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A Beginner’s Guide to The Ketogenic Diet: What is Keto?

I am almost 36 years old, which means I should know by now that when I swear I will not do something, it almost certainly means I will indeed do that very thing! Up until my mid 20s, I remember saying I would never be a runner. One night, I promised my hubby that I would run the Dam-to-Dam with him in Des Moines. Funny thing for me to promise, considering I HATED to run. You know that day in high school where we’d run the mile? I dreaded it. Shoot, I dreaded running laps to warm up for gym class; how was I going to run 12 miles? I believe in keeping my word, so I trained and I ran that race. So when the words, “I could NEVER give up carbs!” came out of my mouth, I should’ve known that it would indeed happen. 

I’d seen the posts on Facebook, and I’d heard my friends talking about this “Keto Diet,” and to be honest, I quite literally rolled my eyes when I heard people talking about losing weight while eating a bunless cheeseburger slathered in mayo. No way was I EVER going to do that. But I did. And I am. And I will explain why. 


What Is The Ketogenic Diet?

For starters, I want to put out there that the Ketogenic diet has benefits beyond weight loss. It has been used for many years to help with epilepsy, and more recently it is in the experimental stages of being used for cancer treatment and prevention. The Keto diet for use related to medical conditions should be monitored by your medical team, and it is not what I am detailing today. My purpose today is to discuss the Keto diet as it relates to otherwise healthy individuals who are looking for a way to lose weight, reduce inflammation, and/or cut out carbs and sugar. 

To put it simply, the Keto diet is a low carb, high fat, moderate protein diet. With the typical low fat, high carb diet, your body uses sugar, or glucose, for energy, which typically comes from carbohydrates. Glucose is the easiest form of energy for your body to process so as long as you have carbohydrates in your system, your body defaults to them as it’s primary energy source. However, if you limit your carb consumption, then your body uses fat as fuel instead. As your body breaks down the fat, your liver produces ketones and uses them as energy instead of glucose.

Thus, the goal of the Keto Diet is to enter the state of “ketosis” and to essentially retrain your body from converting sugar to fuel to converting fat to fuel.

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What Are the Benefits?

1. Weight Loss

It sounds funny to think about eating more fat to lose weight, right? On a Keto Diet you are turning your body into a fat-burning machine, which results in less fat storage. 

2. Reduced Inflammation:

This one was really what hooked me. Ever since my first pregnancy, I’ve suffered from lower back pain. When I heard that cutting carbs and sugars could reduce inflammation, that’s really when I decided to take the leap! Since I started the Keto diet, my back pain has improved tremendously. It still flares up from time to time, but as a whole I have way more pain-free days that not. 

3. Energy and Focus

This one is big. Most, if not all, Keto-ers report an increase in energy and mental focus. This is thanks to the ketones that your body produces once it is in a state of ketosis.

4. Bloat Reduction

One of the very first things I noticed within a few days was how flat my stomach was. I didn’t even realize I was bloated until I started Keto, but if you think about it, it makes sense! Carbs hold water, which means the more carbs you have in your system the more you are retaining water. More bloat! 


How Do I Start?

I think the best place for anyone to start is to figure out your macros! This will tell you how much fat, protein, and carbs to eat everyday! The goal for a Ketogenic diet is to stay at or below 20g of carbs, and that is pretty universal for everyone starting out. Your fat and protein recommendation will vary based on your age, weight, and level of activity. There are many apps and calculators out there to help you find your daily goals, but Keto Calculator and Keto Diet App are a couple Keto fan favorites.

Once you figure out your macros for the day, start cooking and pay close attention to labels! Pinterest has been a great source for recipes and there are many support groups on Facebook that share tips, tricks, and hacks along with favorite recipes! 


Can I Really Never Eat Sugar or Flour Again?

One of the best things about the Keto diet is that almost any recipe can be modified to fit this lifestyle. You can substitute almond flour or coconut flour for your typical white flour. Substitute Swerve natural sweetener or Stevia for Sugar. I still bake and I’ve even made Keto-approved homemade ice cream! It is all about finding healthier substitutes.

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There is a lot to know about the Ketogenic diet and a lot of science behind it, so I hope I have helped you to understand the basics. There are a lot of wonderful resources out there, so dig deeper if you want to know more. As with anything in life, be sure to find the lifestyle that is best for you!


 

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