Dr. Anthony Gustin is a board-certified sports chiropractor, functional medicine practitioner, entrepreneur, podcast host, and founder of Perfect Keto.
The ketogenic diet is incredibly popular because it’s sustainable, fantastic for weight loss, and enables you to maintain your ideal weight and higher energy levels without hunger pangs.
But unlike other fat loss diets, some of the biggest benefits of keto relate to your long-term health, wellness, and well-being.
This shifts your metabolism, reduces inflammation, and provides your brain with clean, steady energy in the form of ketones.
In this article, you’ll learn the biggest ketogenic diet benefits, like weight loss, steady blood sugar, chronic disease prevention, brain health, physical performance, and more.
But first, a quick recap of the keto diet.
Keto is a very low-carb diet that shifts your body into a metabolic state of ketosis. In ketosis, your energy comes primarily from little molecules called ketone bodies, as opposed to glucose from carbs and sugar.
On a ketogenic diet, you reduce your carb intake to under about 30 grams per day. But the number of grams of carbs, fat, and protein you eat depends heavily on your activity levels and your goals.
A healthy keto meal plan consists mainly of high-quality fats from coconut oil, MCT oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter or ghee, avocado, olives, nuts, seeds, and more.
Protein usually comes from high-quality meat, fish, and other seafood. And carbs come from low-carb, keto-friendly vegetables and some berries.
Processed foods aren’t recommended on a keto diet, even if they’re low-carb.
You can learn a lot more about the ketogenic diet here. Or you can check out the Keto Kickstart: a 30-day plan to get you into ketosis painlessly and sustainably.
Considering the last few decades in nutrition science, you wouldn’t think that a high-fat diet could help you lose weight or be good for things like diabetes and heart health.
But it’s true. The ketogenic diet is being heavily studied for its many benefits, including its ability to lower chronically high blood sugar and reduce inflammation that can lead to chronic disease.
#1: Lose Weight Without Counting Calories
The good news is that the ketogenic diet is extremely effective for losing weight[*].
While some experts claim that calorie restriction alone results in fat loss, they’re only partially right. It’s also important to keep sustainable weight loss in mind. Most low-fat, low-calorie diets leave you feeling exhausted and overcome with food cravings.
But the biggest benefit of the keto diet for weight loss is that you can lose weight without counting calories[*][*]. Low-carb, high-fat diets like the ketogenic diet reduce your hunger and cravings, lower your blood sugar, and enable you to burn fat without starving[*][*].
As opposed to calorie-restricted diets that involve calorie counting and feeling hungry all the time, keto generally allows you to eat until you feel full and still lose fat.
#2: Burn More Body Fat
After meals, your body breaks carbohydrates down into glucose to fuel your energy needs. On most conventional diets, carbs are the primary energy source for your body.
But on low-carbohydrate diets like keto, your body is forced to rely on fat for fuel, a process called fat adaptation[*]. Fat-adapting is a shift in your metabolism that can improve fat loss by helping your body burn stored body fat more efficiently.
#3: Maintain a Healthy Weight for Life
Maintaining weight loss results can be more difficult than losing the weight in the first place. Sadly, the majority of people who lose weight with a low-fat diet or caloric restriction tend to regain weight[*][*].
Even if you lose fat successfully, your body “remembers” your previous state[*]. Over time, if you aren’t careful, factors like your hunger hormones, metabolism, and physical inactivity can cause you to become overweight again.
#4: Reduce Inflammation
When you eat too many carbs, high blood sugar levels cause inflammation and oxidative stress, which can result in issues like brain fog, anxiety, depression, acne, physical pain, and autoimmune disorders[*][*][*][*][*][*][*][*][*][*][*].
Because it’s very low in carbohydrates, the keto diet helps reduce inflammation in your body by decreasing oxidative stress[*]. Ketones, the compounds your body produces during ketosis, also decrease inflammation and help reverse oxidative damage[*][*].
Decreasing inflammation improves your brain health, enables your body to heal itself, and reduces inflammatory symptoms like pain and skin problems[*][*][*]. That’s why people feel so much better overall when they go keto.
#5: Prevent Chronic Disease
While most people start the keto diet for weight loss, they stay for the overall health benefits.
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes
Insulin resistance occurs when you eat too many carbs, and your cells become desensitized to insulin. The result is that your blood sugar gets dangerously high and damages your body[*].
When you go keto, your insulin sensitivity improves, and your body and brain have a chance to recover from the adverse effects of carbohydrate consumption[*]. As a result, you’re less likely to suffer from health problems.
Researchers also consider the ketogenic diet promising for traumatic brain injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, brain tumors, migraine, and autism spectrum disorders[*].
#6: Promote Healthy Aging
The keto diet can help you age gracefully by promoting a healthy metabolism that enhances mental function and preserves your muscle tissue.
It’s normal to lose some of your mental sharpness and physical strength as you get older. But dementia and muscle wasting are not normal and lead to loss of independence and a severely diminished quality of life in old age[*][*].
For people who are already dealing with cognitive decline, ketosis or exogenous ketone supplements can provide an efficient alternative fuel source of brain fuel[*][*]. Ketones can improve mental clarity, decrease the rate of cognitive decline, and increase brain health in older people[*][*][*][*].
A keto diet with adequate protein, rich in healthy fats, can also help you maintain a healthy body weight and preserve muscle mass as you age[*][*][*]. For even better results, you can pair it with resistance training, which is proven to increase strength and mobility during aging[*][*][*][*].
#7: Boost Your Brainpower With Ketones
Your brain requires more energy than any other organ. Even though it only occupies about 2% of your body mass, it consumes 20% of your daily energy requirements.
Your brain can only use two fuel sources for its energy needs
- Glucose (a simple sugar)
- Ketone bodies (which your liver makes when your body is deprived of carbohydrates).Your body produces ketones when dietary fat or stored body fat is broken down into free fatty acids.
Compared to glucose, ketones are an alternative source of energy that’s healthier for your brain. While glucose can cause insulin resistance, oxidative stress, and inflammation in your brain, ketones improve your insulin sensitivity, repair oxidative damage, and decrease brain inflammation[*][*][*][*][*][*][*][*][*][*][*].
After a few days to a few weeks on the keto diet, you can expect brain fog to clear up as you become fat-adapted. Thanks to the anti-inflammatory and brain-protective qualities of the ketogenic diet, you will experience clearer thinking, better focus, and improved work performance[*][*][*][*][*][*].
#8: Enhance Your Mood
A low-carb diet can improve your mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. It does this by altering neurotransmitters in your brain, enhancing your brain metabolism, increasing your insulin sensitivity, and lowering inflammation[*].
Beta-hydroxybutyrate, one of three ketones your body makes during ketosis, increases the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in your brain and raises your gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels[*][*][*].
A randomized study of 119 overweight volunteers comparing a ketogenic diet with a high-carb, low-fat diet found that the keto diet resulted in:
- Significant improvements in mood
- Reduced hunger levels compared to the low-fat diet[*]
#9: Better Fitness and Workout Recovery
Keto has a wide range of benefits on performance, fatigue, and other aspects of exercise. The effects of keto vary depending on whether you participate in explosive or strength activities, competitive team sports, or endurance sports.
Eating a low-carbohydrate keto diet reduces inflammation in your muscles after resistance training compared to a high-carb diet[*]. That’s excellent news for your recovery, performance, and long-term health.
Ketones and ketone supplements both help reduce levels of ammonia, a byproduct of physical activity, in your bloodstream and muscles[*]. Ammonia is associated with soreness and fatigue in muscles, so reducing it benefits your recovery and performance.
Another way a very-low-carb keto diet can help your muscles recover from damage is by increasing your growth hormone levels[*].
Studies on Fitness and Workout Recovery
Check out these study findings that demonstrate the benefits of the ketogenic diet for fitness and recovery:
- A study of powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters found the keto diet was effective for fat loss without reducing strength levels[*].
- In elite gymnasts, a low-calorie keto diet was found to decrease body weight and body fat but maintained performance[*].
- Keto reduced body fat without adversely affecting the performance of recreational CrossFit trainees[*].
- A study of twenty endurance athletes found that keto improved their body fat, peak sprint power, and fat oxidation[*].
- In a separate study of endurance athletes, a ten-week keto diet allowed them to shed unwanted fat, speed up their recovery, and even improve their skin quality and sense of wellbeing[*].
- For collision sport athletes, a keto diet may help reduce the adverse effects of concussions[*].
Another way to improve your fitness with keto is to try the cyclical ketogenic diet or targeted ketogenic diet. Because these keto approaches utilize carbohydrates to fuel activities like resistance training, they’re fantastic choices for supporting your athletic performance.
The keto diet is phenomenal for its weight loss, health, and performance benefits.
It’s also unique in that most people can lose fat and maintain a healthy weight without counting calories. That’s because keto satisfies your appetite and provides your brain with a healthy, clean source of energy in the form of ketones.
Some of the biggest ketogenic diet benefits come from improved fat burning, heightened insulin sensitivity, reductions in inflammation, and increased production of ketones.
Whether your primary goal is to lose fat, prevent chronic disease, enhance your mental acuity, or boost your fitness, you can look forward to massive improvements in all these areas if you stay keto long-term.