How to Use Keto to Improve Your Productivity

Written by
Will Goto

The ketogenic diet (keto) is well-known for it's low-carb, high-fat recommendation. Most people learn about keto from a weight-loss perspective, but keto is also known for improving cognition and brain function. Let's dive in to understand how keto works and how you can optimize your diet for maximum focus and productivity.

A ketogenic diet purposefully maximizes the use of ketones in the body for fuel instead relying mostly on glucose and protein. Ketones are produced mostly from short- and medium-chain fats and can be burned for energy like fats, yet they don’t require transport through the blood and cells as fats do. Instead, they diffuse across cell membranes because they are small water-soluble molecules.

In short, ketones can diffuse into the brain which make them an alternative fuel for neurons without triggering other metabolic processes that can create brain fog or lethargy.

Some other benefits that ketones have on the brain and nerves include protecting neurons from glucose deprivation and excitotoxicity, improving recovery from spinal injury, and preventing brain damage after heart attacks. Ketogenic diets are therapeutic for epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, ALS, and infantile spasms (West syndrome), and are known for improving the behavior of children with autism, serving as antidepressants, and possibly stabilizing mood in bipolar disorder.

In short, ketones can diffuse into the brain which make them an alternative fuel for neurons without triggering other metabolic processes that can create brain fog or lethargy.

One common misconception around keto is that many people think you have to eliminate all carbs from your diet in order to maintain the benefits. This isn't true at all and, in fact, you will be starving yourself of carbohydrates. Inevitably, you'll have intense cravings for things like dessert, pizza, burgers, fries, etc.

Your body can still generate and use ketones as a primary energy source by making sure you are eating large amounts of short- and medium-chain fats. When these fats enter the liver, the liver converts them into ketones regardless of how many carbs you consumed. Foods that contain a large number of these short- and medium-chain fats are: coconut oil, palm kernel oil (not palm oil), butter, and animal fats.

The takeaway here is to not only boost these fats overall in your diet, but optimize more of these fats during meals when you work. Optimizing your carb intake towards the end of the day will allow you to still fulfill your body's carbohydrate requirements without feeling lethargic when you need to focus. There are some tips:

  1. If you eat breakfast, eat fat-rich foods like eggs and bacon, sausage, or fish. Avoid eating sugary foods and bread.
  2. If you don't eat breakfast but drink coffee, avoid sugar and milk. Use other fats that still taste good in your coffee like coconut, butter, or heavy cream.
  3. For lunch, stick primarily to fatty foods and minimize the amount of carbohydrates.
  4. For dinner, make sure to get your day's worth of carbs. It's nice to plan a more carb heavy dinner to help relax and fall asleep at night.

The takeaway here is to not only boost these fats overall in your diet, but optimize more of these fats during meals when you work.

Implementing this macro-nutrient strategy allows you to benefit from the boost in mental cognition without fasting or having to starve yourself of carbohydrates. Personally, I found it to be a much more sustainable way to stay focused and productive throughout the day without having the fragility of a full-on ketogenic diet. Obviously, consult your doctor if you are unsure a high-fat diet is suitable for you.

Will is the Cofounder & CEO of Rize, an intelligent time tracker that maximizes your productivity.

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