What is the Ketogenic diet?

Disclaimer: There are many great scholarly and scientific resources describing and explaining the ketogenic diet, how and why it works for fat loss and addressing Type II Diabetes. This is neither scientific nor particularly scholarly other than my extensive reading, attendance at meetings with Dr. Eric Westman and almost daily self-experimentation, -examination and documentation. My hope is that I can boil things down into manageable bits in language that can reach a broad group of readers. If something is unclear or just seems wrong, please reach out. I'm still learning!


ketogenic
adjective
1.      (med) forming or able to stimulate the production of ketone bodies

But what are ketone bodies?

ketone
noun, Chemistry.
1.     any of a class of organic compounds containing a carbonyl group, CO, attached to two alkyl groups, as CH 3 COCH 3 or CH 3 COC 2 H 5.

Ok. All that may be less than helpful. (You know you're dealing with a fairly esoteric topic when your spell check fires up and underlines every third word in angry red...)

The simple answer is that the ketogenic diet is one where, through the food eaten, the body uses ketones for fuel rather than glucose. Ketones are the compounds noted in the definition above. For the most part, you can't eat ketones. The body produces them.

Alright. So what? Why would one want to burn ketones for fuel rather than glucose. Keep in mind that in basic terms, the body has only two options for fuel and energy. Glucose or ketones. We can't do both the same time to any degree. It's one or the other.

Again, so what?

The thing is, glucose is sugar. Ketones are fat based. And which one the body uses as fuel depends on the food eaten. Directly. Think of it this way: Do we want our bodies to burn sugar or burn fat?

I vote for fat.

If we are burning glucose (sugar) for fuel, we have to keep eating sugar (carbohydrates) pretty constantly.

If we are burning fat, our body can tap the supply we carry on board. And I had a helluva supply of body fat when I started this way of eating on January 8, 2014. Yes, I remember the day. My life has been changed for the much better, starting with that first 'ketogenic meal'. I'll write more about how I got to that moment on that day and will link to it another time.

For now, just know that when you hear ketogenic, think 'fat burning'. BTW, another nickname for this nutrition protocol is Low Carb/High Fat (LCHF). I use ketogenic because I measure my blood ketones to ensure I'm getting all the benefits of the plan. Again, I'll write about how and why to measure ketones and will post the link.  One can eat LCHF and do very well without being in ketosis (oh no! Another spell-check alarm!) because their number of carbs are lower than standard but not so low as to push one into burning fat for fuel.

The basic tenant of a ketogenic diet is very low carbohydrate, moderate protein - not high protein as many believe - and high fat. Much of it saturated.

For me, that means fewer than 20 grams of carbs a day. I generally don't worry about the protein and fat measurements because they'll often take care of themselves. Check back for a post on my understanding of how that happens.

Just know that the first step is to can the carbs. Really. Not kind of. Not mostly. Not 6 out of 7 days or 80% of the time. That is, if you want to become a fat burning person and lower your blood glucose to manage pending or full blown Type II Diabetes(T2D) keep your carbohydrate intake to 20 grams a day or fewer.

A great tool to track the carbs you're eating as well as calories, protein, fat, etc., is MyFitnessPal. Don't worry too much at first about all the different measurements available there. Just keep your carbs below 20/day. And if you'd like to see my MFP diary, let me know and I'll share it with you. There are other tracking tools out there and I get no remuneration or anything from MyFitnessPal. It's just what I started using and I like it's robust food database.

There you are. A very brief description of the ketogenic diet and a suggest as to how to get started. More in depth info to follow.

Feel free to comment, share, challenge. It's all good.


The information I present here is based on my own experiences and personal research. While I’ve been fortunate to have much person-to-person exposure to leading researchers, physicians and journalists regarding the ketogenic specifically and LCHF (low carb/high fat) more generally, we are all responsible for our own choices, including what we put in our mouths. I welcome questions, comments and even civil criticism. I’m still learning. So, i you have something to add, go for it. Thanks!  - Casey