The 8 Most Popular Ways to Do a Low-Carb Diet

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The ketogenic diet is a very-low-carb, high-fat diet.

The goal of a keto diet is to keep carbs so low that your body goes into a metabolic state called ketosis.

In this state, your insulin levels plummet and your body releases large amounts of fatty acids from its fat stores.

A lot of these fatty acids are transferred to your liver, which turns them into ketones. Ketones are water-soluble molecules that can cross the blood-brain barrier and supply energy to your brain.

Then, instead of running on carbs, your brain starts relying largely on ketones. Your body can produce the small amount of glucose still required by your brain via a process called gluconeogenesis.

Some versions of this diet even restrict protein intake because too much protein may reduce the number of ketones you produce.

Traditionally used to treat drug-resistant epilepsy in children, the keto diet may also have benefits for other neurological disorders and metabolic problems like type 2 diabetes (7, 8, 9, 10).

It has also become popular for fat loss — even among some bodybuilders — as it’s a very effective way to lose fat and tends to cause a major reduction in appetite (11, 12).

A ketogenic diet involves high-protein, high-fat foods. Carbs are generally limited to fewer than 50 — and sometimes as few as 20–30 — grams per day.

A conventional keto eating pattern is referred to as a standard ketogenic diet (SKD).

However, there are other variations that involve strategically adding carbs:

  • Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD). In this version, you add small amounts of carbs around workouts.
  • Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD). This type has you eat a ketogenic diet on most days but switch to a high-carb diet for 1–2 days each week.

SUMMARY A ketogenic (keto) diet involves reducing carbs sufficiently to induce a metabolic state called ketosis. It’s a very powerful diet to lose fat and may protect against several diseases.

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