- The ketogenic diet can increase alertness and focus.
Ever experience low energy and brain fog? Based on many conversations over the years, this is an extremely common feeling. Even if you think you don’t have these symptoms, you might discover you actually feel even better after ditching sugar.
Researchers found that rats on a ketogenic diet perform better on cognitive tests than rats on a standard diet. While not all animal research results are transferrable to humans, the anecdotal evidence is strong. Case in point, the keto craze among the high functioning tech industry in Silicon Valley.
The ketogenic diet causes your body to produce ketones, the preferred fuel for your brain. Ketones can pass the blood-brain barrier and provide immediate fuel. Since your brain can’t absorb glucose, you’d have to wait around for the glucose to circulate through your body to convert it to a useable form.
This is the basic explanation of why many people experience greater clarity and focus on the ketogenic diet.
- The ketogenic diet can stabilize blood sugar.
If you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic (which includes over 100 million Americans) it may be obvious why stabilizing your blood sugar is a good thing. A study by Indiana University researcher Sarah Hallberg released in 2018 found that the ketogenic diet resulted in significant blood sugar and insulin reductions and over 94% of them reduced or stopped insulin use.
For those with more normal blood sugar, the ketogenic diet is still useful. Not only could it prevent you from having blood sugar problems/diabetes in the future, but it also promotes greater overall wellness. Blood sugar spikes and drops can result in overeating, headaches, and fatigue. Anyone who’s ever been “hangry” knows about this phenomena.
- The ketogenic diet helps curb hunger and cravings.
There are a couple of reasons the keto diet can help with hunger and cravings. Eating sugar releases dopamine in the brain, just like other pleasurable activities. Dopamine is the same neurotransmitter involved in addiction. Between the spikes and drops in insulin triggering your hunger hormone, ghrelin, and the release of dopamine, you can see how sugar is a powerful drug.
When you get rid of sugar in your diet, the cravings and spikes provoking your hunger hormone are reduced.
You also eat more fat on a keto diet. Fat is the most satiating macronutrient due to effects on hormones and gastric fullness. Simply put, the keto diet promotes satiety, which may allow you to eat less and experience less cravings since your body receives all of the signals that hunger is satisfied.
- The ketogenic diet can improve your mood.
- The ketogenic diet can help you lose weight.
This is probably the number one reason people experiment with the keto diet. People generally get excited about the keto diet in the beginning because they see a quick drop on the scale. Since carbs stored in your muscles store along with them three grams of water for every one gram of carbohydrate, there is often a significant drop on the scale after the muscles have been depleted of glycogen. While this is not “real” weight loss, it’s often encouraging and helps people stay committed to a new way of eating.
After sticking with the keto diet, many people find weight loss continues. There may be a few reasons for this. First, because of the satiety factors mentioned above, people are able to eat tasty food but less of it. If you’re able to follow your hunger signals and stop when you’re full, weight loss often follows.
The keto diet also promotes fat loss and spares muscle.
Although there aren’t yet a lot of true keto studies (many “low-carb” studies include a diet with carbohydrates way too high to be keto), there are some promising results. For example, a study combining the keto diet and exercise resulted in significantly higher fat loss compared to the control group. Those following the keto diet in this study lost 7.6 pounds and 2.6 percent body fat compared to the control group which lost zero of either.
As with all diets, it’s best to do your own research and consult your doctor before beginning. But with interest in keto skyrocketing, anecdotal evidence and more supporting science coming to light, it’s definitely worth giving it a try!
For a more in-depth look at keto, the relevant science behind it and how to get started on the keto diet, check out The Complete Beginner’s Guide to the Ketogenic Diet.