How Does Keto Work? The Basics. 

Written by Molly Becker, Director of KetoBars on March 1st 2021

Read Time: 10 min

If you're thinking about starting keto, you may be feeling a little bit overwhelmed. Since keto has become so popular, there is a TON of information available on the web... which can be helpful but, a lot of times this information is misleading or downright WRONG. We are here to help share the absolute basics of the keto diet to help you get started!

In this article, we will discuss what a ketogenic diet is, how to keep track of your macros, ketosis (and how to know when you're actually IN it), health benefits, and more.

What is a ketogenic diet?

A ketogenic diet is low carb, high fat diet. When following a keto diet, you will drastically reduce your carb intake and replace those carbs with fat. This puts your body in a metabolic state called ketosis

When your body is in a state of ketosis, it becomes extremely efficient at burning fat for energy, which is why you can see such great weight loss results from the keto diet. 

What is ketosis?

As we just learned, ketosis is a metabolic state where your body uses fat for fuel instead of carbs. This happens when you significantly decrease your carb intake, limiting your body's supply of glucose (sugar).  

How do I know if i'm in ketosis?

You can use a few different methods to determine whether or not you are in ketosis, like ketone testing tools such as:

1. Ketone Blood Meter: This is the most accurate way to test for ketones. However, this method can be less desirable because you will need to prick your finger. 

2. Ketone Urine Test Strips: This method requires you to test your urine for ketones using a small strip which will eventually turn a certain color. You can compare this color to the packaging to see what your ketone levels are. This is a great option for keto beginners however, it is less accurate than a blood meter. 

3. Ketone Breath Meter: This is probably the easiest method of testing your ketone levels. There are several different ketone breath meters available on the market. However, this method is still not as accurate as a blood meter. 

Some of the following symptoms may also indicate that you are entering a state of ketosis:

• Headaches
• Fatigue & weakness
• Changes in sleep
• Muscle cramps & spasms
• Weight loss
• Increased thirst

These symptoms are often referred to as the keto flu and they can be a sign that your body is entering ketosis. They can last for a few days to a week. Once you overcome these symptoms, most people feel the positive side effects of keto which include increased energy, reduced brain fog, better sleep and more stable moods.

What are keto macros? 

When talking about food a "macro" or macronutrient refers to carbohydrates, protein, and fat. This is where all of your calories come from. A typical macro ratio for keto looks like this: 

ideal keto macro ratio

Most people following a low carb diet allow 25 grams of net carbs or less per day (following a 2,000 calorie a day diet). However, based on your size and weight loss goals, this may change. If you want a more accurate breakdown of macros based on your body, we recommend this keto macro calculator

How do I calculate Net Carbs?

To calculate Net Carbs, follow this equation:

Total Carbs - Fiber - Sugar Alcohols (if any) = Net Carbs

Here is an example:

How to calculate net carbs

What are the benefits of a keto diet?

Although many people look to the keto diet for the weight loss benefits alone, there are actually several other health benefits that you may not be aware of. Here are just a few: 

1. May Improve Heart Health: Studies have shown that some people following a keto diet have experienced a significant drop in levels of total cholesterol low density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, and triglycerides and an increase in high density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol.

2. Reduced Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels: Low carb and ketogenic diets can be very helpful for people with diabetes or insulin resistance. Studies show that cutting carbs lowers blood sugar and insulin levels drastically. In one study done in people with Type 2 Diabetes, 95% had reduced or eliminated their glucose lowering medication within 6 months of starting a ketogenic diet. 

3. May Lower Blood Pressure: Cutting carbs can lead to a significant reduction in blood pressure, which should reduce your risk of many common diseases such as stroke, kidney failure, and heart disease. 

4. Therapeutic for Brain Disorders: Some parts of your brain can only use glucose, which is why our liver produces glucose from protein if you eat a low carb diet. However, most of your brain can also use ketones. The ketogenic diet has actually been used for decades to treat children with Epilepsy who do not respond to drug therapy. Very low carb and ketogenic diets are now being tested for other brain disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. 

5. Increased Energy & Mental Clarity: Once your body enters and adjusts to ketosis, many experience an increase in their physical energy and mental clarity. There are a few reasons why this happens:

• Ketones are a powerful energy source. Once your body enters ketosis, you will be using ketones for fuel instead of glucose. 
• Fat digests slower than carbs. So, you will be receiving energy from your food for hours after you eat. 
•Low-carb, high-fat diets improve blood glucose stability, meaning less sugar crashes, increasing your energy! 

6. Helps with Inflammation: Inflammation is the body's natural response to heal and fight infection. Too much inflammation, however, can have some unpleasant symptoms like pain, joint stiffness, swelling, and fatigue. When in a consistent state of ketosis, your body produces ketones which have a strong anti-inflammatory response. 

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