Ketogenic diets are the most effective diets for achieving rapid and ultra low body fat levels with maximum muscle retention!
Now, as with all such general statements there are circumstantial exceptions.
But done right – which they rarely are – the fat loss achievable on a ketogenic diet is nothing short of staggering!
Despite what people might tell you, you will also enjoy incredible high energy and overall sense of well-being.
Despite these promises, more bodybuilders had negative experiences than have seen positive results.
The main criticisms are:
1. Chronic Lethargy
2. Unbearable Hunger
3. Massive Decrease In Gym Performance
4. Severe Muscle Loss
They all resulted from a failure to heed the caveat that ketogenic diets must be done right!
It must be realised that they are an entirely unique metabolic modality that adheres to none of the previously accepted rules of dieting.
And there is no going half-way.
50 grams of carbs per day plus high protein intake is NOT ketogenic!
So how are ketogenic diets done right?
Let us quickly look at how they work.
Overview Of Ketosis
Simply, our body, organs, muscles and brain can use either glucose or ketones for fuel.
It is the function of the liver and pancreas (primarily) to regulate that fuel supply and they show a strong bias toward sticking with glucose.
Glucose is the preferred fuel because it is derived in abundance from the diet and readily available readily from liver and muscle stores.
Ketones have to be deliberately synthesised by the liver.
But the liver can easily synthesise glucose (a process known as gluconeogenesis that uses amino acids (protein) or other metabolic intermediaries) too.
We do not get beta hydroxybutyrate, acetone, or acetoacetate (ketones) from the diet.
The liver synthesises them only under duress; as a last measure in conditions of severe glucose deprivation like starvation.
For the liver to be convinced that ketones are the order of the day, several conditions must be met:
1. Blood glucose must fall below 50mg/dl
2. Low blood glucose must result in low Insulin and elevated Glucagon
3. Liver glycogen must be low or empty
4. A plentiful supply of gluconeogenic substrates must NOT be available
At this point it is important to mention that it is not actually a question of being in or out of ketosis.
We do not either totally run on ketones, or not.
It is a gradual and careful transition so that the brain is constantly and evenly fuelled ideally.
Ketones should be produced in small amounts from blood glucose levels of about 60mg/dl.
We consider ourselves in ketosis when there are greater concentrations of ketones than glucose in the blood.
The reality is that most people – especially weight trainers – have had a regular intake of glucose for a good couple of decades, at least.
The liver is perfectly capable of producing ketones but the highly efficient gluconeogenic pathways are able to maintain low-normal blood glucose above the ketogenic threshold.
Couple this with the fact that many people are at least partially insulin resistant and have elevated fasting insulin (upper end of the normal range).
The small amount of blood glucose from gluconeogenesis induces enough insulin release to blunt glucagon output and the production of ketones.
Sudden glucose deprivation will have the consequence, initially, of lethargy, hunger, weakness etc in most people – until ketosis is achieved.
And Ketosis will not be reached until the liver is forced to quit with gluconeogenesis and start producing ketones.
As long as dietary protein is sufficient then the liver will continue to produce glucose and not ketones.
That is why no carb, high protein diets are not ketogenic.
What Is So Great About Ketosis Anyway?
When the body switches over to running primarily on ketones, many cool things happen.
1. Lipolysis (bodyfat breakdown) is substantially increased.
2. Muscle catabolism (muscle loss) is substantially reduced.
3. Energy levels are maintained in a high and stable state and
4. Subcutaneous fluid (aka ‘water retention’) is eliminated
Basically, when we are in ketosis our body is using fat (ketones) to fuel everything.
As such, we are not breaking down muscle to provide glucose.
That is, muscle is being spared because it has nothing to offer.
Fat is all the body needs.
For the dieter this means substantially less muscle loss than what is achievable on any other diet.