Written By: Emily Countryman
A growing number of adults in the US are metabolically unhealthy, with just 12% of adults considered to be “metabolically healthy.” Metabolic syndrome, which currently affects over 35% of adults in the US, is classified as having two or more weight-related co-morbidities such as high blood pressure, obesity (a BMI over 30), high blood sugar, and high cholesterol. The combination of these conditions increases your risk of complications like heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Thankfully, a nutritional keto approach has been shown to have a positive effect on all of the health markers related to metabolic syndrome.
The Science Behind Nutritional Ketosis & Why It Works
Today, a growing number of Americans are insulin resistant, with estimates putting the figure at over 100 million people. This means these individuals can no longer produce enough insulin to lower their blood sugar. The constant onslaught of sugar from a diet too high in carbs and sugar has numbed their cell responders. They need more and more insulin to do their jobs.
This results in weight gain, fatigue, and can eventually lead to developing type 2 diabetes and needing insulin injections to keep up with the body’s demand.
But there is another way.
Nutritional keto works to give your body a chance to calm down and reset so that it can run efficiently off of different fuel sources again. This dietary approach restricts carbs initially—it’s not intended to keep you off carbs forever.
When carbs are restricted, insulin levels decrease and stabilize. As insulin levels drop, metabolism shifts from sugars to burning body fat to meet daily energy requirements. As the body is given a chance to calm down, the metabolic systems can begin to work more smoothly again. Eventually, your body is able to slip back to alternate between using sugars or fats for energy. Smoothly switching from energy source to energy source is considered being metabolically healthy.
Often, when the fuel sources that the body is used to running on are restricted, the body will search for other sources as it runs low on glucose. One place it searches is by breaking down muscle tissue. So when carbs are restricted, it’s important to eat adequate protein to spare muscle and prompt the body to move on to using stored body fat instead.
Recognizing this, a nutritional keto approach encourages a higher protein intake than standard keto. This helps stabilize blood sugar, minimize insulin, reduce triglycerides and blood pressure, increase HDL, ramps up your resting metabolic rate, and promotes weight loss. All while preserving, and encouraging new muscle mass.
Weight loss, carbs, and protein
Restricting carbs boosts ketone production, which increases resting metabolic rate, a reduction in insulin levels, and suppression of appetite. Lower carbs have also been shown to drop triglyceride levels, increase good cholesterol, and may reduce blood pressure.
Higher protein intake has shown promise for improving heart health markers such as triglyceride levels and blood pressure. Studies have also suggested that higher-protein diets result in greater losses in overall weight and fat mass.
A note about the brain and carbohydrates
If you’ve talked to others about a keto diet, you may have been told that keto isn’t good for your brain because your brain needs you to eat a steady stream of glucose (carbs and sugar) to function properly.
That’s not necessarily true.
The brain uses an enormous amount of energy, consuming about 20% of the body’s total energy at rest. And yes, it’s true that it also uses a tremendous amount of glucose, accounting for roughly 60% of the glucose used by the entire body. But when it comes to ketones, not only can the brain utilize them for energy, they may actually be an even more efficient fuel than glucose. Ketones can also play a neuroprotective role in the brain by acting as antioxidants and improving glucose metabolism.
If you decide to try a nutritional keto approach, there are some things to keep in mind that will help you be more successful. Here are five tips to improve your chances of success.
5 Tips For Success With Nutritional Ketosis
Focus on food quality
Just because you can get into ketosis by eating cheese and bacon all day doesn’t mean it’s a healthy way to do keto. You want to focus on nutrient-dense, whole foods. It’s also important to keep in mind that when you remove an entire macro group you are cutting out all the micronutrients that come along with those foods. Like the nutrition found in fruits and higher-carb vegetables. You need to be selective in the foods you choose to make sure you’re getting all the nutrition you need.
Watch that fat
Eating too much fat—like with a standard keto diet—isn’t always a good thing. It is possible to overeat fat. If you do, your body will burn the fat you eat, not your stored body fat. This is the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish when it comes to weight loss.
Avoid ketone supplements
Remember, ketosis is a physiological state. Taking exogenous ketones will allow you to burn the ketones you’ve consumed, but not your stored body fat. If weight loss is your goal, your body needs to make its own ketones.
Watch those carbs
When it comes to ketosis, just a few extra tomatoes or protein bars could be too many carbs for your body and kick you out of ketosis. Eating foods just a bit too high on the glycemic index won’t help either. In the beginning, getting periodically kicked out of ketosis can lead to feeling groggy, hungry, and slow down weight loss.
Doing a DIY keto plan takes meticulous planning and macro tracking do it properly. It can be incredibly challenging to get in just the right number of fats, carbs, and protein for your body. It’s imperative that you plan ahead to ensure you can stay on plan.
Ask for help
Instead of trying to do it on your own, it can be helpful (and less stressful) to work with a nutrition coach. When looking for someone to lend a helping hand, be sure to look for professionals who are familiar with nutritional keto. Having someone make sure meals are perfectly portioned with the ideal macros while providing accountability can go a long way.
Today, a growing number of Americans are becoming insulin resistant and obesity is still on the rise. Thankfully a nutritional keto approach can help anyone faced with metabolic issues stabilize their blood sugar, reduce their triglycerides and blood pressure, and help them lose weight.
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