Ketosis and metabolic flexibility

What is a ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet in a nutshell (or fat-bomb) is a low carbohydrate, high fat (LCHF) and moderate protein diet. It is not a calorie restriction diet, but is very satiating so can naturally lead to less consumption if weight loss is important.

It is a diet that changes your metabolism to burning fat for energy and stimulating the liver to make ketones for fuel. By restricting carbohydrates, it shifts the metabolism away from using and relying on glucose for energy to using your stored fat and dietary fats which are made into ketones for energy. So why is this good?

There are many reasons:

  • Its anti-inflammatory
  • Obesity and weight loss
  • Delayed eating window and daily fasting
  • Diabetes
  • Neurodegenerative disorders and epilepsy
  • Cancer
  • Autism

Both ketones and glucose are used by the mitochondria (our organelles in all cells that produce energy molecules called ATP – Adenosine 5-triphosphate). However, ketones used as fuel produces less reactive oxygen species (ROS)then using glucose for fuel. With lower production of ROS’s, we have less drain on our bodies antioxidant stores less tissue damage and less inflammation.

The below diagram is a simple representation of the mitochondria and how glucose and ketones are used and feed into the energy producing cycle called the citric acid (also known as the Krebs cycle or the TCA cycle – tricarboxylic acid cycle).

Source: Open learning initiative – Catabolic process of the TCA Cycle (accessed 22/10/2017)

In addition, when glucose enters the system the pancreases releases insulin – and insulin tells you fat cells to hold onto the stored fat and if excess carbs are eaten the insulin stimulates fat accumulation.

When the glucose enters the cells under the signal of insulin – thereby lowering blood glucose level, the brain gets the message to eat again – we need more fuel (glucose) – which leads to weight gain. This does not happen in a keto adapted person because:

  1. Fat (and protein) fill you up for longer
  2. Fat (and ketone bodies) don’t stimulate insulin release and
  3. Break-down of stored fat is used to generate fuel – so you might be in a low fed state (i.e. skipping a meal or not snacking) but you are not in a low fuel state, as you are efficiently burning your stored fat. In a non keto adapted person lack of glucose (carbs) the body will first use store glucose in the liver and then to burn proteins (i.e. muscle) rather than stored fat when in a fasted state or after exercise. Over time you start to make the enzymes that burn fat and you become an efficient fat burner.

So, in summary the LCHF or ketone diet has been proven to be super good for health:

  • Sustained weight loss – so more superior to the old paradigm of eat less, exercise more!
  • Reduced cravings and no sugar crashes – sustained energy throughout the day
  • The brain works really well on ketones – clearer focused thinking.
  • Decreased inflammation and oxidation
  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Decreased fatigue
  • Increase lean body (muscle mass) composition and increases brown adipose tissue (the fat burning fat cells)
  • Better exercise / performance recovery
  • Improves and may reverse chronic disease – Obesity and overweight, Diabetes, Autism, Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Epilepsy

Please note – not all carbs are bad, we still require complex carbohydrates from vegetables and some people need them from fruits. Complex carbs (as opposed to simple, processed carbs) give us the benefits of different types of fibres, phytonutrients, antioxidants, energy, vitamins, minerals and much more.

For further reading or help introducing a ketogenic diet please go to the client portal part of the website.