So, you’ve been hearing about this ‘keto’ and ‘LCHF’ stuff, but what the hell does it really mean in simple terms…and more importantly, how can you get you sum’ of dat? Yes. Let’s talk BASICS:
– What is keto?
– How is it different from LCHF?
– How does it work?
– Is it safe?
– How do I get started?
– What is induction?
There’s a lot of confusion out there for people trying to improve their health. Not only are they getting conflicting advice from their doctors, nurses, the media, the USDA, the AMA, the ADA, but they are bombarded with widely varied information from armchair experts on the internet as well. As one of those armchair people, let’s get some stuff sorted out, clarified, and then we can get you rolling on being a better YOU. Sound like a plan?
What is Keto?
Keto is short for ‘ketogenic.’ Great. Thanks Hobbit for clearing that up… :(. HA! I’m not gonna leave you hanging :). Ketogenic is a medical term that means your body stops using glucose as its primary fuel. Instead, it uses things called ‘ketones.’ I can get into the whole chemical composition of them but eh, I did say ‘simple’ so let’s skip that part. You’re body has three potential fuel sources – glucose, fatty acids, and ketones. Fatty acids are the unique ones of the batch as they have more than one purpose in the body as well as more than one way of being used as fuel. Ketones are interesting in they are also multi-use. Glucose…not so much. Ketogenic occurs when your intake of glucose-rich foods (carbohydrates) is reduced low enough that there isn’t sufficient intake of them to match the body’s needs to use them as fuel. Since the body wants to survive, it has other options, the preferred one being ketones. The body makes ketones for fuel in the liver, yeh, the same place it makes glucose. In the simplest explanation, when your carb intake is low, low, low, the body takes fatty acids and converts them to ketones primarily, and glucose for those few organs that cannot use ketones. The liver is also able to convert ketones in the bloodstream into glucose as well. See? The body knows what it wants to do (which is live) and how to get the job done. You’re body doesn’t NEED carbs because of this. Yes, it still does need glucose for those functions where ketones aren’t going to work (as well as it being part of glycogen which fuels the muscles) but it can make it on demand.
That means carbs are not an essential nutrient IN THE PRESENCE of fat (dietary and\or body fat).
As a side note, fatty acids are also used in other needs of the body without being converted to ketones or glucose. I won’t get into them for this article but thought I should include it.
Ketogenic was first coined as a term between 1919 and 1921. Yeh. Almost 100 years ago. So, those who call this a fad diet?
100 years isn’t a fad.
What about millions of years? Is that a fad?
Early man, the hunter-gatherers didn’t have Wonder Bread, Tyson Nuggets, or Oreos. They had whatever they could find, WHEN they could find it.
Early man (and woman, sorry)?
So, what is so important about the early 20th century that it got a name?
Epilepsy – specifically in children.
A few enterprising doctors discovered that by eliminating carbs from epileptic children’s diets, the occurrence and severity of seizures greatly diminished or disappeared. Unfortunately, they did this with little understanding of ‘proper’ nutrition. The children were given diets without fats and the primary source of protein was gelatin – which is mostly non-essential amino acids. Yeh. The kids were malnourished. A few years later, another group of doctors refined this plan, adding in fats for fuel and proper proteins for health.
The important thing to note here is this was succeeded with PROPER PROTEIN, NO CARBS, and SUFFICIENT FAT. The key there is ‘PROPER’ and ‘SUFFICIENT’ which are different than ‘EAT ALL THE FAT!’ Too much fat isn’t good. Too much of anything isn’t good. Keep that in mind.
So, this diet plan? It worked. Quite well, but no one really recognized the other potentials until the last 50 years or so. Recently, it has become a powerful tool for weight lose (you’ve heard of the Atkin’s Diet I assume), controlling and repairing metabolic damage, hormonal imbalances, and even has shown success with many neurological disorders and even cancer!
The beauty of keto?
You can get healthy without feeding big pharm since you have this power, this ‘medicine,’ RIGHT IN YOUR BODY!!
Ok, so what is the difference between ‘keto’ and ‘LCHF,’ if any?
There is a difference. Some call them the same thing, but they are not. Technically, keto is VLCHF (Very Low Carb High Fat) instead of Low Carb High Fat. Low Carb is less than 100g. Keto is less than 30g. High Fat means more of your calories come from fat than any other macro. It does not mean eat all the bacon.
That sucks :(.
Is it safe?
It is a natural process.
End of discussion.
It’s as safe as any other balanced form of nutrition.
Ok, but not THE END of the discussion in general, more after the jump.
How do you get started?
Ok. So not THAT simple.
First, you need to recognize where carbs come from:
To put it simply, any non-animal food source…and a few animal food sources as well. Meats don’t have carbs. Eggs do. Veggies do (but not all carbs are equal, more on that in a second). Grains do. Beans do. Fruits do. So do berries.
So, how do we eliminate carbs?
We really don’t.
We LIMIT them while getting in the right amount of protein and filling in the empty spaces with fats.
Wow, that seems like we have to give up EVERYTHING!
No we don’t.
Because not all carbs are equal.
Fiber is a carb but it TYPICALLY doesn’t affect blood sugar. For some, it does. When you look at a label, you will see Total Carbs and then they will break it down into Fiber, Sugar, Other. At the most basic level, we only want to worry about the SUGAR. But, starting out, I want you to worry about ALL of them until you know if you are someone that has to worry about fiber or sugar alcohols (the ‘Other’). This beginning period?
Induction – aka learning now to eat this way and get into ketosis initially.
So, what do we do in this ‘induction’ phase?
We cut back drastically on carbs.
We make sure we eat enough protein.
We eat some fat.
We suffer a little.
Ok, some of us suffer a lot.
Physically while we detox off carbs (I HATE the term ‘keto flu,’ let’s call it what it is – Carbohydrate Withdrawal and Detox).
EMOTIONALLY is where it really hurts.
No CAKE AND COOKIES!!
This isn’t forever, I promise you. Only in the beginning. Why? To get you on the right path mentally and physically. Once you start LEARNING YOUR BODY, you can learn other things too, like how to make a cake that won’t make you fat. How to make rice and potatoes from cauliflower. How to master Fathead for the win. How to make bread with 200000 egg whites (ok, I’m not going there…). How much fiber can you handle. How sugar alcohols affect you.
So, to get started, I recommend a multi-pronged plan. What we want is you to succeed. In order to do that, this has to be something that you can reasonably do and not get all stressed out over. What are the steps?
– First, eliminate the grains. That means bread, pasta, rice, breaded foods, etc. Read the labels. Box the stuff up and take it to a food pantry or shelter. It won’t get wasted and you will feel good just doing it. No matter what, get it out of the house.
– Learn to deal with those things gone for a few days.
– Get rid of the boxes of sugar, bottles of honey, maple syrup, and molasses. Yeh, that’s sugar. Don’t worry, the Hobbit won’t let you down. When you’re ready, we can help you replace those with things that are safe. WHEN YOU ARE READY.
– Get rid of the fruits and any veggies that aren’t green and leafy. Yeh, that means potatoes, too :(.
– Embrace your protein sources – meats, eggs, high protein veggies, seeds (not to be confused with nuts – see this discussion).
– Don’t be afraid of fat – butter, coconut oil, olive oil, bacon, etc but do it in MODERATION.
– Supplement magnesium, potassium, and sodium. You will need these electrolytes as the water balance in your body changes.
– KEEP IT SIMPLE!!! Forget the fancy ketofied recipes for now. Get the basics down. Eat like you did before carbs, just without the dinner rolls, the 3 cups of rice (use more veggies), and the 3 donuts for breakfast. Yes, that means instead of a burger on a roll, fries, and a diet Coke, have the burger with a slab of cheese, maybe some bacon, wrap it up in lettuce (remember GREEN AND LEAFY), cook up some broccoli for a side, and wash it down with water\coffee\tea. Breakfast, forget the oatmeal, have eggs or an omelet (and once you get through induction, I’ll point you to some wonderful keto-safe waffles and pancakes 🙂 ). Give the Hot Pockets to a coworker, bring some chicken salad instead (or tuna).
– MEASURE EVERYTHING! You will be surprised just how wrong you are on what is actually a ‘serving.’ HINT – it’s a lot less than you think.
– Track everything. You will be shocked to find out how many carbs are hidden in things you never thought of.
– Read labels.
– READ EVERYTHING. Studies. Blogs. Groups. Learn. Learn. Learn.
– Ask questions. All of them.
We want you to succeed. To do that, you need a strong foundation. This is induction. Build that foundation. 3-4 weeks is all it takes, then you can work on building that beautiful house of YOU.