What Does Keto Mean?
How much do you know about keto?
Did you know keto is a diet that follows the concepts of limiting carbs, with an emphasis on high fat and protein second? And are you aware many experts rate the keto diet for an effective way not only to lose weight but to improve many areas of health? 1
I think it’s safe to say there is enough attention surrounding keto for many to pick up on both of these significant statements.
However how much do you know about the finer details?
Some may know it’s partly thanks to natural processes in the body, yet many of the mechanisms behind this clever aid are never quite fully understood
Therefore if you’ve ever wondered, “what does keto mean?” Let’s take a look at the science behind the diet to gain a better understanding.
So that you can fully get to grips with the meaning of keto, we need to go through some basics of the body and the energy processes.
There are a number of important terms you will come across when talking about the body and the mechanisms of energy. I’ve put together the essentials so that you fully understand what they are:
Glucose, or blood sugar, is the body’s favored source of energy because it’s absorbed quickly therefore allowing the body instant access to fuel. Glucose is the by-product of starch or sugar, aka the macronutrient carbohydrates. 2
Insulin is a hormone in the body produced by the pancreas. One of its main roles is to act as a transporter for glucose. It ferries around the glucose to where the body needs it most. This also how the body regulates blood sugar levels. 3
Ketones are a key player in the keto diet. To sum it all up for you, here’s a crash course chemistry lecture.
The term ketones refer to three compounds:
- Acetoacetate (AcAc)
- B-hydroxybutyrate (BHB)
These guys are an offshoot of metabolic processes produced with a little help from the liver.
The top dog of ketones is known as acetoacetate (AcAc) which actually also converts into B-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). Lastly, you have acetone, a ketone with a familiar name that releases into your breath and urine. 4 5 6
When you are following the keto diet, these guys will form the basis of your energy source as well as a whole lot more.
For anyone who’s ever tried to lose a few pounds before will be familiar with this term.
Metabolism is defined as a number of chemical changes in your body, in particular those involving the breakdown of foods and their conversion to energy. Your metabolism can also depict how fast or slow your body processes this energy. 7 8
Carbs vs. Keto and Metabolism
To understand “what does keto mean?” We now need to take a look at the principles and differences between the two metabolic processes.
Firstly, carbs get broken down by enzymes in the digestive system. These enzymes turn it into glucose where it’s also absorbed into the blood stream.
At the same time, your brain signals to your pancreas which opens the flood gates for insulin to be released. Insulin tracks down the glucose and tows it directly to where it’s needed most, like the muscles or the tissues in your body.
However, if the body realizes there is a surplus supply of glucose, the remainder is then shuttled away. Any excess is then stored as fat around the body for future use.
When using the keto approach, your carbohydrate intake is drastically reduced meaning the body’s favorite supply of energy – glucose — diminishes to catastrophic values.
This is where something different happens.
The body can be very resourceful in situations of this nature. In this case, it’s forced to adapt to the shortage of gas by shifting the fuel supply to run off fat stores instead.
Your body now starts to tap into this alternative supply and begins to breakdown fats through a process called “ketogenesis”. 9
Now let’s bring in ketones to the equation.
Essentially ketones are a by-product of fat burning. Ketones are generated by the liver as a response to the breakdown of fat stores. These guys are released into the blood stream and then used as the primary energy source for the entire body including the brain. 10
When your body hits this metabolic state it’s referred to as “ketosis” hence where the meaning keto comes from.
You can expect the state of ketosis to kick in through circumstances such as after prolonged bouts of exercise, during fasting, and when a low carb high fat diet like keto is followed. 11
What Keto Doesn’t Mean
However one thing keto doesn’t mean is ketoacidosis.
The term of ketoacidosis refers to a combination of high ketone levels and poor regulation of insulin bringing on a diabetic emergency. 12
When explaining the keto diet, we mean a completely benign and natural reaction. This meaning offers numerous benefits to health simply because of the restriction to glucose in the body.
Keto Means Nutritional Ketosis
Even though keto doesn’t mean ketoacidosis, it does mean your ketone levels will be elevated to a higher-than-normal state.
The ideal range is what’s known as “nutritional ketosis” and it’s the optimum window for this metabolic process to keep your body working. 13
Your normal ketone levels should be below 0.6 (mmol/L). 14 Once you start on keto, your levels should reach anything up to 3.00 (mmol/L). This gives you an indication of what ketone levels you should be aiming for.
And now that you know what keto means, I think you will agree with me when I say, considering the science, the human body is one remarkable “machine”.
However whether you decide to use this natural process to your advantage is entirely up to you.
This is our guide to the keto diet. Check out our other installments:
Download Your FREE Paleo Starter Kit Today!
- 3-Day Paleo Diet Meal Plan
- Comprehensive Paleo Diet Shopping List
- 5 of Our Favorite Paleo Diet Recipes