Designing A Better Ketogenic Diet
Let’s dream for a second…
How does nutrition look like in 5, 10, 20 years?
I started my experimentation with various diets back in college to optimize my performance.
Ketogenic diet became the best choice for me. It cleared my foggy brain, I started having a lot of sustainable energy throughout the day and my weight went down.
It seemed like a hack that nobody knew about, yet it worked for most people who have tried it.
Fast forward to 2017, keto has become mainstream. Everyone is pushing this diet as a silver bullet for weight loss.
As a software engineer, I am curious to go on the journey and find out whether it is actually the case.
My assumption is that the answer is somewhere in the middle…
Keto diet might work for me, but it might not work for other people.
This brings me to the emerging trends in nutrition and how to design a diet that works for you.
Have you been counting total carbs or net carbs on your ketogenic diet?
It might be only a part of the formula.
Do you remember people mentioning about being light on your protein (20%-35%).
Protein seems to be the missing piece of the puzzle.
A recent paper from Kirstine Bell’s PhD thesis Clinical Application of the Food Insulin Index to Diabetes Mellitus (Sept 2014) gave a list of 100 foods with their insulin index.
The insulin index of a food represents how much it elevates the concentration of insulin in the blood during the two-hour period after the food is ingested.
The assumption before was that we can ignore protein, fiber, and fat because they don’t cause as many insulin spikes.
This graph from Optimizing Nutrition shows that there a bunch of odd cases where a food item does not contain carbs but it cause a pretty high spike in your insulin level when consumed.
In order to improve the prediction of the insulin response to a specific food Optimizing Nutrition assumed that fiber does not have an insulin response and the protein has 1/2 of the insulin effect of the carbs.
So, at the end, we get this formula to calculate the Insulin Load for a specific food.
insulin load(g) = carbs(g) – fiber(g) + 0.56*protein(g)
0.56 coefficient was derived from the analysis of 100 food items. It does vary from food to food but it is a great baseline to have.
If you dig a little deeper into a coefficient, you will find out that amino acids are divided into 3 categories:
So, in order to decrease the “carby” effect of the protein you need to find foods that contain mostly ketogenic amino acids.
As a side note, gluconeogenesis (protein converts to glucose) happens only if you follow low carb diet and reach the state of ketosis.
In simple words, your body does follow this process only if it is very necessary. It would rather use fat and carbs for energy.
So, what does it mean for you?
You can adjust and start using the insulin load formula. The range is 50-80g of insulin load or you can continue keeping it simple and follow total or net carbs.
Micronutrients Are The Next Big Thing
Can you still eat like crap and stay keto?
Yes, you can.
If I follow my macros it does not mean that I get all my necessary micronutrients.
I am a huge believer that any diet should start with great, nutrient-dense foods.
If you have cravings on keto, you might be out of ketosis or your body might be missing some key nutrients.
There are 40 key nutrients that people need daily according to Dr. Bruce Ames.
The most fascinating part is that most people don’t eat nutrient dense foods regardless of their diet.
Each diet has a typical nutritional profile. Keto, South Beach Diet, Whole30, Paleo.
They all have food restrictions that compromise certain nutrients. The key is to find your personal nutritional profile that works for you.
This makes your diet tailored to you and eliminates the need of supplementing.
Let’s look at the current state of recipes…
99% of them are based on macros. The future of recipes is to evaluate the recipes not only based on macros but also on their nutrient density and insulin load.
It will be harder to design the recipes that way, but for people who are conscious about their nutrition, it will be an amazing resource.
Energy Density of Food
Have you ever eaten something small, like a cupcake and it had about 600 calories?
You are still hungry after eating it but calorie-wise you just consumed a meal worth of food…
It happens all the time on a ketogenic diet too.
Mainly, because 1 gram of fat has 9 Kcal in comparison to 4 Kcal in protein or carbs.
At the end of the day, we want to feel full and have a caloric deficit if your goal is to lose weight.
The best days on a ketogenic diet is when you use all of your carbs.
I am not talking about eating a slice cake, but actually eating vegetables that have low energy density.
They provide you with fewer calories per gram of food and you can have satisfying portions. Here are some of them:
|Food||Net Carbs||Calories per 100g|
|snap green beans||4||40|
If you want to follow a ketogenic lifestyle you need to pay attention to three things: macros, micros, and energy density of foods.
Finding the right balance among these three pillars of nutrition will help you not only lose weight but also healthy and satisfied.