What is a Keto Diet?

 


A keto diet is well known for being a low carb diet, where the body produces ketones in the liver to be used as energy. It’s referred to as many different names – ketogenic diet, low carb diet, low carb high fat (LCHF), etc.

When you eat something high in carbs, your body will produce glucose and insulin.

   Glucose is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy so

      that it will be chosen over any other energy source.

 

   Insulin is produced to process the glucose in your bloodstream by taking it

      around the body.

 

Since the glucose is being used as a primary energy, your fats are not needed and are therefore stored. Typically on a normal, higher carbohydrate diet, the body will use glucose as the main form of energy. By lowering the intake of carbs, the body is induced into a state known as ketosis.


Ketosis is a natural process the body initiates to help us survive when food intake is low. During this state, we produce ketones, which are produced from the breakdown of fats in the liver.

The end goal of a properly maintained keto diet is to force your body into this metabolic state. We don’t do this through starvation of calories but starvation of carbohydrates.

Our bodies are incredibly adaptive to what you put into it – when you overload it with fats and take away carbohydrates, it will begin to burn ketones as the primary energy source. Optimal ketone levels offer many health, weight loss, physical and mental performance benefits.

Make keto simple and easy by checking out our 14 Day Meal Plan. Get meal plans, shopping lists, and much more with our Keto Academy Program.

Looking for Something Specific?

1 What to Eat on a Keto Diet

2 Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet

3 Getting Started

4 How to Reach Ketosis

5 How to Know You’re in Ketosis

6 Keto Diet and Macros

7 Types of Ketogenic Diets

8 Physical Performance

9 Dangers of a Keto Diet

10 What Happens to my Body?

11 Keto Flu

12 Common Side Effects on a Keto Diet

13 Less Common Side Effects on a Keto Diet

14 Troubleshooting Further

15 Saving Money and Budgeting

16 Takeaways and Advice


What Do I Eat on a Keto Diet?



To start a keto diet, you will want to plan ahead. That means having a viable diet plan ready and waiting. What you eat depends on how fast you want to get into a ketogenic state (ketosis). The more restrictive you are on your carbohydrates (less than 25g net carbs per day), the faster you will enter ketosis.

You want to keep your carbohydrates limited, coming mostly from vegetables, nuts, and dairy. Don’t eat any refined carbohydrates such as wheat (bread, pasta, cereals), starch (potatoes, beans, legumes) or fruit. The small exceptions to this are avocado, star fruit, and berries which can be consumed in moderation.

Do Not Eat

   Grains – wheat, corn, rice, cereal, etc.

   Sugar – honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.

   Fruit – apples, bananas, oranges, etc.

   Tubers – potato, yams, etc.

Do Eat

   Meats – fish, beef, lamb, poultry, eggs, etc.

   Leafy Greens – spinach, kale, etc.

   Above ground vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

   High Fat Dairy – hard cheeses, high fat cream, butter, etc.

   Nuts and seeds – macadamias, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.

   Avocado and berries – raspberries, blackberries, and other low glycemic impact berries

   Sweeteners – stevia, erythritol, monk fruit, and other low-carb sweeteners 

   Other fats – coconut oil, high-fat salad dressing, saturated fats, etc.

Try to remember that keto is high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbs. Your nutrient intake should be something around 70% fats, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrate.

Typically, anywhere between 20-30g of net carbs is recommended for everyday dieting – but the lower you keep your carbohydrate intake and glucose levels, the better the overall results will be. If you’re doing keto for weight loss, it’s a good idea to keep track of both your total carbs and net carbs.



Protein should always be consumed as needed with fat filling in the remainder of the calories in your day.

You might be asking, “What’s a net carb?” It’s simple really! The net carbs are your total dietary carbohydrates, minus the total fiber. I recommend keeping total carbs below 35g and net carbs below 25g (ideally, below 20g).

If you’re finding yourself hungry throughout the day, you can snack on nuts, seeds, cheeses, or almond butter to curb your appetite (though snacking can slow progress in the long term). Sometimes we can confuse the want to snack with the need for a meal. If you’re in a rush and need a keto fast food option, there are some available.


Vegetables on a Ketogenic Diet

Dark green and leafy is always the best choice for vegetables. Most of your meals should be a protein with vegetables, and an extra side of fat. Chicken thighs basted in olive oil, with broccoli and cheese. Steak topped with a knob of butter, and a side of spinach sauteed in olive oil.

If you’re still confused about what a net carb is, don’t worry – I’ll explain further. Let’s say for example you want to eat some broccoli (1 cup) – one of my favorite keto vegetables out there.

There are a total of 6g carbohydrates in 1 cup.

There’s also 2g of fiber in 1 cup.

So, we take the 6g (total carbs) and subtract the 2g (dietary fiber).

This will give us our net carbs of 4g.

Here’s a list of the most common low carb vegetables. Though if you want a complete list, check out our guide on the best vegetables for a ketogenic diet >

Bok Choi (Raw)

Amount

Net Carbs

Lettuce (Romaine)

1/2 Cup

0.1

Cauliflower (Steamed)

1/2 Cup

0.2

Cabbage (Green Raw)

1/2 Cup

0.2

Cauliflower (Raw)

1/2 Cup

0.9

Broccoli (Florets)

1/2 Cup

1.1

Collard Greens

1/2 Cup

1.4

Kale (Steamed)

1/2 Cup

2

Green Beans (Steamed)

1/2 Cup

2

Bok Choi (Raw)

1/2 Cup

2.1

Lettuce (Romaine)

1/2 Cup

2.9


Note: Are you a vegetarian or vegan and want to go on a ketogenic diet? It’s still possible! Just keep in mind that the dietary restrictions can sometimes be a little bit intense. Make sure to plan ahead and prepare to aid your success. To help out, we’ve published articles (with 7-day meal plans included) for both the vegetarian ketogenic diet and the vegan ketogenic diet.

Sample Diet Plans

If you want a sample plan that has a few different ways people approach keto (light breakfast, fasting) with various recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner check out our 14 Day Ketogenic Diet Plan.

Your life doesn’t have to revolve around the planning aspect. You can go the easy route and get detailed shopping lists and months of meal plans made for you with The Keto Academy



Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet

There are numerous benefits that come with being on keto: from weight loss and increased energy levels to therapeutic medical applications. Most anyone can safely benefit from eating a low-carb, high-fat diet. Below, you’ll find a short list of the benefits you can receive from a ketogenic diet. For a more comprehensive list, you can also read our article on the benefits of a keto diet >

Weight Loss

The ketogenic diet essentially uses your body fat as an energy source – so there are obvious weight loss benefits. On keto, your insulin (the fat-storing hormone) levels drop greatly which turns your body into a fat-burning machine.



Scientifically, the ketogenic diet has shown better results compared to low-fat and high-carb diets; even in the long term. For more information, you can read our article on keto and weight loss >

Many people incorporate MCT Oil into their diet (it increases ketone production and fat loss) by drinking ketoproof coffee in the morning.

Control Blood Sugar

Keto naturally lowers blood sugar levels due to the type of foods you eat. Studies even show that the ketogenic diet is a more effective way to manage and prevent diabetes compared to low-calorie diets.


If you’re pre-diabetic or have Type II diabetes, you should seriously consider a ketogenic diet. We have many readers that have had success with their blood sugar control on keto. See more on keto and diabetes 

Mental Focus

Many people use the ketogenic diet specifically for increased mental performance.

Ketones are a great source of fuel for the brain. When you lower carb intake, you avoid big spikes in blood sugar. Together, this can result in improved focus and concentration.



Studies show that an increased intake of fatty acids can have impacting benefits to our brain’s function.

mental focus and ketones

To learn more, see our article on the benefits of a keto diet for the brain

Increased Energy & Normalized Hunger

By giving your body a better and more reliable energy source, you will feel more energized during the day. Fats are shown to be the most effective molecule to burn as fuel.

 


On top of that, fat is naturally more satisfying and ends up leaving us in a satiated (“full”) state for longer.2 If you’re interested in the science behind it, you can read more about how keto and ketosis works

Epilepsy

The ketogenic diet has been used since the early 1900’s to treat epilepsy successfully. It is still one of the most widely used therapies for children who have uncontrolled epilepsy today. Learn more about how keto can help with epilepsy >

 


One of the main benefits of the ketogenic diet and epilepsy is that it allows fewer medications to be used while still offering excellent control.

In the last few years, studies have also shown significant results in adults treated with keto as well.


Cholesterol & Blood Pressure

A keto diet has shown to improve triglyceride levels and cholesterol levels most associated with arterial buildup. More specifically low-carb, high-fat diets show a dramatic increase in HDL and a decrease in LDL particle concentration compared to low-fat diets. Read more on keto and cholesterol



Many studies on ketogenic diets also show better improvement in blood pressure over other diets.

Some blood pressure issues are associated with excess weight, which is a bonus since keto tends to lead to weight loss. If you have high blood pressure or other blood pressure issues, click here to learn how keto can reduce blood pressure

Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance can lead to type II diabetes if left unmanaged. An abundant amount of research shows that a low carb, ketogenic diet can help people lower their insulin levels to healthy ranges. Read more on keto and insulin resistance



Even if you’re athletic, you can benefit from insulin optimization on keto through eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Getting Started

Getting started is simple: just dive in! It’s always good to spend some time cleaning out your kitchen pantry and adding in new staples. Check out our keto recommendations to start if you’re new and not sure what to get.

We also have a free newsletter that gives some extra goodies when you sign up. Subscribe for tools to help you succeed and inspiration to keep your meals fun!

How to Reach Ketosis



Achieving ketosis is pretty straightforward, but it can seem complicated and confusing with all of the information out there.4 Here’s the bottom line on what you need to do, ordered in levels of importance:

 

1.    Restrict your carbohydrates. Most people tend to only focus only on net carbs. If you want great results, limit both. Try to stay below 20g net carbs and below 35g total carbs per day. If you need extra help, we also have a small guide on finding your keto carb limit >

2.    Restrict your protein intake. Many people come over to keto from an Atkins diet and don’t limit their protein. Too much protein can lead to lower levels of ketosis. Ideally, you want to eat between 0.6g and 0.8g protein per pound lean body mass. To help with this, consider using the keto calculator >

3.    Stop worrying about fat. Fat is the primary source of energy on keto – so make sure you’re feeding your body enough of it. You do not lose weight on keto through starvation.

4.    Drink water. Try to drink a gallon of water a day. Make sure that you’re hydrating and staying consistent with the amount of water you drink. It not only helps regulate many vital bodily functions, but it also helps control hunger levels.

5.    Stop snacking. Weight loss tends to do better when you have fewer insulin spikes during the day. Unnecessary snacking may lead to stalls or slow in progress.

6.    Start fasting. Fasting can be a great tool to boost ketone levels consistently throughout the day. There are many different ways to go about it, so if you’re interested I suggest taking a look at our guide to keto and intermittent fasting >

7.    Add exercise in. It’s a known fact that exercise is healthy. If you want to get the most out of your ketogenic diet, consider adding in 20-30 minutes of exercise a day. Even just a small walk can help regulate weight loss and blood sugar levels.

8.    Start supplementing. Although not usually needed, supplementing can help with a ketogenic diet. Learn more about optimizing with supplements >

Interested in the process of ketosis and how it affects our bodies? Feel free to read more on what ketosis is >

Note: Always remember to be vigilant and make sure you’re checking ingredients on labels. It’s too often that you will find hidden carbs in products that seem keto-friendly.


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