The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that involves reducing your carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. After reducing carbs, your body goes into a metabolic state known as ketosis. When this takes place, a body becomes very efficient at using and burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can provide a brain with energy.
If this sounds intimidating, it doesn't have to be. After a body is officially in ketosis, you may experience some incredible benefits from weight loss to increased energy and more, which the Body Reboot book discusses. If you're curious to learn more about the keto diet and what it entails keep reading, but remember, there's still a lot more to learn about this incredible low-carb diet.
There are several versions of the ketogenic diet, including:
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 (1).
Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This diet involves periods of higher-carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days.
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 protein. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.
However, 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.
Even though Healthline mentions various versions of the keto diet above, keep in mind that the standard version is recommended and also is the most researched.
So once your body is on its way to achieving ketosis, how does the liver function? Nerd Fitness, with some added humor, gives us the scoop:
In the absence of glucose, your liver takes your stored fat and breaks it down into usable compounds called ketone bodies, or ketones.
These ketones can be used by your body and your brain for fuel! In addition, “increased blood ketone levels may directly supress appetite.”
The reason many feel differently on a Keto Diet is because their brains are being fueled by a completely different source than at any point in the past.
There are three types of ketones, which is important to know if you want to sound pretentious at parties:
It’s also important to note that ketones are different from a keytar, which is what Michelangelo used to defeat Shredder in the cinematic masterpiece, Ninja Turtles.
If you are wondering, “Steve did you write this entire section just so you could make a keytar joke?” you wouldn’t be wrong.
Once you're in ketosis, It's pretty cool to think your brain gets fueled by a different source! Being in ketosis may make you feel like a superhero with incredible new superpowers!
Wondering what some of the long-term health benefits (aka additional superpowers) of the keto diet may be? You'll be impressed after reading over this fantastic list from Tasteaholics:
Studies consistently show that those who eat a low carb, high fat diet rather than a high carb, low fat diet:
Lose more weight and body fat
Have better levels of good cholesterol (HDL and large LDL)
Have reduced blood sugar and insulin resistance (commonly reversing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes)
Experience a decrease in appetite
Have reduced triglyceride levels (fat molecules in the blood that cause heart disease)
Have significant reductions in blood pressure, leading to a reduction in heart disease and stroke
Eating a keto/low carb diet helps you lose more weight than eating low fat.
While we're at it, let's check out what Tasteaholics says may be some additional day-to-day benefits of being on the keto diet:
The keto diet doesn’t only provide long-term benefits! When you’re on keto, you can expect to:
Lose body fat
Have consistent energy levels during the day
Stay satiated after meals longer, with less snacking and overeating
Longer satiation and consistent energy levels are due to the majority of calories coming from fat, which is slower to digest and calorically denser.
Being on a low carb diet also eliminates blood glucose spikes and crashes. You won’t have sudden blood sugar drops leaving you feeling weak and disoriented.
Now that you have learned about some of the benefits you may enjoy on this low-carb diet let's look at some lunch ideas from Reader's Digest. After all, it's essential to get a good sense of what you need to eat on a daily basis. Meals don't have to be complicated and as a beginner, it may take some experimenting to get the right macros. However, when in doubt stick with low carb meals and the rest should fall into place.
If you talk to keto aficionados, you’ll find many save leftovers from dinner for the next day’s lunch. Cook once, eat twice—your keto diet menu for lunch is solved. If you don’t like leftovers or if you’re craving something different for lunch, the mid-day meal can be as simple as a scoop of chicken salad. Or, hit the salad bar at a local grocery store and top a bowl of greens with some good-fat goodies. You can also try one of these simple keto lunches:
Salad with chicken, eggs, avocado, nuts, cheese with olive oil and vinegar or another favorite dressing
Rollups of lean, thinly-sliced deli meat wrapped around cheese and bell peppers or pickles
Tuna salad or egg salad, made with rich olive oil mayonnaise
Soup without pasta or beans
Cauliflower rice bowl with a grilled protein, cheese, dressing, olives, and nuts
“One of the best meal planning tips I’ve ever received is to structure breakfast and lunch so that you don’t have to think too much about it,” says Emily Bartlett, co-founder of Real Plans. “If you’re okay with repetition, it’s ideal to have a simple selection of recipes for breakfast—including some that can be taken on the go. For lunch, go ahead and use your leftovers with a fresh green salad, and be sure to include a dressing that you really love.”
Writer Melia Robinson documented her keto success on a Business Insider article. When she decided to try the keto diet, her doctor offered some excellent suggestions about her new low-carb diet, which you can read below. Keep in mind that every person is different, so when in doubt check with your doctor.
We agreed that for my first week on the keto diet, I would aim for 30 to 50 grams of carbs during the day and eat regular, carb-heavy dinners, even if they took me over the limit.
“Sugar addiction is a real thing,” Wali told me in our first meeting. She wanted me to ease into ketosis to avoid “carbohydrate withdrawal,” which can cause irritability, depression, headaches, lethargy, and nausea. I was happy to take it slow.
As I was learning the carb loads of different foods in those first few weeks, I tracked my meals on the Fitbit and Weight Watchers apps, but Wali says paper and pen works just as well.
She taught me how to count carbs the smart way: Carbohydrates – dietary fiber = net carbs.
It's pretty sweet (not sweet as in sugar) that you can subtract fiber from carbohydrates to get the net carbs on anything you're eating! However, we wouldn't recommend eating 35 grams of net carbs because that would take you above your keto carb limit in one day (which is what the above image suggests).
As you calculate your macros and get going on the keto diet, PopSugar mentions you may experience the keto flu. Not everyone gets it, but if you do here's what to expect and how to get through it:
One of the biggest side effects people talk about when starting keto is the “keto flu.” Basically, when your body transitions from burning carbs for fuel to burning fat, your kidneys also switch from retaining salt to excreting it in your urine, Dr. Metzgar explained. “This dumping of salt into the urine is why people can feel unwell (i.e. headaches, fatigue), and it is solved by increasing sodium intake,” she said.
Some people may also get magnesium cramps, which she suggests can be alleviated by taking a magnesium supplement. “Getting plenty of fluids will also aid in managing symptoms,” she added. Also, as the excess ketones exit your body through your urine and your breath, you may notice bad breath, known as keto breath. It might also make your urine smell weird.
Now that you have a good idea as to what the keto diet is all about and how to calculate your macros, perhaps while getting acquainted with the diet it's best to keep things simple. Matter of fact, here are a few ways to do that and to stay on task, according to Lauren Badi:
My Top Tips for Keeping It Simple
— Go for quality, not quantity. You don’t need to buy everything you see to start out on a keto diet. I love Keto because it’s simple, so stick with that mindset! Get a nice cut of meat, a good quality butter & some dark green veggies – you’re done and you won’t feel like you’re dieting!
— Complicated recipes are deceiving. Recipes with 15+ ingredients are fun to make sometimes, but on the daily, it’s unrealistic. Keep the ingredient countdown and you’ll be happy
— Stop with the dupes (at least at first). When I first started the diet, I saw recipes to keto-fy all my favorites like bread, fast food & rice. Again, this is fine once in awhile, but on your daily grind, just stick to the basics to make you sane and your wallet happy.
Even if you achieve your weight loss and health goals (such as no longer being diabetic) from a ketogenic diet, it should be a lifestyle change. If weight doesn't come off right away don't worry. On average it can take up to two weeks for a body to adapt to burning fat fuel over carbs. Stick with it, and a body should enter and stay into ketosis. Give it your all and never give up!
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