The Ketogenic Diet: A Detailed Beginner’s Guide to Keto

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The keto diet (or keto diet for short) is a low-fat, low-fat diet that offers many health benefits.

In fact, more than 20 studies show that this type of diet can help you lose weight and improve your health.

Ketogenic diets may even have benefits against diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Here is a detailed beginner’s guide to the keto diet.

What is a ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, low-fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins and low-carb diets.

It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbohydrates puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.

When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can provide energy for the brain.

Ketogenic diets can cause massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increased ketones, has numerous health benefits.

RESUMEThe keto diet is a low-carb, low-fat diet. It lowers blood sugar and insulin levels, shifting the body’s metabolism away from carbohydrates and towards fat and ketones.

Different Types of Ketogenic Diets

There are several versions of the ketogenic diet, including:

  • Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD): This is a very low carbohydrate, moderate protein, and high fat diet. It typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein, and only 5% carbohydrates.
  • Cyclic Ketogenic Diet (CKD): This diet includes periods of higher carbs, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high carb days.
  • Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD): This diet allows for carbohydrates to be added around workouts.
  • High-protein ketogenic diet: This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but contains more protein. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbohydrates.

However, only the standard and high-protein ketogenic diets have been extensively studied. Cyclic or targeted ketogenic diets are more advanced methods and are mainly used by bodybuilders or athletes.

The information in this article mainly applies to the standard ketogenic diet (SKD), although many of the same principles apply to the other versions as well.

RESUMEThere are different versions of the keto diet. The standard (SKD) version is the most researched and recommended.

Ketogenic Diets Can Help You Lose Weight

A ketogenic diet is an effective way to lose weight and lower risk factors for disease.

In fact, research shows that the ketogenic diet is much better than the often recommended low-fat diet.

Plus, the diet is so filling that you can lose weight without counting calories or tracking your food intake.

One study found that people on a ketogenic diet lost 2.2 times more weight than people on a low-calorie, low-fat diet. Triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels have also improved.

Another study found that people on a ketogenic diet lost 3 times more weight than people on the recommended diet.

There are several reasons why a ketogenic diet is superior to a low-fat diet, including the increased protein intake, which offers numerous benefits.

The increased ketones, lower blood sugar, and improved insulin sensitivity may also play an important role.

Read this article to learn more about the effects of a ketogenic diet on weight loss.

RESUMEA ketogenic diet can help you lose a lot more weight than a low-fat diet. This often happens without hunger.

Ketogenic Diets for Diabetes and Prediabetes

Diabetes is characterized by changes in metabolism, high blood sugar, and impaired insulin function.

The ketogenic diet can help you lose excess fat, which is closely linked to type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

One study showed that the ketogenic diet improved insulin sensitivity by as much as 75%.

Another study in people with type 2 diabetes found that 7 out of 21 participants were able to stop taking all diabetes medications.

In yet another study, the ketogenic group lost 24.4 pounds (11.1 kg), compared to 15.2 pounds (6.9 kg) in the higher-carb group. This is an important benefit when considering the link between weight and type 2 diabetes

In addition, 95.2% of the ketogenic group were able to stop or reduce the diabetes medication, compared to 62% in the higher-carb group.

For more information, check out this article on the benefits of low-carb diets for people with diabetes.

RESUMEThe ketogenic diet can increase insulin sensitivity and cause fat loss, leading to significant health benefits for people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.

Other Health Benefits of Keto

The ketogenic diet actually originated as a tool for treating neurological disorders such as epilepsy.

Studies have now shown that the diet can have benefits for a wide variety of health conditions:

  • Heart conditions: The ketogenic diet may improve risk factors such as body fat, HDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.
  • Cancer: The diet is currently used to treat various types of cancer and slow tumor growth.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: The keto diet can reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and slow its progression.
  • Epilepsy: Research has shown that the ketogenic diet can cause a huge reduction in seizures in epileptic children.
  • Parkinson’s disease: One study found that the diet helped improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: The ketogenic diet can help lower insulin levels, which can play an important role in polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • Brain injury: One animal study found that the diet can reduce concussions and promote recovery from brain injury.
  • Acne: Lower insulin levels and eating less sugar or processed foods can help improve acne.

However, keep in mind that the research in many of these areas is far from conclusive.

RESUMEA ketogenic diet can provide many health benefits, especially in metabolic, neurological or insulin-related diseases.

Foods to Avoid

Any food rich in carbohydrates should be limited.

Here is a list of foods that should be reduced or eliminated on a ketogenic diet:

  • Sugar foods: Soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc.
  • Grains or Starches: Products based on wheat, rice, pasta, cereals, etc.
  • Fruit: Any fruit except small portions of berries such as strawberries.
  • Beans or legumes: Peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
  • Root vegetables and tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
  • Low-fat or diet products: These are highly processed and often high in carbohydrates.
  • Some condiments or sauces: These often contain sugar and unhealthy fat.
  • Unhealthy Fats: Limit your intake of processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
  • Alcohol: Due to their carbohydrate content, many alcoholic drinks can throw you out of ketosis.
  • Sugar-free diet foods: These are often rich in sugar alcohols, which in some cases can affect ketone levels. These foods also tend to be highly processed.

RESUMEAvoid carbohydrate-based foods such as grains, sugars, legumes, rice, potatoes, sweets, juice, and even most fruits.

Foods to eat

You should base the majority of your meals on these foods:

  • Meat: Red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken, and turkey.
  • Oily fish: Such as salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel.
  • Eggs: Look for grazed or omega-3 whole eggs.
  • Butter and cream: Look for grass seed if you can.
  • Cheese: Unprocessed cheese (cheddar, goat, cream, blue, or mozzarella).
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, flax seed, pumpkin seed, chia seed, etc.
  • Healthy oils: Mainly extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil.
  • Avocados: Whole avocados or freshly made guacamole.
  • Low-carb vegetables: Most green vegetables, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
  • Spices: You can use salt, pepper, and various healthy herbs and spices.

It is best to base your diet on whole foods with a single ingredient. Here is a list of 44 healthy low-carb foods.

RESUMEBase the majority of your diet on foods such as meat, fish, eggs, butter, nuts, healthy oils, avocados, and plenty of low-carb vegetables.

An example of a Keto Meal Plan for 1 Week

To get you started, here’s an example of a ketogenic diet meal for a week:

Monday

  • Breakfast: Bacon, eggs, and tomatoes.
  • Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil and feta cheese.
  • Dinner: Salmon with asparagus cooked in butter.

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: Egg, tomato, basil, and goat cheese omelet.
  • Lunch: Almond milk, peanut butter, cocoa powder, and stevia milkshake.
  • Dinner: Meatballs, cheddar cheese, and vegetables.

Wednesday

  • Breakfast: A ketogenic milkshake (try this or this).
  • Lunch: Shrimp salad with olive oil and avocado.
  • Dinner: Pork chops with Parmesan cheese, broccoli, and salad.

Thursday

  • Breakfast: Omelette with avocado, salsa, bell pepper, onion, and herbs.
  • Lunch: A handful of nuts and celery sticks with guacamole and salsa.
  • Dinner: Chicken stuffed with pesto and cream cheese, along with vegetables.

Friday

  • Breakfast: Sugar-free yogurt with peanut butter, cocoa powder, and stevia.
  • Lunch: Beef stir-fry in coconut oil with vegetables.
  • Dinner: Breadless burger with bacon, egg, and cheese.

Saturday

  • Breakfast: Ham and cheese omelet with vegetables.
  • Lunch: Ham and cheese slices with nuts.
  • Dinner: Whitefish, egg, and spinach cooked in coconut oil.

Sunday

  • Breakfast: Fried eggs with bacon and mushrooms.
  • Lunch: Burger with salsa, cheese, and guacamole.
  • Dinner: Steak and eggs with a matching salad.

Always try to rotate the vegetables and meats long-term, as each type provides different nutrients and health benefits.

For tons of recipes, check out these 101 Healthy Low-Carb Recipes.

RESUMEYou can eat a wide variety of tasty and nutritious meals on a ketogenic diet.

Healthy Keto Snacks

In case you get hungry between meals, here are some healthy keto-approved snacks:

  • Fatty meat or fish
  • Cheese
  • A handful of nuts or seeds
  • Cheese with olives
  • 1-2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 90% dark chocolate
  • A low carbohydrate milkshake with almond milk, cocoa powder, and nut butter
  • Full-fat yogurt mixed with nut butter and cocoa powder
  • Strawberries and cream
  • Celery with salsa and guacamole
  • Smaller portions of the leftover meals

RESUMEGreat snacks for a keto diet include chunks of meat, cheese, olives, boiled eggs, nuts, and dark chocolate.

Tips for Eating Out on a Ketogenic Diet

It’s not very difficult to make most restaurant meals keto-friendly when dining out.

Most restaurants offer some type of meat or fish dish. Order this, and replace any carbohydrate-rich dishes with extra vegetables.

Egg dishes are also a good option, such as an omelet or eggs and bacon.

Another favorite is bunless burgers. You can also swap the fries for veggies instead. Add extra avocado, cheese, bacon or eggs.

In Mexican restaurants, you can enjoy any type of meat with extra cheese, guacamole, salsa, and sour cream.

For dessert, ask for a mixed cheese board or berries with cream.

RESUMEWhen dining out, choose a meat, fish or egg dish. Order extra vegetables instead of carbohydrates or starches and have cheese for dessert.

Side Effects and How to Minimize Them

While the ketogenic diet is safe for healthy people, there may be some initial side effects as your body adjusts.

This is often referred to as the keto flu and is usually over within a few days.

Keto flu includes poor energy and mental function, increased hunger, difficulty sleeping, nausea, digestive upset, and decreased exercise performance.

To minimize this, you can try a regular low-carbohydrate diet for the first few weeks. This can teach your body to burn more fat before completely eliminating the carbohydrates.

A ketogenic diet can also alter your body’s water and mineral balance, so adding extra salt to your meals or taking mineral supplements can help.

For minerals, try taking 3,000-4,000 mg of sodium, 1,000 mg of potassium, and 300 mg of magnesium per day to minimize side effects.

In any case, it is important to eat until you are full and to avoid limiting too many calories. Usually, a ketogenic diet causes weight loss without deliberate calorie restriction.

RESUMEMany of the side effects of starting a ketogenic diet can be limited. Facilitating the diet and taking mineral supplements can help.

Supplements for a ketogenic diet

While no supplements are necessary, some may be helpful.

  • MCT Oil: Added to drinks or yogurt, MCT oil provides energy and helps increase ketone levels. View the different options.
  • Minerals: Added salt and other minerals can be important when starting out due to shifts in the water and mineral balance.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine may have benefits for energy, fat loss, and performance.
  • Exogenous Ketones: This supplement can help increase the body’s ketone levels.
  • Creatine: Creatine offers numerous health and performance benefits. This can help if you combine a ketogenic diet with exercise.
  • Whey: Use half a scoop of whey protein in shakes or yogurt to increase your daily protein intake.

RESUMECertain supplements can be beneficial on a ketogenic diet. These include exogenous ketones, MCT oil and minerals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some of the most common questions about the ketogenic diet.

1. Can I ever eat carbohydrates again?

Yes, but it is important to significantly reduce carbohydrate intake in the beginning. After the first 2-3 months you can eat carbohydrates on special occasions – then go back to the diet right after.

2. Will I lose muscle?

There is a risk of muscle loss with any diet. However, the high protein intake and high ketone levels can help minimize muscle loss, especially if you are lifting weights.

3. Can I build muscle on a ketogenic diet?

Yes, but it may not work as well as on a moderate carbohydrate diet. Read this article to learn more about low-carb or keto diets and exercise performance.

4. Do I need to re-feed or load carbohydrates?

No, but a few high-calorie days can occasionally be beneficial.

5. How Much Protein Can I Eat?

Protein should be moderate, as a very high intake can increase insulin levels and decrease ketones. About 35% of total calorie intake is probably the upper limit.

6. What if I am constantly tired, weak, or tired?

You may not be in full ketosis or making efficient use of fats and ketones. To counter this, reduce your carbohydrate intake and revisit the points above. A supplement such as MCT oil or ketones can also help.

7. My urine smells fruity. Why is this?

Don’t be alarmed. This is simply due to the excretion of by-products that arise during ketosis.

8. My breath stinks. What can I do?

This is a common side effect. Try drinking naturally flavored water or chewing sugar-free gum.

9. I heard that ketosis is extremely dangerous. Is this true?

People often confuse ketosis with ketoacidosis. The first is natural, while the second occurs only in uncontrolled diabetes.

Ketoacidosis is dangerous, but the ketosis on a ketogenic diet is completely normal and healthy.

10. I have digestive problems and diarrhea. What can I do?

This common side effect usually goes away after 3-4 weeks. If it persists, try eating more fiber-rich vegetables. Magnesium supplements can also help with constipation.

A ketogenic diet is great, but not for everyone.

A ketogenic diet can be great for those who are overweight, diabetic, or who want to improve their metabolic health.

It may be less suitable for elite athletes or those looking to add large amounts of muscle or weight.

And, as with any diet, it will only work if you’re consistent and stick to it in the long run.

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