Eat Right For Your Body Type Diet Series: The Keto Diet Explained (and Who Does Best with a Ketogenic Approach)
The keto diet explained is one of a series of posts about eating right for YOUR specific body type.
In this post, we’ll explain ketosis, the keto diet and the “ketogenic approach” (a less-rigid, more lifestyle-focused way to apply the principles of ketosis) – and, you might also want to read my rant, here about the use of the word DIET.
We’ll also explain who may (or may not) benefit from being in ketosis (using either of these two approaches).
First – some definitions.
Ketones and ketosis
When your blood sugar levels are low, available fuel is low. In response, your liver produces small molecules of fuel (ketones) from fat, to provide the fuel your body needs to function.
When you are using ketones for fuel, your body is said to be in a state of ketosis.
Why would you want to be in a state of ketosis?
Simply, when your body is in ketosis, it becomes incredibly efficient at using stored fat for fuel.
Your body finds carbs are much easier to burn, so it can become overly reliant on carb metabolism, and lazy at fat metabolism. That’s where going into ketosis can help – to improve the way you metabolise fats.
Pros and cons of ketosis
This diet was first developed by doctors in the 1920’s as a treatment for epilepsy, to reduce the frequency of seizures.
Although it’s incredibly effective, the use of the keto diet for epilepsy declined as new epilepsy drugs became available.
However, the keto diet underwent a revival in the 1990’s and it has been advocated as treatment for a variety of health conditions.
Subsequently, numerous studies have shown that compared to other diets, low-carb and ketogenic diets typically result in more effective weight loss.
Sounds pretty good so far, right?
After all, a LOT of people want to burn off excess fat at an accelerated rate.
Other benefits of being in ketosis are:
Improved physical performance
Greater ease in burning off fat stores in the body
A steady supply of energy (say goodbye to mid-afternoon fatigue)
Reversal of type 2 diabetes
Normalised blood pressure
Improvement of skin disorders such as acne, eczema, psoriasis
Elimination of heartburn/acid reflux
No more sugar cravings
Elimination of migraines
There are studies to support this, and also, some contraindications.
A sample of studies that support ketosis:
In 2017, studies indicate that a ketogenic diet is still considered to be an effective treatment for epilepsy.
Ketogenic diets may be beneficial for some athletes in enhancing sports performance.
A short-term ketogenic diet is shown to be beneficial for managing overweight and type 2 diabetes and is often recommended by medical practitioners as an effective initial therapy
A ketogenic diet may be an effective treatment for some forms of cancer.
- Many so-called ’emotional eaters’ find they have a more stable mental and emotional state on a keto diet, and there are studies to validate these claims.
- Neurological conditions, acne, Alzheimer’s and PCOS may benefit from ketosis.
Of course, going into ketosis or following a ketogenic diet is unsuitable for certain people who have;
- Certain health conditions – specifically, pyruvate carboxylase deficiency, porphyria, fat metabolism disorders
- Thyroid disorders or adrenal disorders
- Certain gut issues
- Eating disorders
- Lack of commitment to changing habits, mindset or eating healthy food.
In particular, it’s best to consult your GP or primary care provider first if you are:
- on diabetes medication
- on hypertensive (blood pressure) medication
- breastfeeding or pregnant.
Is ketosis safe for me?
Yes – assuming you aren’t in the ‘unsuitable’ list above, you are probably safe to follow a well-structured, short-term, supervised ketogenic diet to help your body switch from using glucose as fuel to using fat instead.
It’s important that you:
- get a health check with a qualified health practitioner first esp. to uncover any ‘invisible’ underlying health issues
- have guidance to undergo a reasonable transition into an eating plan that suits your body type.
Some people will easily transition into a keto-based approach for the long term.
But others will need to increase carbohydrate intake to moderate levels for the longer term in order to look, feel and be healthy.
Two approaches to ketosis – the keto diet explained – and supplements
Two simple ways to get into ketosis are:
- A short term eating plan then a transition to a longer term plan
- A longer term ketogenic approach.
In breaking news, you can also use a supplement (a ketone formulation) that ‘trains’ your body to burn fat more efficiently..
Your best approach will depend on your body type and your reasons for doing it in the first place. Here’s a more-detailed overview.
1. A short term eating plan (~3 weeks)
Short-term ketosis is enough for some people to fix up fat metabolism.
Ideally you would transition to intuitive eating once your body and hormones are working normally.
Signs this is right for you:
- This is suitable for most body types in the short term
- You don’t cope well with a high fat diet (e.g. gall bladder problems, liver problems)
- You have a small to medium body frame, but have excess fat around the middle that won’t budge
- You have cravings for sweet or high-carb foods, something sweet after dinner
- You struggle to lose weight.
- Your energy fluctuates.
- You aren’t sure which foods you should be eating to feel good.
- You feel fatigued, frumpy and flat most of the time.
- You have a metabolic condition like diabetes, pre-diabetes or insulin resistance, and/or trouble managing stress.
Here are a couple of ways you can do this for the short term.
Method 1 : Something like the Downsize Me Program which uses a low carb eating plan to induce short term ketosis, then transitions to intuitive eating, supported by behavioural and mindset coaching.
Initially, Downsize Me follows the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes approach and ketosis is bought on by a low carb approach, INSTEAD of high fat. A large part of the program deals with ‘what happens next’ – including getting rid of any restrictive thoughts, self talk or boundary issues to pave the way for intuitive eating. Some people may transition into a ketogenic approach (see 2. below).
Example 2: A ketogenic diet which uses a high fat, low carb, moderate protein approach. There are a lot of these types of programs around with variable levels of support.
In this example, you must be happy to eat ‘high fat, low carb’. Look for a program that will allow you to be flexible with ‘where to from here’ after the short term ketosis – rather than directing you to follow the keto diet for life (as it may not be right for you).
2. Follow a ketogenic approach
The ketogenic approach is suited to some body types, particularly, endomorph types.
This low-carb, moderate protein, high fat way of eating and follows these general guidelines for the longer term.
Signs this is right for you:
- You have a large body frame with large muscles and excess body fat
- Carbs and sugars throw you into a rollercoaster of cravings and emotions.
- You can tolerate a high fat diet.
- You have always struggled to lose or maintain weight.
- You struggle with mental focus (brain-fog) and sluggishness.
- You have a medical condition that is improved by a ketogenic approach (see below), which may include ADHD or epilepsy.
Example: Consult a qualified health professional to find a suitable program that will help you understand how to transition to a more ketogenic approach, most of the time but without being restrictive or pressured.
Look for a program that has ongoing support and recipe ideas to keep things fresh, and offers qualified guidance if you need it.
Enter, the exogenous ketone supplement – the wildcard option
Supplements are suitable for people who are committed to healthy eating in the first place.
They may be used in combination with either 1. or 2. above, OR on a regular eating plan.
Ketone supplements are often used by people who do not want to lower carb intake for whatever reason.
There are a few products currently available on the market.
The theory is this – instead of getting your body to make ketones, you take ketones in supplement form.
The idea is that you are training your body to burn fat, aka, ‘become fat-adapted’ (as it’s known in keto circles) without the hassle of going on a keto diet or the need to lower carb intake.
Exogenous (not made by the body) ketones are being considered by athletes who need carbs to fuel their training, but want better use of fat stores and potentially longer endurance.
Some people get digestive upsets from taking ketone supplements due to the form of ketones in the product.
Signs this is right for you:
- These are likely suitable for most body types (intermittent use), or large frames (regular use)
- You have a healthy digestive system that’s not easily upset.
- You don’t want to lower carb intake.
- You are an athlete who wants a secondary fuel source for greater work rate.
- You have used a keto diet or approach in the past and sometimes need a ‘top up’.
- You want to boost the results you’re feeling with a keto approach
- You tend to be busy and have irregular meal times.
Now, let’s go back to the ketogenic diet.
What you can (and can’t) eat on a ketogenic diet
In order to reach ketosis, it’s important to avoid most carbohydrates. That means focusing more on healthy fats and proteins and less on grains and processed foods.
This ketogenic diet food list shows what you can eat while you are going into ketosis:
- Meat & Poultry
- Nuts and seeds
- Healthy oils
- Low-carb veggies
- Condiments (salt, pepper, herbs, spices)
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil & olives
- Shirataki noodles
- Dark chocolate & cocoa powder
- Unsweetened coffee and tea
Here’s what you can’t eat while getting into ketosis:
- Processed foods
- Artificial sweeteners
- Refined fats and oils
- Alcohol and sweet drinks
- High sugar fruits and fruit juices
Side Effects of a Ketogenic Diet:
In the initial stages of following a ketogenic diet, you may experience any of the following temporary symptoms:
- Thirst (increase your water intake to prevent excessive thirst)
- Increased urination
- Constipation or diarrhoea
These are usually just signs of your body getting ‘clean’ and will pass within a few days.
A ketogenic diet is usually well tolerated by the body and, apart from those with contraindications, the keto diet has an outstanding safety profile.
While most people can safely follow a ketogenic diet, it’s important to check for hidden, underlying conditions or concerns first by consulting your primary care provider.
Is A Ketogenic Diet Right For Me?
As you know, there is no one-size-fits-all eating plan and a ketogenic diet may not be right for you.
If you’re generally large all over with big muscles, are very strong, but can carry excess body fat, then your body is one that generally does better with a higher fat eating approach.
If you have a medium frame but have gained excess weight around the middle, a short term plan or supplement is probably a better approach.
The best thing to do is to contact a qualified health practitioner and find out whether ketosis is suitable for you or not.
We’d love to hear about your experience with either the keto diet, the keto approach or any specific supplements. Let us know in the comments below.
Health and Wellness Coach
Kristine is a qualified Naturopath and Health & Wellness Coach who helps busy professionals to manage stress and get balance in their lives.
Chief Inspiration Coach
I'm a quirky scientist and a Health and Wellness Coach who helps 35+ women to understand and eat right for their body type.