Keto 101-The basics of the ketogenic diet

A brief history.

Lately, the ketogenic diet or ‘keto’ for short, has been brought to the forefront of many health discussions. It’s somewhat of a trend currently, but it’s definitely nothing new. The modern version of the ketogenic diet has been around since the 1920’s, with aspects of it dating back to ancient Egypt. Keto was developed and used to treat epilepsy with great success until about 1938 when the drug diphenylhydantoin was found to control seizures. You can read a full study and scientific findings on the ketogenic diet here. No surprise there, a healing food regimen lost out to a medication. So why all the hype now? It’s simple, Hollywood.

As with so many things, it takes a celebrity to propel popularity. Jim Abrahams, a director in the 1990’s famous for such comedies as “Hot Shots!”, “Airplane!”, and ” The Naked Gun”, had a son who suffered from epilepsy. Read a more detailed account of his story here. He was successfully treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and the story was featured on an episode of Dateline in 1994. Since then, it has been widely accepted and implemented in the treatment of epilepsy. As the realization caught on that an unexpected side effect of the diet was weight loss, its popularity grabbed hold and propelled keto toward the top of the currently trending diets of 2016. Then Halle Berry revealed on a morning talk show that she followed a ketogenic diet and had amazing results, that really knocked it out of the park.

So here we are. Bombarded with all of this information regarding keto, some good, some not so good. There a lot of companies trying to cash in on the keto train by marketing “keto” food in one form or another. Be extremely careful with premade products, more often than not they are loaded with hidden carbs and other crap cleverly disguised under different names. Always read those labels carefully. Let’s see if we can’t sort all this shit out.

Keto-the short version.

A ketogenic diet is very low in carbs, moderate in protein, high in fat, and generally has a target caloric intake to meet per day depending on your specific goals. These components are called macros or macronutrients. Depleting your body of carbohydrates forces it into a state of “ketosis”, which is where the diet gets its name. Ketosis is basically  your body burning fat for energy as opposed to burning glucose. Think of it like a bonfire. Eating carbs and running on glucose is like trying to keep the fire lit by constantly throwing kindling on it. As the kindling quickly burns, you need to keep throwing more and more on to keep it going. Ketosis, or burning fat for energy, is like throwing a huge chunk of oak on the fire. It burns slow and long and provides a steady source of heat without needing too much tending. That’s pretty much keto in a nutshell.

We eat bacon, we eat butter, we don’t shy away from the full fat products that have been demonized for far too long. It definitely takes some getting used to. In the beginning, it feels like you are doing the complete opposite of everything you were taught growing up. Fruit is almost non-existent on keto. That’s one thing you really can’t get around. Sure, I can replicate fruit flavors using replacement sweeteners and extracts, but I’ll never jut pick up an apple again and eat it. Some things, you just have to get past. You will not go hungry though, that much I promise. In fact, you will most likely eat far less than you ever have and have far more steady energy.

I love this graphic, it’s a really nice overview of the highlights of keto. You can check out Whole life fitness manifesto here if you like. I figured I should give them a shout out since I used their art.

The upper left lists some, but definitely not all, of the health benefits of keto. I can attest to several more personally including:

  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Cured GERD/Reflux and am completely off meds
  • Arthritis GONE
  • Significant migraine improvement, both in severity and frequency
  • Improved cholesterol numbers
  • GREATLY increased energy levels
  • Improved skin, hair, and nails
  • And most importantly, no more depression. Seven months ago, I was in a dark place. I never want to go there again.

The upper right talks about carb allowance. This is more of a personal guideline, as everyone’s tolerance to carbs will be different.  It’s recommended to start with no more than 20 grams of net carbs in the beginning and slowly increase that number as long as you stay in ketosis, but not to go over 50g.  Net carbs is just the total carb grams minus fiber carb grams. It is widely accepted that since fiber in not digested, you can omit them from the carbs you count for the day. I try to stay under 20 total carbs for the day,  meaning I still count fiber carbs. This is a stricter regimen, but I’m trying to expedite reaching my health goals.

You can see under the getting started area of the graphic, the mention of increased water and electrolytes. This is absolutely NOT OPTIONAL. The ketogenic diet is diuretic in nature. What that means is your body doesn’t hold onto as much fluid as it normally would and you end up having to pee a lot. The constant flushing not only depletes your fluid but also your electrolytes along with it. This is why so many of us take supplements and use a lot more salt than is normally recommended. The four main electrolytes are magnesium, potassium, calcium, and sodium. When someone is deficient,  they can experience:

  • Muscle cramps, such as charlie horses
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Feeling shaky or dizzy.

I take magnesium every single day. Potassium can be dangerous if you take too much so exercise caution if you decide to take it. I wait until I’m done eating for the day and check my macros. If I haven’t had a decent amount of potassium, I’ll take a supplement. As for salt, you name it, I probably salt it. I am not talking about common table salt, that stuff will kill you. I’m referring to unrefined mineral salts, such as Pink Himalayan sea salt, that are stacked with health benefits. It’s not uncommon for someone on keto to chug pickle juice, or drink salt water. I’ve even poured it directly into my hand and eaten it, especially if I start to feel poorly as a result of low sodium. Although, I will say that since I started using sole water, I’ve not had any issues with electrolyte imbalance. As for calcium, most people on keto take in plenty, as it found in the leafy greens we eat and is also prevalent in dairy.

A step further.

I know that this way of eating is called a diet, but it becomes much more than that. It’s a way of life, a mindset that really spills over into other areas of your daily routine. When you make good food choices and begin to feel the benefits of a healing diet, you become far more likely to make other positive changes as well. It’s not necessary to exercise on keto to reap the rewards, but making sure you get your body moving regularly is never a bad thing. And with the increased energy people experience, it is often motivates them to start some type of exercise program. Start by walking and see where it takes you.

When you have control over food rather than the other way around, it’s empowering. As you feel better and better, that feeling emanates from you and becomes infectious. Don’t be surprised when people start to take notice, not just of your physical appearance but also of the energy you project. You’ve taken the first step on an amazing journey, be proud. You got this shit.

Thanks for reading, and please let me know if you have any questions.





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