiral where you are always hungry because you can’t get the energy you need and feeding it your normal diet just causes a spike and dip again leading to more hunger. You’re getting fatter not fuller.

This explosion in insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes has been steadily growing since the government released the dietary guidelines that stated a low fat diet was best way back in the 1970s. We now have nearly 50 years of evidence that points to the contrary.

A ketogenic diet combats this by cutting out nearly all carbs from your diet. You are seriously limiting the ingestion of foods that contain/produce glucose and your body responds with lower blood sugar and insulin. So what will you eat and where will your body get its energy? By increasing your fat intake. Your body burns fat incredibly well and produces the ketones to feed and repair your cells. No longer will you only have the energy your body can scrape from the glucose you ingest and its stored glycogen (about a day’s worth). But you will be able to access all the energy from the fat you are carrying. (For me, this is a much more substantial source of energy…)

Try it for two weeks and see how your body responds. You will be fuller from the foods you consume and you’ll be burning fat from your body to produce ketones. You will literally be turning yourself into a man (or woman) on fire!

Come back next week when I talk about how to deal with the few days of discomfort you may experience while your body transitions to running on ketones, commonly referred to as the “keto flu.”

Also, please share and/or comment below. Your input could help others in pursuing better health as well!

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