Over the years you’ve heard many people refer to low carb or even very low carb diets for losing weight. But where did this diet begin and does it work?

Ketogenic Principles

The medical origin for the ketogenic diet dates back to the 1920’s and 30’s where it was intended to treat people suffering from epilepsy. There was a theory at that time, that fasting, and later, restricting sugar and starch intake, could reduce the occurrence of seizure activity in epileptic patients. Studies have shown it was learned that by reducing the carbohydrate content of the diet significantly enough, the body would convert its metabolism entirely from burning carbohydrate — its preferred source of energy – to burning ketones, which come from burning fat, and thus the name “ketogenic.” For several years, this was in large part an adopted practice, until it evolved somewhat to include more foods and more specific oils, and later, became a secondary treatment to newer medical therapies, and used primarily if these medications proved unsuccessful for some patients.

Using ketogenic principles for sports nutrition

Although we’ve heard a lot about high carbs and low-fat diet for people who work out, the ketogenic diet has great advantages on increasing endurance and performance.

When the body starts to burn fat as a primary source of energy, several benefits can be experienced such as:

  • The length of exercising will be increased ( fuel reserves are larger than before)
  • The recovery is faster

Using ketogenic principles for weight management

Even though people associate fat with weight gain, the ketogenic diet is a great way to lose weight:

  • It can reduce cravings
  • It can help with feeling fuller and eating less

Foods eaten on a ketogenic diet

People often recall images of early Atkins TV commercials indicating people could eat bacon, eggs, butter and greasy burgers to their heart’s content and still lose weight. While there was some technical truth to this at the time, the ketogenic diet has come a very long way since those days in terms of health and balance. While the plan continues to minimize added sugars in favor of an increased intake of healthy fat, most people would be surprised to learn that there are more vegetables consumed on the Atkins diet than are recommended by most authoritative nutritional groups. After an initial phase of eating fewer than 20 grams of (net) carbohydrate per day, other healthy carbs, including fruits, nuts, whole grains and dietary fibers are gradually added back in the diet until a person finds its personal carb tolerance – or a point where weight goals are met and can be held long term. The protein and calorie content are also on a normal scale, contrary to popular belief.

As the low carb diet has continued to grow in popularity through the years, more commercial low carb convenience foods and beverages are available than ever before, making it easier for people to keep up with this way of eating long-term. Nutrition supplements can also support a ketogenic diet. Many omega-6s are usually consumed, therefore taking an omega-3 supplement such as a fish, krill or seed oil can help increase the intake of healthy fats while maintaining a good omega-3:6 ratio. Additionally, Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) from coconut oil are also beneficial since they support the body by maintaining its fat burning state.

Is this diet for everyone?

For people who live with obesity, diabetes and demonstrate signs of being sensitive to sugar and carbohydrates, the ketogenic diet might be a good option to consider; however, it is something that should be discussed with your physician to determine if this is the right plan for you.