When trying to achieve optimum health, there are several changes that one can make to their life. One of these changes involves what and how you eat on a daily basis. It is often said that your use of a fork can lead to an extension of your life or a reduction in your years.
Among the top diets that are used to manage weight and to experience overall health is the keto diet. You might have heard of it before. This article is a beginner’s guide to the keto diet. We will cover:
- What is a Keto Diet?
- 7 Key Steps to Achieve Ketosis
- What to Eat on a Keto Diet
- The Benefits of a Keto Diet
- Is Keto Bad For You?
After reading this article, you will have a clear understanding of the keto diet. Let us dive into it.
What is a Keto Diet?
The proper name for a keto diet is a ketogenic diet. This lifestyle features a diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in fats. This diet is typically used by individuals as a strategy to lose weight.
In addition to helping people to achieve their weight loss goals, the ketogenic diet has also been praised for its ability to reduce risk factors for illnesses such as diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and a host of other health challenges.
When you are on a keto diet, your body moves into a metabolic state that is known as ketosis. When your body is in this metabolic state, your body uses ketone bodies for energy as opposed to glucose.
The ketone bodies that are used in this process come from fat. Ketone bodies are far a far more stable and efficient source of energy than glucose. Glucose is derived from carbohydrates.
On the average ketogenic diet, it can take from 3 days to a week to enter ketosis. While you are in ketosis, your body will be using fat for energy and will not be depending on carbs. The fat that is burned in ketosis is fat that you consume and fat that you already have stored in your body. (1)
7 Key Steps to Achieve Ketosis
As mentioned before, the aim of the keto diet is to get your body into the metabolic state called ketosis. Here are 7 things that are required to get your body into ketosis:
Reduce Your Intake of Carbohydrates: To achieve and maintain ketosis, you must restrict your daily intake of carbohydrates to 20 digestible grams or lower. While you should reduce carbs, it is not necessary for you to restrict your intake of fiber as it may prove helpful in achieving ketosis.
To stay on track, we suggest that you search for low carb recipes and use a keto diet plan. This will help you to achieve your health goals.
Consume Sufficient Fat: This will ensure that you feel satisfied while maintaining your keto diet. A keto diet is typically high in fat because fat replaces the energy supply that is usually provided by carbohydrates.
This is where starvation and keto diets are completely different. While starvation results in ketosis, it is detrimental to your holistic health. Starvation is far from sustainable while a keto diet is completely sustainable and beneficial.
A proper keto diet will prevent you from feeling hungry. This is important because if your diet leaves you feeling hungry all day, you will be likely to abandon it and go back to your former eating routine.
This will not be the case with a keto diet. It is designed to keep you feeling energized and well. You will feel satisfied with tasty treats such as keto peanut butter cookies, keto yogurt, keto peanut butter and keto popcorn.
To feel satisfied and comfortable on a keto diet, it is important for you to eat enough foods that are high in protein, vegetables that contain low amounts of carbohydrates and enough added fat.
If you are on a keto diet and find yourself feeling hungry all the time, you need to assess your diet to find out if you are consuming enough protein.
Maintain an Appropriate Level of Protein Consumption: It must be noted that a ketogenic diet is not meant to be a diet that is loaded with protein. It is advisable for you to consume 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kg of your body weight on a daily basis.
In practical terms, this means that you would consume approximately 100 grams if your lean body mass weight is about 70 kg or 155 pounds.
There are many who criticize the keto diet and classify it as a diet that is way too high in protein. However, this accusation Is not true in most cases of people who practice the keto diet.
Another reason that this claim is false is that most people have a difficult time eating too much protein because it makes you feel so full.
Nevertheless, it is important that you consume sufficient protein on a keto diet. If you fail to do this for an extended period of time, you will be putting yourself at risk for potentially severe health challenges.
A lack of protein can lead to loss of muscle and bone. This can become a serious challenge as you grow older.
Resist the Temptation to Snack When You Are Not Hungry: If you constantly snack when you are not hungry, you are very likely to fall out of ketosis. Eating just as a past time activity or because there is food hanging around the place reduces ketosis and will have a negative impact on your weight goals.
Many use keto snacks as a go-to snack in between meals; however, these can still be harmful. Keto snacks may be less damaging, but it will prove much more beneficial to removing snaking when you are hungry completely. Instead, adjust your diet so that you will not need to eat between meals.
Intermittent Fasting Can Be Helpful: intermittent fasting has been proven to provide incredible weight management benefits. Many individuals who adopt the keto diet couple it with intermittent fasting. A practical way to use intermittent fasting is to skip breakfast and use only 8 hours of your day to eat.
The remaining 16 hours will be your fasting time. This practice can be very helpful in keeping you in ketosis because it boosts ketone levels.
It also speeds up weight loss and improves insulin resistance. The practice of intermittent fasting is usually very easy to do on a keto diet. (7)
Add Exercise to Your Routine: While exercise does not directly get your body to enter ketosis, it is extremely helpful in speeding up weight loss and improving type 2 diabetes.
It has also been proven that exercise has a moderate positive impact on ketone levels. Consider adding some form of physical activity to your daily routine while maintaining a low carb diet.
Get Sufficient Sleep and Properly Manage Stress: The average sleep requirement of each person is 8 hours. Some people do just great on 7 hours of sleep per night. Do all in your power to protect the time that you have designated for rest.
It is also extremely necessary that you keep your stress levels low to maintain ketosis and optimum health. If you allow yourself to become sleep deprived, stress hormones will raise blood sugar levels and ultimately slow ketosis and weight loss.
This also results in less resilience to fight the temptation to violate the rules of your keto diet. Take your sleep and stress management skills seriously as it will help you to maintain good health while remaining committed to your keto diet.
How to Know When You Are in Ketosis
To know whether or not your body is in ketosis, you will need to use a ketone test strip. This test can be done a few days after you have started your keto diet.
The ketone test strip will tell you the level of ketone bodies that are present in your urine. If the test strip reports that you have a high concentration of ketone bodies in your urine, then you have successfully entered ketosis.
Here are some other signs that can be used to tell if you have entered ketosis:
You are experiencing dry mouth and an increase in thirst: While in ketosis, you may experience dry mouth and a sharp increase in thirst. This may be avoided if you consistently consume enough water and pay close attention to your sodium intake.
To avoid this side effect of ketosis, try to consume a cup or two of bouillon on a daily basis and ensure that you drink enough water. Ketosis may also result in a metallic taste in your mouth. (8)
An increase in urination: In addition to an increase in thirst, you will naturally experience an increase in urination. You will also find that your urine will have a higher presence of a ketone body, acetoacetate.
The presence of this ketone body in your urine makes it possible to discover whether or not you are in ketosis with a test strip. (9)
You have keto breath: You will notice a difference in your breath while you are in ketosis. This comes as a result of a ketone body called acetone leaving your body through your breath.
The scent that you may experience will either be fruity or comparable to nail polish remover. You may also pick up this scent as you sweat during your exercise routines.
You don’t need to worry too much about this scent because it is only temporary and appears at the beginning of the ketosis metabolic state. (10)
A reduction in hunger: Many people who practice a keto diet have reported that they experience a marked reduction in hunger. It is often the case that many people who are on the keto diet feel quite fine eating only one or two meals per day.
Individuals on a keto diet usually organically practice intermittent fasting. This ends up saving those who practice this lifestyle time and money, while simultaneously hastening the weight loss process.
An increase in energy levels: After feeling tired for a few days, many people notice a sharp increase in their energy levels. A keto diet also typically results in clearer thinking and the removal of brain fog.
Some people have even reported experiencing a feeling of euphoria while on a keto diet.
What to eat on a Keto Diet
On a keto diet, there are some foods that you will be much better off avoiding completely, some that can be had in moderation and some that are great to have at will. Let’s look at some of these options.
To remain in ketosis, you should eat the following in moderation:
- Natural fats such as butter and olive oil
- Fish and other forms of seafood
- Vegetables that are grown above the ground
Remember that the most critical factor in achieving ketosis is minimizing your intake of carbohydrates. Keeping your intake of carbs below 50 grams is great, but below 20 grams is ideal if you want to achieve and maintain ketosis. If you are serious about maintaining ketosis, losing weight, managing/preventing type 2 diabetes, you must pay close attention to your carb intake and keep it as low as possible.
We know, the habit of counting carbs is not the greatest past time activity; however, there are ways that you can make the process of restricting your carb intake simpler. One such way is to develop or adopt a weekly or monthly meal plan that already has the right amount of carbs and other nutrients that you need to maintain ketosis.
Some foods that you should absolutely avoid are those that naturally have a high amount of carbohydrates. Whether it be carbs from sugar or from starch, you will not be able to maintain ketosis if you make a habit of eating these foods. Avoid the following food items if possible or only eat them very sparingly:
- Cooked pasta
- Cooked Rice
- Soda and other juices
- Chocolate bars
Having these food items consistently is a sure way to avoid getting into ketosis. On the other hand, if you avoid these items, you will be in a much better position to achieve ketosis. Another class of foods that should become illegal in your daily diet is highly processed foods. Instead, choose whole foods to have on your keto diet.
Also, stay away from low-fat diet products because they are typically high in carbs. Bear in mind that a keto diet is usually somewhat high in protein and fat. The additional fat in your diet will give you the energy you need to take on your daily activities. (11) (12)
Fruits on a Keto Diet
You might have been a little disturbed by the recommendation to avoid fruits. After all, fruits are among the healthiest foods on the planet, aren’t they?
You will receive instructions from dieticians and doctors about the importance of having a certain amount of fruit each day. Well, while fruits pack a variety of health benefits, you will find that many fruits have a carb content that will cause you to fall out of ketosis.
If you want to continue to include fruits in your diet while aiming to maintain ketosis, you should consider these healthy options:
Avocados: Many people are not aware that avocados are fruits. This may be because they are traditionally referred to and used as vegetables. Nonetheless, when it comes to its biology, it is classified as a fruit.
Avocados are an excellent source of heart-healthy fats and that is one of the many reasons why they make such an awesome addition to a keto diet.
Avocados are also low in net carbs. A 3.5-ounce serving of avocado contains approximately 8.5 grams of carbohydrates and about 7 grams of fiber.
Watermelon: Just hearing the name of this fruit makes you feel refreshed and hydrated. This flavorful fruit can be consumed on a keto diet.
Along with its incredible ability to hydrate, watermelon is reasonably low in net carbohydrates. A 1-cup serving of tasty watermelon contains around 11.5 grams of carbs and 0.5 grams of fiber.
Of course, this means that you will need to carefully ration the amount of watermelon that you will consume daily based on your daily carb consumption limit.
On a keto diet, balanced watermelon consumption will help in meeting your body’s need for a wide variety of nutrients including copper, potassium and vitamin C. Watermelon is also a source of lycopene.
Strawberries: These nutritious and delicious fruits are low in carbs while being high in fiber. These lovely fruits can easily be added to a keto diet without you having to worry about falling out of ketosis. A 1-cup serving of strawberries contain 11.7 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber.
Strawberries contain great micronutrients such as vitamin C, manganese, and folate. Just like other fruits that are classified as berries, strawberries are filled with antioxidants. You will find anthocyanins, ellagic acid, and procyanidins in strawberries. (17) (18) (19)
Lemons: This is one of the most popular citrus fruits in the world. It is often used to add a little flavor to drinks, meals, and desserts.
Lemons can be consumed on a keto diet without much concern. The average lemon contains around 5.5 grams of carbohydrates and 1.5 grams of fiber.
Lemons serve as an excellent source of pectin. This is a form of fiber that assists with the stabilization of blood sugar levels.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes are often classified and used by consumers as a vegetable; however, they are identified as fruits in the world of botany. Tomatoes have a lower carb content than many other fruits. As a result of this, they can easily be had while on a keto diet.
One cup of uncooked tomatoes has approximately 7 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of fiber.
Having this great fruit while on keto will help with weight loss because it has a low-calorie count.
Raspberries: These berries are considered to be one of the best in its group. It is low in carbohydrates and permissible on a ketogenic diet.
With 15 grams of carbohydrates and 8 grams of fiber in a 1 cup serving of raspberries, you must still be mindful of your carb intake allotment when considering consuming raspberries.
Eating raspberries helps you to get you the required amount of vitamin C, vitamin K, and copper. These berries are also loaded with antioxidants.
Cantaloupe: This fruit is closely related to watermelon and honeydew. It is a type of muskmelon. A serving of cantaloupe is relatively low in net carbs. This makes it something that you can have in moderation while being on a ketogenic diet.
A 1-cup serving of cantaloupe contains around 12.7 grams of carbohydrates and 1.5 grams of fiber.
Cantaloupe offers a great supply of folate, potassium, and vitamin K. Cantaloupe is also an excellent source of beta carotene. This is a plant pigment that helps to boost immune function and the health of your eyes.
Based on the amount of carbs present in a serving of cantaloupe, it is still important that you check it against your existing carb intake to ensure that you do not fall out of ketosis. (25)
Star Fruit: Another name for this tasty fruit is Carambola. This fruit is originally from Southeast Asia. As you probably already know or have assumed, this fruit is shaped like a star.
This fruit is not among the most popular fruits, but it is a relatively famous option among people on a keto diet. This is due to the fruit’s low carb content.
A single serving of star fruit contains around 7.3 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber. This keto-friendly fruit is loaded with vitamin C, copper, potassium, and pantothenic acid.
Fruits are often banished to the dungeon of impermissible foods on a keto diet; however, a closer look reveals that there are a number of fruits that can be had while on a keto diet.
Avocados, tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, lemons, and star fruit have relatively low carbohydrate content.
What to Drink on Keto Diet?
The best things to drink on a keto diet include water, tea, and coffee. It is also critical that you avoid sweeteners. The sweetener that you should avoid as much as is possible is sugar. There are sweeteners available like keto honey but be sure to have this in moderation.
Using a bit of milk or cream to add a little flair to your coffee or tea is not detrimental; however, be sure to do this within the context of your daily carbohydrate cap.
You may also be able to find keto iced coffee that tastes great but helps you to remain in ketosis. Feeling for something with a little punch? Having a glass of wine every now and again is okay.
Because the focus of a ketogenic diet is to get your body into a metabolic state that burns fat rapidly, a keto diet is an excellent tool for reducing an individual’s weight. While burning fat, your insulin levels drop as well.
Insulin is the hormone in your body that stores fat. As a result of the decline in insulin, fat burning becomes much more efficient and faster.
There is an abundance of scientific research available that substantiates the fact that keto diets result in more weight loss than other diets.
While practicing a ketogenic diet, it is a common result that individuals experience less intense hunger. This empowers you to maintain your weight and to make better decisions about the kinds of food that you allow to enter your body.
Having control of your appetite makes it possible to eat less and lose excess weight. You will find it much easier to wait until you are actually hungry before you eat.
You will also be in a better position to leverage the power of intermittent fasting with the level of appetite control you will achieve with a keto diet.
By controlling your appetite, you will be able to avoid previous eating practices that would normally waste your time and money. There are many people on a keto diet who only eat twice a day.
As a matter of fact, there are some who are quite comfortable with eating only one meal per day.
Blood Sugar Control and type 2 Diabetes Management
There are a number of studies that suggest that a ketogenic diet can be helpful in managing type 2 diabetes. There have even been reports of this diet completely reversing diabetes.
This benefit is made possible by the fact that keto reduces blood sugar levels. This would suggest that a keto diet reduces the need for prescribed medicine.
It also reveals that a ketogenic diet can also minimize the possible negative impact of high insulin levels.
The fact that a ketogenic diet can help to manage type 2 diabetes shows that the diet is also useful in preventing it as well. It can also serve as a tool to reverse pre-diabetes.
Improvement in Health Markers
There are a number of studies that prove that low-carb diets improve a number of critical risk factors for heart disease. This includes your cholesterol profile, which consists of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and triglycerides.
Keto diets typically produce a moderate effect on total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.
It is also commonly reported by those who practice a keto diet that they experience improvement in blood sugar levels, insulin levels and blood pressure.
Increase in Energy and Mental Sharpness
There are some people who jump onto the keto diet solely to experience the mental performance benefits that it offers. Along with increasing mental performance, the diet also results in an increase in energy levels.
While you are in a state of ketosis, your brain receives fuel from ketones around the clock. It also uses less glucose synthesized by your liver. While you are on a keto diet, your brain does not need dietary fiber to function effectively.
The bottom line is that ketosis results in your body having a steady flow of fuel. This helps to protect your brain from the problems experienced with dips and rises in blood sugar levels.
The ultimate benefit of ketosis on the brain is that it will be able to focus better, contrate, and your brain will be free of brain fog.
A Stable Stomach
By maintaining a keto diet, you will experience less gas, fewer stomach cramps and far less pain. Overall, ketosis results in a calmer stomach.
Enhanced Physical Performance
Due to the amount of energy that comes from burning fat, you will, in theory, experience much more physical endurance when you maintain a keto diet.
When you subsist on carbohydrates, you only have a limited supply of energy. This is so because stored carbohydrates only last for a few hours or less during intense physical activity.
On the other hand, your body’s fat stores can fuel physical activity for weeks. A study done by Kristin L. Harvey, Lola E. Holcomb, and Stephen C. Kolwicz, Jr. speaks to the benefits of ketogenic diets for exercise performance.
The ketogenic diet has been used as a medical therapy for epilepsy since the 1920s. It was originally used to treat children; however, it has been used to address adults with epilepsy in recent times.
By adopting a ketogenic diet, individuals who have challenges with epilepsy can eventually take fewer drugs to address the issue.
They may even get to a point where they no longer need anti-epileptic drugs while still existing free of seizures.
Is Keto bad for you?
Keto has come under much attack due to some of the side effects that many people have experienced while on the diet.
The truth is that shifting your body from one metabolic state to another will naturally result in some reactions that may be unfavorable at first but will stabilize as your body adjusts and gets used to the changes.
This is the case with the keto diet from day two through to day five. You are likely to experience some negative reactions as your body transitions from burning glucose to burning fat and ketones.
Some of the symptoms may be:
- Muscle Fatigue
- Heart Palpitations
While these side effects are common, they are typically short-lived. It is important to note as well that these effects can be minimized and even cured.
One of the best ways to avoid the negative effects of transitioning to a ketogenic diet is to do so in phases.
By gradually adjusting your life to the principles of a ketogenic diet, you will be reducing the impact that the diet has on your body during the transition phase. Bear in mind that this will slow the results that you stand to experience from a keto diet over the short term.
This is not something to be too concerned about because the long-term benefits of the diet will still be available to you if you remain consistent and committed to the keto diet.
Two things that can be stopped all at once are your sugar intake and your consumption of starch.
This will result in you losing a notable amount of weight in merely a couple of days. In actuality, much of the weight that you will lose in these first few days is water weight, but it is still great to shed those unnecessary pounds. (30) (31) (32)
What is Keto Flu?
Common among those who are just beginning the keto journey is what is called the “Keto Flu”. This is a set of symptoms or side effects that a newcomer to the world of keto will experience within a couple of days of beginning the diet. Here are some of the symptoms of “keto flu”:
Headache (also referred to as keto headache)
- Light nausea
- Difficulty focusing (also known as brain fog)
- Lack of motivation
These symptoms typically vanish in no more than two weeks once when your body gets used to the sharp increase in fat burning.
What’s responsible for the symptoms of “keto flu” is the shedding of the water from a high-carb diet. As this water is lost, some of your body’s salts are lost as well in urination. This can result in dehydration and salt deficiency.
By consuming sufficient water and sodium, you can drastically reduce the effects of the keto flu.
There are some serious controversies that have been floating around about the keto diet. One of the popular ones is that your brain will stop working because of the major reduction in carbohydrates.
This is a total farse and reveals a lack of understanding of how the body functions during ketosis. The brain will be fueled by ketones and will function perfectly while you are on a keto diet.
Another reason that many are scared away from ketogenic diets is that normal ketosis is often confused with the medical emergency ketoacidosis. These are two completely different things. You will not experience ketoacidosis by eating a balanced ketogenic diet.
The benefits of a keto diet are clear. By adopting this low-carb and higher-fat diet, you are likely to lose the weight that you have been struggling for years lose. Weight loss is but one of the many benefits that you will be able to tap into.
Many are afraid to adopt the keto diet because e they believe the food options are limited. This is far from the truth. You will be able to find keto ice cream brands, keto zucchini bread, keto cereals, keto meatloaf, and a number of other keto-friendly food items to satisfy you.
The primary focus is that you keep your carb intake very low. If you fail to do this, you will not achieve ketosis, which is the targeted metabolic state of this diet.
As discussed in this article, there are several controversial information swirling around about keto diets; however, research has shown that the diet is helpful.
While there are some negative reactions that may be experienced as your body transitions from being fueled by carbohydrates to being fueled by fat, these are merely temporary. After completing the first few days of keto, you will no longer feel these effects.