Ketogenic diets force the body to enter into a state called ketosis. The body generally makes use of carbohydrates as its primary source of energy. This owes to the fact that carbohydrates are the easiest for the body to absorb.
However, should the body run out of carbohydrates, it reverts to making use of fats and protein for its energy production. Essentially, the body has a sort of energy hierarchy that it follows.
How does the ketogenic diet work?
Firstly, the body is programmed to use carbohydrate as energy fuel when it is available. Secondly, it will revert to using fats as an alternative in the absence of an adequate supply of carbohydrates.
Lastly, the body will turn to proteins for its energy provision when there is an extreme depletion of its carbohydrate and fat stores. However, breaking down proteins for energy provision leads to a general loss of lean muscle mass.
The ketogenic diet does not fully depend on the calories in, calories out model. This is because of the composition of those calories matters due to the hormonal response of the body to different macronutrients.
Keto community debate
However, there are two schools of thought in the keto community. While one believes that the amount of calories and fat consumption does not matter, the other contends that calories and fat do matter.
When using a ketogenic diet, you are trying to find a balance point. While calories matter, the composition of those calories also counts. In a ketogenic diet, the most important factor in the composition of those calories is the balance of fat, protein, and carbohydrates and how each affects insulin levels.
Balance is very important
This balance is very important because any rise in insulin will stop lipolysis. Therefore, you need to eat foods that will create the smallest rise in insulin. This will help to keep your body in the state of burning stored body fat for fuel – lipolysis.
The body can normally go into a ketosis state by itself. This is often the case when you are in a fasting state such as when you are sleeping. In this state, the body tends to burn fats for energy while the body carries out its repairs and growth while you sleep.
Carbohydrates generally make up most of the calories in a regular meal. Also, the body is inclined to make use of carbohydrate as energy as it is more easily absorbable. The proteins and fats in the diet are thus more likely to be stored.
However, in a ketogenic diet, most of the calories come from fats rather than carbohydrates. Since ketogenic diets have a low amount of carbohydrates, they are immediately used up. The low carbohydrate level causes an apparent shortage of energy fuel for the body.
As a result of this seeming shortage, the body resorts to its stored fat content. It makes a shift from a carbohydrate consumer to a fat-burner. The body however does not make use of the fats in the recently ingested meal but rather stores them up for the next round of ketosis.
As the body gets more familiar with burning fat for energy, fats in an ingested meal become used up with little left for storage.
This is why the ketogenic diet uses a high amount of fat consumption so that the body can have enough for energy production and also still be able to store some fat. The body needs to be able to store some fat otherwise it will start breaking down its protein stores in muscles during the ketosis period.
In fasting periods – such as during ketosis, in between meals, and during sleep – the body still needs a constant supply of energy. You have these periods in your normal day and therefore you need to consume enough amounts of fat for your body to use as energy.
If there are no adequate amounts of stored fat, the proteins contained in your muscle become the next option for the body to use as energy. It is therefore important to eat enough to avoid this scenario from taking place.
The main goal of a ketogenic diet is to mimic the state of starvation in the body. Ketogenic diets deprive the body of its preferred immediate and easily convertible carbohydrates by restricting and severely cutting back on carbohydrate intake. This situation forces it into a fat-burning mode for energy production.