The ketogenic diet has risen in popularity recently, being widely used to boost energy and brain clarity, while balancing excess weight. The ketogenic diet was developed in the 1920s as a therapy for epilepsy, and while it is still used for that today, the rise of anticonvulsant drugs meant that it was sought out less as a therapy in that context. These days, fitness enthusiasts are choosing the ketogenic diet for enhanced performance, as well as those with chronic illnesses that involve fatigue, brain fog and neurological issues.
The ketogenic diet can be useful for someone who:
- Struggles with ups and downs of energy
- Experiences sugar crashes
- Experiences chronic fatigue
- Struggles with neurologic issues, such as poor memory and decline in cognition
- Has a difficult time losing weight
The diet focuses on high fat, low carb and moderate protein. The distinguishing factor from other low-carb diets such as paleo, is that the ketogenic diet involves much higher fat intake, and just moderate protein intake, where paleo might be more even in proteins and fats. In fact, the ketogenic diet suggests a ratio of 4:1 fats to proteins.
By focusing on low carbs, no sugar and high fats, the body enters a ketogenic state, or ketosis. In this state is the brain can use D-beta-hydroxybutryrate and acetoacetetate (primary ketones) to survive. Using ketones instead of glucose for energy prevents insulin spikes, and provides more sustained energy and more efficient energy utilization.
The greater efficiency in providing cellular energy has shown to be beneficial in ischemic states such as stroke, myocardial insufficiency, neonatal stress, genetic mitochondrial problems, and physical fatigue.
Due to the neuroprotective properties of a ketogenic diet, it has proven to be effective in patients with epilepsy, as well as patients with other neurological and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Studies have shown an association with delayed progressive motor neuron loss and improved performance on motor tasks with induction of this diet.
Also, due to the reduction of body fat, increase in HDL (good cholesterol), and decrease in blood pressure and blood sugar, this diet has also been seen to be beneficial in those with heart disease. Additionally, there has been promising evidence of slowing tumor growth in those with cancer. Disorders, which are related to insulin, such as PCOS, diabetes, and acne, can also benefit from this diet.
When beginning to transition to a ketogenic diet, it is recommended to slowly begin removing carbohydrates and increasing intake of these better energy-sustaining foods. This slow transition will help to avoid the transient symptoms of the “keto-flu” which some people will experience if adopting this diet too quickly. Symptoms of the “keto-flu” include poor energy and mental function, increased hunger, sleep issues, gastro-intestinal distress, and decreased exercise performance.
The breakdown of foods is this:
- 75% quality fats (coconut oil, ghee, grass fed butter, salmon, chia seeds, avocados, nuts, seeds)
- 20% protein
- 5% carbs
Foods to be avoided include:
- Gluten, grains
- Refined sugars
- Processed foods
Adopting a ketogenic diet isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do, however I have seen tremendous benefits in terms of energy, brain clarity and healthy weight management. If you struggle in those areas it may be worth considering.