I have always followed the ketogenic diet because it’s what works for me. Before this, I had never really been someone who followed diets. I’ve counted calories before, and I’ve always tried to eat well, but following diets never really interested me. However, after starting the keto diet, I was totally converted. I actually think of it as more of a way of life than a diet.
So, what’s so good about it? Well, I can only speak for myself as everyone is so different, but personally I felt great once I started following it. I found that I had a lot more energy and focus, and it really improved my skin. In the beginning I did feel lethargic, as my body adapted to my new way of eating. However, after a few days, I felt better than ever. I also don’t find the diet too hard to follow as the main foods you are allowed to consume are the foods I love the most; butter, nuts, avocado, etc. The foods I can’t have (i.e. sugar, bread, etc) I do miss, but I know that I don’t feel great when I have them. Therefore, it makes them easier for me to avoid.
So what actually is the ketogenic diet? This diet is all about using fat for fuel. The key here is to consume fat for most of your calories. When you do this, you are technically starving your body from glucose, which is most people’s main source of energy. Once this happens, and your glycogen stores have been depleted, your body will switch to burning fat for energy.
This is called being in a state of ketosis, or a ketogenic state. Because you’re consuming so many calories from fat, your body begins to make ketones and it’s these ketones that your body burns for energy. When your body burns ketones, as opposed to glucose, you do genuinely feel different. People tend to describe feeling ‘cleaner’, less hazy and less tired. I can definitely vouch for that. As you eat so little sugar and so much fat, your blood glucose levels stay very low and very stable (we want to avoid any spikes in blood sugar as this takes you out of ketosis).
If you look online, you will see a few different macronutrient calorie splits. However, on the whole, you should aim to have 60-85% of your calories from fat, 15-25% from protein and the rest from carbs. I always aim for 70% fat, 20% protein and 10% carbs. I know it can seem shocking that you consume so few carbs on this diet, but let me explain. On the keto diet, we care about net carbohydrate intake. This means total carbs, minus fibre and minus sugar alcohols (stevia, xylitol, etc).
There are many vegetables that you can eat plenty of; these tend to be green, leafy vegetables as they are high in fibre and low in sugar. Sadly, root vegetables, and most fruits (except berries), are to be avoided.
You also have to be careful of certain sugar alcohols. Stevia is considered safe, as is xylitol and erythritol. But many ‘low-sugar’ treats use maltitol as their sugar replacement. Maltitol has a fairly high glycemic index, so it can cause your blood glucose levels to spike, taking you out of ketosis.
On a Keto diet, you can technically consume any fats, but my mum (The Sugar Doctor) always tells me to only consume organic, good sources of fat; organic cream, organic grass-fed butter, etc. It is also good to avoid processed meats such as salami. Although they have a great ratio of fat to protein, these processed meats have some nasty ingredients in them that have been found to be rather bad for you. I tend to rely on nuts, avocado, cream, butter and MCT oil for my fats.
So, how do you get into a state of ketosis? I personally think the only way one can successfully get into ketosis is to track what you eat; at least, this is the case for me. I use myfitnesspal and try to enter everything I eat onto the app. When I say everything, I do mean everything. While a handful of nuts here or there, or a square of dark chocolate, doesn’t seem like much, but it can really change your ratios. So just log it – it’s so simple. Just be sure to weigh what you eat if you have access to a scale as it’s so much better than guessing.
The reality is, if you’re going to be doing keto, you really need to put your mind to it and do it right; otherwise it just won’t work for you. There’s no point in having half a cupcake, then not logging it and pretending it didn’t happen, because it happened. If you do this, you won’t manage to get into ketosis. This is fine too, but if it’s your goal to follow the diet, then you may as well put your all into it.
Once you’ve been following keto for a while, you begin to get to know your body very well. For example, I know my limits in terms of net carbs. I can have maybe a biscuit or half a slice of bread and stay in ketosis. But anymore than that and I will no longer be in a ketogenic state.
See, if you consume sugar, your body produces glucose. And glucose is an easier source of energy for your body to burn – some call it ‘cheap energy’. So, if you consume enough sugar (for me, this is more than 10 grams), your blood glucose levels will rise and your body will switch back to burning glucose and bam – you’re out of ketosis.
Weirdly enough, this is one of the reasons that I love this diet, because it takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to get into ketosis. When I see a cake or a cookie, yes it looks appealing and yes I want it, but it’s just not worth having it. The cons of having the sugar, and then spending days trying to get back into ketosis, out weigh the pros of the nice taste. This is why I prefer this diet to others.
When I used to just calorie count, it’s easy to think ‘ok, I had a slice of cake at lunch, but it’s no big deal because I’ll have a light dinner.’ Yes, I’m sure this method works for some, but personally that ‘light dinner’ never would’ve happened for me. It sounds extreme, but for me this diet is a way of staying disciplined whilst also enjoying the food I eat and feeling good. But like I always say, everyone’s different.
For me, this diet is great and it works so well, but I can’t say that you will necessarily feel the same way. The only way to know is to try and see (or test your genes)! If you do feel like giving it a go, I have another blog on here giving away all my keto tips and tricks, which might help you out.