Around the New Year, it seems everyone is “on or off” something. From “Dry January” to clean eating, dairy-free, gluten-free, grain-free, and vegan, it would be an understatement to say there is a lot of information available on diet and nutrition. it’s safe to say, it can be completely overwhelming. A holistic health coach with an integrative approach to a balanced lifestyle, my diet has evolved over time and is varied depending on my goals and how I’m feeling. Sounds sensible right?
Having experienced a lot of confusion around what program to adopt, when I was younger, I often was so frustrated at the conflicting information, I would just do a full stop and hit exasperation. With that said, what I’m seeing more and more with nutrition is a movement towards cooking supportive, nutritious whole foods - i.e. plants and animal protein that you have to cook. This is a wonderful step in the right direction! The other commonality that Keto, Paleo and the Whole 30 all share is they all strive to limit sugar intake and keep blood sugar levels stable to help support the body in fat burning rather than running on glucose .
So, let's dive in and get into the details!
When it comes to nutrition and weight loss programs, one thing is absolutely certain: what works for one person will not work for someone else. Not only is taste subjective, we're all made up differently - in mind, body and spirit. A one size fits all approach to nutrition is not only unrealistic, it ignores the fundamental truth of bio individuality. It also ignores the fact that every day is different. One day might be sedentary at the office and another, really active, demanding a little or a lot from you physically. On those days your body will require different things, nutritionally. When considering any nutrition or weight loss program, the first place to start is with a health assessment (ideally with a doctor, naturopath or health coach). From there, you can work together to determine your goals, discuss any restrictions or contraindications, and put together a realistic plan tailored to you.
What is insulin and why is it so important to weight? Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar in the body. Too much sugar is toxic in the body. Over time, a diet too high in sugar and refined carbohydrates (i.e. cakes, cookies, biscuits, pasta, flour, candy, chips, soda, juice) can increase the risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes and a host of other preventable diseases. When insulin is released, as a protective mechanism to the body, any available excess sugar circulating in the blood stream is immediately stored as fat. Any food or drink that breaks down into sugar spikes insulin in the body and is therefore considered high on the glycemic index (a high GI food), i.e. cakes, cookies, biscuits, pasta, flour, candy, chips, soda and juice, so removing these is a fundamental principle of Keto, Paleo and the Whole 30 programs.
What is Keto?
Hormones are the controlling factor in whether or not a body burns fat.* The hormone that prevents you from losing weight is insulin. Fat burning is greatly enhanced in the absence of insulin. When you’re running on glucose only, you’ll never lose fat. Insulin triggers include carbohydrates, sugars and excessive protein. Every time you eat (even if you eat celery), you trigger insulin – unless you eat fat only. Combining certain foods also spikes insulin, such as combining protein with sugars—so meat with bread, meats with sugary condiments like ketchup, barbecue sauce, sweet chili sauce and chicken fingers—will have a similar effect on the body as if you ate birthday cake.It's also important to note that certain ingredients in fast food really spike insulin, especially MSG. MSG is also commonly disguised as 'natural flavors' in a staggering number of packaged foods (ketchups, barbecue sauces, salad dressing and frozen prepared foods).
In short, when you are eating foods that are high on the GI index and break down into sugar, your body burns glucose (sugar) for fuel (not fat). The alternative is Ketosis: a state in which the body is using ketones as its primary fuel. Ketones are the by-product of burning fats. Our entire lives, we’ve been told that the primary source of energy in the body is carbohydrates or glucose. This has been proven false. Ketones are an alternative fuel source under certain conditions.
According to Dr. Eric Berg, an expert in Keto, "Ketones are produced when the body is burning fats. An average thin person carries around 50,000-70,000 calories of stored fat. If we compare this to the amount of glycogen, which is stored glucose, we’re only talking 1700-2000 calories. Based on this information, our make more sense that our bodies run on fat fuel?"
If you consider the caveman days, if we only had glucose to run our bodies on, we would all have been dead long ago because the glucose reserve would only last 48 hours or less. The goal is to switch our body from sugar fuel to fat fuel.