The Ketogenic/High Fat-Low Carb Diet (& why I follow it!)
CATEGORIES: Healing & Herbs Nutrition
Today we are talking about a lifestyle and dietary approach that I use myself and with some of my clients, that is all about the FAT.
It is the basis for my group coaching program the Flourish Academy, I used it with many of my one to one clients (but not all because we ALL need different things) and it’s the way I have been eating ‘officially’ for a few months but unofficially for several years, on and off. In fact, I think I was eating this way without realizing it about 4 years ago when I followed the GAPS diet (find out all about that here!)
And I have to say for me, and for some of my clients, this is a FABULOUS way to eat. I love cycling in and out of eating the Ketogenic way.
Click to watch or scroll down to read!
What is a Ketogenic lifestyle/diet?
It is basically about putting the body into a state of nutritional ketosis (nothing to do with diabetic ketoacidosis – this is entirely different to that dangerous state), where about 70% of your daily dietary intake is from fats, things like coconut oil, avocado, seeds, fish or meat. Then 20% compromises of protein and the remaining 10% consist of healthy carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit etc.
The key thing you are looking to do with a Ketogenic diet from a biochemical perspective is to teach your body to use and create ketones for energy. Most people’s bodies use glucose as the primary fuel source in creating energy/ ATP. When you follow a Ketogenic diet you starve the body of glucose and put it in a state of nutritional ketosis which is when it uses ketones for energy not glucose. Therefore you become more metabolically adaptable sometimes using ketones for energy and sometimes using glucose. Basically the best of both worlds!
Why so much fat?
And ketones are so healing. This approach to eating has been used to treat epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, cancers, diabetes, weight loss and many other health issues and is backed by lots of research. Hooray (click the links above to read some studies).
For many of the clients, I work with their bodies blood sugar is so out of balance that their hormones are wonky (like in PCOS) and energy levels are suffering (like in CFS). Happy balance blood sugar is essential for you to feel awesome and a high-fat low carb diet can really help with this (hence why it recommended for type 2 diabetics).
The most well-known ketogenic diet is the Atkins Diet but that is not the approach I recommend as it often means people focus on eating steak, cheese and cream and very little veg. My approach is one without dairy (or very minimal dairy) and HIGH amounts of veg. I don’t think filling your plate high with cream and bacon alone is healthy – we all need veg!!
And the key with this approach is in the phrase ‘high fat’. This is not just about low carb, but about eating an abundance of healthy fats to ‘starve’ your body of glucose initially and train your body to create and use ketones as an energy source. (And FYI the brain really loves ketones as an energy source which is why it’s so effective in treating brain disorders and inflammation.)
But this low carb high-fat approach doesn’t work for everyone. For me on this journey I have realised that I need more carbs than the recommended 10% per day, I have more like 20% so you do need to adjust the Ketogenic approach to your individual needs. Maybe you have poor fat digestion already or are under too much stress that will prevent you from making this metabolic transition. As with all things health – this isn’t a one size fits all or miracle fix.
The art of cycling…..
And it’s not recommended that you eat this way strictly for long periods of time. Once you get your body producing ketones in the blood for fuel, which can take anywhere from 1-6 weeks, you then start to naturally ‘cycle’ in and out of it.
Meaning that for me now I am producing ketones for fuel, have 2-3 days a week where I eat lots of sweet potatoes or fruit which is higher in carbs so I am constantly switching up from using ketones to glucose as fuel and vice versa. (For things like diabetes it can be helpful to maintain a strict ketogenic diet for long periods of time, however). For most people, especially women, going low carb for too long is not ideal for our hormones which is why it’s good to bounce in and out of this state of nutritional ketosis.
And I know this sounds complicated but when you listen to your body this is honestly a really natural process. I don’t plan in days to eat more carbs I simply listen to what I feel I need. I don’t track I don’t measure anything other than my blood ketones occasionally to check I am in nutritional ketosis. One of my ex-one to one clients Harriet was following this approach to help her body heal and deal with some PCOS and she found it so easy to do and LOVED this way of eating…..oh and yes she got her period back too 😉
(Now I go into way more detail about it this the Flourish Academy as this style of eating is an option for one of the Fat Burning Profiles – click here to join the waiting list)
Why did I choose to follow a Ketogenic diet?
Well, this year my focus is to really accelerate my own healing. I wanted to heal my autoimmune thyroid issues, adrenal dysfunction, my cycle, gut, and brain. Ditch the chronic fatigue and feel awesome, so I figure this approach would help in those aims. So those are the main reasons but here are a few others….
1. I am less hungry
There are lots of reasons I eat in this way – mainly because a Ketogenic diet stabilises your blood sugar levels and at the start of this year I was finding I was still ‘hangry’ if I missed a meal and felt like my blood sugar dropped very low at certain times of day.
We know there is lots of research around the Ketogenic approach to eating and the impact it has on diabetes, insulin resistance and pre-diabetes. Alzheimer’s also runs in my family which is a form of diabetes so I wanted to make sure my blood sugar was stable as it can be – because I plan to live till I am at least 110!
Since intentionally eating more fat, I’ve noticed a big difference in my blood sugar levels and my hunger feel very different – less dramatic or problematic. It has made such a huge difference and I am not as bothered about where my ‘next meal’ is coming from!
2. It was an easy transition for me….
I was already eating a grain free diet that was high in fat. I didn’t have any fat phobias and I was used to eating a gluten, grain and dairy-free life. So for me, it was an easy-ish transition. I would recommend that if want to get the benefits of eating this way you first adopt a more paleo lifestyle/diet and maintain this for several months first. Then simply ramp it up to a ketogenic approach once you have made key lifestyle shifts.
(Want ideas – click below to get your free meal plan)
3. A Ketogenic diet is incredibly healing
As I have said, research shows that using a Ketogenic approach to eating is helpful in preventing and treating so many health conditions. Obesity, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, PCOS, epilepsy, and heart disease are all shown to be supported by a high fat lower carb diet – awesome!
4. I enjoy the food
As a food lover, I am not going to eat food just because it is ‘scientifically’ good for me but is, in fact, a joyless experience. But eating fat is so tasty and joyful! Fat fills you up and is so nourishing AND tasty, I love the food that I eat. I have a hot chocolate every morning with lots of coconut oil, I have puddings and just love this way of eating. My body now craves fat not sugar and I eat super tasty food.
5. The Ketogenic diet is a very nutrient dense way of eating
When you take a whole foods approach to the Ketogenic diet it is very nutrient dense. Forget the approach that involves eating tonnes of meat, cheese and cream and not much else, but the whole foods/ Super Naturally Healthy approach to this diet is a nutrient heaven. Meaning you can get a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals and you often find you eat less because what you are eating is so jam packed with goodness.
THE BIG TAKEAWAY
Remember you don’t need to eat a ‘Ketogenic diet’ to benefit from healthy fats, make sure you are eating good fats every single day in the form of coconut oil, butter, ghee, olive oil, avocado etc 😉
If you are interested in this Ketogenic approach OR just in eating more fats and ditching the fat phobia then make sure you click on the FREE meal plan below to see if it makes you feel more awesome.