Having researched this keto/lchf lifestyle exstensively and spent time a lot of time mingling in groups where it is understood quite well, I sometimes forget when talking to non-keto friends that they don’t have a clue what I am rambling on about. Macros this, keto that, LCHF friendly the other.
I created this site to be an informative source of motivation and a useful home-base of insight so it makes sense that we go back to the bare bones of what LCHF & Keto diets actually are.
In it’s purest form a low carb or ketogenic diet is a health program that limits carbohydrate intake and increases our consumption of fat while keeping a moderate amount of protein present.
Generally speaking, this ketogenic practice is put in place to aid people in losing weight, managing diabetes or fixing issues relating to blood pressure and cholesterol. The Charlie Foundation have put a significant amount of work into creating awareness around how a ketogenic lifestyle can in many cases reduce epileptic seizures in children. And more recently, studies are being conducted to ascertain how well this diet can be used to treat neurological disorders and even cancer.
But lets pull it back for a second. How on earth does it do all this and how am I only hearing about it now?
We’ll Start With Our Bodies & a Normal Diet
Our bodies, complex creatures that they are, need energy, a lot of it, to survive. We draw this energy from the food we eat on a daily basis... Simples.
In our modern day, carb loaded diet, the food we eat is broken down into glucose by our bodies in the small intestines.
Glucose is your bodies main source of energy for everything it does, from healing itself and creating new cells, to reading, thinking or walking.
Basically, glucose wanders around our body, via the bloodstream, looking for cells that need energy, and like mini superheros, they give themselves to the cells that need it.
But glucose doesn’t work alone. Little bodyguards are created in your pancreas. These bodyguards are know as insulin and glucose can’t get into the cells without insulins permission.
Once all of your cells are full of the energy they need insulin does its other job, it pushes all the excess glucose towards the liver to be turned into glycogen.
Glycogen is then stored in the liver or sent to our fat cells as storage to be turned into free fatty acids for when we need more energy later. Once that’s done, insulin goes away.
If your body needs more energy, the free fatty acids leave the fat cells and go feed the cells that need them.
If insulin is still present in the bloodstream when your body calls for more energy, the free fatty acids can’t get out. So your body does the next best thing. It tells you that you’re hungry. You eat more food and the process starts all over again.
See the problem?
The more glucose there is in your bloodstream, the more insulin that is needed to compensate.
Insulin takes quite a long time to leave your system. So your fat cells are continually storing “backup” energy that is never getting used up.
In essence, insulin is the reason you’re gaining weight.
This Video Explains this Whole Process Brilliantly
Please don't listen to the cheesy add at the end!!
So How does the Ketogenic Diet Differ?
So we have learned that our body runs on glucose and creates energy from carbohydrates. But the Keto lifestyle is LOW CARB. How is this even Possible?
Well let’s see shall we? Let’s reduce the amount of carbohydrates in our diet. Right down to 50 grams or less. (this puts the body in a ketogenic state)
Our bodies, that have been well adapted to utilising glucose, will look at the liver to figure something out. First it will deplete it’s own glycogen stores. After that it gets smart.
You may have depleted the glucose in your body, but you still need to eat. Your liver will break down fat from 2 main sources. The fat you have ingested and the fat that you have stored in your “reserves”/fat cells.
The brain and other organs can’t directly process fat for energy, so we look to the liver again. Your liver will process the fat and turn it into ketones.
Ketones, like glucose will wander around in the bloodstream looking for cells that need energy and similarly give themselves up for use.
When fully satisfied, insulin will be secreted to close the fat stores and stop them from unnecessarily releasing free fatty acids for conversion to ketones.
Later on, when your cells need more energy they can easily access your fat cells for free fatty acids.
Because there was a relatively small amount of carbohydrate eaten, there was a similarly small amount of glucose created and therein there was only a small amount of insulin released. Obviously a smaller amount will leave the bloodstream muck quicker than if you were on a carb loaded diet.
And the above process, again, repeats itself when necessary.
What About the Excess Ketones?
While excess glucose is stored in fat cells, our bodies actually have no storage for ketones. Therefore our body gets rid of them by one of two methods. Either through the breath or in the urine. It’s quite common for people to use urine test strips to see if they are in ketosis. Similar to a pregnancy test, you pee on them and the strip will change color if ketones are present.
What about Low Blood Sugar?
You’re on your own with that.... No. I’m just kidding. Low blood sugar can be just as dangerous as high blood sugar and it’s understandable to conclude that low carb would result in low blood sugar levels. But again, our bodies are amazingly resilient. While the diet is strictly low carb, it’s actually quite hard to live zero carb. Possible but extremely hard work. Turns out that certain amino acids contain glucose and some byproducts of gluconeogenisis (the breakdown of fats) are glucose. The perfect amount to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Winning!
So it’s All about the Insulin?
Pretty much. Like it or not, insulin is in charge of how big your body gets. It’s not a protagonist though... He’s not the bad guy. If insulin were to let glucose run rampant in your blood stream you would be susceptible to a whole host of health problems. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the blood vessels) is caused by excessive levels of blood sugar. This in turn can cause a whole other host of problems. Kidney disease or kidney failure, requiring dialysis, strokes, heart attacks, loss of vision or blindness, a weakened immune system, with a greater risk of infections, erectile disfunction, nerve damage, called neuropathy, that causes tingling, pain, or less sensation in your feet, legs, and hands, poor circulation to the legs and feet and lets not forget the auld Diabetes.
Just for your perusal, you might be on a bit of an insulin buzz, here’s a video that explains how insulin works when your diabetic or insulin resistant.
So In Conclusion
We have covered a lot of ground here today and while I would love to write a longer more detailed piece, I think that any more would be overkill. So it will have to be split. Keep an eye out for future pieces. And as always, if you see anything you think needs editing just let me know.