On a ketogenic diet, your entire body switches its fuel supply to run mostly on fat, burning fat 24-7. Insulin levels become very low, and fat burning increases dramatically. It becomes easy to access your fat stores to burn them off. This is great if you're trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits, such as less hunger and a steady supply of energy. This may help keep you alert and focused.
Before we discuss how to measure ketone levels, let's set some guidelines for optimal ketone levels. Nutritional ketosis is detected when levels begin to read at 0.5 mmol/L of ketones in the blood, but your optimal ketone level will depend on your personal goals. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, your target ketone level will be lower than someone who wants to improve mental performance. The following table provides some general guidelines based on your goal.
The ketogenic, or "keto," diet ” which first became popular in the 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy and diabetes” limits carbohydrates to no more than 50 grams a day, which is the rough equivalent of a plain bagel or a cup of white rice. By comparison, dietary guidelines from the US Department of Agriculture recommend from 225 to 325 grams of carbs a day.
When carbs go missing from a person's diet, the body uses up its glucose reserves and then breaks down stored fat into fatty acids, which, when they reach the liver, are converted into an organic substance called ketones. The brain and other organs feed on ketones in a process called ketosis, which gives the diet its name. Keto dieters eat lots of fat to maintain this state.
The ketogenic diet ” a high-fat and very low-carb eating plan ” can be tough to start. After all, it's likely a radical departure from the way you're eating now (a typical standard American diet is high in carbohydrates and processed foods). But many people are trying the keto diet, which puts your body in a state of ketosis. That's what happens when your body's carb-burning switch flips to a fat-burning one, a change that can cause weight loss and has even been credited with controlling diabetes. (1)
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