Those more versed in competitive bodybuilder training have already encountered this diet regimen. In bodybuilding circles, this diet is considered to be extremely effective at the definition stage, ie. at a stage when the goal is to get rid of excess fat.
Otherwise, there is some controversy surrounding the diet itself, but the fact is that the vast majority of those who have tried it can testify to the extremely low percentages of subcutaneous fat they have achieved.
The ketogenic diet was used in the 1920s and 1930s as therapy for children with epileptic seizures with great success, however, with the advent of new anticonvulsant drugs, this practice was abandoned. According to statistics, today 20-30% of patients do not respond adequately to such medicines. In this population, and especially in children, the ketogenic diet found its place again.
How the ketogenic diet works
In simplified terms, the ketogenic diet works by minimizing carbohydrate intake and consequently generating ketones, causing the body to consume free fatty acids as its primary source of energy.
So, as we already know, on normal occasions the body uses carbohydrates as the primary energy source. Excluding carbohydrates from the diet, the body is forced to find an alternative source of energy. One such energy source is free fatty acids. The brain cannot use free fatty acids as a fuel. However, it can use ketone bodies.
Ketone bodies are a by-product of incomplete breakdown of fatty acids in the liver. When they are rapidly produced, they accumulate in the blood and produce a condition called ketosis.
Since the body now has an energy source again, there is no longer a need for carbohydrates, so gluconeogenesis (the generation of glucose from amino acids) is also stopped. Consequently, the protein remains spared from degradation (otherwise it would be used for energy purposes).
Given all of the above, it becomes perfectly clear why an increasing number of bodybuilders are opting for a ketogenic diet: effectively consuming excess fat while preserving muscle mass!
The ketogenic diet makes the metabolism adjustments described above possible by manipulating two hormones: insulin and glucagon.
As we know, insulin is a storage hormone that allows nutrients to be transported from the bloodstream to cells. So it allows the storage of glucose in the cell in the form of glycogen.
In contrast, glucagon is a mobilizing hormone. It breaks down glycogen to provide the body with glucose.
When carbohydrates are removed from the diet, insulin levels drop and glucagon levels increase. This results in increased release of free fatty acids from fat cells and their increased combustion in the liver. Ketones are a byproduct.
How do we know we’re in ketosis?
The simplest diagnostic method is to bump someone’s nose and if you get a threatening look or the person faints, you are more or less sure that ketosis has occurred. Namely, ketones have an intense, sweet “scent” so they are easy to smell.
Ketones occur in the blood (ketonemia) and in the urine (ketonuria). The most accurate indication that the body is in ketosis is evidence of the presence of ketones in the blood. However, in everyday practice, a blood test is quite impractical, so the detection of ketosis may also serve as evidence of ketone in the urine. The test is simply performed with strips that change color in the presence of ketone bodies (Ketostix, etc.).
Body ketone levels are lowest in the morning and highest around midnight. Also, women develop higher concentrations of ketone than men, and children than adults.
In some individuals who have achieved ketonemia, the urine ketone test will be negative. However, this does not mean that they are not in ketosis, because we said that ketones in the blood are an indicator of whether or not the body is in ketosis. Otherwise, only 10-20% of the total ketones produced in the liver go to urine.
Some supplements, e.g. the antioxidant N-acetyl-cysteine can give a false positive to ketones.
How to Start a Ketogenic Diet?
First, it is necessary to determine how many calories the body consumes at rest, that is, to maintain its existing state. There are several equations for this, some are simpler and some more complicated. For this purpose we will use the following formulas:
males -> kcal = weight in kg * 35.2
women -> kcal = weight in kg * 33
Then we need to determine how many calories we will be consuming. Of course, to lose excess fat, we need to reduce calorie intake. Most are prone to excessive calorie deficiency, which causes a slowdown in metabolism and consequently a poor dietary effect.
It must always be remembered that a calorie deficit is created not only by reduced intake but also by the consumption for which training is worth it.
When starting a diet, calorie intake should not be reduced by more than 10-20% of the originally determined calories at rest. It is reasonable to expect a loss of 0.75-1kg per week. Anyone who loses weight faster should increase their calorie intake or reduce aerobic training because they are most likely to lose muscle tissue!
KETOGENIC DIET TYPES
Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)
This is the original variant of the ketogenic diet, based on low carbohydrate intake and moderate to high protein and fat intake.
In order to achieve ketosis, carbohydrate intake must be reduced below 100g / day and most will need to reduce this to approximately 30g / day to achieve and maintain ketosis. Carbohydrate intake of 30g / day or even less is recommended in the first few weeks of SKD until the body has adapted and switched to an alternative source of fuel (free fatty acids).
As far as carbohydrate choices are concerned, those with low GIs should be selected because our goal is to keep our insulin levels as low as possible. So, most will be in the form of green vegetables. Fruits and various sources of starch should be completely eliminated from the diet.
As for proteins, their increased intake can also interfere with ketosis. Ideally, their intake will be high enough to prevent muscle loss, and low enough to not affect ketosis. During the initial phase of a couple of weeks, intake should be at least 1.75g / kg or a minimum of 150g / day to prevent catabolism. After this initial period, intake of 2g / kg is recommended for someone who is training regularly.
Although a ketogenic diet can only be made up of carbohydrates and proteins, caloric intake would be so low that metabolism would slow down a lot. In this case, fats are calorie ballast, ie they serve to achieve adequate caloric intake. So, after we have determined the calorie needs and after determining how much carbohydrates and protein we need, we will bring in the rest of the calories from fat.
The main problem with SKD is that such a diet cannot go hand in hand with intensive training due to its extremely low carbohydrate intake. Why is that so? When carbohydrates are very low, glycogen recovery after training is virtually non-existent and therefore intense training through the next period will not be possible.
Therefore, it was necessary to make two types of modified SKD that incorporate more carbohydrates into the regimen, but without disrupting ketosis.
Targeted ketogenic diet – TKD
TKD has the same basics as SKD, with the addition of carbohydrates at a specific time – around training. Total calories remain the same, which means that fat intake will be reduced compared to SKD.
The safest time we can bring in carbohydrates without fear of disrupting ketosis is before training. Most will agree that they are best suited to consuming 25-50g carbohydrates approximately 30 minutes before training. Regarding the type of carbohydrate, those with higher GIs that are also more easily digestible are recommended to avoid abdominal tension during training.
Some individuals will feel the need to ingest 25-50g of carbohydrates after training. If ingested, it is very important that these sugars be glucose or glucose polymers, as other sugars, e.g. fructose first replenishes the liver glycogen reserves, thus interrupting the production of ketone bodies.
Cyclic Ketogenic Diet (CKD)
With CKD, the already described SKD is practiced for 5-6 days, followed by a carbohydrate filling phase, which can take 1-2 days. The charge phase aims to restore glycogen in the muscle. In order for such a diet to work, muscle glycogen must be completely consumed every week.
Unlike TKD, ketosis is temporarily interrupted during high carbohydrate intake. 1-2 days of charging is a story unto itself. Simply, at that time you should be consuming large amounts of carbohydrates.
After glycogen reserves have been completely emptied, glycogen can be restored to 100% of normal concentration within the first 24 hours if sufficient carbohydrates are introduced. In 36 hours supercompensation (150%) is achieved.
For the first 24 hours, the amount of carbohydrate to be ingested is 8-10g / kg LBM and the amount should be divided so that an equal amount is added every 2 hours. In the next 24 hours it is enough to bring in 5g / kg of LBM.
There are currently no data available on the long-term effects of a ketogenic diet. In view of this fact, it is not advisable to practice the ketogenic diet indefinitely, but until the desired fat loss has been achieved. This should be followed by a diet that is less extreme and with balanced macronutrients.
There are also some conditions in which the ketogenic diet is contraindicated. These are: kidney problems (especially kidney stones), type 1 diabetes (changes in insulin sensitivity can affect insulin requirements), coronary artery disease and high cholesterol, gout, pregnancy.
It has already been mentioned that the ketogenic diet is accompanied by some controversy. However, the question begs itself: if such a diet has been used successfully in the treatment of certain diseases, why is it unhealthy and unacceptable for the purpose of losing excess fat? Children with epilepsy were kept in deep ketosis for 3 years without consequences.
Ketogenic Diet FAQs
What is meant by “keto adaptation”, “getting into ketosis” and “switching to fat”?
People who started with a keto diet or nutritionist and trainers who advise on that type of diet or diet often hear phrases such as “in keto adaptation”, “entered ketosis”, “switched to fat” and the like, To the lay people there are additional uncertainties regarding this diet.
Ketosis is a condition in which an organism comes into being when carbohydrate intake is too small to be a sufficient source of energy for normal functioning, which is usually below 50 grams of carbohydrate per day, but in some people much lower.
When this happens, the body enters a metabolic state where the liver produces molecules called ketone bodies in sufficient quantity to allow the brain, organs and muscles to function, using fat as fuel.
People pursuing a true ketogenic diet consisting of about 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbohydrates have blood ketone levels of 0.5-5.0 mmols (in humans on a typical Western diet this level is 0.1-0 , 2mmols), and the condition they are in then is called “ketosis”.
The levels of ketosis change from day to day, and sometimes from day to day, and in the initial days the person experiences a feeling of fatigue, slight nausea and weakness which then passes. However, after 7-10 days of entering the ketosis state, the persons record energy recovery, focus, concentration which means that they have achieved “keto adaptation”.
Keto adaptation is a unique metabolic state in which the body switches from carbohydrates to fats and ketones as the primary source of energy. This procedure involves increasing the ability of tissues to oxidize (melt) fat and use ketones.
As noted by Phinney et al. after 6 weeks of keto adaptation, a person consumes about 90 grams of fat per hour during physical activity, while people who are not in ketosis during the same period and with the same type of physical activity consume only 30 grams of fat. Therefore, the terms “keto adaptation” and “switching to fat” are synonyms indicating the use of fat as the primary source of energy.
Can too much protein be ingested on a ketogenic diet?
Although many protein intakes may not sound like a negative thing to many, it is important to know that a ketogenic diet is a high-fat (70-75%) diet, low carbohydrate (about 5%), and moderate protein (20-25%) diet .
Excessive protein intake (about 1.5-1.8 g / kg body weight) promotes increased glucose production, making it difficult to enter or remain in a ketosis state. More specifically, a study conducted by Azzout-Marniche et al. has shown that excessive protein intake in the ketogenic diet is poor for maintaining strength and muscle tissue.
Can a diet with such a high fat content be a health hazard?
On the Internet you will find an endless number of studies confirming the harmfulness of high fat diets that cause insulin resistance, increase cholesterol levels and high risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However, it is important to emphasize that all studies were conducted on individuals who had a high-fat and carbohydrate diet, which is typical of so-called “Western diets” that lead to a number of health problems.
A study by Sidossis and Wolfe confirmed that the intake of fat itself into the bloodstream promotes its use as a fuel, while the intake of a combination of fat and carbohydrates causes it to prevent the use of fat for energy and to create insulin resistance.
The reason for this is that fats need a single enzyme, CPT1, to transfer them to the mitochondria. Higher amounts of insulin prevent this transfer and consequently, prevent fat oxidation. Therefore, during a ketogenic diet, carbohydrate intake must be very low so as not to interfere with the use of asti as energy fuel.
But in addition, scientists have confirmed that the ketogenic diet also has a number of positive health effects, such as lowering triglyceride and cholesterol levels in the blood and improving insulin sensitivity.
Therefore, the secret to a ketogenic diet is choosing the right balance of fat and protein and choosing high-fat foods, which is a difficult decision for many at first.
How difficult is the implementation of a ketogenic diet?
The implementation of a ketogenic diet produces very good results, both in physical appearance and in sports performance, as it promotes the loss of excess adipose tissue, while preserving muscle tissue. But in order to achieve such results, the ketogenic diet requires complete accuracy without looking for shortcuts or occasional “trips” beyond the rules of this diet and the intended menu.
It is especially important, but also the most difficult, to endure the initial 10-15 days of the child when the body goes through the adjustment phase and experiences the most difficult moments, but the results achieved by a ketogenic diet should be sufficient motivation for everyone to persist and achieve the goals.