Updated: Jun 22
I will tell you the best nutrition secret ever. It will forever end the confusion on How diets work, Which ones work, and Why.
It all has to do with insulin!
Insulin is one of the main hunger hormones, and is responsible for retaining bodily fat as well as clearing glucose from the blood. When we eat, we spike insulin, and depending on what we eat, we spike insulin to varying degrees. Insulin is necessary to open up the cells like a key to allow the nutrients of our food in. It is dangerous when insulin stops working because this can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. It stops working when we spike it too much over several years due to poor nutrition. The body eventually sees it as toxic, (as well as high levels of blood sugar from diet), and it prevents insulin from working, furthering the problem with high blood glucose. If the insulin can no longer do its job, it can't clear the glucose from the blood. When insulin spikes, it also allows us to retain some of what we eat as fat if it is not burned off with exercise, etc. It is vital for life, but too much of a good thing... well, you know.
Eating and not eating are opposing functions of our metabolism. When we eat, we spike insulin, and when we are not eating, our insulin decreases. When it spikes, we are in a state of digesting food. It is not possible for one to eat and spike insulin and simultaneously lose weight. Author of “The Obesity Code” Dr. Jason Fung said, “the only way to lose body fat is to burn it off. If you are continually burning carbs off, you’ll never lose weight. Carbs and fat are an entirely different fuel source.” The goal of keto is to eat foods that make insulin spike the least, to allow it to come back down so we can re-enter 'fat burning mode.' In between each meal, when we are not eating, we can enter a superficial state of ketosis. It's great! To add to the process of fat burning, even while eating just like everyone should, we can positively manipulate our insulin to spike less per meal to allow us more fat-burning capacity and time in-between meals for that as well. This is called ketosis.
Up to 70% of Americans have insulin resistance to some degree, which is pretty alarming. Diabetes is so destructive and dangerous because it affects every organ system. High sugar/carb diets resulting in high insulin can hardens arteries, putting one at risk for arteriosclerosis (from high cholesterol), which puts one at risk for blood clots, stroke, dementia, erectile dysfunction, and loss of limbs. It damages the nerves in the extremities, which is where diabetic neuropathy comes from. Tingling, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet is a sign that the insulin resistance or diabetes has progressed to later stages, and has become more dangerous. Diabetes can even cause the hardening of kidneys and cataracts, where the high insulin/sugar causes the folding and thickening of proteins on the surface of the eye. Embolisms (fatty plaques in this case) are also a huge risk. A blood clot is formed when there is a perforation (micro-tear) in the arteries from high insulin/sugar. The tear makes the body create a small plaque as a band aid. It has the risk of breaking off (as an embolus) and floating through the blood stream and entering the brain, which can cause a devastating stroke, and even death. If it enters the lungs, it can cause a pulmonary embolism, where the artery becomes clogged, cutting off oxygen with the risk death. It is not difficult to argue that diabetes is one of the worst diseases in the world.
What are the symptoms of insulin resistance?
Because high insulin/ high sugar diets force insulin to stop working, one craves sugar after a meal. It is common to not feel satiated and crave sugar the more one eats it, as the cells have stopped receiving nutrients. A sugary dessert will force insulin to spike higher, forcing the cells open to receive the nutrients from your meal. Fortunately, after the first week or so of keto, this craving turns off like a switch, and we are free from the perpetual craving cycle! The rest of the keto journey is much easier.
Here are other signs of insulin resistance:
-Increased thirst -Restlessness
-Sleepy after meals -Inflammation (Any condition with inflammation, suspect IR)
-Increased urination -Frequent hunger
-Sleepiness -Blurred vision
-Trouble concentrating -Dry mouth/skin
-Weakness -Ear infection
-Tingling sensation -Heart arrhythmia
-High blood pressure -Seizures
-Deep rapid breathing -Cognitive damage
-Anxiety and sadness -Kidney damage
-Cardiovascular (arterial) damage
-Peripheral neuropathy -Retinal damage (blindness)
-Fatty liver -Stroke
-Heart attack -Aneurism
-Poor wound healing -Fatigues
-Nerve damage -Decreased testosterone
-Folds of skin and tags -Belly fat
-Loss of muscle tone -Less satiety after meals
-Craving sweets -Acne
-PCOS -Hair loss
-Gout -Low potassium or High sodium
-High cholesterol -Dark patches on neck, groin, armpit
-Plateaued weightless -High insulin
Keto is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight (and a healthy body, most importantly), because of the degree that it restricts carbs and sugar. It is so low, that it makes our body produce ketones. So even when we eat, they won't go away, and we can still maintain a significant state of fat burning shortly after our insulin decreases. These magical energy-providing, natural chemicals are created only when our carb and sugar intake is low enough. This provides us fat-burning sources of fuel for when we are not eating. We are training the body to eat fats for fuel and see fats as the main source of energy, that way, even when we're to eating, like in between meals or fasting, the body will turn to its own body supply of fat to burn as fuel (with ketones), instead of us becoming weak, tired, or hangry for glucose (food). Other diets do not focus on ketones and the role of insulin in the body, and keto gives us the knowledge to see which diets can work, and how well. If a diet spikes insulin too much, it's not going to be. helpful, and one will likely regain the weight back. If it doesn't aim for us producing ketones, it is missing out on the benefits of fat-burning, energy, and the incredible enzymes that are created in the body.
How does this compare to the Atkins diet?
Yes, Atkins promotes higher protein and lower carbs, but having too high protein will significantly spike insulin, and this is too much to enter a state of ketosis, where a significant amount of weight can be lost healthfully. It also does not promote enough carb restriction to produce ketones. 25 grams or less is recommended by keto. We know that fat hardly produces an insulin spike, such as in meats and dairy, protein spikes it a fair bit but not a lot, and carbs and sugar spike it significantly.
Clearing up some misunderstandings
Will I need to eat tons of fatty foods?
Yes and no. Keto aims for high (calories from) fats, moderate proteins, and low carbs. This should not be mistaken for 'quantities of...' It is quite easy to have many calories from even small amounts of fat, as in butter, nuts, or avocados, thus, large quantities of fat are not necessary. Fat is very calorically dense.
Will I always need 70% of my calories to come from fat? That's a lot!
Luckily no. It's important to realize that after one has become 'fat adapted' or 'keto adapted' (reprogramming one's body run on fat for fuel after about 2-5 weeks), it is not necessary to have as much fat, and it can be somewhat reduced. Macros will shift around based on the person's metabolism, diet history, age, and time in ketosis.
Will I get high cholesterol from the fats in keto?
Yes and no. In the beginning, if you were to do a blood cholesterol test, it would come back high, but that is only because we are clearing out a lot of cholesterol from the arteries. The way we do keto here, Heathy Keto, it is done by adding a lot of veggies per each meal. The sulforaphanes found in cruciferous veggies clear out toxins and excess cholesterol from the body, and we naturally expel it. Once we start losing weight, our blood lipids will normalize. It is a huge myth propagated in the 70s by one biased man that eating fat makes one fat. IT IS NOT TRUE AT ALL! Carbs and sugar is what does this. Carbs and sugar convert in the liver via a process called gluconeogenesis, and turn into fat. Once low-fat yogurt, skim milk, and fat free cereals hit the markets after the 70's, diabetes and heart disease sky-rocketed in the USA. It turns out that mama nature knows what she's doing, and eating full-fat, normal, whole foods like eggs with yolks, chicken with skin, meat with fat, is the most natural, healthy way to go. The fatty part of the food buffers insulin from spiking too high from the protein. It's perfect!
Will I need to do keto forever?
Nope! The magic of keto is that it makes our bodies create new enzymes that last forever. We become a well-oiled machine that can run off glucose AND fat forever. If we were to get into ketosis once in our entire lives for just 2 weeks, and come back to keto in 50 years, we would still have the same amazing enzymes to help us process fats, AND you would get back into ketosis much faster. Keto helps us lose weight healthfully.
Keto takes care of our insulin, liver, kidneys, eyes, arteries, (and just about every organ and tissue) with the knowledge and expectation that it is only physically possible to burn 2 pounds of fat a week. Keto, because it is so anti-inflammatory, also helps us lose water weight and puffiness, especially in the face. You will hear people doing before and after photos from keto labeled 'carb face,' and 'keto face.' It is quite transformative! Why are carbohydrates inflammatory? In Europe, they use the word 'hydrocarbonate,' which more easily depicts the molecules hydrogen (found in water), and carbon (the most common organic element). In a carbohydrate compound, there are 3 water molecules attracted for every carbon, thus, carbs bring in water. Water means inflammation and water weight. These compounds are very irritating for the gut, the major source of our immune system, and regardless if one gets very sick from them or there are more subtle cues like a rounded face and insulin resistance symptoms, carbs have an impact. Keto is the healthiest way to become healthy enough to lose weight and protect your gut and immune system.
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