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Registered Nutritional Therapist Bea Lyus talks us through what ketogenic means, what the diet involves and the science behind the carbs, fats and nutrients consumed when following a keto diet.


Time to rethink and consume more fats – Ketogenic diet explained. 


Before we delve into fats, there is something important for us to get straight – Eating fats make you fat – WRONG. Filling up on healthy fats can promote satiety and keep you feeling full to reduce appetite and cravings.

So what is the Ketogenic diet?

The original ketogenic diet which was devised for medical purposes in the 1920s has been used to help treat certain types of epilepsy in children. It is thought to reduce the frequency of seizures. Recently, people choose it as a lifestyle choice to help losing weight.

It’s often mixed up with the low-carb diet, or a low-carb, high-fat diet (LCHF). The truth is that low-carbohydrate diet focus on reducing sources of carbohydrates, like pasta, potatoes and rice. These diets allow for 20% of your diet from carbohydrates; the standard guides (such as the Eatwell Guide by the NHS) recommend that around half of your daily calorie intake should come from starchy foods, fruits and vegetables – which all contain carbohydrates.

A keto diet however is more of an extreme version of the carbohydrate restriction. It allows for around 5-10% of your daily calorie intake from carbohydrates. It’s not zero carbs, but it’s not far off. On a ketogenic diet, you are required to have high fats, at least 70% and protein which is around 15-25%. The point of this diet is that you reach something called ‘ketosis’ by eating such high amount of fats and make you fuller for longer.

Role of carbs

Carbs are one of your major food groups along with fat and protein. Carbs are one of our three key macronutrients (macros) and whilst it’s impossible to completely avoid them, there are many foods that contain minimal carbs. Carbohydrates can be broken down into 3 types: starch (found in pasta, bread or plants), sugar (both naturally occurring and additive), and fibre (found in the cell walls of plant foods: whole wheat or whole grain). When you eat any of these, they are broken down into a type of sugar called glucose. The hormone, insulin, is also needed by the body to process this glucose and distribute it to the cells that need it. Any leftover glucose is converted into glycogen, which can be stored in limited quantities in the muscles and liver and is an easily accessible form of energy. Once our glycogen stores are full, the rest is saved as fat which is used for long-term energy.

Removing carbs

When we reduce carbs that we eat, we must find a replacement source of energy to help our day-to-day body function or fuel our exercise. With keto diet, we use fats as a replacement. However fat stores are hard to access as our body’s preference is the easiest energy source, which is glucose and glycogen. It will only turn to its fat stores when the body is depleted of this simple fuel (carbs). In our Western diet, we eat in such carb-heavy manner, so we never run short of glycogen and never need to tap into our fat stores.

What are ketones?

Ketones are chemical molecules which are produced when you become low on energy and your body starts breaking down fat. If these ketones start to build up over time, you will then go into the state of ketosis and burn ketones as a primary source of fuel instead. It’s a natural process, back when we were hunters we would naturally go through times when food was scarce or plentiful. Humans could eat food when food was around and store fat for long-term use when food was hard to access. It can be quite hard to achieve true ketosis as food and carbohydrates are so readily available.


What can you eat when you go keto?

You can mainly eat lean meat, non-starchy vegetables (no root veg, no potatoes), healthy fats in abundance (they have to make up 70% of your daily diet), nuts, seeds, avocadoes, olives.

What’s the difference between keto versus paleo?

Keto and paleo are very similar indeed. None of them allow starchy foods, grains, beans, legumes or refined sugars. However paleo allows you to eat starchy vegetables and fruits in limited amount, but keto excludes all starchy vegetables and fruits except berries. Keto is high in dairy whereas paleo is dairy-free.

What are ‘net’ carbs?

In order to keto adapt, you will need to measure and understand your ‘net’ carbs in all of your food to make the right keto choices. When you start out on keto, you have to look at your net carbs, not the total carbohydrates that you read on the back of the packet. Net carbs are what is left when you deduct the value of carbohydrates from fibre sources.


The 3 types of keto diets

  1. Classic Keto or Standard Keto Diet (SKD)

This is the one that you will probably start on if you want to lose weight. This follows 75% fats, 20% protein and 5% net carbs. These percentages will equate to a certain number of grams of fat, protein and carbs, depending on your height and weight. If you use a tracking app like MyFitnessPal (www.myfitnesspal.com) you can input your target percentages, as well as your personal details, and this will calculate the macros in grams for you. However, people that lift weights they use the following approach: 60% fats, 35% protein, and 5% net carbs. Too much protein could affect the chance of reaching ketosis.

  • Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)

This variant is when you eat the same 75-20-5 percentages of the macros, however you eat your carbs at a specific time of the day. TKD is designed for those that want to follow keto and maximise their exercises performance. The idea is that you eat most of your carb ration in one meal, about 30-60 minutes before your planned exercise. It gives your body easy access to an instant fuel source, which helps you power through your workout. In theory, your workout will burn through the carbs during the exercise so that the larger intake of carbs doesn’t interrupt your ketosis. Once you have completed your exercise, you want to have a high-protein meal without too much fat to aid muscle recovery. This can be useful for those who want to workout frequently but want to maintain their muscle glycogen at moderate levels.

  • Cyclical Ketogenic Diet – High-level Keto

This is an advanced type of ketogenic diet which is used by experienced athletes and bodybuilders so it’s not suitable for beginners. This helps to burn fat very fast whilst building lean muscles. It’s a structured cycle of eating that changes from high-carb days to low-carb days, giving followers an injection of carbohydrates when need it. 5-6 days of standard ketogenic diet followed by a day of carb-loading when they eat 50% carbs (450-600g of carbs) on this day.

Benefits of the Ketogenic diet

  1. Weight loss
  2. Reduced blood sugar levels helping diabetic conditions
  3. Reducing the risk of heart disease
  4. Preventing brain disease, neurological disorders and cancer
  5. Increasing longevity

Healthy Fats Vs Unhealthy Fats

The type of fats you use is especially important. We have 3 types: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  

Saturated fats for example used to be called to cause heart problems but in fact they show that there is no real link between saturated fats and heart disease risk factors. The type of saturated fat you find in coconut oil is called, MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) which is a very digestible source of fat that can be used immediately as a source of fuel which makes it one of the best fats to eat for physical performance and fat loss. You can get plenty of saturated fats from butter, red meat, cream, eggs, cocoa butter and coconut oil.

Benefits of saturated fats:

  • Forms the Foundation of Cell Membranes (protection of the cells)
  • Increases Beneficial HDL Cholesterol
  • May Reduce Risk of Stroke
  • Boosts Brain Health
  • Ideal for High-Heat Cooking

Monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA) fats

MUFAs help decrease the risk of many types of cancer and heart disease, while PUFAs have more impact on brain health and cognitive function. Monounsaturated fats: extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nut oils, goose fat, almonds, eggs, red meat. Polyunsaturated fats can be both healthy and unhealthy and they should not be heated too high. They are sesame oil, walnuts, fatty fish, fish oil, flax seeds, chia seeds and nut oils.

MUFAs don’t have different fatty acid profiles, while PUFAs contain two separate types of fatty acids: omega-3s and omega-6s, which should be combined in the right amounts. Consuming too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 is associated with inflammatory conditions.

Trans fats

Processed polyunsaturated fats create artificial trans fats which is why you should always choose unheated and unprocessed sources of these fats. Processed trans fat are the most dangerous fats to eat as these can increase your risk for heart disease, cancer, high cholesterol and inflammation. However there are healthy trans fats too like the ones you found in real butter (not margarine!). Grass-fed cattle, sheep and goats’ derived butter and full-fat yoghurt contain the healthy trans fats.

More importantly, by balancing your keto diet to include fats from all four of the key categories (saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and healthy trans fats) and avoiding processed trans fats , you will be able to meet your fat ratio while also gaining all the benefits of these healthy fats and avoiding the unhealthy ones.

Who can’t do Keto?

Without seeking medical advice, the following people are not advised to follow keto: type 1 & 2 diabetics, people with kidney, liver or pancreas problems, conceiving/pregnant/breastfeeding women, people with eating disorders, children under 18, or people on prescribed medication.

How long does it take to reach ketosis?

It can take a long time to reach it especially if you have been a high-carb consumer. This could be anything from a few days to a week to achieve it. Even ‘one treat’ can prevent you reaching your goal, as your body will happily use carbs over fats. If you have reached ketosis, you may lose weight rapidly and notice the reduction of your hunger. One of the most common side effects to look out for is the smell of your breath. As your ketone levels increase, you will also create acetone. So your urine or breath can start smelling like acetone which is worse in the morning and can lessen throughout the day.

You can use ketone testing kits to monitor your progress. There are finger prick tests (which are most accurate) plus breathalysers and ketone urine strips to give you an indication of your ketone levels.

What is ‘keto flu’?

This occurs when you start keto and you start losing your essential salts or electrolytes, minerals and you get dehydrated. You must look at the colour of your urine as healthy wee should be a pale straw colour. Drinking water might help you but won’t increase your lost salts. If you don’t have enough of the right electrolytes, you may experience muscle cramps, headaches and constipation. Magnesium, potassium, sodium, calcium are essential to avoid this and Inside Out Health stocks a supplement called Electrolyte fix to prevent this happening. This is really important to drink and replenish salts to avoid kidney stones.

What is ketoacidosis?

Ketoacidosis or Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is not the same as ketosis. This is a serious side effect that people with diabetes can experience if they body start to run out of insulin. Running out of insulin can lead to the build-up of ketones which can be life-threatening for those with diabetes.

10 good foods for Keto

Meat and poultry, fish, eggs, oil, nuts and seeds, cheese, yoghurt, dark chocolate, leafy green vegetables, berries. AVOID THOUGH eating processed food, unhealthy fats, most fruit and starchy veg, grains and legumes, sugar and artificial sweeteners!

What is a typical keto diet look like?

Breakfast: fried eggs, cooked in coconut oil, and avocado

Lunch: baked salmon served with steamed greens

Dinner: grass-fed steak with a butter sauce, served with grilled tomatoes, asparagus spears and rockets

Snacks: a handful of nuts and seeds, a boiled egg and a home-made fat bomb

Bea is a registered Nutritional Therapist in our team here in store, and offers consultations and programmes to those looking to improve their health and wellbeing. You can find out more by visiting Bea's website, Naturally Nutrition or by clicking the picture to the right.