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You may have heard about the keto diet, but do you know what it is?
Note: We are not health professionals. This article should not be considered medical advice.
If you are diving into weight loss, you may have heard about the ketogenic (keto for short) diet.
You probably hear it everywhere — your friend advocates for it.
You see a lot of people coming on talk shows and talking about it. The stores have products geared towards keto dieters.
Now, your curiosity is peaked, and you want to learn more about this so-called keto diet.
This article is where we share with you the information that we gathered and researched for you. There’s a lot of information here.
Warning: this post is long. You can either come back to read it in small pieces or set aside some time to read it all.
Seek your primary care provider if you have any health concerns and before trying out this diet.
What is the keto diet?
The keto diet, aka ketogenic diet, is where you significantly reduce the number of carbohydrates (carbs) eaten, while you increase the number of fats and proteins.
You place more focus on increasing the amount of fat intake.
The goal is to force the body to change, which nutrient it uses primarily for energy.
Typically, your body breaks down carbs to its most straightforward form glucose, and the body turns that into energy in the body.
In the keto diet, fats become the primary source of energy for the body.
This state of breaking down fats is known as ketosis.
Lower the number of carbs?
What does that even mean, you might be wondering. Well, it can depend on how you might want to define your diet.
However, it might typically follow one of these three guidelines:
- Less than 50g of carbs per day
- Less than 20g of net carbs per day
- 5% of your total calorie intake should be carbs
For the people who might not want to focus on the numbers or measurements, you might focus on high fats, low-medium protein, low carbs.
Overall, as I said, when you are lowering your carb intake, you are trying to make your body break down fats instead of carbs.
Carbohydrates are nutrients found in many foods and beverages. The problem is that you see them in a lot of cooking in the American diet.
Bread, candy, rice, pizza, tortillas, burgers, juices, burgers, sandwiches, tacos, oatmeal, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, cookies.
I’m sure you get my point by now.
And to add to that, many of these foods are packed full of carbs.
So we consume too many carbs than we use.
The unused carbs are turned into fats and stored in the body.
Studies show that the increase in carbs in the American diet is also closely related to the rise in overweight and obesity rates in the country as well.
If that’s the case, then lowering carb intake might have an impact on weight loss goals.
Hence, the keto diet.
Keto vs. Paleo vs. Atkins
If you’ve heard about the keto diet, then you might have also listened to these other names people tossed around as well.
Both the Paleo and Atkins diets fall under the low-carb category like the keto diet.
All three diets aid in benefits such as weight loss in different ways.
It is worth going over the differences between these diets because they focus on different things, and you don’t want to get confused.
Paleo Diet vs. Keto Diet
One nickname of the paleo diet is the caveman diet. The main focus of this diet is on foods that our ancestors would have found in the Paleolithic era.
If our hunter-gather ancestors could not obtain a particular food, then it is not welcomed on the paleo diet.
This includes any foods that humans introduced when we began farming, including dairy products, grains, and legumes, and processed foods.
In contrast, people can consume some dairy products on keto.
Advocates for the paleo diet say that farming introduced such a significant impact on our menus that our bodies have not had enough time to adjust. Thus we have diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
In both keto and paleo, dieters have to be careful of the foods that they eat. However, paleo does not focus on how many macronutrients (carbs, fats, proteins) you should be consuming.
Paleo also doesn’t restrict the amount of carb intake to the point where you can enter ketosis.
Since this is about the keto diet, I won’t go into further detail about the paleo diet. Find additional information here. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/paleo-diet/art-20111182/
Atkins Diet vs. Keto Diet
The Atkins diet, created by Dr. Robert C. Atkins, is a diet that restricts carbs and emphasizes protein and fat intake.
The Atkins diet says that diseases such as diabetes and obesity are the fault of a low-fat, high-carb American diet. Controlling carb intake is the solution to the problem.
Similar to the keto diet, the Atkins diet requires you to restrict and monitor your carb intake.
Rather than lowering your carb intake to the point that you enter ketosis, the Atkins Diet requires you to enter four phases to achieve your carb tolerance.
The Atkins Diet also puts a lot of focus on vegetables and protein intake, even though advocates say that it isn’t a high-protein diet.
You can either go through the phrases in order, or you can enter any phrase at any time.
Again, I’m not going into too much detail in this article. Find additional information here. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/atkins-diet/art-20048485/
Which one should I choose?
It depends on the person which diet they want to choose.
All three diet promotes health benefits besides weight loss. This article goes more in-depth into the keto diet.
However, I encourage you to research information about the other two diets in addition to the information found in this article.
You can also consult your healthcare provider with questions and concerns.
What is ketosis?
Here is a great cartoon that explains the process described below. This is courtesy of NaturalKetosisCo.
Breaking down carbs into glucose to use for energy is the primary way for the human body.
However, during times of starvation or intense exercise, the amount of glucose stored in the body can become low.
The body has a back-up plan for when this occurs.
Fat is taken out of storage and used as energy.
But, your body converts fat into a form that makes it accessible. This form is called a ketone.
When the body is in this state, it has reached ketosis.
What are ketones?
While it may not be that important to know what ketones are, I believe it is nice to know a little about the inner workings of your body.
The more you know, the better you can make your decisions.
Anyway, ketone bodies or ketones are the substances you get when your body breaks down fat.
It’s normal during starvation periods or times when you are undergoing intense exercise. They replace glucose as an energy source.
There are three types of ketones:
Besides starving yourself to get ketones, you can also get them externally. Think supplements.
Why are ketones important?
Other than being an alternate fuel for your body? Many other reasons.
You see, studies have shown that a significant presence of ketones has an impact on two essential hormones in the body: cholecystokinin (CCK) and ghrelin.
It’s important because it is responsible for telling your body to stop eating. And it makes you start to feel satisfied with what you’ve eaten already.
Ketones increase their levels.
However, ghrelin is aka the “hunger hormone” because it does the exact opposite of CCK. It increases appetite, increases food intake, and increases fat storages.
Ketones help suppress ghrelin levels.
So why are ketones important? Not only do they give you energy, but they make you feel full and satisfied after eating.
Those two things are part of the most significant benefits of the keto diet.
How do I know that I’m in ketosis?
As far as time, each person is a little bit different. Some people only take a few days to get into ketosis. Others need to give themselves a few weeks.
There are two general ways to tell that you are in ketosis. You either notice certain signs or test your blood ketone levels.
What are the signs that I might be in ketosis?
Here are the signs you might experience when you enter ketosis. We’ll talk about more when we discuss the keto diet benefits and side effects:
- Reduced hunger: Ketones help suppress your appetite and make you feel like you are full for a longer time.
- Keto breath: Ketones have a fruity smell to them, which you will smell in your breath.
- GI Upset: in the beginning, your digestive system will not like having to switch to using ketones and you might experience either diarrhea or constipation.
- Keto urine: The fruity smell will also be in your urine because your kidneys are getting rid of as much ketone as they can initially.
- Flu-like symptoms: This is a big one for many people. We’ll talk about this later. For now, if you start to feel unwell, your body is probably in ketosis.
- Weight loss: losing weight after starting the keto diet should mean that you’re in ketosis since you’re burning fat in that state.
How do I test my ketone levels?
From what I could research, there are three main ways to test your levels:
- Testing your urine
- Testing your breath
- Checking your blood directly.
I found some keto breath analyzers on Amazon and online. However, not many of the results that I found were under $25. Many of the keto analyzers only had a few dozen reviews.
It doesn’t seem like it was a popular option. From my research, it also seems to b the least accurate option.
The second popular options appear to be testing your blood directly.
It is also the most accurate way to tell if you’re in ketosis.
From the reviews that I read of some of the kits, some might not have a good reputation for giving reliable results.
Unless it’s is related to a disease, it might be hard for some people to poke their fingers willingly.
Search for ketone test strips, and you will find multiple urine testing strip kits. Many of them also have hundreds of reviews that you can go through.
Most of them are also under $10 for many test strips. You can find them online or at your local pharmacy.
The one that I tried was from Perfect Keto. I thought that the whole process was quick and easy. The side of the bottle has colors to tell you the range of your ketone levels.
What I did was to pee in a cup and dip a test strip into the urine. After a short time of waiting, I compared the test strip to the colors on the side of the bottle. Once done, I poured the urine back down the toilet.
You don’t have to do it that way, but this was my experience.
I will note that once your body adapts to being in ketosis, it will start to use ketones as fuel and won’t get rid of them as quickly.
This will result in a reduction of ketones found in your urine.
At that point, you may decide that you don’t need to check your ketone levels anymore.
But if you still want to make sure, you might have to look towards checking your blood.
What numbers am I looking for?
Regardless of which method you use to test your ketone levels, the kit that you buy should include instructions with the ranges of ketone levels.
You measure ketones in your blood in millimoles per liter (mmol/L):
- Under 0.5 mmol/L – an average blood ketone value for non-keto dieters
- 0.5 to 1.5 mmol/L – fasting or ketosis state
- 1.5 to 3.0 mmol/L – a high level of fasting or ketosis
- Above 3.0 mmol/L – a dangerous level of ketones that may indicate ketoacidosis. Please seek medical care.
As long as your ketosis falls within the 2nd and 3rd ranges, then you are doing okay. Your body is breaking down ketones and then using them.
As I said, those ketone levels may decrease once your body starts using those ketones as fuel.
A Note about Ketoacidosis
Typically, the body can maintain a balance between the acid-containing and base-containing molecules within.
Ketone bodies are acidic molecules. When your body produces significantly more ketones than it is using, it creates an acidic environment in your blood.
Anytime your blood pH falls below a particular concentration, it is called acidosis.
Through some adjustments, your body can compensate and raise the blood’s pH back up. However, there are instances where your body might fail to do this.
This is what occurs in ketoacidosis.
Ketosis is NOT the same as ketoacidosis.
This condition is more commonly found in uncontrolled diabetics and is known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). https://www.healthline.com/health/ketosis-vs-ketoacidosis
In this instance, it is life-threatening because your organs and tissues need that acid-base balance to function properly and you body can’t compensate for its survival.
Based on the literature that I could find, non-diabetic ketoacidosis isn’t very common. People on the keto diet usually do not enter ketoacidosis because their ketone levels do not reach that high level.
You just need to know that being on the keto diet puts at a higher risk than non-diabetic people who aren’t on the diet.
Though if you have working kidneys, liver, pancreas, and other organs, it is very unlikely you will achieve ketoacidosis.
However, this study found that there might be an even higher risk for lactating women in a condition called lactation ketoacidosis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6644245/ The authors caution such mothers who are on or considering the keto diet.
If ketoacidosis is a concern to you, please speak to your doctor and see if this diet is still possible for you.
Benefits of the Keto Diet
We have finally reached what many of you might call the exciting part. After all, what’s so great about the keto diet that made it so famous?
One of the most significant benefits of doing keto is its ability to cause substantial weight loss in many people.
However, I also want to point out some of the other benefits to the keto diet. As new research continues, new discoveries are made.
Some may be topics of discussion between you and your healthcare professional.
Through the keto diet, your body enters ketosis. And through ketosis, your body breaks down and uses fats for energy.
Some of what contributes to our overall body weight come from the fat stored in our body.
So the more fat used, the less there is available to contribute to your weight.
There is also the fact that many of the foods that we eat today are full of lots and lots of carbohydrates. These foods also are typically the ones with just as many calories too.
If you cut out those foods by going on a restrictive diet like the keto diet, then you are also slashing a majority of your daily calorie intake.
When your body burns down more calories than it ingests, then that contributes to weight loss.
There are many studies in which participants lost weight when they took part in the keto diet such as this one, this one, and this one. https://clinmedjournals.org/articles/ijsem/international-journal-of-sports-and-exercise-medicine-ijsem-3-054.php?jid=ijsem, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23651522, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25178568
So, it is possible to do the keto diet and experience weight loss. Not only for the reasons above but also because of the impact that ketones have on your hormones.
Many people on the keto diet feel full quicker and are less likely overeat.
BUT, it is not guaranteed that you will lose weight on the keto diet.
Even if your goal isn’t weight loss, the keto diet might still prove useful for you.
The effects that studies have shown that ketones can lower the feelings of appetite and hunger show potential.
Maybe you suffer from overeating and can’t go long without eating a snack or something.
You could consider the keto diet.
I will add here that more research is needed. Even though many dieters have experienced this effect, more data would be even better.
Inflammation is a natural process that occurs in your body. Like a fever, it is one of the first ways that your body uses to fight foreign pathogens.
However, inflammation can also occur due to high levels of glucose in the blood.
By lowering blood glucose, the keto diet can reduce inflammation in the body.
Using ketones as an alternate energy source trains your body to use your fat storage whenever it is running low on energy.
So you can go much longer without eating than you might have when glucose was the primary fuel.
You don’t experience much of the highs and lows that running out of glucose causes.
Ketones are also readily used by your brain, and it can go for more extended periods of experiencing clarity and energy.
Because you don’t have to worry so much about when your next meal is, you have more opportunities to complete the actions that you want.
Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders
Believe it or not, scientists initially formed the ketogenic diet to treat epilepsy, not weight loss.
Back in the early 20th century, scientists discovered that changing the metabolism in the patient’s body to burn fat instead of carbs helped to treat those with seizure disorders.
The keto diet is still recommended today for both children and adults, who suffer from seizures and aren’t responding to available drugs and other treatments. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6361831/
Talk with your healthcare professional before starting the diet to see if it is a good option for you.
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Since the keto diet uses fat as energy instead of glucose, it has the potential to be helpful for those with diabetes. https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes-ketogenic-diet
You don’t have as much glucose running through your blood, so your glucose levels can improve.
It can also improve insulin signaling.
Insulin is a hormone secreted by your pancreas when glucose is present in your bloodstream. Its primary duty is to tell the cells in your body that glucose is around so that they can take it and use it for energy.
In many people with diabetes, too much glucose floats in the blood, leading to a lot of insulin signaling.
The cells can get tired of insulin sen, and they can start to ignore insulin signals. Then glucose remains in the blood and isn’t used.
The keto diet has the potential to return cells to being sensitive to insulin again.
There aren’t enough studies out there about this connection, though.
Check with your healthcare professional if this is a possible choice for you.
You would think that a diet that emphasizes high amounts of fat might not be suitable for your heart.
And the debate is still a bit controversial. However, the keto diet might even be an option for those with cardiovascular diseases. https://www.everydayhealth.com/ketogenic-diet/can-keto-help-prevent-manage-heart-disease/
In this 2014 study, it found that the participants who were on the keto diet had better reductions in cardiovascular risks than those who were on a low-fat diet instead. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4428290/
They found that there was higher HDL cholesterol, aka the “good cholesterol,” levels in those participants. On the other hand, LDL “bad” cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides were lower.
Cardiovascular disease can also include inflammation.
Like I said earlier, the keto diet can help decrease inflammation, which may also help with cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. I want to emphasize STRONGLY the importance of consulting your healthcare professional before trying the keto diet.
Many studies are now emerging about the potential benefits that the keto diet may have for other health conditions. However, the research in these areas is still ongoing.
- Parkinson’s Disease: one study found that the diet helped improve symptoms of this disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16505339
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Because the keto diet helps reduce insulin levels, this study found that significant improvement was observed in women with this disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1334192/
- Brain injuries: this study found that the diet can aid in recovery from brain injuries and may reduce concussions. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/16180224
- Acne: less sugar and processed foods on the diet can benefit those who suffer from acne. This is what this study found. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/22327146/
The keto diet has a lot of benefits. The ones mentioned here are only a few of those benefits.
Note: We are not health professionals. This article should not be considered medical advice. Please discuss the information in this article with your healthcare professional.
Side Effects and Concerns
Just as there are benefits to the keto diet, there are also side effects and things to consider.
Please take the information in this section with as much care as all the other sections in this article.
Imagine that you are working in a job. You are good at your job and play a role in keeping the business afloat.
One day you come in to find that your boss has changed everything from the system you follow to the equipment that you use.
Your boss expects you to maintain the same level of efficiency that you had before, no arguments. You’re frustrated because you keep making mistakes, and your boss is not happy with your performance.
Sure, you learned how to use the new system and equipment back in school, but you never thought you would be in a situation where you had to use them.
It’s a difficult couple of weeks before you get used to the changes. You aren’t performing at your old level of efficiency. You’ve surpassed it.
Now it’s hard for you to imagine what life was like before the change.
This is basically what happens when your body goes through carbohydrate withdrawal or the keto flu.
Your body has kept you alive so far by using carbs as fuel, but now you want it to change course and use ketones instead suddenly.
Your body needs time to make this adjustment, and unfortunately, that might not feel so good.
Depending on the quality of your carb intake before starting the diet, you might experience different keto flu than others.
The higher your consumption of processed, high-calorie, and high-carb foods you had, the worse your keto flu might be.
For many people, this is the reason why they quit the keto diet.
What occurs during the keto flu?
- During the first few days after lowering your carb intake, your glucose levels drop. So, your insulin levels also drop.
- Low insulin tells your body that it needs to get rid of some sodium, magnesium, and potassium in your body to compensate.
- Water follows those electrolytes out. A lot of the initial weight loss from the keto diet comes from this lost “water weight.”
- Your T3, a thyroid hormone, levels drop as well. T3 and T4 regulate your metabolism, body temperature, and heart rate.
- Connected to the drop in your T3, cortisol, another hormone, might change. Cortisol is related to stress.
- These changes in cortisol might lead to some negative symptoms related to stress like irritation.
How do I know that I have the keto flu?
It shouldn’t be too hard to know, because you feel as horrible as if you had the actual flu. Here are some of the symptoms:
- brain fog
- muscle cramping
How do I get through the keto flu?
As horrible as the symptoms above might look, there is a way to avoid or treat the keto flu and continue with the diet.
- Replace your water loss. Keep yourself hydrated to counter many of the symptoms. You can do this through bone broth, which also replenishes electrolytes, or having plain old water. The minimum amount of water you need in ounces is about half your body weight. https://www.bulletproof.com/diet/keto/keto-diet-beginners-guide/#ref-7
- Replace your electrolytes. There are electrolyte supplements that you can add to water, such as Mio. To increase your sodium, you can also add more salt to your food. To increase potassium and magnesium, increase your leafy green vegetables, avocado, and nut intake. https://www.bulletproof.com/diet/keto/keto-diet-beginners-guide/#ref-7
- Increase your fat intake. The keto flu is your body trying to adjust to change. More fat can help your body adapt to the change quicker. The liver converts MCT oil to ketones faster than other fats, so placing this on foods is a big help. https://www.bulletproof.com/diet/keto/keto-diet-beginners-guide/#ref-7
- Rest. A good night’s rest helps your body to recharge and get through this period. This can also help control the cortisol levels that we talked about above. https://www.bulletproof.com/diet/keto/keto-diet-beginners-guide/#ref-7
- Ketone supplements. Like increasing your fat intake, your body adapts quicker through ketone supplements. This is a more direct route to increasing ketone levels since they are already in ketone form. It is important to remember that you cannot just take ketone supplements without doing the diet. https://www.bulletproof.com/diet/keto/keto-diet-beginners-guide/#ref-7
- Increase your carb intake. Some people try the things above and still have the keto flu after more than a few days, even if they increased fats. In that case, you might have to increase your carb intake by a bit to get rid of the symptoms. https://www.bulletproof.com/diet/keto/keto-diet-beginners-guide/#ref-7
For many people, the keto flu is an unwanted event, but it usually only lasts for about a week.
Dehydration and Frequent urination
So, we talked about this in the keto flu section. However, I wanted to talk about this a little bit more.
When insulin levels drop, your kidneys start dumping as much sodium as they can. Water likes to hang around sodium and follows it out.
There is also the fact that carbs require water for them to be stored, but fats do not. On the keto diet, your body stores less water.
Does this mean a lot of restroom trips?
That initial period of the keto diet is where your kidneys put your bladder to the test. You can go to the restroom multiple times in a single day.
This means that you are losing more water than you drink, hence the dehydration.
Dehydration and low electrolytes can also cause your muscles to cramp as well.
How do I avoid dehydration and frequent urination?
There isn’t much you can do about the frequent urination because it’s caused by your body adapting. You have to endure long enough for your body to switch to using ketones.
As for the dehydration part, I will repeat what I said in the keto flu section:
- Replace your water loss. Keep yourself hydrated to counter many of the symptoms. You can do this through bone broth, which also replenishes electrolytes, or having plain old water. The minimum amount of water you need in ounces is about half your body weight.
- Replace your electrolytes. There are electrolyte supplements that you can add to water, such as Mio. To increase your sodium, you can also add more salt to your food. To increase potassium and magnesium, increase your leafy green vegetables, avocado, and nut intake.
Insomnia or difficulty falling asleep is one of the symptoms mentioned about the keto flu.
I mention here again because the changes in hormones and electrolytes levels can still result in insomnia even after you’ve survived the keto flu.
Some people even say that they wake up and then have trouble going back to sleep.
How can I sleep well on the keto diet?
One of the ways to combat insomnia during the keto diet is to have most of your carb intake during the evening. You preferably do this before you are about to go to sleep.
On the keto diet, you are trying to get a low amount of carb intake. This means that grains, even whole grains products, are out of the picture.
This is a problem for many keto dieters because whole grains products are a great source of fiber. Having enough fiber is essential.
What is the recommended daily fiber intake?
The recommended amount of fiber intake is 25-30 g a day. Go here for more information. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/increasing-fiber-intake
If you have ever suffered from constipation or other gastrointestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome, low fiber may have been one of the causes.
How do I make sure that I’m getting enough fiber?
There are other sources of fiber that you can eat to make sure your intake isn’t low. You can also follow some tips to keep your digestive system in its best shape:
- Make sure to eat a lot of leafy, green vegetables and legumes.
- You can try prebiotics. They can help feed gut bacteria, which influences a healthy digestive tract.
- Keep yourself hydrated. This keeps your bowels regular. The more water you can retain, the better your body adapts.
- Part of retaining your water comes from increasing your sodium intake. You can use Himalayan pink salt in your food.
- You might consider doing the cyclical keto diet (more about this later) so that you might be able to eat fruits and grains high in fiber such as apples and oats.
- Maintain adequate magnesium and potassium levels. Eating foods, such as avocados and spinach, help.
Some of the changes that occur due to the keto diet may cause the opposite of constipation, diarrhea. This happens to those who suffer from it chronically and from those who are adjusting to a high-fat diet.
What can I do to avoid diarrhea?
- Start slowly. It may take some time for your body to get used to the change, so it might be better for your digestive tract if you gradually ease yourself into the diet. You can do this by slowly increasing the amount of MCT oils you put in your foods.
Prurigo pigmentosa, or keto rash, is a skin condition that can arise in some people who do the keto diet.
This is an itchy, red rash that can develop on the back, neck, chest, and armpit areas in the body. The causes of this rash are not yet fully understood.
This study proposes that it might be hormonal differences, gut bacteria changes, or allergens that may cause the rash. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6076956/
However, the rash is not known to be dangerous or life-threatening.
What should I do?
- Always consult your healthcare professional if you develop this rash during the keto diet.
- Bring back some of those carbs. This is NOT an excuse to start eating like you used to before the diet. However, it might help to reintroduce your body to healthy carbs such as yams, sweet potatoes, carrots, and pumpkins.
- Avoid irritants. If you have experience with other rashes or skin conditions, this should look familiar. The outbreak can become worse with heat, sweat, or friction. Try wearing loose-fitting and breathable clothing. Try to avoid scented perfumes or detergents. You might also want to avoid exercise that might produce sweat.
- Look for anti-inflammatory foods. These foods can increase the healing time for the skin affected by the rash.
Doing the Keto Diet
So far, you’ve learned about the keto diet. You know some of the benefits, as well as some of the side effects.
You talked with your healthcare professional and/or nutritionist and decided that you want to do the diet. You’re itching to get started.
But not so fast!
If you want results, you have to determine your plan of action before you start buying things.
So, let’s do that in the next few sections.
What do you mean by “doing keto”?
When you tell someone that you’re “doing keto,” what do you mean?
By this, I am asking what your focus will be on the diet. The diet can vary somewhat depending on what you are paying attention to.
Your focus will be one of the three basic guidelines that we discussed earlier:
- Less than 50g of carbs per day
- Less than 20g of net carbs per day
- 5% of your total calorie intake should be carbs
You are either tracking the number of carbs you ingest, tracking the net carb intake, or tracking your carb intake as a percentage.
They might sound similar to each other, but how you might define “success” vs. “setback” while on the diet is influenced by your perspective.
Carb Intake vs. Net Carb Intake
It is crucial to understand that the two phrases above are two different concepts. The difference lies in the word “net.”
When you think of “net,” think about what you can count. So “net carbs” are the carbs that you would consider.
Some foods contain fiber and sugar alcohols. Fiber and some of these sugar alcohols cannot be digested by our bodies no matter how much it wants to.
They won’t affect your blood glucose, and their presence can’t kick you out of ketosis.
What this means is that you can subtract any grams of fiber and/or sugar alcohols from your carb intake. Isn’t that wonderful?
If you can’t see the beauty quite yet, then consider the following examples: https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/the-beginners-guide-to-the-keto-diet-or-ketogenic-diet/#fasting_keto
- One cup of raspberries has around 14.7 grams of carbs and 8 grams of fiber. Subtract the 8 grams from the 14.7 grams, and you get 6.7 grams of net carbs.
- One cup of raw broccoli has around 6 grams of carbs and 2 grams of fiber. Subtract two from 6, and you get 4 grams of net carbs.
- A raw avocado has about 11.8 grams of carbs and 9.2 grams of fiber. 11.8 minus 9.2 gives you 2.6 net carbs.
Say you ate these three items in one day. How would your carb intake vs. your net carb intake look like?
Total carb intake: 14.7 + 6 + 11.8 = 32.5 grams of carbs
Total Net carb intake: 6.7 + 4 + 2.6= 13.3 grams of carbs
You consumed 32.5 g of carbs but only 13.3 g will actually matter.
Hopefully, you can see the difference between total carb intake and net carb intake.
It is important to note that if you consume foods without fiber or sugar alcohols, the carb amount equals the net carb amount for that particular food.
Which guideline should I follow?
When it comes to choosing where you want to put your focus, there isn’t a right or wrong answer. It’s more about what works for you.
I will say that tracking net carb intake gives you a more direct way to know if you are in ketosis. It takes about 20g of carbs or less to achieve the state, so if you know what your net carbs are, you know where you lie in turns of that.
Focusing on net carb intake also helps you remember to eat fiber. Since you can subtract the fiber, you will actively search for fiber-containing foods to keep your net carb intake low.
Then, you’re killing two birds with one stone.
This is not to say that it isn’t also possible in the other two ways, but again it’s different perspectives.
Tracking your carb intake as a percentage of total calorie intake means that you have to first be aware of your calorie intake before trying to figure out a percent.
Find your macronutrient goals.
Here is a wonderful video that explains macros and introduces the Ruled.me Macro calculator (we talk about that further down).
Calculating your macros means figuring out your unique carb, fat, and protein intake daily.
The reason I described those three keto guidelines with the word “guidelines” is to emphasize their nature. They are a general goal that most people can follow in the keto diet.
However, we are all different people with different body structures and different goals in pursuing the keto diet.
Figuring out what your macros are will help you to determine what you should be eating.
Also, when we talked about some of the side effects of doing keto, some solutions involved adjusting your fat or carb intake.
Knowing your macros from the beginning makes it easy to fine-tune your diet.
Some recommendations say to use your macro amounts as a starting point, and when you get used to the diet, you can use your intuition to gauge your intakes.
Do you need to do the calculations?
No. Some people succeed in doing keto by following the general guidelines. There’s nothing wrong with that.
If this is you, skip the next section.
But, if you to increase your chances of success, keep on reading.
You can do the math yourself, but some of the equations can be confusing, so I decided to spare you any of that.
Fortunately, there are a lot of people on the internet that have made the process easier for you.
Our goal is the keto diet, so we are focusing on macro calculators specifically for that purpose.
There are two calculators that I recommend that you try:
- Ruled.me has a great ketogenic calculator. https://www.ruled.me/keto-calculator/ I found it very easy to use. You need your height and weight ready. Don’t worry, though. You can switch between imperial and metric measurements. The questions are clear and have explanations. There is also a faq section underneath the calculator if you have questions.
- Wholesome Yum also has a great ketogenic calculator. https://www.wholesomeyum.com/the-best-free-low-carb-keto-macro-calculator/ It has similar features to the ruled.me calculator with a faq section for questions. I liked this calculator because it is both a keto and a low-carb calculator. You can compare your macros amounts on both diets, for those who are deciding between either diet.
When I was trying out these calculators, I ran into the problem of trying to figure out my body fat percentage. I didn’t know how to figure it out, and I anticipate many of you might not either.
Here are the methods I found:
- You can use scanners like a DEXA scan found at gyms or your healthcare provider’s office
- Skin calipers are tools you can use at home
- This method using tape measurements.
- It’s not as accurate, but you can also estimate your body fat. Ruled.me has a helpful guide for men and women here. https://www.ruled.me/visually-estimate-body-fat-percentage/
One more thing.
Types of Keto Diets
You decided on your focus, and you have your macro amounts. Now it’s time to determine what kind of keto diet you can to do. Fuller definitions found at https://www.bulletproof.com/diet/keto/keto-diet-beginners-guide/#ref-7
I really like this description by Thomas DeLauer between clean and dirty keto, which are two types we talk about below.
- Standard keto: This is the diet that what have been talking about so far. Low carbs and high fats. Less than 50 g carbs or 20 g net carbs daily.
- Cyclical keto: You follow the standard keto diet for 5-6 days a week. On the 6th and/or 7th day, you increase your carb intake back to around 150g. You’re going in and out of keto each week. Some people need more carbs regularly to thrive, and normal ketosis may not be as beneficial.
- Targeted keto: You follow standard keto, but 30-60 minutes before a high-intensity workout, you eat extra carbs. This is for people who don’t have enough energy to get them through a workout because the excess glucose can give them a boost. You return to ketosis after the workout.
- Dirty keto: You follow the macro amounts for your standard keto. However, you don’t care what carbs, fats, or proteins you eat as long as you meet the intake goals. If you’ve ever heard a person claim that you can have all the cheese and bacon you want on keto, they may be knowingly or unknowingly following this type.
- Moderate keto: Eat foods high in fat, but maintain a carb intake of 100-150 g net carbs daily. Despite their best efforts, some people cannot succeed in eating less than 100g of net carbs a day. They may be athletes burning out during workouts or people who suffer from severe hormonal imbalances.
Which one do I choose?
Figuring out which type of keto diet works depends on the person. You also want to make your decision in collaboration with your healthcare provider.
You can start with the standard diet for at least one month. If it works, there is nothing that you have to change if you don’t want to.
Feel free to adjust your macro amounts if needed.
After the standard diet, you can try one of the other types each month.
Take notes about how you felt during each month.
Here are some things you can think about:
- Was one day of increased carbs enough for you to maintain the diet?
- Did eating extra carbs get you through the exercises that you love?
- How much did you like the idea of not worrying about the types of foods that you eat?
- Did you try everything else, and you can’t have ultra-low-carb intake?
There’s nothing wrong with having variation in your diet. Despite its restrictive nature, the keto diet allows you to have this flexibility.
What to eat on keto
Hopefully, by now, you have a pretty good understanding of the keto diet.
You have your macro amounts ready if you wanted them.
And you have an idea of which variation you want to try.
As I’ve explained multiple times, your diet should consist of many fats (about 75%), ultra-low carbs (about 5%), and enough protein(about 20%).
These are the things that should be on your radar. Thanks to Steve for coming up with this list at https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/the-beginners-guide-to-the-keto-diet-or-ketogenic-diet/#fasting_keto
- Meats and poultry: Think chicken, sausage, bacon, turkey, beef, etc. Watch out for the pieces with the most fat as these are the ones you want. Also, focus on grass-fed and wild meats.
- Vegetables: Leafy, green vegetables are your best bet. Think spinach, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, etc. Check out this list of keto-friendly vegetables.
- Fish: Finally, it’s okay to eat those fatty fish. Think salmon, shellfish, tuna, etc.
- Eggs and dairy: These are a large part of your diet because of their high-fat content. For eggs, you’ll want to find the cage-free eggs. For dairy, most of your focus is on cheese that went through little processing. Think cheddar or mozzarella or vegan soft cheese.
- Healthy oils and fats: Healthy means saturated and monounsaturated fats. If butter is your friend, your friendship will grow. You can also consider things such as avocados, lard, ghee, or bacon fat. For oils, think avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil.
- Nuts, seeds, and nut butters: almonds, walnuts, coconut, hazelnuts, and their nut butter.
- Beverages: coffee (we’ll come back to this later), herbal teas, bone broth, mineral water, nut-based drinks like almond milk.
- Meatless Proteins: If you are trying to avoid meat while on keto, there are some options. Think tofu, tempeh, seitan.
This is not everything you can eat on the keto diet, but it is a good starting point.
For more information check out our food list here.
When people see the foods that they can eat on keto, they feel good.
Then they see that other list.
Supplements on Keto
Let’s talk about ketone supplements. By this I mean, anything outside of what you eat and drink that could potentially aid in ketosis.
This includes exogenous ketones, MCT oil, and MCT powder.
You might be wondering why I didn’t just say that you can eat exogenous ketones primarily to get your body into ketosis.
If you read the section on ketosis, you will notice where I listed the general ketone levels you should aim for if you decide to do tests.
You might have also read the section about ketoacidosis. For non-diabetics, this is a rare condition that most people don’t experience. While our bodies can adjust and compensate, ingesting enough exogenous ketones could potentially increase your risk.
When you are eating other foods, you are also getting a few carbs and protein, which your body also needs besides ketones.
So, I’ll tell you more about these supplements and whether you could implement ALONGSIDE your diet.
What are exogenous ketones? What are MCTs?
The word exogenous in biology means something that was grown or created outside of an organism.
So exogenous ketones are ketones that your body did not produce on its own. They can be both natural or synthetic, but if your body didn’t make it, then you have to consume it to get it.
They came about when researchers were trying to find ways to increase ketone levels without the need for dietary carb restriction. https://charliefoundation.org/exogenous-ketones-what-are-they/ When used in addition to the keto diet, they can help maintain ketosis.
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) are technically not exogenous ketones. But, when talking about ketone supplements, they are discussed together.
MCTs are a unique type of fat that your body rapidly absorbs and converts to ketones. https://charliefoundation.org/exogenous-ketones-what-are-they/
Types of Exogenous Ketones; MCTs
There are different kinds of exogenous ketones, and it can be confusing to which one is which. These are some of them:
- Ketone Esters: These are molecules with ketone bodies bonded to them. They are the most potent form of exogenous ketones. https://charliefoundation.org/exogenous-ketones-what-are-they/ They can increase ketone levels higher and for more extended periods. However, they are usually expensive and have horrible taste.
- Ketone Salts These are electrolytes like sodium with ketone bodies bonded to them. They can rapidly induce ketosis. https://charliefoundation.org/exogenous-ketones-what-are-they/ Plus, there are multiple affordable and well-tolerated forms available on the market. Because they include electrolytes, they can help with electrolyte imbalances caused by the keto diet. However, their effects last for short periods, they also can taste horrible, and high doses can cause severe GI upsets.
- MCTs: Medium Chain Triglycerides can be converted to ketones rapidly and do so independently of dietary restriction. https://charliefoundation.org/exogenous-ketones-what-are-they/ They are found naturally in foods such as coconut oil and are easier to digest. Plus, they are tasteless, and you can add them to most foods and drinks. However, large enough doses can cause GI upsets, and they might not be enough on their own to achieve ketosis.
Effects of Exogenous Ketones and MCTs
As stated above, exogenous ketones and MCTs elevate blood ketone levels and cause the body to enter ketosis quicker.
In this study, the researchers found that ketone supplements increased ketone levels and suppressed glucose levels to maintain ketosis. https://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12986-016-0069-y#Sec14
Besides the effects related to ketosis and decreasing body fat, there are some other effects:
- Decreased appetite: Because ketone lower the levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, ketone supplements can reduce your appetite. One study found that subjects who had drinks with ketone supplements had 50% less hunger than those who didn’t. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5813183/
- Treat Psychiatric Disease: Some research has shown the potential for ketone supplements, when combined with current medications, can treat or aid those with psychiatric diseases. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00363/full#h5
Potential Drawbacks of Ketone Supplements
While ketone supplements can help maintain ketosis when you’re on keto, you also need to be aware of some of the concerns with using them.
- High Blood Pressure: Most ketone salts are bound to sodium. While they can replace sodium losses due to initial ketosis, they can also lead to cases of high blood pressure. https://www.everydayhealth.com/ketogenic-diet/diet/exogenous-ketone-supplements-are-they-safe-they-work/
- FDA- Approval: Most ketone supplements on the market do not have the approval of the Food and Drug Administration. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326607.php So the companies are not required to test these products for safety or effectiveness. Even if you see a list of ingredients, you may not always be sure that you are getting what it says.
- Weird Taste: I have not had exogenous ketones myself, but many of the reports say that they taste like fuel and are horrible tasting. I have tasted MCTs before, and they are tasteless, even in water. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/exogenous-ketones#side-effects
- Side Effects: Ketone supplements are known to cause GI upsets, such as diarrhea or nausea in some people. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-keto-supplements#section3
- Can inhibit fat breakdown: Even though ketone supplements help you achieve ketosis, they can block fat loss at high enough levels. One of the compensation methods that your body has to prevent ketoacidosis is to block fat breakdown until ketone levels fall back to therapeutic levels. http://www.jbc.org/content/280/29/26649.long
- Costly: I mentioned this above, but most ketone esters are expensive. Even if ketone salts or MCTs are more affordable, you might need more to maintain their effects. These costs could add up.
Should I use ketone supplements?
For the most part, ketone supplements are safe and effective tools when used during your keto diet. They help you achieve ketosis and may also provide lost nutrients.
Ketone supplements are not recommended to be used by themselves, and many of their long-term effects have not been adequately researched.
Additionally, since many of them aren’t FDA-regulated, there is some risk in taking them.
If you have any concerns, be sure to contact your healthcare provider.
What to avoid on keto
Now here are the foods that you would need to avoid to keep yourself in ketosis. Again it is not a complete list of everything.
- Starches: In other words, this means your grains. These are pasta, potatoes, cereals, rice, corn, wheat, etc. They are some of the most significant sources of carbs, and even small servings of these foods might stop ketosis from occurring.
- Sugary foods: when you think about sugar, you’re most likely thinking about sucrose. Well, sucrose is a type of carb, so it has to go. From sodas and desserts to ice cream, and even ketchup you eliminate.
- Fruits: After seeing that you have to cut out sugar, I’m sure some of you were hoping that fruits didn’t count. Unfortunately, most fruits are high in sugar content. Even if its natural sugar, sugar is still sugar. The few exceptions include avocados, raspberries, and coconut.
- Unhealthy oils and fats: Avoid a lot of those trans fats, polyunsaturated fats, and other processed fats. For oils, avoid ones like canola, peanut, and sunflower oil.
- Alcohol: If you were thinking of drinking your way through the keto flu, then you’re out of luck. A lot of beers and wines have a lot of carbs. If you can’t get rid of them entirely, sticking to hard liquors such as vodka or gin might be safer bets.
- Beans & legumes: In other diets, they may be considered healthy, but here they aren’t. These include peas, lentils, and chickpeas.
- Root and tuber vegetables: As opposed to leafy, green vegetables, these vegetables are high in carbs. The deeper underground they grow, the higher the number of carbs they have. These include sweet potatoes, carrots, and yams.
- Diet foods: Despite their name, these foods tend to be highly processed and contain a lot of sugar.
For a more detailed list, check out our food list here.
These are a lot of foods to eliminate all at once.
Besides suffering from side effects like the keto flu, this is one of the biggest reasons why it is hard to stick to the keto diet.
You don’t realize how much bread is ingrained into your life until you can’t eat it anymore.
Can I take things slow?
Some people choose to enter the keto diet and dramatically cut out all of the foods above.
Others find the changes to be challenging, and there is nothing wrong with that.
For the second group of people, experts suggest that they make small changes.
This means eliminating foods one at a time over weeks or months.
One of the first foods that you might consider is sodas.
Research also shows that small changes to a lifestyle are easier to maintain than dramatic ones.
A one-step-at-a-time approach is also an option for those who are worried about the side effects we talked about earlier.
Small changes mean your body can tolerate them better, and you experience less severe effects.
Keto and Intermittent Fasting: An Interesting Combo
Intermittent Fasting is another diet plan that, similar to keto, can aid in remarkable weight loss and significant changes in health conditions.
You may not think it, but many people have had success in combining the best things about the keto diet with the best of intermittent fasting.
Before we can understand why let’s take a look at intermittent fasting.
This video introduces a lot of the benefits and emerging research about intermittent fasting.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is intentionally restricting food consumption during specific periods of the day. It is intermittent because you break to eat and then resume the fast.
Fasting is traditionally associated with religious or spiritual causes such as in Christianity or Buddhism.
Here, fasting targets gaining significant health benefits.
It isn’t like a regular diet because the focus is not on what foods you are supposed to eat or avoid, but when you should be eating.
There are several ways to do intermittent fasting. These are the most common that you might find: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide#methods
- The 16/8 method: This is the most common method and the easiest to maintain. You give yourself an 8-hour window to eat. For the other 16 hours in the day, you are fasting. For example, if you eat dinner at 8 pm on Thursday and start your fast, you won’t eat until noon on Friday. Then you can only eat from 12 pm until 8 pm before your fast starts once more.
- The Eat-Stop-Eat: This is where you fast for 24 hours once or twice during a week. On the other days, you would eat regularly. For example, you might eat lunch at 2 pm on Tuesday and not eat anything until 2 pm on Wednesday. In that same week, you might stop eating again on Friday at 2 pm until 2 pm on Saturday.
- The 5:2 method: On two non-consecutive days, you consume only 500-600 calories throughout the entire day. During the other five days, you will eat regularly. For example, on Monday, you decide only to eat 500 calories. On Tuesday and Wednesday, you continue to eat as usual. Then on Thursday, you again only consume 500 calories.
What happens when you fast?
Intermittent fasting is a powerful method of weight loss due to the changes that occur during the fast. Here are some of them:
- Human Growth Hormone Levels: According to research, fasting leads to a significant increase in the human growth hormone concentration in your body. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC329619/ The presence of this hormone encourages your body to use glucose and other energy sources to grow and repair. Increases mean an increase in your body’s utilization of energy.
- Insulin: After some time during the fast, glucose storage decrease, and insulin levels also drop. Insulin sensitivity in cells improves. Apparently, low insulin levels also make access to fat storages easier. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/15640462/
Do these events sound familiar to you?
Congratulations, you’ve been paying attention to the info-dump that is this article.
Also, intermittent fasting leads to many of the same occurrences in the keto diet.
Restricting calories for a particular time forces your body to use its stored glucose for energy.
If the fast is long enough, you force your body to tap into its fat storages, leading to weight loss.
Combining Keto with Intermittent Fasting
When you are beginning the keto diet, your goal is to deplete your body’s glucose to the point that you enter ketosis.
Intermittent fasting may make this process faster because cutting out meals limits your body’s access to outside nutrients. It takes less time for your body to realize that it needs to start looking within to supply itself with the energy it needs.
Even if you dramatically reduce your carb intake, it still may take some time before you experience the symptoms of ketosis.
Intermittent fasting may effectively boost those who may have a hard time entering ketosis as well.
In an eight-week study of the 16/8 fasting method, the individuals lost significantly more body fat. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5064803/#__ffn_sectitle They had better health benefits than those who did not perform the fast.
For those keto dieters who may be worried about increasing fitness on the diet, you can take a look at this study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5845356/ It shows that fasting helped the athletes maintain their muscle mass while also losing body fat.
Another thing to consider is that by fasting, you can eliminate at least one meal during the day.
That means fewer grams of carbs that you have to count and fewer chances for you to accidentally kick yourself out of ketosis. During the times when you aren’t fasting, you can focus more efforts on high fat intake and moderate protein amounts.
Lastly, by combining your keto diet with intermittent fasting, you have the potential to double your weight loss or health-boosting benefits.
Both of these diet methods are already safe and effective choices on their own, so you might decide to combine them.
You might see faster and better results overall.
Combining keto and intermittent fasting seems to be relatively safe, based on my research. However, there are still some concerns that you should be aware of before making a big decision.
- Difficult: Some people may find that both keto and intermittent fasting is too overwhelming on them. Instead of leading to a boost in their results, it may damage their chances. On non-fasting days there might be an increased tendency to overeat or worse, break your ketosis by giving into foods that you are supposed to avoid.
- Negative symptoms: The combination might lead to experiencing worse side effects than you might have alone on either method. Such symptoms include irritability and fatigue.
- Not required: I think that it is essential to emphasize that combining keto and intermittent fasting is not expected to reach ketosis. It is a faster method, but many people reach ketosis without the need for fasting. You don’t need to push yourself to accomplish both ways at the same time, so don’t beat yourself up when you find that it isn’t possible for you.
You may also decide to give your body time to adjust to ketosis before introducing intermittent fasting. At that point, you are already used to keto, and fasting might help you maintain that state.
As always, if you have any more questions or concerns, consult your healthcare professional.
Keto Meal Ideas
It is understandable to look at the keto-approved foods and keto-disapproved foods and be overwhelmed by what you should be eating.
That’s why I went ahead and researched some popular keto recipes and put them together. If there is a star next to the recipe, it is vegetarian and/or vegan.
Click on each link to get directed to the recipes. If you like what you see, don’t forget to comment and share those recipes. Enjoy!
- Instant Pot Breakfast Casserole
- Eggplant Benedict
- Very-Veggie Cauliflower Hash Brown Breakfast Bowl *
- Blueberry Pancake Bites
- Three Cheese Quiche Stuffed Peppers *
- Buttery Coconut Flour Waffles
- Bacon and Eggs Fat Bombs
- Big Mac Salad
- Avocado Arugula Cherry Tomato Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette *
- Chicken Enchilada Bowl
- Broccoli Fried Rice *
- Thai Soup *
- Salmon Poke Bowl
- Instant Pot Butter Chicken
- Keto Mac & Cheese
- Crispy Peanut Tofu & Cauliflower Stir-Fry *
- Creamy Tuscan Garlic Chicken
- Zucchini Lasagna *
- Baked Eggs and Zoodles with Avocado
The next thing you might be wondering is if you can eat snacks on the ketogenic diet. The answer is yes.
Once you get used to the keto diet, you will start to feel more satisfied in-between meals.
You would be less likely to need snacks.
However, you might also be combining 5:2 intermittent fasting with your keto diet. Or you just love the idea of snacks.
In any case, here are some keto snack ideas:
- Stevia-sweetened, with 80% or higher cacao chocolate (bet you thought your chocolate days were over)
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Keto smoothie
- Celery with salsa or guacamole
- Avocado Chips
- String Cheese
- Pork Rinds
- Salad Sandwichs
Speaking about Stevia, let’s talk about keto-approved sweeteners.
On the keto diet, you would need to reduce many sugary substances such as candy or desserts. This is because sugar raises glucose levels and kicks you out of ketosis.
For those of you with a sweet-tooth, you will be happy to know that there are some good sugar alternatives.
Here is another video from Ruled.me that explains things you should consider about using sweeteners during your keto diet. Below is a list of some of the sweeteners she talks about.
If you would rather skip to the part where she talks about each sweetener, it starts at 2:36.
- Stevia: Stevia is a natural sweetener that has little calories or carbs. Some studies show that it can help lower glucose levels. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2900484/ It is available in multiple places in both liquid and powder form. My experience with Stevia is that you need less Stevia compared to sugar for things to taste sweet.
- Sucralose: This sweetener is artificial, but like fiber, your body does not digest it. Don’t use it for baking though, because studies show that it isn’t safe at high temperatures. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4397539/ Splenda is a popular sweetener that has sucralose. However, Splenda also has maltodextrin and dextrose, two sweeteners that aren’t as keto-friendly.
- Erythritol: Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is about 80% as sweet as sugar. Like Stevia, it can be found in a variety of forms. Erythritol is also shown to lower glucose absorption in the body. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28770335 You can use this sweetener in a variety of ways, but it is known to have a cooling effect.
- Monk Fruit Sweetener: This sweetener comes from the monk fruit plant. Experts say that it can be at least 100 times sweeter than sugar and has no calories or carbs. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/additional-information-about-high-intensity-sweeteners-permitted-use-food-united-states Researchers found that Monk Fruit can help manage glucose levels. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21351724
Even though these sweeteners are safe for the ketogenic diet, they should be used in moderation. Experts say that more focus should be on the other foods in the diet.
For more info on sweeteners, you can use on the keto diet, check out this article.
So far, I have shared with you the information that I have gathered and researched about the keto diet.
Here, I wanted to talk about my experience as someone who actually embarked on the keto diet.
If you feel a little overwhelmed about all the information that you learned in this article, I felt the same way. In fact, I learned a lot more information by researching this topic than I wished I had known before starting my diet.
These were my experiences:
It might not come as a surprise, but I did the keto diet for weight loss.
I had heard about the results my coworker had and decided that I wanted that too.
I’d never done a popular diet besides calorie counting, but I felt that this diet might be different for me.
I began my diet with a 16-hour fast after reading an article that recommended it.
I didn’t know that you could continue to combine keto with intermittent fasting.
I didn’t calculate my macro amounts before starting my keto diet.
For me, it felt like it was similar to my experiences with calorie counting, which I wasn’t any good at, and would be overwhelming to keep up with.
I did count my carb intake to a certain extent.
When I started my keto diet, I immediately cut down to the general 20g net carbs rule.
I think my motivation at the beginning was that it would be harder for me mentally to give things up if I did things gradually.
I know myself, and I know that there are certain things that I procrastinate about.
It wasn’t my intention, but I delved into the dirty keto method on my journey.
Because I wasn’t as strict with monitoring my macro amounts, I will admit that I might have gone over the amounts more than I should.
There was also a point where I was eating too much protein.
Then, I learned about the way that protein is converted into glucose in my Biochemistry class. I also read some articles about the subject.
Long story short, I became a bit more careful.
Giving up bread and rice
Out of anything that I had to give up, bread and rice were the most devastating and challenging.
Rice is a major part of my culture and most of my favorite foods were tied to rice.
Before the diet, I did not realize how versatile my use of bread was.
I found myself almost slipping because I wanted to make a particular food and it included either of these foods.
I was expecting to feel horrible when I started the keto diet based on every single article that I read.
However, I never personally had flu-like symptoms where I felt horrible.
I even had to double-check my intake and increase my fat content to make sure that I was doing things right.
My mom learned about some of the side effects of the keto diet and was concerned about me being on it. She finally got me to take my vital signs.
I was shocked at my blood pressure which was like 175/100 or something. My pulse was also over 100.
I do not have high blood pressure or any other chronic health issues.
Obviously something was occurring in my body to get numbers like that.
My only indication that I was enduring the keto flu was from monitoring my vitals.
I increased my fluids and electrolytes, and eventually, they returned to normal.
A couple of months into my diet, I began to experience a weird sensation with my movements.
It’s a little difficult to describe, but I felt like my body was reacting slower than it was supposed to.
Any movement with my limbs felt like I was losing control of my body. From walking to grasping things, it got to the point where I had to focus too do simple tasks.
I was very concerned.
My initial reaction was that I wasn’t eating enough fats, so I increased my intake. I also made sure that I was always hydrated.
I was eventually told to pause my diet and increase my carb intake. When I did, the sensation disappeared.
I was on the keto diet for about 6-7 months before that neuromuscular sensation occurred. Because it disappeared after I increased my carb intake, I was advised and eventually decided not to resume doing keto.
I think that I had it in me to continue the diet for longer, so its a little sad that I had to stop when I did.
I mention this not to scare you away from doing keto. From my research, keto is still safe and effective for many people.
However, it isn’t for everyone. If you try keto and find that it isn’t for you, there are many options out there that might work instead.
Despite ending my keto journey, there are some things that I learned from the entire experience:
- Willpower: Following my keto diet made me feel like I was able to do things that I had not thought I could. Even though I tried to prepare myself as much as possible, I was still afraid that I break my diet. Yet, I didn’t. I attended training for work where the instructor passed around a large bowl of treats. Every time I had to pass the bowl without taking anything was difficult, yet I was able to do it.
- Healthy Substitutes: One of the reasons that I was able to maintain this diet for so long was that I was able to find recipes to replace a lot of the things that I had to give up. I eventually missed bread so much that I found low-carb options that I could eat in moderation. There’s a whole world of recipes out there, so don’t be afraid to look a little.
- Great Support: Nobody around me was doing keto with me. I told people to give myself accountability, but none of my friends and family understood things from my perspective. So I joined Facebook groups and Reddit’s keto community. The supportive environment gave me the motivation to keep going that willpower on its own lacked.
- Cooking: As a busy college student, it was easy for me to find excuses to buy food or make quick things to eat. I couldn’t do that on keto. You can eat out on keto, but if you’re going to a fast-food restaurant, the options available aren’t usually worth your money. So I was forced to increase my cooking expertise and I found it somewhat enjoyable.
- Fasting: Before the keto diet, the idea of fasting was challenging because I would get hungry very often. As I got used to the diet, I found that I didn’t have to eat as often to feel satisfied. Even when I was hungry, I was able to hold off from eating until I wanted to eat. Even after the diet, fasting is still something easier for me to do then I ever thought possible.
I hope you gained a lot of information from this article and from my experiences. Here’s a summary of the things we talked about:
- The keto diet, aka ketogenic diet, is where you significantly reduce the number of carbohydrates (carbs) eaten, while you increase the number of fats and proteins.
- Ketosis is when your body breaks down fats into ketones to use as fuel.
- Some benefits of the keto diet include weight loss, increased energy, and reduced inflammation.
- Some side effects include the keto flu, keto rash, and insomnia.
- Different kinds of keto diet include targeted keto and dirty keto.
- If you want to increase your chances of success consider a keto diet + intermittent fasting combo.
What follows are common questions asked about the keto diet and the sources I used to build this article.
If you have any comments or questions, let us know down below.
Frequently Asked Questions About The Keto Diet
How do I get started on the keto diet?
With any diet, you want to start making preparations and plans. The more prepared you are, the more likely you will succeed. Consider doing the following:
- Talk to your healthcare professional. They have a lot of knowledge that you want to use to your advantage. Make sure that this diet is safe for you to try before doing anything else.
- Take before photos or measurements. The best way to tell how things are going is having something to compare your changes to. This information could also serve as motivation during the times when you feel the strongest urges to give up.
- Calculate your macros. Like I said above, you can calculate these numbers if you feel that they would be beneficial to you. Use the calculators from either Ruled.me or Wholesome Yum. Remember these are the carb, protein, and fat intakes.
- Tell someone. If you have a person in your life that will push you and won’t let you quit easily, tell that person. We don’t like to disappoint the people we care about. So, telling people you’re doing keto makes it harder for you to give up. This is also the point where you look for some support groups.
- Decide which kind of diet that you want to do. Most people start out with the standard diet and adjust as they go. Maybe you already know that dirty keto appeals to you. You can’t set goals if you don’t know what those goals are.
- Pick out a few recipes. Figure out which foods you want to try out for the first few days on keto. Check out the recipes that I put above. Even if those specific recipes don’t appeal to you, the websites that they come from have hundreds more to choose from.
- Go shopping. Get the ingredients that you need for the recipes that you’ve chosen. Make sure that you get lots of water. If you feel that you might need snacks, look at the keto snacks list and buy some.
- Consider an electrolyte supplement. You are going to lose a lot of electrolytes during the transition period of the keto diet. These supplements may help.
- Consider testing your ketone levels. A big part of the keto diet is maintaining ketosis. Measuring your ketone levels can help you stay on track because you know where you stand.
- Improve your environment. This might be hard if you don’t live alone but you’re the only one on keto. However, try your best to remove temptations and distractions from your home. If there is a certain place in the kitchen that you always go first, you might organize your keto items in a way that they are the first things you see.
- Look into fasting. Maybe you don’t want to do both fasting and keto. It’s okay if that might be too much to deal with at the same time. But, maybe you can fast over one day and then immediately move onto your diet.
- Tracking your meals. This can help you understand what meals you’ve taken and how it made you feel. This can also help you keep track of your intakes. Apps like MyFitnessPal work great for this.
- Adjust when needed. Remember how we talked about everyone being different. Try to listen to your body and make changes when you feel they are needed. Not everything goes right the first time and that’s okay.
- Take photos and measurements after each month or so. This is how you can keep the progress of your journey. When you loo back down the road, you might be astonished at how far you’ve come.
1. What can you eat on the keto diet?
Your focus on the keto diet should be high fat intake, moderate protein intake, and low carb intake. Consider the following:
- High-containing fats, like butter and ghee, MCT oil, and avocados
- Moderate amounts of fatty proteins, like meat, cage-free eggs, fatty fish and whey protein.
- Lots of nutrient-dense and low-carb vegetables, like broccoli, zucchini, cucumbers, cabbage, and celery. Check out this list of keto-friendly veggies.
2. What should you avoid on the keto diet?
You should avoid foods that are high in carbs and sugar. These foods include:
- Whole grains, bread, pasta, potatoes, pizza, cereals or any other high-carb foods.
- Fast food options such as biscuits, pancakes, burger buns, chicken nuggets, french fries, chips, ice cream.
- Sugary beverages like sodas or sweet tea.
- High-sugar fruits such as apples, bananas, or oranges.
3. Who should NOT try the Keto Diet?
This article is not medical advice and should not be treated as such. The following diseases are not recommended for the keto diet: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/keto-diet-is-gaining-popularity-but-is-it-safe-121914#3
- Carnitine deficiency
- CPT I/II deficiency
- Beta oxidation defects
- Impaired gastrointestinal motility
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Pregnant women, especially those with Gestational Diabetes
- Breast-feeding women
- Kidney failure
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Gallbladder disease
- History of Kidney or Gallbladder stones
- Impaired liver function or liver failure
- Impaired fat digestion
- History of eating disorders (both current and present)
- Gastric bypass surgery
- Abdominal tumors
Please speak with your healthcare professional or board-certified nutritionist if you have any questions or concerns.
4. Can Vegetarians/Vegans do the Keto Diet?
Yes, you can. In the food list above, I talked about some options for those who are vegetarian or vegan. For example, you can look into vegan soft cheese and avocado oil.
I also included some sample keto vegan and vegetarian recipes. You can explore those websites for more such recipes.
If you are already on a vegan or vegetarian diet, you know the importance of making sure you are eating enough protein, vitamins, etc. It is as important for the keto diet that you maintain that vigilance.
5. Will my breath and pee smell weird on keto?
Unfortunately, one of the signs that your body is in ketosis is a fruity-smelling breath and urine.
This comes from the ketones, mainly acetone, being excreted in your pee and breath.
Your breath will smell like you dumped fruit juice on your tongue. Your pee will smell like a combination of fruit and pee.
As your body gets used to ketones as an energy source, these symptoms should decrease.
To decrease your breath smell you can increase the number of times you brush your teeth and get some sugar-free and keto-safe bubblegum.
6. Can I overeat on keto?
Even though it is less likely, you can still overeat on the keto diet.
You might be lowering your carb intake, but your fat and protein intake might be a lot more than it should.
Excess fat gets converted into fat that is stored. So you might end up striking yourself out before you even begin.
Your body is programmed to want to obtain its energy from carbs. Any opportunity that you give it, your body will take.
Your body turns some excess protein into fat for storage. It can also be converted into glucose and kick you out of ketosis.
7. Can you exercise during ketosis?
The answer is a bit complicated because there are different types of exercises and workouts out there. However, there are some kinds of workouts that ketosis may affect your performance.
Before we even consider exercise though, you need to make sure that you have enough fat intake as well as other nutrients. If you aren’t eating enough, you won’t do well on any workout.
It might be easier to answer this question by looking at the different workouts.
High-Intensity Exercise during Keto
Most high-intense workouts include challenging exercises during short periods of time. These activities include strength training and sprinting.
They require short, intense bursts of energy to get them through.
The energy needed in these workouts usually comes from glycogen stored in your muscles. Glycogen is the storage form of carbs in your muscles.
High-intensity means your body will usually default to using glycogen.
When you’re in ketosis, you are burning fat instead of carbs for energy. During intense workouts, you may not have that glycogen you need for them.
In this 2017 study, the researchers found that a 6-week ketogenic diet had a negative impact on physical performance such as endurance capacity, stamina, and workload. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5319032/
It is not recommended to do high-intensity workouts while on the keto diet. You probably won’t have the carbs needed to get through them. https://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness/what-keto-diet-will-your-workout/
Low-Intensity workouts during Keto
Lower-intensity workouts typically do not depend on quick bursts of energy together them through. They include activities such as distance running, swimming, or cycling.
On the keto diet and in these workouts, you are more likely to start using ketones as your fuel sources rather than the glycogen in your muscles.
In one study of athletic walkers, the researchers discovered that a low-carb, high-fat diet leads to high fat-burning across varying speeds or intensities. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5407976/
However, many of the walkers stated that it took more effort on their part to complete the same activities as those not on the keto diet.
The researchers also saw that the keto diet walkers failed to gain an improvement in a 10 km race performance that the other walkers achieved.
Based on this information, it is possible to do low-intensity cardio workout on the keto diet. But don’t expect to improve your performance while doing so. https://www.cheatsheet.com/health-fitness/can-you-exercise-on-the-keto-diet-best-workouts-for-weight-loss.html/
8. Can you build muscle on keto?
The process of growing muscle involves storing carbs in those muscles in order for them to grow.
During the keto diet, you have fewer carbs than normal and it is less likely that those carbs would be sent to your muscles.
It may even be possible that you might lose muscle mass instead.
If you’ve taken the time to read or skim through this guide, you might be feeling overwhelmed with all of this info.
Don’t worry though, we can take things one step at a time.
If you are interested in giving the keto diet a try, move onto the following article to help you figure things out clearly:
Don’t forget to come back to this article for future reference!
Seun Oyeku brings you A Peek To Wellness. She has embarked on a journey to improve her well-being, and she’s bringing everyone with her. She believes that wellness is about improving your physical, mental, and emotional health together. From topics such as in meditation or workouts, she strives to you to bring you the information that can lead to your success. Even if that means you have to take things one peek at a time.
Read more about me here