Time to talk Keto. A Ketogenic Diet is a diet with very low or no carbohydrates.
Any guide we make will cover everything we can think of to make this the single best resource around, and due to that, you may want to skip some sections. Like always, we will start with the history of this famous diet, get into some science, and blow you away with all the practical advice you will ever need.
For those who want to skip ahead, we included a quick table of contents for this very long (6,000 words or so) article.
The Only Ketogenic Diet Guide You Need
The Legendary Beginning of the Atkins Diet
I very well could have made several articles on the Atkins Diet alone. Yes, this is a fad diet. Unlike most fad diets (Cabbage soup, I am looking at you), the ketogenic diet is based on science. Albeit, the sciece of just one study. The story goes like his, the future Dr. Atkins stumbled upon a study in the Jama network, a leading scientific research collective. After reading the study, which was designed to test fat loss on a medical diet, Dr. Atkins invented the Atkins Diet around 1958.
My beef with Atkins is the connection of Atkins to real ketogenic science. The connection is a well-known study by Dr. Wishnofsky. The study proved a diet high in fat, and with moderate protein will cause weight loss. The Atkins Diet claim was that this study demonstrated that you could lose weight without a caloric deficit if you eat the right magic meats and fats.
Wait, Lose Weight Without a Caloric Deficit?
Atkins claimed that the study proved you could lose weight without a caloric deficit. Is it true? Partly. Including water weight you drop from ketosis, you can lose weight without a caloric deficit. My problem with this is Dr. Wishnofsky never said this. The study was not about some magic weight loss combination. (Yes, I link to the study on our resource page, which you will find linked at the bottom). The study was all about determining if this particular diet type will help people lose weight. At the time, it was a test to prove that a calorie is a calorie. This is highly simplistic, but for our purposes, the point is that the famed study Atkins is based on was not even really testing what the diet claims.
The Atkins Diet was based on faulty or misinterpreted science. The study (Studies) shows that yes, you can lose weight on a diet which is high in fat and containing moderate protein. The weight loss is extrapolated to mean consuming few carbohydrates. This is true, as weight loss is in a caloric deficit. Further research has been done to show there are benefits to a Ketogenic Diet.
You can’t lose Fat without an energy deficit.
The promise that you can lose fat without a caloric deficit is entirely fiction. When consuming low carbohydrates or no carbohydrates, your body will expel and stop retaining water. This causes a quick and massive drop in water weight. The larger you are, the more water you lose. The rapid loss of water gives the appearance of weight loss, and people assume weight loss is fat. Again, most people are ignorant, and when the scale jumps ten or so pounds in any direction, they assume they are gaining or losing fat.
The problem is, the water weight will come back on once you stop the diet. Quick weight loss? Sure. Will you potentially look better? Possibly, as water is stored in fat as well. But it is just an illusion. The rapid loss in water weight is why Atkins is such a popular fad diet. But, a Ketogenic Diet is far from a fad diet. In fact, it is very widely supported by science.
The Real Origin of Ketogenic Diets
The first real Ketogenic Diet (Not the first main stream diet, Atkins) was a medically designed diet. The medical intention was to help as a treatment for epilepsy, and other neurological diseases. The studies, which were insufficient as well, did have some interesting links which were later expounded upon.
Authors Note: The original studies on a Ketogenic Diet was to treat neurological conditions. The first round of studies made claims and connections to treat illnesses. But unlike the Atkins claims, these ideas were later tested and either proven or disproved.
The ketogenic diet originated as a tool for treating neurological diseases, such as epilepsy. Interestingly enough, some further benefits were discovered on this diet. A noted side effect was weight loss, which is why we use it today in the fitness industry and weight loss community. But the science continued to prove a variety of health benefits including treatment of:
- Heart Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- Brain Injuries*
Those are the big six proven health benefits which are proven from the original follow up studies on the medical keto diet. Some other connections are made, but I can not endorse. These include the potential to improve skin health. The theory is that lower insulin levels, less sugar, and less processed food can contribute to healthier skin. More specifically, improve the skin of people with acne.
The * Means “Not Proven in Humans.”
The other tested benefit of the original study was for brain injuries. The claim of brain injury benefits was not extensively tested in humans but were tested in animals. One study made a connection showing that a keto diet can improve recovery after brain injury including reduced concussion rate and severity. But these were not proven in humans, and the science from animals is not conclusive.
The original medical keto diet had a huge impact on the outlined neurological conditions. It was shown to either help improve the symptoms for most tested conditions and even slow down progressions in disease such as Alzheimer’s. That is right, put grandma on a low carb diet and she will be ‘grandma’ longer, and not the crazy lady who wants to know why grandpa sleeps in her bed.
The cancer connection is impressive as keto has proven to slow down tumor growth and even treat some types of cancer. The unscientific conclusion is that even when you do not want to lose weight, the low carb approach is a good idea for longevity and health.
Keto is Healthy. Atkins is NOT Keto.
I want you to think of the science Atkins was based on when we discuss Ketogenic Diets. The science is sound, but the diet is not. It is not that Atkins is bad. The sad truth is most diet plans revolving around ketosis are closer to Atkins than the science. They are close, but close does not fit in with the science. The average keto diet plan which you most likely have could be based on this medical example, and probably is. With health benefits and a focus on higher fat intake, this is the form of Ketosis which has long term benefits.
The problem is that the advantages and claims of this medical approach, and Atkins, are combined in most diet methodology. The structure may be common but saying Atkins can do what the medical diet is based on it a bit of a stretch. Additionally, most of the common fad keto diets (Rapid weight loss type of diet) fall into the category of using information behind the Atkins but making claims that the medical ketogenic diet proves. If someone promises a diet plan determined to check all of these boxes and lose a guaranteed amount of weight quickly, you should be cautious.
Some exceptions exist, such as by author Lyle McDonald, but he does not claim his quick weight loss diet is even Keto and does not promote health benefits like others do. In fact, he markets his diet as a short term solution. Generally, I would not mention another author like this, but the distinction between fad diets and diets based on science must be made. Some people are not using slimy marketing tactics and lose data to make a promise to you, so you should be aware you need to do your research before jumping into a keto plan.
What is a Keto Diet Plan?
Keto, the abbreviation of Ketosis, is commonly thrown around a lot. Atkins has a bad reputation as a fad diet. At one point or another, everyone and their mother hopped on the Atkins. Trying to reinvent the wheel (Or rather, charge people for a diet book or recipe books), the weight loss and fitness community jumped aboard the new trend. First stop, your bank account. After you pay for a couple of fancy books, you find out that the answer is straightforward.
What is a Keto Diet Plan? The broad definition is a Keto Diet plan is a diet plan which has the goal of putting the body in Ketosis.We will get to what Ketosis is later, as that has a lot of explaining. The Keto Diet Plan is a diet plan which is typically high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrate. The original research cited by Dr. Atkins was a study on the theory of a high fat and moderate protein approach to weight loss. This was later incorrectly lumped together with Ketosis. I am teasing, but this again requires a dedicated section.
For most people, to follow a Keto Diet Plan you just need to focus on eating as few carbohydrates as possible. When consuming few or no carbohydrate, your body can enter Ketosis. The magic happens once you enbter Ketosis. The commercial definition is a diet high in fat, with moderate protein, and low in carbohydrates. A high fat diet is not exactly optimal for weight loss but still, gives you the health benefits. If you are looking for a quick answer, this is what every diet book will promote on the subject. High fat, moderate protein, very low carbs.
The Science Behind Ketosis
Ketosis is a biological process which consists of the body switching from carbohydrates as an energy source and using fat as an energy source. That is the simple version. The complete answer has more science meat to it. When carbohydrates (in the form of sugar – so after carbohydrates are digested) are processed, they convert into glucose, or blood sugar for the body to consume. The more carbohydrates you eat which turn into sugar, the higher the blood sugar levels spike.
Reduce the consumption of carbohydrates which turn into sugar and increasing consumption of fat and protein results in a conversion of metabolic pathways. The pathways are substantially equivalent in switching the grade of gasoline you put into your car. Most engines can run on all forms of unleaded gasoline, but they do perform differently. Some cars require a higher or particular octane grade of fuel. Our metabolisms operate in a very similar manner.
Author’s Note: I am sorry, I know this is a horrible analogy.
Our bodies can function on low octane fuel or carbohydrates which convert into sugar in the blood stream. It is cheap, available, and abundant. This causes most people to use it as the fuel source. The problem is that your car, or body, in this case, functions far more efficiently on a higher grade of fuel. Ketosis has a plethora of benefits for the human body.
Enough of automotive analogies, more science time. Ketosis occurs when dietary and bodily fat is converted into energy to replace carbohydrates. When this happens, the body creates ketone bodies. As the levels of glucose, as well as insulin, in the body drops, ketone levels rise. This increase is a result of the body releasing fat in muscle tissue, free fatty acids in the blood stream and fat in the brain as a fuel source. Ketones are the fuel source which the body uses to replace glucose created by carbohydrates.
Author’s Note: Your brain actually functions better on Ketones. Carbohydrates are converted into Ketones to be used by the brain. Your brain will need to readjust, but will gladly use Ketones for optimal brain function.
This is not the whole story. What we call Ketosis is the metabolic state of Nutritional Ketosis. Nutritional Ketosis is the state of having low blood glucose or sugar, and moderate levels of ketones. When people say they are in Ketosis, they are in Nutritional Ketosis. The goal of all ketogenic diets is to be in Nutritional Ketosis. Time to split hairs, as I do have a problem with the approach of the weight loss and diet industry when it comes to keto.
The word keto is tossed around liberally. Partially because people incorrectly associate keto with the Atkins diet. Just because Atkins was the first mainstream approach to use the principles of Ketosis to create a diet does not mean it is true ketosis or even optimal ketosis. The requirements for Nutritional Ketosis are only a moderate amount of Ketones and low blood sugar.
Your body can create Ketones from fat stores it already has. That means that real Nutritional Ketosis has slightly different dietary requirements. First is low carbohydrates which convert into sugar in the body.* Second is consuming dietary fat or having fat deposits adequate to fuel the body. That is it. The amount of fat is largely a guess, as of protein. Both have their own benefits, which we will discuss. But neither are required to enter ketosis.
Authors Note: * is important. I mention nothing of Fiber. Fiber, which does not convert into sugar, do not directly create a significant amount of blood sugar. This means you can completely enter ketosis while still consuming carbohydrates. You need to limit the number and only consume either very low GI carbohydrates or high in Fiber without trace amounts of carbohydrates or sugar.
My gripe with the weight loss industry as the facts are mis represented. The upper fat intake does have benefits, but so can higher protein diets. If you are above 8% body fat as a male, you still have sufficient stores of fat (Plenty of fat left above the essential body fat reserves) to enter ketosis without the high fat intake. Is that optimal or even advised long term? Nope. But the definition and science the benefits are evident.
We will be discussing both types of Ketogenic Diets in this article. Primarily the approach of the commercial ketogenic diet, which is high fat. The reason is this method does have far more scientific studies on the particular dietary approach since it is so common. Plus, this is what you will find most information about online and in keto books.
The Science of Ketones
Before we get into the meat, we have another section of science to cover. Ketones – or the released by product of ketosis which the body will use as fuel. Ketones are simply a by product the body creates from using fat as a fuel source. The problem is the weight loss community tosses out ketosis without explaining the distinction of what ketones are.
The short version is that ketones are one of three water soluble byproduct molecules from the liver when the body is converting fat into fuel. Ketones are also common in people who have severe insulin deficiency caused by commonly by extreme cases of diabetes. This means, when entering Ketosis, you will have many of the side effects of people with diabetes.
Ketosis For the Non-Diabetic
Ketones are not used directly in a metabolic process. It is easier to understand when we reference the process of fat loss, as discussed entirely in our article on Body Recomposition. When your body burns fat deposits, water is a released product. This is why you can be losing fat, but your weight will not drop. Your body retains and releases water into the fat cells and fill up as a mechanism to stay full.
Except, in this case, your lives releases ketones as opposed to water. Similar to how your body handles the water which is retained and released, ketones are also released. They are either released through bodily fluid, such as pee, or through your mouth when you breathe. This is a foul odor commonly called keto breath. Ketones are not useful; they are just our way of measuring if our bodies are burning fat as a fuel source of carbohydrates.
How do we test ketones? The simple answer is that we use the smell test (How bad our breath smells), the ‘feel’ test (In time, you can ‘feel’ being in ketosis). We also have a blood test, a breath test or the easiest test being keto strips. Keto strips are sold online and operate like PH testing strips used commonly in pools or hot tubs. You pee on the strip, and it tells you a number of ketones in your body. It is far from scientific as it is not very exact, but it is easy, cheap, and close enough.
Authors Note: The blood test and strip test methods are best performed before eating in the morning. Some blood test devices may have different instructions, but they all follow this rule.
The scientific approach is the blood test. The best way is a simple prick of the finger. Much like a diabetic test, you prick your finger for a blood sample, and the testing device will tell you the ketone level. Just like a person with diabetes, you have good and bad ranges of ketones to be in ketosis. Ketones are measured in mmol/L, and that is the reading the testing machine will give.
Here is a quick guide for your ketone level when using a machine:
- Below 0.5 mmol/L is NOT Ketosis.
- Above o.5 mmol/L and up to 1.5 mmol/L is light Ketosis (Some ketogenic benefits are seen).
- Above 1.5 mmol/L and up to 3 mmol/L are optimal Ketosis (Maximum fat loss range and health benefits are optimal as well).
- Over three mmol/L is the point of diminishing returns.
The level of diminishing returns would be the period which constitutes unhealthy for a simple explanation. Not only do fat loss benefits not increase, but it can also actually lessen the fat loss. Plus you run the risk of lack of nutrition as you are most likely not eating enough food as even lean meat has trace amounts of carbohydrates. This is also commonly seen in people with type one diabetes who have a severe insulin deficiency.
The ‘feel’ and ‘smell’ test are how most people end up judging if they are in ketosis. A complete list on how to detect ketosis for those of us who dislike pricking our finger or remembering strips would be a good start.
How to Detect Ketosis:
- Dry Mouth
- Increased Thirst
- Increased Urination
- Reduced Hunger
- Increased Energy
- Keto Breath
- Keto Smell
These set in a few days after your body enters ketosis and are an easy answer to how to detect ketosis without the use of strips of a machine. I know, you are dying to ask ‘what is ketosis breath,” and I will finally answer this as I have alluded to it a couple of times now. Ketosis breath is essentially a foul smell which is associated with ketones released from breathing. My fiancee tells me it smells like rotten fruit; I think it smells like fruit dipped in ethanol. It is not a pleasant smell by any means.
You can occasionally smell this when sweating. Sweat can also release ketones. As a sweaty person, I smell like fruity ethanol often. You may think you stink when in ketosis, and frankly, that is the easiest way to know you are on the right track. You will smell different when entering ketosis. The last test is a breathalyzer like adevice which is used to test the number of ketones excreted through breathing. The science on the device so far has shown that it is only moderately effective, and in my personal experience, it is not effective. I find even the test strips to be even more accurate – and far cheaper.
The Health Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet benefits are various. The largest being fat loss. Carbohydrates often cause a significant spike in insulin which leads directly to weight gain. Plus, carbs are addictive due to increased dopamine levels. To make matters worse, carbs are often very caloric dense. Carbs are not bad, but they are far from optimal. Multiple studies show that people on a low carb diet lose more weight than those on any other diet type. Plus, a high protein diet helps people feel full on fewer calories and burn more calories. The combination makes a low carb diet a home run for fat loss and effective dieting.
Food which is natural (Not processed and found in nature) often contain fiber and a lower amount of carbohydrates. Healthy living and common sense would say teating cake is bad for your fat loss goals. Aside from weight loss, there are several ketogenic diet benefits.
The big two health benefits of a ketogenic diet:
- Proven to Fight and Reverse Cancer.
- Proven to Fight and Reverse Diabetes.
That is right; a ketogenic diet is scientifically proven to help fight and reverse cancer and diabetes. That is just the start, as the research has far more to provide. But we covered that earlier. The benefits claimed in the first medical ketogenic diet and tests still exist. But we do have a slightly longer list, including diabetes.
Other long-term keto health benefits include:
- Improved Focus
- Improved Memory
- Less Moody
- Improved Endurance
- Slowing Aging Process
- Reduces Inflammation
- Treating Autism
- Acid Reflux
- Improve Mitochondrial Production
- Reducing Insulin Resistance
This list is just the tip of the iceberg. The follow-up research on a traditional ketogenic diet all prove that a keto diet is optimal for long term health as opposed to a grain and processed food based diet.
The Ketogenic Diet Risks
Any diet has its risks and is not for everyone. The biggest risk factor is ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a condition in which your body does not have sufficient insulin and has an extreme amount of ketones in the body. This condition can be so severe that may result in death. Ketoacidosis typically applies to people with type one diabetes. On some medications, you can contract ketoacidosis with type two diabetes.
Aside from diabetics, you have a slim chance of getting ketoacidosis. To have ketoacidosis, you must have a mmol/L of over 8. Anything over 3 is dangerous. 8? That is insanely high. That is why you should test your ketone level when being under a long term ketogenic diet. Ketoacidosis can set in as quickly as under 24 hours and can result in death.
Lucky for you and me, Ketoacidosis is reversable. All you need is some quick carbs. A couple of pieces of fruit (fast acting carbohydrates) and bread (slow acting carbs) and you will be better shortly. Add in some juice for good measure and a trip to your doctor for good measure. This is not medical advice, but this is what works. As long as you catch it in time, all you need is some carbs.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Too many ketones is a bad thing. Since most food does have trace amounts of carbohydrates, you should have enough through diet unless you already have a pre-existing condition. This is why people with type one diabetes are discouraged from taking on a keto diet. A keto diet should only be attempted under medical supervision when you have diabetes.
Another important point is the list of symptoms of ketoacidosis. They include extreme thirst, frequent urination, dehydration, stomach pain, tiredness, and smelly breath. That sounds an awful lot like entering ketosis. That is because ketosis is just a mild form of ketoacidosis. Water in a high amount can be toxic. Too many carbs and you develop insulin resistance. An extended period in extreme ketosis can cause ketoacidosis. As long as you are mindful, you will be okay, but it is important to realize that feeling alone does not always mean you are in the clear.
What is ketosis flu?
I am glad you asked! Ketosis flu is just the easy way of saying you feel awful when entering ketosis. Just like the common flu, ketosis is associated with feeling tired, fatigue, headaches, cramps, and even stomach issues. This also sounds like Ketoacidosis, doesn’t it? Luckily this will all pass in a couple of days, and you can combat this period of ketogenic flu.
The best way to avoid it is to reduce your carbohydrate intake gradually. The transition your body goes through is not exactly easy. Your body also rapidly loses water when entering ketosis due to the lack of carbs (One of the reasons Atkins ‘works’ for people). The problem is this is not healthy. Losing water weight rapidly can cause dehydration and all of the side effects. The solution is to slowly transition your body into ketosis and adapt to using ketones for fuel.
Another Keto Tip, On The House.
The other big tip? Do not become dehydrated. Simple, eh? You need water and electrolytes to remain hydrated. You lose these rapidly when entering ketosis and losing that water weight. This will also help prevent ketoacidosis. You should ideally supplement your diet with electrolytes when going on a keto diet, no matter what any other guru tells you.
Other experts commonly state that you do not need supplements when you are doing a keto diet. This is false. As a short term diet, you should increase supplementation of nutrients like you would any other crash diet. You need electrolytes and a good multivitamin as you are trying to lose weight rapidly. As a long term lifestyle approach, you should still supplement in the same way for the simple fact that this can help prevent ketoacidosis.
How to Start a Ketogenic Diet
We know ketogenic diets have a bunch of health benefits, and can help you lose weight, backed by science. How to eat a ketogenic diet is pretty simple if you plan. In this section, we will be going over your most common obstacles and questions when beginning this diet, including:
- First, How to start a ketogenic diet?
- Second, How to eat a ketogenic diet?
- Third, How to plan a ketogenic diet?
- Fourth, How to follow a ketogenic diet?
A ketogenic diet is pretty simple to start. Again, we are talking about a traditional ketogenic diet here. First, you need to stock up and hit up the ketogenic diet food list. Before you do that, I suggest you empty the pantry of food. Food sitting around will only become an obstacle. How to start a ketogenic diet is more about being mentally prepared and for most people, not having temptation will make things easier.
Once you go shopping, the answer to ‘how to start a ketogenic diet‘ is all about just cooking what you have at home and changing your meal plan. The ketogenic diet is high in healthy fat, containing moderate protein, and very low in carbohydrates. To get you started, I will give a sample grocery list to start with, in terms of a keto diet food list.
A Sample Keto Diet Food List:
- Shrimp (Pretty much all protein)
- Tuna (Nearly no carbohydrates and healthy fatty acids and protein)
- Lean Red Meat
- Lean Steak
- Eggs (Pretty much all forms of egg is high in protein and fat – low in carbs)
- Cottage Cheese
- Cheese (Unprocessed)
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Olive Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Avocados (These are amazing for you in general)
- Low GI Vegetables (Leafy greens in moderation like spinach and lettuce)
- Dark Chocolate (In moderation)
- Salt and Pepper
That is a good start for a keto diet food list. You want to focus on lean meats and healthy fats. That is all there is to it. This brings me to the next common question.
‘How to follow a ketogenic diet.’
I get it; you like to go out to eat. You have a social life. This makes the question of how to follow a ketogenic diet high on your priority list as most likely; other diets fail because of this.
The expansive food list makes eating out when doing a ketogenic diet easy as well. Any meal can become keto quickly. Remove the bun and a hamburger is keto. Order a steak and a side salad, and you have a keto meal. Again, keto works because you just need to be cautious when eating. Any food can be keto or close enough if you just follow the simple rule. High healthy fat, moderate lean protein, low gi veggies. No grain, no starch, no sugar.
Now you can answer the fundamental questions. The only question I did not explicitly mention is ‘How to plan a ketogenic diet.’ I have a good reason. Most people who need this guide are not good at meal planning. If you already plan meals, you already know this. The short version is good meal planning requires you to prep food in advance, so you do not need to think about what you will eat. This is one of the benefits of keto.
You do not need to plan much. You can adapt most meals into a keto diet. The only problem you will have is a lack of willpower. Willpower is easy to have if you have fewer choices. This is why I advise clearing out your pantry and fridge right away and eating at home if possible.
Everything Must Go!
If you have yet to clear out your pantry (And fridge), you should do that. If you are lost, here is a sample list of things I would get rid of if I were just starting a ketogenic diet for the first time:
- Pop / Soda
- Fruit Juice
- Ice Cream
- Beans (All kinds)
- Starch (Potatoes, Carrots, etc)
- Any Low Fat Product (Fat is replaced with Carbohydrates in most of these)
- Trans Fats (Unhealthy fats are just bad for you in general and often contain carbs)
- Sauces (BBQ, Steak and other sauces)
Plus anything else remotely related to these items. You clear these out, and it will be easy to start and follow a ketogenic diet. You also will only be testing your will power when you go to the store or out to eat. This will significantly improve the odds of you pulling this off.
The Ketogenic Diet FAQ
Any guide is not complete without a FAQ. I set out to answer all the questions possible in the article, but I know some questions were missed. Plus we have some content skimmers (This guide is huge) so a ketogenic diet FAQ is an excellent way to recheck what you know and make sure you have all the tools to pull off a ketogenic diet. For our visual learners, I included a short cheat sheet.
How to start a keto diet / how to start a ketogenic diet?
You clean out your house of non – keto foods, buy keto foods, and start eating at home more.
What are the ketogenic diet benefits?
The biggest for us on this website is weight loss. Keto makes eating fewer calories easier for some people. Plus it is very healthy.
What is the best ketosis diet plan?
The best? This depends on your goal. For most people who want to lose weight, the standard approach is best. The standard keto diet is high in fat, moderate protein, low in carbohydrates. Keto helps you stay full longer and have all the health benefits.
What is ketosis flu?
Ketosis flu is a term used to describe the feelings of being tired and exhausted when converting from carbohydrates to ketones as a fuel source for your body.
What is ketosis breath?
Ketosis breath is the term used to describe how your breath smells when in ketosis. Here is a hint, it smells like rotting fruit.
How to detect ketosis?
The standard methods are a blood test (With a finger prick like diabetic testing), a pee strip (Like a PH tester for water), a ketone breathalyzer or trusting your gut when you feel it coming.
How to eat a ketogenic diet?
The only hard rule to being in ketosis is eating very low or no carbs and your body using fat as a fuel source. Your body can get this fat from diet or physical stores to create ketones.
How to follow a ketogenic diet?
You avoid carbs.
How to plan a ketogenic diet?
Meal planning while on a ketogenic diet is just like any other diet plan. The only difference is, you skip carbs.
How to follow a ketogenic diet?
The best advice is to cook at home, only keep keto foods around the house and limit going places with temptation.
Can I ever eat carbs on a keto diet?
Yes. Fiber, for example, has a minimal impact and blood sugar levels and a small amount will not disrupt ketosis.
Will I lose muscle on a keto diet?
You shouldn’t. If you eat enough protein. But if your protein or calories are too low, you can.
Can I build muscle on a keto diet?
Absolutely! This is mentioned in the guide on Body Recomposition.
Why am I always tired and weak?
You are most likely dehydrated or not in ketosis yet. First, start drinking water with electrolytes. Second, clean up your diet. This will pass.
Why does my ‘XYZ’ smell awful?
Your body will release ketones how ever it can. Your breath, your pee, and your sweat. Ketones do not smell great.
Do I need any supplements?
Absolutely. You need electrolytes and a solid multivitamin. Dehydration is a huge risk with this diet.
Advice for the Keto Virgin
Luckily for you, I have tried it all when it comes to keto. I have experienced most of the keto negatives someone could or would possible experience (Including having too high ketone levels). This gives me a unique position to speak from experience on mistakes I see.
The single biggest mistake I see is the lack of electrolytes. Most people are not properly hydrated. When you jump into keto, and are not adequately hydrated the negatives are far more pronounced. You experience a worse keto flu and you will become dehydrated quickly. To combat this, I starting by increasing water and electrolyte intake before, and during the ketogenic diet. This is good for over all health and ideal for weight loss but is essential for a keto diet.
This will directly reduce a fatal risk of Keto.
This single tip will vastly lower the possibility of ketoacidosis as well. If you ever feel stomach pain after being on a keto diet for an extended period, you are either dehydrated or experiencing ketoacidosis. You should consume carbohydrates and fluid right away. I prefer poweraid as it has a great balance of what your body needs to hydration and combat ketoacidosis.
Checking your ketone levels is a requirement. If you check them and know you are in a safe range when something goes wrong, or you feel sick you know that you are dehydrated and do not need to panic. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to ketosis.
I can’t live without my low-fat chips!
Some people are still trained to avoid fats and try to go for low fat options on a ketogenic diet. I have done diets which are low in fat and carbs at the same time. They work, but only are sustainable for a short period of time, require supplementation and refeed days. If you try this, you are setting yourself up for failure. This is not a ketogenic diet. You will constantly be hungry and will fail.
Low-fat foods often have the fat replaced with carbohydrates. If you eat low-fat food, you are most likely not in ketosis. Science already ruled out little fat as being a good diet choice years ago. Except something like cottage cheese, nothing low fat is a good idea on a keto diet.
The last hurdle is the jumping into this too fast. You can’t expect to start exercising, cut off all carbs, and function properly in one day. You need to adapt to ketosis slowly. One week of increased hydration, followed by a week of slowly lowering carbohydrates. Then you start keto for a week. After the transition to ketones during this third week, you can introduce exercise.
Almost Done, I promise.
We have discussed the general ketogenic diet. Not Atkins. This is the standard ketogenic diet. But you do have various options which work very well when doing this for a purpose. Athletes tend to find a keto diet works well when accompanied with a carbohydrate refeed before competition or significant cardiovascular activity. People looking to drop weight quickly can lower fat as well for a brief period. This is a method I learned from Lyle McDonald’s Rapid Fat Loss Protocol, which you should check out.
That is one of the few diets I can fully endorse. If you follow the diet, it will work. Plus is has a lot of juice science to prevent messing up. These three diet arch types are what you should focus on. The traditional keto diet, the refeed ketogenic diet for athletes, and the low-fat ketogenic diet for a short term rapid reduction in weight.
The ketogenic diet which has the proven health benefits is the traditional keto diet. This is why I can not fully endorse any other ketogenic diet for long term use. The science, the research, and the many first-hand experiences all support a traditional ketogenic diet. Start there and if it works for you, then consider other ketogenic variations.
Find all the resources used in this article and the scientific basis of all our article at The Science Behind Fitness.