How Does Ketogenic Diet Work?


It dates back to 1920s as a therapy for epilepsy, the ketogenic diet has re-emerged in various forms over the last couple of decades as an effective and sustainable method of WEIGHT LOSS. This diet is compelling, because you can lose weight while still indulging in the beloved high-fat foods long regarded as the arch enemy of weight loss. The idea that you can lose fat by consuming alot of fat seems counter-intuitive, if you don’t understand the science behind it.


The food that that we eat contains FATS + PROTEIN + CARBOHYDRATES. The ketogenic diet is a high fat, medium protein and LOW carbohydrate diet (50g/day or less). If you consume more than 50 grams of carbs per day, it wont work. To induce KETOSIS, which is the purpose of this diet, it’s recommended that you stick to 20 grams of carbs or less for at least the FIRST 2-4 weeks. You may then, gradually increase your carbohydrate intake but never surpass 50 grams per day. This means your diet should be 60-80% fats and 15-30% proteins, and only 5-10% carbs daily. You may use the handy @myfitnesspal app to track your intake, at least for the first 2 weeks. .

The human body has two sources of energy: GLUCOSE and FAT. Glucose is the body’s primary source of fuel. The goal of a ketogenic diet is to create a metabolic shift by inducing your body into BURNING FAT stores for fuel instead of glucose. Carbohydrates are converted into glucose. This diet restricts your carbohydrate intake. When you stop providing your body with glucose, it starts to burn GLYCOGEN (glucose stores) until completely depleted, this takes 2-3 days. Then your body has to adjust to function without carbs, without you falling dead. There are two main ways:

  1. One is through a state called KETOSIS
  2. And through a process called LYPOLYSIS where your liver breaks down fat (stored triglycerides) into fatty acids and then ketones to burn for energy. So the liver provides your body with KETONES for energy instead of the glucose.


Subsequently, YOU LOSE WEIGHT and at a more rapid pace and absent the deprivation of more traditional dieting methods heavily restrictive of fat (which tastes sooo good).


To better understand how a ketogenic diet works, it’s also important to understand the role that insulin plays.

Insulin is a metabolism-regulating hormone secreted by the pancreas. Its primary function is regulating the presence of glucose in your blood. When you eat carbohydrates, they are converted to glucose which, in turn, raise your blood glucose (blood sugar) level. If not kept in check, a high blood glucose level can be very dangerous.

In a healthy functioning body, the pancreas makes insulin to remove that glucose out of the bloodstream and store it in your fat cells for use later. Thus, when you eat fewer carbohydrates, less insulin is needed to patrol your bloodstream and regulate blood sugar levels, therefore you store less fat on your body.

A main objective of a ketogenic diet is INSULIN MANIPULATION. Insulin suppresses ketone production, so if you can control your insulin levels, then you can control what fuel your body burns for energy. Thus, if you want to enter into ketosis and stay there, you must minimize the presence of the insulin hormone as much as possible. Changing what you eat is the easiest way to achieve this, and that is the underlying principal of a ketogenic diet. Fat has a very minimal effect on insulin levels, so a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet reduces insulin production adequately enough that your body isn’t prevented from producing ketone bodies.

Various factors, such a metabolic diseases and hormonal imbalances, can play a hand in how one’s metabolism functions. No diet is a one-size-fits-all solution, and you should always consult your physician before embarking on any new diet regimen. How much weight you lose and how fast you lose it depends on individualized factors. It may take you longer than you expect to get results, or the weight may seemingly melt away. The best approach is to keep an open mind when it comes to your health, even if that means exploring ideas that, on the surface, may seem implausible.

– Diana Semjonov, ND

Dr. Diana Semjonov ND

Diana Semjonov is a board certified Naturopathic Doctor practicing in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. If you would like to schedule an appointment or set up a free 15 minute consultation, please book online at

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