Simply put, the ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein diet. Originally developed in the 1920s for patients with epilepsy, the diet has become incredibly popular for its weight loss benefits as well as its ability to boost energy levels, improve cognitive function, and support a whole host of other bodily benefits.
Since at least 500 B.C., fasting and other dietary regimens have been used in the treatment of epilepsy and similar disorders. The first modern use of fasting for medical treatment occurred in 1911 in a study led by Parisian physicians Gulep and Marie. Though no specific details were given, they reported that 20 children and adults with epilepsy experienced a reduction in seizure severity during periods of fasting. Over the next few decades, other physicians achieved similar results through tests of their own
In 1921, an endocrinologist named Dr. Rollin Woodyatt made an important discovery – that both acetone and beta-hydroxybutyric acid were present in people following a low-carb diet and in people who were fasting. The benefits of these ketone bodies were also being studied by Dr. Wilder at the Mayo Clinic at the time. Wilder was of the opinion that long-term fasting was unsustainable but that a ketone-producing diet could provide the same benefits while being easier to maintain.
And thus, the ketogenic diet was born.
Though Dr. Wilder’s research opened the door, it was another physician at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Peterman, who first standardized the keto diet. His version of the diet recommended 1g of protein per kilogram bodyweight, 10 to 15 grams of carbs per day, and the remaining calories from fat. Though there have been some alterations, this is very similar to the ketogenic diet as it is practiced today.
The modern ketogenic diet is still used as supportive therapy for epilepsy, but it has become increasingly popular for weight loss. In addition to increasing fat burn, the keto diet can help improve energy and mental focus, support blood sugar control, and help protect against chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It is also frequently used as a dietary tool by endurance athletes to reduce fatigue and boost performance.
Though the ketogenic diet can be customized to suit the individual’s needs, there are a few specific points that need to be hit. It should be very low in carbohydrates – no more than 5% of total daily calories – while moderate in protein and high in fat intake. As long as you stay within the recommended macronutrient ratio, there is no need to count calories. Many people also find that, once their bodies become keto-adapted, they feel less hungry and more energized.
The process of becoming keto-adapted can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on your carb intake. Keep reading to learn more about how to enter ketosis.