The Ketogenic Diet - Basic Guide 2020
The Ketogenic way of eating is the most ancestrally appropriate way a human can eat. It is also the most powerful diet for reversing diabetes and many other chronic diseases.
The ketogenic diet (or keto diet, for short) is a low-carb, high-fat diet that offers many health benefits.
In fact, over 20 studies show that this type of diet can help you lose weight and improve your health.
Ketogenic diets may even have benefits against epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.
Below is a detailed basic guide to the Keto diet.
What Is a Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins and low-carb diets.
It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.
When this happens, your body becomes fabulously efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain.
Ketogenic diets can cause massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increased ketones, has diverse health benefits.
SUMMARY: The keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet. It lowers blood sugar and insulin levels and shifts the body’s metabolism away from carbs and towards fat and ketones.
Different Types of Ketogenic Diets
There are several versions of the ketogenic diet, including:
The cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This diet involves periods of higher-carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days.
The standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This is a very low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-fat diet. It typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein, and only 5% carbs.
The targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): This diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.
High-protein ketogenic diet: This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbs.
Only the standard and high-protein ketogenic diets have been studied extensively. Cyclical or targeted ketogenic diets are more advanced methods and primarily used by bodybuilders or athletes.
The information in this article mostly applies to the standard ketogenic diet (SKD), although many of the same principles also apply to the other versions.
SUMMARY: There are several versions of the keto diet. The standard (SKD) version is the most researched and most recommended.
How Ketogenic Diets Will Help You Lose Weight
The ketogenic diet is an effective way to lose weight and lower risk factors for disease.
In fact, research shows that the ketogenic diet is far superior to the often recommended a low-fat-diet.
What's more, the diet is so filling that you can lose weight without counting calories or tracking your food intake.
One study found that people on a ketogenic diet lost 2.2 times more weight than those on a calorie-restricted low-fat diet. Triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels also improved.
Another study found that people on the ketogenic diet lost 3 times more weight than those on the diet recommended by Diabetes UK.
The increased ketones, lower blood sugar levels, and improved insulin sensitivity may also play a key role.
SUMMARY: The ketogenic diet can help you lose much more weight than a low-fat diet. This often happens without hunger.
The Ketogenic Diet for Diabetes and Prediabetes
Diabetes is characterized by changes in metabolism, high blood sugar, and impaired insulin function.
The ketogenic diet can help you lose excess fat, which is closely linked to type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
One study found that the ketogenic diet improved insulin sensitivity by a whopping 75%.
Another study in people with type 2 diabetes found that 7 of the 21 participants were able to stop using all diabetes medications.
In yet another study, the ketogenic group lost 24.4 pounds (11.1 kg), compared to 15.2 pounds (6.9 kg) in the higher-carb group. This is an important benefit when considering the link between weight and type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, 95.2% of the ketogenic group was also able to stop or reduce diabetes medication, compared to 62% in the higher-carb group.
SUMMARY: The ketogenic diet can boost insulin sensitivity and cause fat loss, leading to significant health benefits for people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
Other Health Benefits of The Keto Diet
The ketogenic diet actually originated as a tool for treating neurological conditions such as epilepsy.
Studies have now shown that the diet can have benefits for a wide variety of different health conditions:
Heart disease: The ketogenic diet can improve risk factors like body fat, HDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
Cancer: The diet is currently being used to treat several types of cancer and slow tumor growth.
Alzheimer's disease: The keto diet may reduce symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and slow its progression.
Epilepsy: Research has shown that the ketogenic diet can cause massive reductions in seizures in epileptic children.
Parkinson's disease: One study found that the diet helped improve symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Polycystic ovary syndrome: The ketogenic diet can help reduce insulin levels, which may play a key role in polycystic ovary syndrome.
Brain injuries: One animal study found that the diet can reduce concussions and aid recovery after brain injury.
Acne: Lower insulin levels and eating less sugar or processed foods may help improve acne.
SUMMARY: A ketogenic diet may provide many health benefits, especially with metabolic, neurological, or insulin-related diseases.
Foods to Avoid When on Keto Diet
Any food that is high in carbs should be avoided.
Here is a list of foods that need to be reduced or eliminated on a ketogenic diet:
Sugary foods: Soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc.
Grains or starches: Wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc.
Fruit: All fruit, except small portions of berries like strawberries.
Beans or legumes: Peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
Root vegetables and tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
Low-fat or diet products: These are highly processed and often high in carbs.
Some condiments or sauces: These often contain sugar and unhealthy fat.
Unhealthy fats: Limit your intake of processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
Alcohol: Due to their carb content, many alcoholic beverages can throw you out of ketosis.
Sugar-free diet foods: These are often high in sugar alcohols, which can affect ketone levels in some cases. These foods also tend to be highly processed.
SUMMARY: Avoid carb-based foods like grains, sugars, legumes, rice, potatoes, candy, juice, and even most fruits.
Foods to Eat on Keto Diet
You should base the majority of your meals around these:
Meat: Red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken, and turkey.
Fatty fish: Such as salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel.
Eggs: Look for pastured or omega-3 whole eggs.
Butter and cream: Look for grass-fed when possible.
Cheese: Unprocessed cheese (cheddar, goat, cream, blue or mozzarella).
Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
Healthy oils: Primarily extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil.
Avocados: Whole avocados or freshly made guacamole.
Low-carb veggies: Most green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
Condiments: You can use salt, pepper, and various healthy herbs and spices.
It is best to base your diet mostly on whole, single-ingredient foods.
SUMMARY: Base the majority of your diet on foods such as meat, fish, eggs, butter, nuts, healthy oils, avocados, and plenty of low-carb veggies.
A Sample Keto Meal Plan For 1 Week
To help get you started, here is a sample ketogenic diet meal plan for one week:
Breakfast: Bacon, eggs, and tomatoes.
Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil and feta cheese.
Dinner: Salmon with asparagus cooked in butter.
Breakfast: Egg, tomato, basil, and goat cheese omelet.
Lunch: Almond milk, peanut butter, cocoa powder, and stevia milkshake.
Dinner: Meatballs, cheddar cheese, and vegetables.
Breakfast: A ketogenic milkshake.
Lunch: Shrimp salad with olive oil and avocado.
Dinner: Pork chops with Parmesan cheese, broccoli, and salad.
Breakfast: Omelet with avocado, salsa, peppers, onion, and spices.
Lunch: A handful of nuts and celery sticks with guacamole and salsa.
Dinner: Chicken stuffed with pesto and cream cheese, along with vegetables.
Breakfast: Sugar-free yogurt with peanut butter, cocoa powder, and stevia.
Lunch: Beef stir-fry cooked in coconut oil with vegetables.
Dinner: Bun-less burger with bacon, egg, and cheese.
Breakfast: Ham and cheese omelet with vegetables.
Lunch: Ham and cheese slices with nuts.
Dinner: Whitefish, egg, and spinach cooked in coconut oil.
Breakfast: Fried eggs with bacon and mushrooms.
Lunch: Burger with salsa, cheese, and guacamole.
Dinner: Steak and eggs with a side salad.
Always try to rotate the vegetables and meat over the long term, as each type provides different nutrients and health benefits.
SUMMARY: You can eat a wide variety of tasty and nutritious meals on a ketogenic diet.
Healthy Keto Snacks
In case you get hungry between meals, here are some healthy, keto-approved snacks:
Fatty meat or fish
A handful of nuts or seeds
Cheese with olives
1–2 hard-boiled eggs
A low-carb milkshake with almond milk, cocoa powder, and nut butter
Full-fat yogurt mixed with nut butter and cocoa powder
Strawberries and cream
Celery with salsa and guacamole
Smaller portions of leftover meals
SUMMARY: Great snacks for a keto diet include pieces of meat, cheese, olives, boiled eggs, nuts, and dark chocolate.
Tips for Eating Out on a Ketogenic Diet
Most restaurants offer some kind of meat or fish-based dish. Order this, and replace any high-carb food with extra vegetables.
Egg-based meals are also a great option, such as an omelet or eggs and bacon.
Another favorite is bun-less burgers. You could also swap the fries for vegetables instead. Add extra avocado, cheese, bacon, or eggs.
At Mexican restaurants, you can enjoy any type of meat with extra cheese, guacamole, salsa, and sour cream.
For dessert, ask for a mixed cheese board or berries with cream.
SUMMARY: When eating out, select a meat-, fish- or egg-based dish. Order extra veggies instead of carbs or starches, and have cheese for dessert.
Side Effects of The Keto Diet and How to Minimize Them.
Although the ketogenic diet is safe for healthy people, there may be some initial side effects while your body adapts.
This is often referred to as the keto-flu and is usually over within a few days.
Keto-flu includes poor energy and mental function, increased hunger, sleep issues, nausea, digestive discomfort, and decreased exercise performance.
To minimize this, you can try a regular low-carb diet for the first few weeks. This may teach your body to burn more fat before you completely eliminate carbs.
A ketogenic diet can also change the water and mineral balance of your body, so adding extra salt to your meals or taking mineral supplements can help.
For minerals, try taking 3,000–4,000 mg of sodium, 1,000 mg of potassium, and 300 mg of magnesium per day to minimize side effects.
At least, in the beginning, it is important to eat until you’re full and avoid restricting calories too much. Usually, a ketogenic diet causes weight loss without intentional calorie restriction.
SUMMARY: Many of the side effects of starting a ketogenic diet can be limited. Easing into the diet and taking mineral supplements can help.
Supplements for a Ketogenic Diet
Although no supplements are required, some can be useful.
MCT oil: Added to drinks or yogurt, MCT oil provides energy and helps increase ketone levels.
Minerals: Added salt and other minerals can be important when starting out due to shifts in water and mineral balance.
Caffeine can have benefits for energy, fat loss, and performance.
Exogenous ketones: This supplement may help raise the body's ketone levels.
Creatine provides numerous benefits for health and performance. This can help if you are combining a ketogenic diet with exercise.
SUMMARY: Certain supplements can be beneficial on a ketogenic diet. These include exogenous ketones, MCT oil, and minerals.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some of the most common questions about the ketogenic diet.
Can I Ever Eat Carbs Again?
Yes. However, it is important to significantly reduce your carb intake initially. After the first 2–3 months, you can eat carbs on special occasions — just return to the diet immediately after.
Will I Lose Muscle on a Keto Diet?
There is a risk of losing some muscle on any diet. However, the high protein intake and high ketone levels may help minimize muscle loss, especially if you lift weights.
Can I Build Muscles on a Ketogenic Diet?
Yes, but it may not work as well as on a moderate-carb diet.
Do I Need to Refeed or Carb Load?
No. However, a few higher-calorie days may be beneficial every now and then.
How Much Protein Can I Eat on a Keto Diet?
Protein should be moderate, as a very high intake can spike insulin levels and lower ketones. Around 35% of the total calorie intake is probably the upper limit.
What if I Am Constantly Tired, Weak, or Fatigued?
You may not be in full ketosis or be utilizing fats and ketones efficiently. To counter this, lower your carb intake and re-visit the points above. A supplement like MCT oil or ketones may also help.
My Urine Smells Fruity on Keto, Why is This?
Don't be alarmed. This is simply due to the excretion of by-products created during ketosis.
My Breath Smells. What Can I Do?
This is a common side effect. Try drinking naturally flavored water or chewing sugar-free gum.
I Heard Ketosis Is Extremely Dangerous. Is This True?
People often confuse ketosis with ketoacidosis. The former is natural, while the latter only occurs in uncontrolled diabetes.
Ketoacidosis is dangerous, but the ketosis on a ketogenic diet is perfectly normal and healthy.
I Have Digestion Issues And Diarrhea. What Can I Do?
This common side effect usually passes after 3–4 weeks. If it persists, try eating more high-fiber veggies. Magnesium supplements can also help with constipation.
A Ketogenic Diet Is a Great Diet!
A ketogenic diet can be great for people who are overweight, diabetic, or looking to improve their metabolic health.
And, as with any diet, it will only work if you are consistent and stick with it in the long term.
Few things are as well proven in nutrition as the powerful health and weight loss benefits of a ketogenic diet.