The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide To The Ketogenic Diet
Keto Diet Guide for Beginners
The ketogenic diet (or keto diet, in its abbreviated form) is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that offers an array of health benefits.
In fact, about 20 studies show that this type of diet can help you lose weight and improve your health. This is great news for those struggling with weight gain, or are at a weight plateau.
Ketogenic diets have benefits even against diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.
Below, we reveal a detailed guide for beginners about the keto diet, so you can start this type of eating pattern of eating the right way.
What is the ketogenic diet?
Good question. Essentially the ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that shares many similarities with Atkins and low-carb diets.
However, this diet involves reducing carbohydrates drastically and replacing them with fats. This radical decrease of carbs exposes the body to a metabolic state called ketosis.
When this happens, the body becomes a fat burning machine, enabling it to convert all the fat into energy. It also converts fat into ketones inside the liver, which can supply more energy to the brain. Hence why many people on this type of diet talk about having clearer minds.
The ketogenic diets can cause reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, together with the increase in ketones, provides numerous health benefits.
The keto diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. It reduces blood sugar and insulin levels, and there is a transition in the body’s metabolism where carbohydrates are replaced by fats and ketones.
Different types of ketogenic diets
There are many versions of the ketogenic diets, including:
- The standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This is a very low carbohydrate eating plan, with a moderate intake of protein and high in fat. Normally it contains 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbohydrates.
- The Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): This allows you to add carbohydrates on training days.
- The Cyclic Ketogenic Diet (CKD): This plan involves periods of higher carbohydrate refills, for example, 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 days with carbohydrates.
- The ketogenic diet high in proteins: Similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more proteins. The normal thing is usually 60% of fats, 35% of proteins and 5% of carbohydrates.
However, only standard and high protein ketogenic diets have been thoroughly studied. Cyclic or adapted diets are more advanced methods and are mainly used by athletes or bodybuilders.
The information in this article applies primarily to the standard ketogenic diet (SKD), although most of the principles also apply to the other types.
There are many versions of the keto diet. The standard version (SKD) is the most researched and recommended.
Ketogenic diets can help you lose weight
A ketogenic diet is an effective way to lose weight and decrease risk factors in some diseases.
In fact, research shows that the ketogenic diet outperforms low-fat diets that are often recommended.
Moreover, the primary goal of the diet is that you lose weight without having to count calories or track food intake. So for those that fall off the diet bandwagon because of hunger, this will comes as a great relief.
One study found that people who follow the ketogenic diet lost, on average, 2.2 times more weight than those who reduce calories and fat. Triglycerides and HDL cholesterol levels also showed an improvement.
Another study found that people on the ketogenic diets lost 3 times more weight than those who followed traditional diets recommended by the Diabetes UK (UK charity).
Along with the scientific back up, there are many reasons why the ketogenic diet is better than low-fat diets. Some of which we will be exploring next
A ketogenic diet can help you lose much more weight than a low fat diet, which can be achieved without starving yourself.
Ketogenic diets for diabetes and prediabetes
Diabetes is characterized by changes in metabolism, increase in blood sugar and deterioration in insulin functions.
For those who suffer from diabetes or have insulin resistance, the ketogenic diet can help in losing 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 a whooping 75%.
In another study on people suffering from type 2 diabetes it was found that 7 of the 21 participants were able to stop the use of all diabetes medications.
Other research found that the ketogenic group lost 24.4 pounds (11.1 kg), compared to the 15.2 pounds (6.9 kg) lost by the group with high carbohydrate intakes. This is an important benefit if we consider the relationship between excess weight and type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, 95.2% of the ketogenic group was able to stop or reduce diabetes medicines, compared to 62% of the group with high carbohydrate intakes.
The ketogenic diet can boost insulin sensitivity and cause a loss of fat, which brings many health benefits in people suffering from type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
Other health benefits of keto diet
The current ketogenic diet originated as a way to treat neurological diseases, such as epilepsy.
Some studies have shown that diet can have benefits in a wide variety of diseases:
- Heart disease: The ketogenic diet can improve risk factors such as body fat, HDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure and sugar present in the blood.
- Alzheimer’s: Dietary keto could reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms and slow down its progression.
- Cancer: Currently, this diet has been used to treat many types of cancer and reduce the growth of tumors.
- Epilepsy: Research has shown that the ketogenic diet can greatly reduce epileptic seizures in children.
- Parkinson: One study found that diet helped improve Parkinson’s symptoms.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome: The ketogenic diet can help reduce insulin levels, which could play a key role in polycystic ovarian syndrome.
- Brain injuries: A study in animals found that diet can reduce concussions and help the patient’s recovery after suffering these injuries.
- Acne: The decrease in insulin levels and the reduction in the intake of sugar or processed foods could improve acne.
However, it should be taken into account that the studies carried out are far from conclusive.
A ketogenic diet could provide many health benefits, especially in metabolic, neurological or insulin-related diseases.
Foods to avoid on ketogenic diet
Any food high in carbohydrates should be avoided.
Here is a list of foods that should be reduced or eliminated in a ketogenic diet:
- Sugary foods: Soft drinks, fruit juices, smoothies, cakes, ice cream, sweets, etc.
- Cereals or starches: Products derived from wheat, rice, pasta, cereals, etc.
- Fruit: All fruits except small portions of berries, such as strawberries.
- Beans or legumes: Peas, red beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
- Vegetables root and tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
- Dietary or low fat products: They are usually highly processed and rich in carbohydrates.
- Some condiments or sauces: Above all, those that contain sugar and saturated fats.
- Saturated fats: Limit the intake of refined oils, mayonnaise, etc.
- Alcohol: Due to its high carbohydrate content, many alcoholic beverages must be eliminated in a ketogenic diet.
- Dietary foods without sugars: They are usually rich in sugar alcohols, which can affect ketone levels. These foods also tend to be highly processed.
Avoid foods rich in carbohydrates, such as cereals, sugars, legumes, rice, potatoes, sweets, juices and most fruits.
Foods to eat on a ketogenic diet
You should base most of your meals around these foods:
- Meat: Red meat, ribeye, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken and turkey.
- Fatty fish: Like salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel.
- Eggs: Look for eggs rich in omega 3 and pasteurized.
- Butter and cream: If possible, look for foods that have been fed grass.
- Cheese: Cheese not processed (cheddar, goat, creamy, blue or mozzarella).
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, nuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
- Healthy oils: Especially, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil.
- Avocado: Whole avocados or guacamole made naturally.
- Low carb vegetables: Most green vegetables, tomatoes, onions and peppers, etc.
- Condiments: You can use salt, pepper, some herbs and healthy spices.
It is recommended that you base your diet on whole foods with a single ingredient.
Base most of your food on foods such as meat, eggs, butter, healthy oils, avocados, and low-carb vegetables.
Example: Ketogenic feeding plan for 1 week
To help you get started, here is an example of a food and ketogenic plan for 1 week:
- Breakfast: Bacon (or chicken), eggs and tomatoes.
- Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil and feta cheese.
- Dinner: Salmon with asparagus cooked in butter.
- Breakfast: Eggs, tomatoes, basil and goat cheese omelet.
- Lunch: Almond milk, peanut butter, cocoa powder and milk shake with stevia.
- Dinner: Meatballs, cheddar cheese and vegetables.
- Breakfast: A ketogenic milkshake.
- Lunch: Seafood 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 accompanied by vegetables.
- Breakfast: Sugar-free yogurt with peanut butter, cocoa powder and stevia.
- Lunch: Veal sautéed and cooked in coconut oil with vegetables.
- Dinner: Little burger made with bacon, egg and cheese.
- Breakfast: Cheese and ham omelet with vegetables.
- Lunch: Some slices of ham and cheese with walnuts.
- Dinner: White fish, eggs and spinach cooked in olive oil.
- Breakfast: Fried eggs with bacon and mushrooms.
- Lunch: Hamburger with salsa, cheese and guacamole.
- Dinner: Fillets with eggs and salad.
Try to vary your vegetables and meat, rather than sticking to one set way of eating. This is because each one provides different nutrients and health benefits.
You can eat a wide variety of tasty and nutritious foods in a ketogenic diet.
Ketogenic and healthy appetizers
In case you are hungry between meals, below you will find some ketogenic and healthy appetizers:
- Fatty meat or fish
- A handful of nuts or seeds
- Cheese with olives
- 1 or 2 hard boiled eggs
- Black chocolate 90%
- Try this low carb milkshake with almond milk, some nut butter and cocoa powder
- Whole milk yogurt with nut butter and cocoa powder
- Strawberries and cream
- Celery with salsa and guacamole
- Smaller portions of leftovers from meals
The best appetizers for a ketogenic diet include pieces of meat, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, nuts and dark chocolate.
Tips for eating out and follow a ketogenic diet
Nowadays there are many restaurants that serve ketogenic foods, so eating out is never an excuse to veer off course.
Most restaurants offer meat or fish dishes. You can order any of these foods and replace any meal rich in carbohydrates with extra vegetables.
Meals with eggs are also a great option, like an omelette or eggs with cheese or any other meat.
Another ideal dish is a little burger. You could also replace the chips with vegetables. 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, you can order a table with assorted cheeses or fruits of the forest with cream.
When eating out, ask for a dish with meat, fish or eggs. Add extra vegetables instead of carbohydrates or starches and eat cheese at dessert.
Side effects of ketogenic diet and how to minimize them
Although the ketogenic diet is safe for healthy people, some side effects may appear at first until the body adapts.
You may suffer the famous keto flu, which lasts a few days.
The keto flu causes a drop in energy and mental capacity, and an increase in hunger, sleep issues, nausea, digestive upset and decreased performance in exercise.
Sounds pretty awful
However, there is a way to minimize these problems. As an alternative, you can try following a standard, low-carbohydrate diet during the first week. This could teach the body to burn more fat before it completely eliminates carbohydrates.
A ketogenic diet can also change the balance of water and minerals in the body, so you can add extra salt to meals or take mineral supplements.
In relation to minerals, try to take between 3,000 and 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 feel full and avoid restricting too many calories. Besides, the ketogenic diet normally causes weight loss without an intentional caloric reduction.
Many of the side effects when starting with the ketogenic diet can be reduced. Introducing the diet little by little and taking mineral supplements can improve them.
Supplements for a ketogenic diet
Although it is not necessary to take supplements, they can be useful.
- MCT oil: Add it to drinks or yogurt, as it provides energy and helps increase ketone levels. Check out several options at Amazon.
- Minerals: Add salt and other minerals when the diet begins, as it may be important to balance water and mineral levels.
- Caffeine: Caffeine has benefits for energy, performance and fat loss.
- Exogenous ketones: This supplement may help increase the levels of ketone in the body.
- Creatine: Delivers numerous benefits for health and performance. It can help if you combine a ketogenic diet with exercise.
- Whey protein: Pour half a tablespoon of whey protein in shakes or yogurt to increase daily protein intake.
Some supplements can be beneficial in the ketogenic diet. Among them, we find exogenous ketones, TMC oil and minerals.
Frequently asked questions
Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about the ketogenic diet.
1. can you eat carbohydrates on a ketogenic diet?
Yes, but it is important that you reduce carbohydrate intake significantly. After the first 2 or 3 months, you can eat carbs on special occasions, but return to the diet immediately afterwards.
2. Will I lose muscle?
There is a risk of losing muscle in any diet. However, high protein intake and ketone levels can help minimize muscle loss, especially if you lift weights.
3. can I build muscles with a ketogenic diet
In short yes, but it will not be as easy as on a moderate carb diet.
4. Will I need to refeed on a carbohydrate diet?
No, but it may be beneficial to incorporate some days with more calories than normal.
5. How many proteins can I ingest?
Proteins should be moderate, since high intake can cause spikes in insulin levels and decrease ketones. The maximum limit is probably the intake of 35% total calories.
6. What happens if I constantly feel tired, weak or fatigued?
It is possible that you are not performing the ketogenic diet properly or that your body does not use fats and ketones correctly. To counteract it, reduce carbohydrate intake and continue with the tips discussed above. It may also help to take MCT oil supplements or ketones.
7. Why does my urine smell like fruit?
Do not worry, it is simply due to the elimination of products created during ketosis.
8. What can I do if my breath stinks?
It is a very common side effect. Try drinking water flavored with natural fruits or chew gum without sugar.
9. Is it true that ketosis is dangerous?
People often confuse ketosis with ketoacidosis. The first is a natural procedure, while the second only occurs when there is uncontrolled diabetes.
Ketoacidosis is dangerous, but the ketosis that occurs during a ketogenic diet is perfectly normal and healthy.
10. What can I do if I have problems with digestion and diarrhea?
This side effect usually happens after 3 or 4 weeks. If it persists, try eating more fiber-rich vegetables. Magnesium supplements can also help with constipation.
Ketogenic diets are great, but not for everyone
A ketogenic diet can be great for people who are overweight, diabetic or who want to improve their metabolic health.
It may be less suitable for elite athletes or those who want to build a lot of muscle or weight.
Also, like any diet, it will only work if you work hard and are consistent. The results will appear in the long term.
Having said that, few things are as proven in nutrition as the powerful health benefits and weight loss achieved with a ketogenic diet.
So use our guide and give it a go and see if it’s right for you.