The ketogenic diet might not be a foreign term for you, since it has been in the spotlight among celebrities and nutrition providers. You being here means you are curious, yes? What is the fuss about? You may even want to start your keto diet journey, but are looking to answer some questions.
I am here for you! Consider this your keto diet for beginners guide, all you need to know on how to keto diet right. By reading this you will learn what a ketogenic diet is, how it works to achieve its benefits, the types of ketogenic diets, the dos and don’ts of a ketogenic diet, and how to start your keto diet.
Exciting, right? Buckle up, your journey on ketogenic diets starts now.
What Is A Keto Diet?
Also referred to as a low-carb diet, a low-carb, high-fat diet (LCHF), and a ketogenic diet, a keto diet is simply a low-carb diet, high-fat diet. It involves limiting carb intake to induce ketosis.
Why Limit Carb Intake?
What happens in your body when there’s a high carb intake? Your insulin levels rise to break down starch into glucose, your body’s first source of fuel. What of the excess glucose? After your body has gotten enough fuel, it will convert excess glucose into body fat for storage.
So why does your favorite Instagram influencer vouch for an ultra-low-carb diet being the best for weight loss? When you reduce your carb intake, your body is forced into a state of ketosis. The million-dollar question is, what is ketosis?
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is the switch to body fat and dietary fat as the main source of energy when on a low-carb diet. A keto diet deprives your body of glucose (in carbs) forcing it to burn fat increasing ketone levels which can be used as an energy source. This leads to many health benefits, including weight loss, blood sugar control, and reduced risks of chronic illness.
What Are Other Types Of Low-carb Diets?
There are a few low-carb diets a beginner can choose from to help them lose weight by promoting burning fat.
This diet is a low-carb diet introduced in the 60s. It is a restrictive diet that focuses on fat and protein intake to promote weight loss. It is a 4-phase plan that assists you to lose weight.
Phase 1 involves restricting carb intake to under 20g for the first 2 weeks. Focus is shifted to eating protein-rich foods and high-fat diets to trigger weight loss.
Phase 2 involves balancing. You will slowly reintroduce nuts, some fruits, and low-carb veggies to your diet.
Phase 3 starts when you are close to achieving your weight loss goals. You will increase your net carbs until weight loss slows down.
The final stage, phase 4 is about maintaining a healthy weight while still on an Atkins lifestyle. Net carbs are limited to 100g per day.
This diet focuses on foods from the Paleolithic era. Foods consumed include meats, fruits, eggs, vegetables, fish, nuts, and seeds. This diet limits, grains, beans, and sugar consumption. The main difference between the paleo and keto diets is, while the keto eating plan focuses on low-carb, high-fat foods, paleo plans are based on whole and not processed foods.
Types Of Ketogenic Diets
There are different types of keto diets you can choose from:
A standard ketogenic diet is a high-fat diet, low-carbohydrate diet, and moderate protein diet. Caloric distribution is 70% from fat intake, 10% from carbs, and 20% from protein intake.
The other variation of the ketogenic diet is the cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD) which involved high-carb refeeding periods after ketogenic diet days. In this keto diet, you can consume low-carb foods for 5 days, then eat high-carb foods for the remaining two days.
A targeted ketogenic diet allows you to incorporate carbs into your workout.
Finally, a high-protein ketogenic diet is similar to the standard ketogenic diet. The difference is in this type one consumes too much protein. Thirty-five percent of total calories come from protein-rich foods.
What Should You Eat On A Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet, like any other restrictive diet, has its dos and don’ts. Keto dieters are meant to consume low-carb foods and your food intake should lean more towards healthy fats and proteins.
Before getting into the fine detail of what is allowed and what isn’t, let’s understand our macronutrient requirements first. A standard ketogenic diet comprises 60% to 80% of total calorie intake from fats, 20% to 25% from protein intake, and 5% to 10% from carb intake.
The more carbs intake is restricted in your keto diet, the faster your body enters a state of ketosis. For those taking up low-carb diets, it is necessary to monitor both your total carbs and net carbohydrate intake.
What are total carbs and net carbs? Total carbs refer to all your carb intake, including sugars, starches, and fibers. Net carbs, on the other hand, refer to the carbs your body can metabolize into glucose.
Okay so now, what are you allowed to eat on keto diets?
What Are The Dos Of A Ketogenic diet?
You can enjoy low-carb eating, mostly from low-carb vegetables. Above-the-ground vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, asparagus, zucchini, kale, and cucumbers are recommended for keto diets.
Nuts and seeds like macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts are recommended in keto diets because they are low-carb and rich in healthy fatty acids. Also, they are high in dietary fiber, which promotes weight loss. Other health benefits are related to their antioxidant and nutrient-dense properties.
Fruits like watermelon, avocado, strawberries, lemons, raspberries, and peaches are allowed on a ketogenic diet. This is because they contain fewer carbs, are high in fiber and they contain essential vitamins.
Healthy fats and oils trigger ketosis hence why they are recommended in keto diets. Coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil are best for keto diets. Saturated fats in moderation are healthy too because they are rich in monounsaturated triglycerides (MCT) which come with lots of nutritional benefits.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty foods improve one’s lipid profile by reducing harmful low-density lipoproteins (LDL cholesterol). The health benefits of these healthy fatty food intake are reduced risk of heart disease and fatty liver disease.
Moderate protein from meats like fish, poultry, eggs, beef, and lamb is advisable. Protein intake is important because it improves satiety and promoted burning calories enabling you to lose weight. In addition, protein assists in muscle building preventing the loss of lean muscles.
A high-fat diet is the basis of a ketogenic diet. Therefore, high-fat dairy products are recommended on a keto diet. Are you wondering which dairy products you can consume on a ketogenic diet? Hard cheeses like cheddar and parmesan, creams, Greek yogurt, and butter are low-carb but are high in healthy fats.
Another thing you can eat on a keto diet is sweeteners like Monk Fruit sweeteners. These are allowed as an alternative to sugar because they contain no calories and no carbs. Isn’t that great for a keto diet?
What Are The Don’ts Of Ketogenic Diets?
Although fruits contain essential vitamins and can help you lose weight, most of them are restricted to a keto diet. Bananas, apples, oranges, and other fruits are high in fiber and carb content which will increase blood sugar further increasing insulin levels. High sugar-content fruits could remove your body from ketosis.
Tubers like yams, cassavas and potatoes are prohibited in a keto diet. These tubers have a high amount of starch which will spike insulin levels. Excess glucose is converted to glycogen increasing glycogen stores. Some are converted to body fat which increases body weight.
Grains like cereals, corn, rice, and wheat are restricted when on a ketosis diet. You are advised to avoid these foods because they are high in starch which may hinder the fat metabolic state lowering ketone levels.
Sugar is restricted because it is converted to glucose which in excess is stored as body fat. Rapid weight loss is achieved through fat loss and not storage. For this reason, sugar is not allowed in a keto diet.
Processed foods are to be limited in a ketogenic diet because it is high in sugars and may prevent ketosis. These foods are also rich in trans fats which increase the risk of chronic illnesses and reduce weight loss.
Non-starchy veggies like celery, eggplants, asparagus, and brussels sprout are moderated on a keto diet because they contain higher amounts of carbohydrates. Be careful with the portions of vegetables with higher net carbs to ensure you don’t exceed the recommended amounts.
How Do You Know You’re In Ketosis?
There are ways to tell that your body is in a state of ketosis and if you are following your ketogenic diet the right way.
At the start of your keto diet journey, you will lose weight due to losing carb and water weight. Sticking to a keto diet long term will increase the burning of total body fat increasing weight loss.
Increased Brain Function
Ketosis leads to the increase in ketone levels, the preferred fuel source for the brain. On a keto diet, studies have shown an increase in cognitive activities like memory, learning, and increased focus. You may experience brain fog at the start of your ketogenic diet due to your brain’s shift to using ketones as fuel, but it will clear.
Presence Of Ketones In Blood And Urine
Ketosis leads to the production of ketones, which can be detected in your urine and blood. Blood tests using meters are the most accurate test for ketones. Urine tests using strips will detect ketones at the beginning of ketosis, but after the process advances, it won’t show.
Breath monitoring is the least accurate method of detecting ketosis.
Symptoms of ketosis are more accurate and they include:
- Increased urination
- Muscle cramps
- Bad breath
- Dry mouth
- Reduced hunger
Health Benefits Of A Ketogenic Diet
Let’s see why you should try a very few carbs and high-fat diet:
Blood Sugar Control
An analysis carried out on type 2 Diabetes Mellitus patients, a keto diet may reduce the levels of fasting blood sugar and reverses insulin resistance in diabetics. A ketogenic diet restricts carbohydrates by reducing intestinal glucose absorption hence lowering blood sugar levels.
Reduced Binge Eating
A pilot study carried out on women with binge eating disorders and food addiction symptoms proved that a keto diet leads to improvement of binge eating symptoms and fat mass loss. A keto diet reduces ghrelin secretion preventing hunger.
A study on keto diets proved that a keto diet may improve mitochondrial function and reduce oxidative stress. Ketosis diets improve mitochondrial respiration by reducing the production of reactive oxidative species (ROS). A keto diet has anti-inflammatory properties that promote neuroprotective mechanisms preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Heart Health Benefits
A clinical trial has shown that a keto diet promotes heart health by reducing the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases. The risk factors that a keto diet promotes are blood pressure control, obesity, insulin resistance, and dyslipidemia. A ketogenic diet increases high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and lowers low-density lipoproteins (LDL) molecules compared to a low-fat diet improving blood pressure.
What Are The Risks Of A Keto Diet?
Despite the advantages of a keto diet, there are limits to this diet on your metabolic state.
In a study on patients with a low glycemic index, a keto diet reduces migraines but increases muscle cramps. Sitting relaxes the muscle cramp pain. Modification of the keto diet also reduced muscle pain.
In 2019, a study on 35 obese adults showed that patients on a keto diet had low calcium serum levels. This was attributed to reduced dairy intake and the omission of legumes or due to high-fat consumption only. Choosing foods rich in micronutrients that are allowed in a keto diet is necessary for ensuring optimum nutrition health.
Keto Flu On Keto Diet
When you’re shifting to a ketogenic diet, you may experience a keto flu. Keto flu symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, headache and irritability. Keto Flu peaked on the first week but faded after one to two weeks. The intensity and duration of the flu depends on a person and whether or not you are keto dieting correctly. The cause of keto flu has not yet been established.
Is Keto Diet Long Term?
A ketogenic diet requires consistency to maintain its benefits. It may not be easy to follow this diet, but moderation and balance of your proteins, carbs and fats will ensure you maintain your healthy weight.
Tips On How To Start A Keto Diet
If you are a beginner, then you’re in luck. Here are tips to ensure your ketogenic diet journey is a success:
Have A Written Plan
Sticking to a keto diet can be difficult so having a written plan can assist you commit to the course. Write down your health goals, grocery lists and meal plans ready. Proper planning promotes good performance after all.
Know Your Fats
There has been a lot of controversy behind fats and their risks of heart disease. In the past we were advised to avoid saturated fats but recent studies have shown that fats are not our enemy. As long as the fat is not processed (trans fat), consuming eat moderately is healthy. Good fats like nuts, avocado and olive oil are great for keto meals.
Avoid Processed Foods
Your focus should be on where you’re getting your carbs and from your what form of carbs is your body metabolizing. If your carbs sources are low-carb veggies and fruits (recommended ones of course) then you’re okay.
Refined foods provide carbs in form of added sugars which spike blood sugar levels and increase insulin levels. Avoid chips, fries, burgers, baked products and sodas.
Green leafy vegetables are keto-friendly. They are high in fiber which promotes gut health and increases weight loss.
Track Your Journey
There’s no better motivation than progress. Keep track of how far you have gone with your weight loss goals. Monitor your blood pressure and heart rate to see if your cardiac health has improved since starting a keto diet.
Try Different Keto Diets
The fact that Sarah at the office achieved her summer body on a paleo diet, doesn’t mean it will work the same for you. Our genetics and age also play a big role in our physic. Experiment with the various types of low carbohydrate and ketogenic diets. It is not a one-size-fits-all situation, explore till you find your niche.
Rome wasn’t built in a day! A ketogenic diet is the polar opposite of the typical American diet of junk foods and high sugar diet. The transition may be difficult since habits die hard. Before jumping straight into a ketogenic diet, try less restrictive dietary practices like intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is a good place to start. Even when you are intermittent fasting, your body is still able to achieve ketosis due to caloric deficit.
Focus On Electrolyte Balance
Ketogenic diets can lead to electrolyte imbalances due to increased urination. Sodium, potassium, and water are lost during this process. Eat your non-starchy vegetables, drink water, and add sea salt to your food to regain lost water and electrolytes.
How Much Weight Can You Lose On A Keto Diet In A Week?
Keto diets increase the burning of total body fat to promote weight loss. You are expected to lose one to two pounds in a week while on a keto diet. Although, at the start, there is rapid weight loss, you could lose up to 10 pounds in a few weeks due to water loss and not fat burning. Other factors like stress and physical activity will play a significant role in how much weight you are losing.
Is This Much Fat Unhealthy?
It’s not about the quantity but the quality of the fat you are consuming. Trans fats, those in junk foods, cookies, cakes and canned foods are unhealthy. Saturated fatty foods, if taken in moderation, improve the immune function of white blood cells. In addition, these fats increase good HDL cholesterol improving cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil are better options.
Is A Keto Diet Right For You?
People with certain conditions should not start a ketogenic diet without the permission and supervision of their doctors. If you’re diabetic, pregnant, on hypertension medication, have a heart, liver or kidney disease, or have had gastric bypass surgery, ensure your doctor clears you before getting on a ketogenic diet.
As long as you are not breastfeeding and you have no condition that affects your metabolic health, then a keto diet is for you.
Why A Keto Diet May Not Work?
You may have followed this guide religiously, yet haven’t experienced ketosis or seen any of its symptoms. Here are a couple of reasons why:
- You are consuming more carbs than the recommended 20g to 50g. It may not be from unhealthy sources, but some foods you are consuming have a high total carb count.
- There’s a lot of protein in your diet. Too much protein can hinder ketosis. This is because proteins can be broken down into amino acids and then converted to sugars. A ketogenic diet involves the consumption of moderate amounts of proteins.
- Alcohol consumption can stop ketosis because they are high in carbohydrates. Hard liquor contains a lot of calories that will prevent weight loss. Avoid drinking when on a keto diet.
- You’re not physically active. Exercising helps improve your metabolic health by burning fats to promote weight loss.
Do You Need Supplementation On A Ketogenic Diet?
Supplementation may not be necessary but it is helpful to assist you maintain optimum health. Here are a few you can consider pairing with your keto diet:
Whey protein is low in carbohydrates and is a good source of protein for muscle building and fat loss.
Since they are more feasible and convenient compared to diet restrictions, MCT oils can be a good supplement while on a ketogenic diet.
Due to electrolyte imbalances, you may need to supplement some minerals to prevent micronutrient deficiencies.
We have gotten into most parts of helping you start a ketogenic diet, now let’s handle the practical aspect.
How To Save Money On A Ketogenic Diet?
Being on a ketogenic diet does not mean you have to break the banks to afford this lifestyle.
Consider bulk buying. Buying food from wholesalers is way cheaper and cooking food and then storing it to prepare later saves time and is convenient.
Cook food yourself rather than going out or ordering in. Besides being able to control the ingredients you are adding to your food, you can also save money. Try making your own peanut butter and mayonnaise (with avocado oil) at home instead of purchasing them.
Nothing gets me as excited as when I’m talking keto recipes. The way to my heart is through my stomach, so let’s get cooking.
Keto Dieting For Beginners: Meal Plan
It may be a challenge to prepare keto-friendly foods when you’re trying to understand the keto lifestyle. Worry not, this is a week’s menu with meal ideas you can enjoy as you learn the ropes.
- Breakfast: Veggie Omelet wrap
- Lunch: Zucchini noodles and chicken
- Dinner: Cauliflower ‘Mac n Cheese
- Breakfast: Flaxseed porridge
- Lunch: Cobb Salad
- Dinner: Keto Stuffed Cabbage
- Breakfast: Breakfast Sandwich
- Lunch: Chicken Fajita
- Dinner: Keto Broccoli salad
- Breakfast: Avocado Green Smoothie
- Lunch: Mushroom and Shrimp Stir-fry
- Dinner: Cheesesteak Lettuce Wraps
- Breakfast: Keto pancakes
- Lunch: Lamb stuffed bell peppers
- Dinner: Stuffed Avocado
This isn’t your forever menu, just a ‘welcome to keto dieting’ induction gift. You can keep adding low-starch veggies and recommended fruits. Don’t be boring, add variety to your meals.
Keto Recipes For Beginners
Veggie Omelet Wrap
Eggs are common for breakfast, but this recipe brings a twist to them.
- 3 large eggs
- 1 avocado
- 4 tablespoons creamy parmesan cheese
- 2 bell peppers (yellow and red)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Sea salt to taste
- Crack your eggs, and season with salt and black pepper.
- Whisk your eggs.
- To a pan, add butter, then pour your beaten eggs. Cook for 3 minutes on medium heat.
- Flip the egg and cook the other side for 2 minutes.
- Place your egg wrap on a plate, mash your avocado on it, then spread cheese. add your bell peppers.
- Roll your egg wraps and serve.
Chicken Cobb Salad
If you’re a fan of salads then this one is for you.
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 pound, boneless chicken breast
- 1 tablespoon Himalayan salt
- Black pepper to taste
- 2 cups mixed greens
- Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small avocado, peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- In a pan, add olive oil and heat on medium heat. Season your chicken with salt and pepper then cook both sides for 5 minutes. slice into 1/2-inch pieces.
- Add greens, tomatoes, onions, and avocado into a bowl and top with olive oil as dressing.
- Add the chicken into the bowl and mix.
Stuffed Avocado Recipe
Anything avocado, count me in. This keto recipe is filled with healthy fats and fiber, essential for optimum health.
- 2 large avocados
- 100g beef, minced
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- Sea salt to taste
- 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
- Place your minced meat in a saucepan, season with salt and black pepper, then cook on medium heat.
- Halve your avocados, remove the pits and scoop out half the flesh into a bowl.
- Add lime juice, black pepper, and salt to the avocado in the bowl. Mash the avocado and mix with the seasoning.
- Add the cherry tomatoes and minced meat into the bowl and mix.
- Scoop the mixture into the avocado halves.
- Serve and enjoy.
FAQS On Keto Dieting For Beginners
Can I build muscle on a ketogenic diet?
Yes, although not as fast as you would while you are on a keto diet. Consider pairing your ketogenic diet with exercise for effective muscle growth.
Why Does My Urine Smell Fruity?
Ketones produced during ketosis give your urine the fruity smell once excreted.
Is Ketosis Safe?
Ketosis is safe for anyone who gets clearance from their doctor. However, ketoacidosis is dangerous. Ketoacidosis is a complication in diabetics where the body produces too many ketones due to lack of enough insulin.
What Can I Do To Stop Diarrhea And Indigestion On A Keto Diet?
These are common side effects of a keto diet that subside after a couple of weeks. You can increase consumption of high fiber vegetables to reduce indigestion. Moreover, consume fermented foods which are prebiotics for your good gut biome.
Does A Keto Diet Cause Muscle Loss?
Consuming moderate proteins and high levels of ketones due to ketosis reduce the chances of muscle loss. Weight lifting is a solution to minimize loss of muscles.
Keto dieting for beginners doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Finding the right information goes a long way in increasing the success of your diet. If you are looking to lose weight or regulate your blood sugar, keto dieting is for you.
For keto dieting to be a suitable long-term weight loss method, consider combining it with intermittent fasting and exercising. So when you’re on your ketogenic diet, pick an additional weight loss method best suited for you that can assist you maintain the benefits of your ketogenic diet.
This guide has all you need to know on keto dieting for beginners. If there is a FAQ that I didn’t answer, please feel free to ask it in the comment section, I’d me more than happy to assist you. Moreover, I am curious, why are you starting a keto diet?
If you’re reading this after your first weeks, how did it go? Would you recommend keto dieting to someone else? Share all this in the comment section. Let’s engage. Happy keto dieting fam!