When celebrities endorse weight loss meal plans, many people take notice.
But now that an esteemed group like the Navy SEALs endorses a method that suppresses their appetite, helps them lose fat, build muscle, hold their breathe longer, and bolster their strength and performance, many people are doing more than a double-take. They're wisely taking the time to educate themselves so that they can achieve some of the same results.
The Navy's Sea, Air and Land Forces—an elite maritime military force that engages in specialized warfare initiatives around the world—have turned to ketosis, which the American Diabetes Association defines as the state the body goes into as it breaks down body fat for energy. “The state is marked by raised levels of ketones in the blood, which can be used by the body as fuel.”
That's right: fuel, which literally fuels weight loss. Before you embark on a ketogenic meal plan, take a lesson from the Navy SEALs playbook and study it first. This is one weight loss strategy with its own lexicon, including “ketones,” “ketone levels” and “ketosis.” It also has been studied extensively by no less an authority than the National Institutes of Health.
If you agree that many weight loss plans falter not for lack of desire but because of a lack of knowledge and discipline, you'll train both your mind and body for ketogenic meal plans like a Navy SEAL to help ensure your success.
What are ketones?
Healthline defines ketones as “acids made when your body begins using fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. When there is not enough insulin to get sugar from the blood and into the cells, the body turns to fat for energy. When fat is broken down, ketone bodies are made and can accumulate in the body.”
Ketones often “show up” when someone consumes a diet very low in carbohydrates since low-carb levels lead to low insulin levels, triggering the production of ketones.
People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes must be particularly vigilant about watching their ketone levels as they lose weight, especially if they:
- Record a blood glucose level above 300
- Notice that their skin is flushed or has lost color
- Experience abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting
- Contract an infection, which can cause elevated levels of blood glucose
- Feel lethargic or confused
- Are thirstier than usual or are fighting dry mouth
- Have difficulty breathing
- Smell a fruity flavor on their breath
Tracking ketones and reaching ketosis
“Trace amounts of ketones may mean that your body is in the beginning stages of building up stores,” Healthline says—a buildup that is pivotal to creating that vital “fuel.” As ketones build up in the blood and urine, fats and are broken down for energy. Ketones that are not used for fuel are simply excreted out of the body via the kidneys and the urine.
In high levels, “ketones can be very dangerous and even poisonous. This serious condition is known as ketoacidosis and, if left untreated, can lead to diabetic coma or even death.”
Since the symptoms of ketoacidosis can mimic those of flu or a stomach virus, it's especially important to test ketone levels through urine tests. Ketone levels are measured in millimolars, which the American Diabetic Association breaks down as follows:
- Under 0.6 millimolars: Normal
- Under 1.5 millimolars: Moderate
- 1.6 to 3.0 millimolars: High
- Over 3.0 millimolars: Very high
The body reaches a state of ketosis when “the quantity of ketone bodies in the blood have reached higher-than-normal levels.” This is when “the body will start breaking down your own body fat to fuel the body's normal, everyday functions.”
Naturally, most people are eager to know how long it takes to achieve a state of ketosis. Although the question defies a one-size-fits-all answer, it's smart to give the process about three weeks, so some patience is required.
Size up the benefits of ketosis
Such patience often is rewarded; achieving the metabolic state of ketosis carries many benefits, as those fit and agile Navy SEALs can attest:
- Ketosis bolsters the body's ability to use fats for energy, or that necessary fuel.
- Ketosis "has a protein-sparing effect, assuming that you are consuming adequate quantities of protein and calories—or 0.7 grams per pound of body weight per day—in the first place." At this point, the body favors ketones over glucose.
- Ketosis' low-insulin quality triggers the release of hormones that promote growth and strength.
- Ketosis, coupled with a high-protein intake, appears to suppress appetite. Arguably, this is why many people falter on other weight loss plans: because they often feel hungry. (Leave it to the Navy SEALs, who would rather keep their focus on fighting an international enemy than hunger pangs.)
Size up the drawbacks of ketosis
Remember the progression by which your body achieves the metabolic state of ketosis: glucose levels fall, stored triglycerides are released, fatty acids travel to the liver, the liver produces ketones and ketones produce energy.
Along this journey, some people have reported feeling some physical side effects. As with any new weight loss plan, it's wise to consult your physician to discuss whether your medical history might bring other issues to the “ketogenic table.” Keep in mind that these are potential drawbacks—not certainties:
- The metabolic state of ketosis often requires what Dr. Mauro DiPasquale calls a “metabolic shift,” meaning that some people might experience a slight degree of brain fog, fatigue and greater thirst during the first weeks on a ketogenic diet. Once your body adapts to producing ketones as its main energy source, you should feel a surge in energy. And drinking water, especially before and after exercise, is always a good idea.
- Cholesterol levels might increase, though some people also experience a drop in cholesterol. How cholesterol is affected by a ketogenic diet continues to be studied—and debated.
- Some nutrient deficiencies can occur, especially in calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium and thiamin. A quality multivitamin ought to counteract this potential risk.
Research enhances credibility
Predictably, ketosis and ketonegic diets have spawned some fascinating research—or rather, research findings. Consider:
- Scientists reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that ketones trigger the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK), which makes you feel full. Although your body produces less CCK as you lose weight, scientists found that even after eight weeks of weight loss that caused a significant drop in CCK, just one week of ketosis returned CCK to baseline (or pre-weight loss) levels.
- Ghrelin is known as the “hunger hormone” because it causes an increase in appetite. Scientists reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition that ketosis suppresses an increase in ghrelin levels. Specifically, they found that hunger levels were unchanged from baseline after eight weeks of dieting, despite an average 12.5 percent decrease in body weight and a 13.4 percent loss of fat mass.
- In some subjects, ghrelin levels actually decreased from baseline levels—even after the subjects stopped dieting. This finding is one of those extra benefits of ketosis, since many people tend to eat more after they stop dieting.
- A study published in Obesity Reviews found that a ketone level of 0.5 was sufficient to suppress the appetite of study participants—thereby providing some direction about the optimal level of ketosis.
- Dr. Lyle McDonald literally wrote the book on ketogenic diets, called “The Ketogenic Diet: A Complete Guide for the Dieter and Practitioner.” (http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/the-ketogenic-diet/) It is arguably the most comprehensive book on low-carbohydrate and ketogenic diets. In it, he explains in great detail how they can be optimized for bodybuilding, fat loss and endurance performance. It also includes a “complete discussion of resistance, aerobic and anaerobic exercise physiology along with specific training programs for different goals and different levels of the trainee.”
Eat well on a ketogenic meal plan
You don't have to worry about being hungry on a ketogenic meal plan, but you do have to follow a plan. Fundamentally, it revolves around eating limited portions of meat, low-carb vegetables and as much fat as you like. And if you get hungry between meals or just feel like snacking? A slice of cheese, a handful of nuts or some celery sticks with cream cheese should do nicely.
A full day's menu might look like this:
- Breakfast: a protein shake with whey powder and 16 ounces of unsweetened almond milk with 2 ounces of heavy cream
- Lunch: 4 ounces of smoked ham; 1 cup of summer squash, sauteed in butter or olive oil; 1 cup of salad greens with olive oil and vinegar; and water or unsweetened sparkling water
- Dinner: 4 ounces of baked salmon topped with Parmesan cream sauce; 2 cups of spinach sauteed with onions and garlic; salad greens with a low-carb, high-fat dressing; water or unsweetened, flavored sparkling water; and coffee with heavy cream or almond milk
Mix it up with Meal Plan Magic
Plenty of meals await you as you prepare a ketogenic meal plan for days or even a week at a time. Ultimately, you should strive to get about 60 to 70 percent of your daily calories from fat and the rest from protein. Your carb intake should not exceed 50 grams a day.
Now more than ever, you'll want Meal Plan Magic at your side—to help you “do the math” and stay on track. This fresh meal planning software tool can help you from start to finish: from writing a shopping list and choosing fresh ingredients at the store to preparing snacks and meals at home.
Adopt the mindset of a Navy SEAL and leverage every advantage you can to lose weight, gain muscle and feel healthier. Just as the SEALs know that “a good offense is a good defense,” Meal Plan Magic can serve on the front line of this new weight loss regimen.