What is it
The ketogenic diet (or keto diet, for short) is a low-carbohydrate, high-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 guide for keto diet beginners.
What is a ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet is a very low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins and low-carbohydrate diets.
It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbohydrates puts your body in a metabolic state called ketosis.
When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient to burn fat and get energy. It also converts fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy to the brain .
Ketogenic diets can cause massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increase in ketones, has numerous health benefits (6, 8, 9, 10, 11).
The keto diet is a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat. It lowers blood sugar and insulin levels, and alters the body’s metabolism of carbohydrates and fats and ketones.
Different types of ketogenic diets
There are several versions of the ketogenic diet, including:
Standard ketogenic diet (SKD): this is a diet very low in carbohydrates, moderate in proteins and high in fats. Normally it contains 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbohydrates.
Cyclic ketogenic diet (CKD): this diet involves periods of high carbohydrate feedback, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 days with high carbohydrates.
Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): this diet allows you to add carbohydrates around workouts.
High protein ketogenic diet: it is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but it includes more proteins. The proportion is often 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbohydrate.
However, only standard and high protein ketogenic diets have been studied extensively. Guided or cyclic ketogenic diets are more advanced methods and are mainly used by bodybuilders or athletes.
The information in this article applies mainly to the standard ketogenic diet (SKD), although many of the same principles also apply to the other versions.
There are several versions of the keto diet. The standard version (SKD) is the most researched and most recommended.
Ketogenic diets can help you lose weight
A ketogenic diet is an effective way to lose weight and reduce risk factors for disease.
In fact, research shows that the ketogenic diet is far superior to the low fat diet that is frequently recommended.
In addition, the diet is so abundant that you can lose weight without counting calories or tracking your food intake.
One study found that people with a ketogenic diet lost 2.2 times more weight than those with a low-fat, low-calorie diet. Triglycerides and HDL cholesterol levels also improved.
Another study found that people with a ketogenic diet lost 3 times more weight than people on a diet recommended by Diabetes UK.
There are several reasons why a ketogenic diet is superior to a low-fat diet, including an increase in protein intake, which provides numerous benefits.
Increased ketones, lower blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity may also play a key role.
For more details on the effects of weight loss of a ketogenic diet, read this article.
A ketogenic diet can help you lose much more weight than a low-fat diet. This happens often without hunger.
Ketogenic diets for diabetes and prediabetes
Diabetes is characterized by changes in metabolism, high blood sugar levels and poor insulin function.
The ketogenic diet can help you lose excess fat, which is closely related to type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and metabolic syndrome.
One study found that the ketogenic diet improved insulin sensitivity by 75%.
Another study in people with type 2 diabetes found that 7 of the 21 participants could stop using all medications for diabetes.
In another study, the ketogenic group lost 24.4 pounds (11.1 kg), compared to 15.2 pounds (6.9 kg) in the group with the highest carbohydrate content. This is an important benefit when considering the relationship between weight and type 2 diabetes.
In addition, 95.2% of the ketogenic group could also stop or reduce diabetes medication, compared to 62% in the group with the highest carbohydrate content.
For more information, see this article on the benefits of low-carb diets for people with diabetes.
The ketogenic diet can increase insulin sensitivity and cause fat loss, which generates important health benefits for people with type 2 and type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
Other health benefits of Keto
The ketogenic diet actually originated as a tool to treat neurological diseases such as epilepsy.
Studies have now shown that diet can have benefits for a wide variety of different health conditions:
Heart disease: the ketogenic diet can improve risk factors such as body fat, HDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood sugar.
Cancer: the diet is currently being used to treat several types of cancer and slow tumor growth.
Alzheimer’s disease: the keto diet can reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and delay its progression.
Epilepsy: research has shown that the ketogenic diet can cause massive reductions in seizures in epileptic children.
Parkinson’s disease: one study found that diet helped improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Polycystic ovary syndrome: the ketogenic diet can help reduce insulin levels, which can play a key role in polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Brain injury: an animal study found that diet can reduce concussions and help recovery after a brain injury.
Acne: Lowering insulin levels and eating less sugar or processed foods can help improve acne.
However, keep in mind that research in many of these areas is far from conclusive.
A ketogenic diet can provide many health benefits, especially with metabolic, neurological or insulin-related diseases.
The foods that should be avoided
Any food that is high in carbohydrates should be limited.
Here is a list of foods that should be reduced or eliminated in a ketogenic diet:
Sugary foods: soft drinks, fruit juices, milkshakes, cakes, ice cream, sweets, etc.
Grains or starches: products based on wheat, rice, pasta, cereal, etc.
Fruits: All fruits, except small portions of berries such as strawberries.
Beans or legumes: peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
Roots and tubers: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
Products with low fat content or diet: they are highly processed and often have a high carbohydrate content.
Some condiments or sauces: they often contain sugar and unhealthy fat.
Unhealthy fats: Limit your consumption of processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
Alcohol: due to its carbohydrate content, many alcoholic beverages can expel it from ketosis.
Dietary foods without sugar: they are often high in sugar alcohols, which can affect ketone levels in some cases. These foods also tend to be highly processed.
Avoid carbohydrate-based foods like grains, sugars, legumes, rice, potatoes, sweets, juices and even most fruits.
Food to eat
You should base most of your meals on these foods:
Meats: Red meats, meats, hams, sausages, bacon, chicken and turkey.
Fatty fish: like salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel.
Eggs: Look for whole eggs grazed or omega-3.
Butter and cream: look if you feed on grass when possible.
Cheese: Raw cheese (cheddar cheese, goat, cream, blue or mozzarella).
Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
Healthy oils: mainly extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil.
Avocados: Whole avocados or freshly made guacamole.
Vegetables low in carbohydrates: most green vegetables, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
Condiments: You can use salt, pepper and various herbs and healthy spices.
It is better to base your diet mainly on whole-grain foods of a single ingredient. Here is a list of 44 healthy low carb foods.
Base the majority of your diet on foods such as meat, fish, eggs, butter, nuts, healthy oils, avocados and plenty of low-carb veggies.
A sample Keto meal plan for 1 week
To help you get started, here is a sample of a ketogenic diet plan for a week:
Breakfast: Bacon, eggs and tomatoes.
Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil and feta cheese.
Dinner: Salmon With Asparagus Cooked In Butter.
Breakfast: Omelet of egg, tomato, basil and goat cheese.
Lunch: Almond milk, peanut butter, cocoa powder and stevia shake.
Dinner: Meatballs, cheddar cheese and vegetables.
Breakfast: a ketogenic shake (try this or that).
Lunch: Shrimp Salad With Olive Oil And Avocado.
Dinner: Pork chops with parmesan cheese, broccoli and salad.
Breakfast: Tortilla with avocado, sauce, peppers, onion and spices.
Lunch: A handful of walnuts and celery sticks with guacamole and salsa.
Dinner: Chicken stuffed with pesto and cream cheese, along with vegetables.
Breakfast: sugar-free yogurt with peanut butter, cocoa powder and stevia.
Lunch: Sautéed meat cooked in coconut oil with vegetables.
Dinner: hamburger without bread with bacon, egg and cheese.
Breakfast: Ham and cheese omelet with vegetables.
Lunch: slices of ham and cheese with walnuts.
Dinner: White fish, egg and spinach cooked in coconut oil.
Breakfast: Fried eggs with bacon and mushrooms.
Lunch: Hamburger with salsa, cheese and guacamole.
Dinner: Steak and eggs with salad.
Always try to rotate vegetables and meat in the long term, as each type provides different nutrients and health benefits.
You can eat a wide variety of tasty and nutritious meals in a ketogenic diet.
Healthy keto snacks
In case you are hungry between meals, here are some healthy snacks approved by keto:
Meat or fatty fish
A handful of nuts or seeds.
Cheese with olives
1-2 hard boiled eggs
90% dark chocolate
A low carb shake with almond milk, cocoa powder and nut butter
Yogurt filled with fat mixed with nut butter and cocoa powder
Strawberries and cream
Celery with salsa and guacamole.
Smaller portions of leftover foods.
The best snacks for a keto diet include pieces of meat, cheese, olives, boiled eggs, nuts and dark chocolate.
Tips for eating out on a ketogenic diet
It is not very difficult to make most restaurant meals pleasant when eating.
Most restaurants offer some type of meat or fish dish. Order this, and replace any high-carbohydrate foods with additional vegetables.
Egg-based meals are also a great option, like an omelette or eggs and bacon.
Another favorite is burgers without bread. You can also change french fries for vegetables. Add the 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 table of mixed cheeses or berries with cream.
When you go out to eat, select a dish based on meat, fish or egg. Order extra vegetables instead of carbohydrates or starches and have cheese for dessert.
Side effects and how to minimize them
Although the ketogenic diet is safe for healthy people, there may be some initial side effects while your body adjusts.
This is often referred to as the keto flu and usually ends in a few days.
The keto flu includes low energy and mental function, increased hunger, sleep problems, nausea, digestive upset and decreased exercise performance.
To minimize this, you can try a regular low carb diet during the first few weeks. This can teach your body to burn more fat before completely eliminating carbohydrates.
A ketogenic diet can also change 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.
At least at the beginning, it is important to eat until you are satisfied and avoid restricting too much calories. In general, a ketogenic diet causes weight loss without intentional caloric restriction.
Many of the side effects of starting a ketogenic diet may be limited. Facilitating diet and taking mineral supplements can help.
Supplements for a ketogenic diet
Although supplements are not required, some may be useful.
MCT oil: added to beverages or yogurt, MCT oil provides energy and helps increase ketone levels. Take a look at several options in Amazon
Minerals: added salt and other minerals may be important at the start due to changes in the balance of water and minerals.
Caffeine: Caffeine can have benefits for energy, fat loss and performance.
Exogenous ketones: This supplement can help raise the body’s ketone levels.
Creatine: Creatine provides numerous benefits for health and performance. This can help if you are combining a ketogenic diet with exercise.
Whey: use half a tablespoon of whey protein in shakes or yogurt to increase your daily protein intake. You can find many tasty products on Amazon.
Certain supplements may be beneficial in a ketogenic diet. These include exogenous ketones, MCT oil and minerals.
Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about the ketogenic diet.
1. Can I eat carbohydrates again?
Yes. However, it is important to significantly reduce carbohydrate intake initially. After the first 2 or 3 months, you can eat carbohydrates on special occasions; just go back to the diet immediately afterwards.
2. Will I lose muscle?
There is a risk of losing some muscle in any diet. However, high protein intake and high levels of ketone can help minimize muscle loss, especially if you lift weights.
3. Can I build muscle in a ketogenic diet?
Yes, but it may not work as well as on a moderate carbohydrate diet. For more details on low carbohydrate or keto diets and exercise performance, read this article.
4. Do I need to refuel or load carb?
No. However, a few days with more calories can be beneficial from time to time.
5. How much protein can I eat?
The protein should be moderate, since a very high intake can increase insulin levels and decrease ketones. About 35% of total caloric intake is probably the upper limit.
6. What if I am constantly tired, weak or fatigued?
You may not be in complete ketosis or you may be using fats and ketones efficiently. To counteract this, reduce your carbohydrate intake and revisit the previous points. A supplement such as MCT oil or ketones can also help.
7. My urine smells like fruit. Why is this?
Do not be alarmed. This is simply due to the excretion of byproducts created during ketosis.
8. My breath smells. What I can do?
This is a common side effect.
Connecticut. Try drinking water with natural flavor or chewing gum without sugar.
9. I heard that ketosis was extremely dangerous. Is this true?
People often confuse ketosis with ketoacidosis. The first is natural, while the latter only occurs in uncontrolled diabetes.
Ketoacidosis is dangerous, but ketosis in a ketogenic diet is perfectly normal and healthy.
10. I have problems with digestion and diarrhea. What I can do?
This common side effect usually happens after 3 to 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 excellent for people who are overweight, diabetic or seeking to improve their metabolic health.
It may be less suitable for elite athletes or those who wish to add large amounts of muscle or weight.
And, as with any diet, it will only work if you are consistent and keep it long term.
That said, few things are as proven in nutrition as the powerful health benefits and weight loss of a ketogenic diet.
And if you are very serious about losing weight, you must try a Free weight loss kickstart, nothing to lose, and all the world to gain.