What is the Keto Diet
A ketogenic (or keto) eating plan involves consuming lots of healthy fats while limiting carbohydrates. It promotes weight control and improves overall health.
This is an introductory guide for beginners. Always check with your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or lifestyle.
Some possible benefits of the ketogenic diet may include:
Improved brain function, fatigue reduction and reduced stress
Reduced risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease along with lower cholesterol and blood pressure
Improved athletic performance
Better sleep quality
What Keto is
The keto diet was originally designed to help children with epilepsy. In fact, this diet has been around since 1920s when doctors noticed that patients with epilepsy were less likely to experience seizures if they had low carbohydrate diets.
Then people thought it might help diabetics. Those with diabetes have to monitor their carbs and sugars and keto is one way to minimize each of those.
Managing carbohydrate intake is often recommended for people with type 2 diabetes. Keto works by tricking your body into thinking you are starving. When you eat a lot of fat, your body will start using stored fat as energy instead of sugar.
This causes your blood sugar levels to drop which triggers your pancreas to release insulin causing a change in the insulin level. Insulin helps move glucose from the bloodstream into cells where it can be used as fuel.
It’s also used by people who are trying to lose weight. The theory behind the keto diet is that your body will go into “ketosis” which means you’ll be burning fat instead of sugar as energy. This might lead to weight loss.
Carbohydrates vs. the Ketogenic Process
Ketosis occurs when your body’s primary source of energy is fat instead of glucose. Ketones are produced by your liver from excess dietary fats.
When you eat foods high in carbohydrates, your blood becomes full of sugar which causes insulin to spike. Insulin helps regulate how much sugar gets into your cells. Once your blood sugar levels drop, insulin production decreases.
As a result, there is not enough insulin to keep up with all the sugar being taken in. Your body starts breaking down muscle tissue for fuel because it doesn’t know what else to do with all the extra sugar.
Ketosis is achieved through restricting carbohydrates and increasing fats.
To achieve ketosis, you need to limit your carb intake to 50 grams or less per day. If you don’t stick to this amount, you won’t get any nutritional benefit from the keto diet.
How it Works
Always check with your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or lifestyle. A healthy and balanced diet is important for everyone.
When you start a ketogenic diet, you will first notice that your appetite drops significantly. This is because your body is burning stored fats for energy.
When you eat carbs, your body stores them as glycogen in your liver and muscles. When you don’t have enough glucose available from food, it converts to fat. The ketogenic diet forces your body into using its stored fat instead of sugar. By restricting carbs, you force your body to burn fat for energy instead of sugar.
Ketosis occurs when there isn’t much carbohydrate left in your system. Your body starts producing ketones which provide fuel for your brain and other organs.
Ketosis happens when you consume fewer than 50 grams of net carbs per day. You may be able to achieve this level of carb restriction by following a low-carbohydrate diet such as Atkins or Paleo. However, if you want to stay on the safe side, you should aim for less than 20 grams of net carbs daily.
Ketone bodies are produced when you first start the diet. They act as a form of fuel for the brain and nervous system. As time goes on, you will produce more ketones and eventually enter a state called ketosis. Once you reach that point, you no longer need to count calories or track macros.
You can eat unlimited amounts of high-fat meat, fish, eggs, butter, cheese, cream, heavy whipping cream, oils, avocado, bacon, sausage, coconut oil, butter, nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, olive oil, and full-fat yogurt.
You can also drink unlimited amounts of coffee, tea, water, bone broth, and unsweetened almond milk.
Some people choose not to eat these items because they think they’re too fattening . But remember that fat is your friend! Fat helps your body absorb vitamins and minerals, produces hormones, and creates cell membranes. If you cut out all the bad stuff, you’ll lose weight without even trying.
Fats are also important for brain development. Some studies led the researchers to believe that children who were fed a ketogenic diet had better mental performance than children who weren’t.
The “Keto Flu” Is Real
Always check with your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or lifestyle.
If you’ve never tried a ketogenic diet before, you might experience some unpleasant symptoms when you first begin eating this way.
These symptoms can include increased thirst, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, constipation, nausea, and vomiting. Everything that makes it feel like a real flu. It’s the body’s natural reaction to a significant change. Almost like the body is say, “hey… I miss all those carbs and sugars.”
These symptoms usually go away within two weeks. Some people find that their hair grows faster while on the diet. Others report losing weight without changing anything about their lifestyle.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I take supplements on the ketogenic diet?
Yes, but only certain ones. Supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, so you could end up taking something harmful. For example, vitamin B6 can cause nerve damage, magnesium can interfere with insulin production, and zinc can increase the effects of insulin.
If you do decide to supplement, make sure you get nutrients that won’t interact with medications. Check with your doctor before starting any new supplements.
Are there any special considerations for vegetarians/vegans?
Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in protein, so you might find yourself missing out on essential amino acids. Also, many plant-based proteins contain gluten, soy, dairy, and egg products.
If you’re vegan, you can still follow the ketogenic diet. Just make sure you check labels carefully to avoid hidden sources of animal products.
How do I know how many carbohydrates I’m eating?
The easiest way to figure out how many carbs you’re consuming each day is to use an online calculator like DietBet’s Carb Counter or one of the apps below:
• My Fitness Pal – This app has a built-in database of thousands of foods , making it easy to keep track of what you’ve eaten. It also allows you to set goals and receive feedback about your progress towards them.
• Calorie King – This calorie counter lets you add recipes from major food websites like Epicurious and AllRecipes.com. The site also offers nutritional information for over 15,000 foods.
• NetCarbs – This tool uses USDA nutrition data to calculate net carbs and total carbohydrate intake. You simply have to enter your daily carb intake and select which macronutrient you want to see.
• KetoDiet App – This free app includes a database of over 10,000 foods, including common ingredients used in keto recipes.
• Fooducate – This website provides detailed nutritional breakdowns of every recipe on its site . Simply type in the name of the dish or ingredient you’d like to learn more about and hit “Search.”
What if I miss a meal or snack?
It’s okay to skip meals as long as you don’t go longer than 8 hours without eating. However, you should never skip snacks. Skipping meals will slow down your metabolism and put you at risk for low blood sugar ( hypoglycemia).
You may experience some digestive distress when you first start the ketogenic diet. Your stomach may feel gassy, bloated, or grumpy. These side effects usually pass after a few days.
Is the ketogenic diet safe?
Check with your doctor first before making any significant changes to your diet. What we can say is that studies show that it might be effective for treating epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions.
However, the diet does require careful monitoring and this should also be discussed with your doctor. If you notice any changes in your mental state, such as confusion, anxiety, depression, or hallucinations, stop following the diet immediately and seek advice from a professional.
Are there any supplements I need to take?
Yes, but they are not required. Some people choose to supplement their keto diet with bib salts, magnesium, potassium, vitamin D3, omega 3 fatty acids, probiotics, and prebiotics.
These supplements help ensure proper nutrient absorption and prevent deficiencies. They also provide additional health benefits.
I heard coconut oil helps with weight loss. Is this true?
Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are quickly converted into energy by the liver instead of being stored as body fat. MCTs are great for boosting energy levels during exercise, but they aren’t recommended for those who are looking to lose weight.
If you’re trying to shed pounds, stick to healthy fats found in avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, fish, eggs, butter, and cheese.
How do I know how many calories I’m eating?
The easiest way to figure out your daily caloric needs is to use an online calculator. There are plenty available on the web. Just plug in your height, weight, age, gender, and activity level and the calculator will give you an estimate of what your calorie requirements are.
Alternatively, you can download one of our free apps: Calorie Counter or MyFitnessPal. Both track your food and offer lots of customization options.
Do I need to count my macros?
No. While counting macros is helpful for tracking your overall progress, it’s not necessary for starting the ketogenic diet. You’ll be fine just using general guidelines.
Macros include protein, carbs, and fat. The ratio of these macronutrients determines whether you’re in ketosis or not.
When you eat carbohydrates, your body stores them as glycogen in your muscles and liver. When your glycogen stores get full, your liver converts excess glucose into ketones, which become the primary fuel source for your brain and most of your organs. This process is called ketogenesis.
Ketone bodies are released from the liver into the bloodstream when blood sugar levels fall too low. Ketones are used by the brain cells for energy.
When you follow the ketogenic diet, you trigger ketogenesis at all times. This means you have zero carb intake.
You don’t eat carbs. Instead, you consume high amounts of fat and moderate amounts of protein.
Your goal is to reach nutritional ketosis, where your body produces ketones in abundance. Once you’ve reached this stage, you no longer need to worry about counting macros.
What happens if I over-eat?
You may experience some gastrointestinal discomfort after overeating. It’s normal to feel bloated or gassy while following a new dietary plan.
This should pass within two days. If you continue to experience symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
Always check with your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or lifestyle.