Figuring out the best way to eat and stay healthy is often difficult, especially with so much conflicting advice out there. But, it's becoming increasingly clear that the best approaches are realistic and sustainable changes to your diet and lifestyle - rather than short-term diets.
Even though it's sometimes called a diet, ketosis is one example of this. In fact, ketosis is an incredibly powerful option for health and weight loss - one that comes with many different benefits.
What is Ketosis?
The term ketosis (or nutritional ketosis) refers to a biological state. The simplest way to explain it is that your body is burning fat as an energy source, rather than carbohydrates. To reach this state, people follow a ketosis diet, which you'll also find called keto or ketogenic.
This approach involves dramatically cutting down your carb intake and increasing your fat intake accordingly. As a result, a ketosis diet typically involves eating somewhere between 60% and 75% of your calories from fat and only getting around 5% to 10% of your calories from carbs. The exact proportions vary - but the idea is that you're keeping your carb intake very low.
For most people, this calculates out to no more than 50 grams of total carbs per day or around 20 to 35 grams of net carbs (net carbs = total carbs - carbs from fiber).
However, everyone is different and some people can eat more carbs than others and remain in ketosis. Thankfully, there are a range of signs of being in ketosis and some people rely on products like a ketone breath analyzer or urine strips to measure their ketone levels.
A Ketogenic Diet
With this in mind, a ketosis diet is simply an eating plan that involves keeping your carb intake low enough. But, as you can probably guess, achieving this can seem difficult at first.
The challenge is that we rely so heavily on carbs. For example, bread, rice and pasta are all staple foods and they are high in carbs. Sugar is also a key source of carbs and that is added to many different foods.
As a result, a keto diet typically relies on whole food and cooking your own meals. This is better for health anyway and there are many amazing low carb recipes out there.
Nevertheless, even if you rely on whole foods, a keto diet still takes planning and careful consideration. Many of the ingredients that you traditionally rely on will be fairly high in carbs, so you may find that you need to make substitutions. In many cases, you might end up relying on alternative ingredients, like coconut oil.
One other thing to note is calories.
Regardless of your goals, a keto diet doesn't typically involve counting calories. Instead, people try to balance their macros, which refers to fat, carb and protein intake. Nevertheless, you do still have to be partially aware of your calories. After all, you can overeat on any type of diet, including ketosis.
Ketosis and Weight Loss
For many people, ketosis is a weight loss approach.
After all, ketosis does put your body in a fat burning state. Plus, it helps to reduce hunger, making weight loss easier overall. Research has also shown that a keto or low-carb diet can be as effective as a traditional low-fat diet. In some studies, the low-carb approach is actually more powerful (1,2,3,4).
There are also many success stories that support the keto diet idea - and many people have found success with this approach after consistently failing with other weight loss methods.
A ketosis diet can also be considered a lifestyle, rather than a diet in the traditional sense. As such, it isn't something that you follow for a while and then stop. Instead, many people make ketosis a lifelong change and find that they feel healthier overall for doing so.
Indeed, once you get used to the different food decisions, following ketosis in the long-term is extremely realistic. For one thing, you are still enjoying food and you're not starving yourself.
In fact, the fat and protein in a ketosis diet makes the approach more filling than a traditional low-fat and high-carb diet. This aspect alone makes ketosis easier to follow in the short-term and in the long-term.
The one other thing to note is that diet and lifestyle changes tend to be very individualistic.
So, what is effective for one person isn't necessarily going to work for another. This is partly why many people thrive on ketosis, while others struggle. Likewise, some people lose weight fast and others don't.
This isn't a reason to avoid a keto diet - not at all. Instead, it's simply worth being aware of how your body responds to it and how the diet works for your needs. For that matter, if you struggle with conventional weight loss approaches, you may actually find that a ketosis diet is more powerful for you.
If you're curious about how the keto diet stacks up, you can check out the post Paleo versus Keto from Mind to Muscle Fitness. That post is a powerful look at the two diets. It can help you work out which one is a good fit for you.
Weight loss is a common motivation for a ketosis diet but it isn't the only reason. Instead, ketosis can also offer other benefits.
These benefits are associated with the way that ketosis lowers insulin levels and increase levels of therapeutic ketones within the bloodstream (5,6,7). For example, a ketosis diet may help to lower inflammation and improve brain function (8)
Despite the reliance on fat, a keto diet also helps to improve risk factors for heart disease. This includes decreasing total cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol (9).
All of these areas make a keto diet well worth following and there are also health benefits that simply come from losing weight.
Ketosis Resources and Support
The ketosis diet has become incredibly popular and there are many different sites that focus on helping people to get started and to follow the approach well. In fact, you would find hundreds of sites just from a simple Google search. But, a handful of these are particularly powerful - especially for beginners.
With that in mind, here are my personal picks for keto websites.
- Ruled.me. This is one of the most comprehensive sites for keto out there and includes detailed information about everything you might possibly want to know. This includes a keto calculator for figuring out the nutrients that you need, a wide range of keto recipes, a support forum and a fascinating guide to the keto diet.
- KetoDiet. This site is best known for the KetoDietApp that they produce, which is a particularly powerful tool for following the diet and staying in ketosis. But, the site goes far beyond that. For example, there is information about various debates (such as net carbs versus total carbs), along with guides, diet plans, recipes and a Keto Calculator.
- Essential Keto. This is another useful site, regardless where you are on your keto journey. The site includes a powerful guide to ketogenic diet recipes, along with a keto food pyramid and a list of keto foods to avoid.
- Ketogenic Kitchen. I love this site as a source of keto information and recipes. It's an amazing one to check out and there is no shortage of new options to try.
- Perfect Keto. This is a brand that I particularly like and they produce some amazing products as well. A great place to start is their Keto Macro Calculator, which helps you to calculate your macros. The same page has a detailed guide to each of the macronutrients and their significance for your health and ketosis.
Finding Good Support
For anyone considering ketosis, a critical approach is to seek support. In theory, you can follow this diet entirely on your own, especially if you rely on some of the resource links above. But, having social support often makes a diet or lifestyle change that much easier to achieve.
This is particularly true for ketosis. After all, you are switching to a different source of fuel, while also dramatically changing what foods you do and do not eat. As a result, a ketosis diet takes some time to get used to - and you may experience some side effects, particularly at the beginning.
Thankfully, there are various support groups that you can turn to, including many that are online.
In many cases, you can also find support through the comments sections on keto blogs and social media profiles. For example, I regularly see keto discussions take place on Facebook and many bloggers also develop support groups for their Facebook followers.
You may also need to try out multiple options for support until you find one that is suited to your individual needs and situation. After all, we're all different .
Recipes and meal plans are key components of almost every diet and lifestyle change, and ketosis is no exception. In fact, having access to this type of information can make the approach so much easier to follow. After all, a keto diet does significantly change the food you eat and the ingredients you use.
As a result, good recipes help ensure that you are still eating amazing food - and this alone makes the lifestyle easier to stick to. For many people, good food does make all the difference.
With that in mind, here are some of the best cookbooks that you can find for ketosis. Of course, many of the resource links from above also have recipes, including some amazing ones. But, it's often nice to have a physical book in your kitchen to work from.
This cookbook has 125 recipes but it is powerful because it also acts as an overall guide to ketosis and how to lose weight in this way. There are still more than enough recipes to inspire you and get you cooking great keto food.
This cookbook is a slightly different style than the others but it is still a great way to cook keto food. It does also offer information about the diet approach and how to stock your kitchen.
This is one of the best sellers in the ketogenic cooking field and offers upwards of 170 recipes. There are also meal plans, along with tips and tricks for staying in ketosis.
This is another popular cookbook and the recipes included are both paleo and keto. The book comes from two different authors, both of whom are experts in the keto field.
You can also find more information about ketosis and various considerations in the posts published here.