The science behind ketosis (the basis of the keto diet) is rather simple: when we fast, our livers turn fatty acids into ketone bodies. These ketone bodies then replace glucose as the body’s energy source. This process is called ketosis.
What is the keto diet?
Given the process of ketosis, the keto diet, then, revolves around eating high amounts of healthy fats and low amounts of carbohydrates. This proportion increases the production of ketone bodies while decreasing blood sugar levels. Because blood sugar levels are a variable in the keto diet, it’s critical that diabetics consult with their doctor and/or nutritionist before dabbling in ketosis.
Average daily intake breakdown for keto diet: 50-55% unprocessed, unsaturated fats; 30-35% lean, organic protein; <10% carbs.
This ratio strictly limits carb-intake to 20-25 grams; however, other low carb diets allow for up to 70 grams per day.
The keto diet can lead to a variety of health benefits, like lowering LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) levels. Ketosis can also help prevent cardiovascular disease.
The high-fat-low-carb eating pattern has another excellent side effect: eating lots of fats keeps you full longer, so you’ll be less tempted to snack throughout the day.
Unlike dieting, which changes what you eat, intermittent fasting changes when you eat. Fasting gives your body time to move from the fed state to the non-fed state – this transition happens about 12 hours after your last meal.
Your insulin levels are lower in the non-fed state, which makes burning fat painless. This does not happen in the fed state.
If you’re looking for examples of what a day/week of intermittent fasting might look like, you can explore HVMN’s in-depth article.
The intersection of fasting and ketosis
Fasting intermittently on the keto diet is the best way to see tangible, quantifiable changes in fat loss and muscle growth. By combing the high-fat-low-carb keto diet with frequent visits to the non-fed state, you further increase your body’s fat-burning potential.
Lifestyle changes aren’t easy, but the results are worth it. As with all addictive substances, your body goes into withdrawal when you stop feeding your carb cravings.
Some temporary side-effects of transitioning to a keto lifestyle include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, muscle cramps, frequent urination, headaches, and brain fog. These symptoms are collectively referred to as “keto-flu,” and they’re no reason to worry. The effects are transient and easily mitigated by staying well hydrated, well-rested, and taking plenty of electrolytes.
You can further ease symptoms of transition by…
Adding Himalayan salt to your water to minimize dehydration
Taking Magnesium Glycinate supplements to relax muscles,
Adding potassium-rich foods to your diet to balance electrolytes (avocados are the best option, as they fit neatly into keto guidelines).
A disclaimer about the keto diet
Keto imposes a lot of dietary restrictions, not all of which are indisputably healthy. For example, eating practically no carbs and heaps of animal proteins leads to oxidative stress. Antioxidants combat oxidative stress, but keto excludes many of the fruits that contain antioxidants.
A healthy starting balance is 4 days in ketosis, 3 days out of ketosis. The way to make this transition is by incorporating fruits and vegetables with a low glycemic index into your diet on the day you switch states.
It’s crucial to remember that nothing is beneficial in extremes – including keto. Before playing with your metabolism, consult with your healthcare practitioner about what ratio fits you and your macronutrient needs.
Practicing keto-friendly living
Buy organic food as often as possible. EWG publishes a yearly list highlighting the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen groceries that ought to be organic. Avoid foods you are allergic too. If needed, take a food sensitivity test.
Before you start, use the chart below to clear out any and all non-keto foods from your fridge and pantry to make room for the good stuff. You may make some exceptions here for thinks like quinoa and turnips that, though unketogenic, are still incredibly healthy.
Wheat, barely, quinoa, rice, & oats
Beets, carrots, & potatoes
Turnips & parsnips
Sweet alcoholic drinks
Sweetened coffee & coffee sweeteners
Vegetable and fruit juices (bottled of fresh)
Sodas and soft drinks
Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines)
Lamb, goat, chicken, eggs, & grass-fed beef
Fatty nuts (macadamias, brazil nuts, almonds)
Water (with lemon or apple cider vinegar)
Coconut milk & almond milk
Unsweetened tea & coffee
I’ve gone ahead and included some keto recipes at the bottom of this article to get you through the first few days of, “I don’t know what to eat!”
If you are seriously considering integrating ketosis and intermittent fasting into your life, remember that consistency is key. You won’t see results from following any routine for a few days – it can take weeks to months for you to feel different, so use these recipes as a starting point.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with these recipes. You can follow them religiously, or you can experiment – as long as the resulting meal is healthy, tasty, and not discouragingly cumbersome, you’ll be alright.