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If you haven’t lived under a rock for the last few years you would have heard about the Ketogenic diet.
Everyone talks so highly about it that you got curious (yep, me too). But there is so much about the keto diet on the internet that it gets so confusing. Don’t worry, I’m here for you!
This is a “Keto diet for beginners” guide to help you understand if it is the right choice for you.
Table of Contents
What a keto diet is
The ketogenic (keto) diet is a high fat, moderate protein and low carb diet.
The keto diet isn’t just a weight loss kind of diet. Of course, people on the keto diet are usually really successful in losing weight but this “lifestyle” has lots of other benefits.
In fact, better skin, better digestion, an increase in energy levels and great sleep are all reported by people following a keto diet.
There are multiple studies confirming the utility of this diet on losing weight and on improving your health.
How the keto diet works
Being a really low carb diet, I would say that the keto diet is a revised and updated version of the Atkins diet.
This type of diet is designed to force your body to burn fat, in order to get energy, instead of sugar as it usually does.
In other words, our body usually runs on glucose, but when this isn’t enough it produces other small fuel molecules called ketones from the fat.
The principle of the keto diet is to limit the source of glucose (mostly carbs) so that our body starts burning fat (by producing ketones) for fuel.
Carbs are quickly broken down into glucose by our body. This is why the keto diet has a really low amount of carbs allowed.
Once your body runs out of glucose and starts creating ketones you enter a metabolic state known as ketosis.
It is important not to confuse ketosis with ketoacidosis which is a really dangerous condition that can occur in people with diabetes.
Ketosis is really safe and healthy.
Different types of keto
There are different versions of the keto diet. The most common are the following:
- Standard ketogenic diet: This is the most known version of the keto diet and it is a low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. It typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs.
- High-protein ketogenic diet: This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but the percentage of proteins allowed is higher. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.
- Cyclical ketogenic diet: in this version, 5 ketogenic days are followed by 2 high-carb days.
- Targeted ketogenic diet: This diet allows you to add carbs around workouts. And it’s usually used by bodybuilders.
How to start with the Keto diet
My advice on starting with the keto diet is to get organised.
Start by tracking your macro (the different types of nutrients that you eat during the day) so that you can get an idea of actually how many carbs you are having a day.
I know that tracking your food can be annoying but carbs hide really well. If you feel really proud because you have eaten carrots all day, you will be disappointed to discover that 100 grams of carrots (a medium carrot) contain 7 grams of carbs.
I think, at least at the beginning, the smart move is tracking your macro.
You can use my fitness pal to do that easily.
When I said get organised what I really mean is to have a meal plan.
Having clarity on what you are going to eat is crucial. You want to respect your macro and you don’t want to end up eating a pizza because you didn’t have anything ready to eat.
If you are new to meal prep I have some tips that can make your life easier.
Look around for some easy recipes to start with. Check out the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle. They have lots of resources on meal planning as well as numerous keto-friendly recipes.
Anyway, don’t get scared. Once you get into the routine, it will be really easy to stay in ketosis without much effort.
If you plan the quantity of carbs that you can eat each day it will actually be much easier than any other diet as you won’t need to count calories.
A bonus point is that, once you reach the fat-adapted metabolic state, your appetite will be suppressed.
Once you start following the keto diet’s guideline, it will take your body between 5 to 7 days to start producing ketones.
The only way to actually check if you are in ketosis is to get some keto urinal test strips (you can find them on Amazon for less then $10). In fact, when you are in ketosis your body will expel ketones through your pee, so with using these strips, you can be absolutely sure that you are in ketosis. Are they essential? I don’t think so, but being sure that you are reaching the result that you want is useful and doesn’t do any harm.
During the first week of keto, you will lose lots of weight. While it’s good to see a low number on the scales, you need to be aware that at the beginning you lose lots of “water weight” and the following weeks the results can be less exciting.
Yes and no on the keto diet
What can you actually eat? The most important thing is that you keep your carbs low
For example, for a 2000-calorie diet, the percentage of the macros translates to about 165 grams fat, 40 grams carbohydrate, and 75 grams protein.
So, try to avoid foods that are high in carbs like:
Candy (70 grams of carbs per 100 grams)
Doughnut (49 grams of carbs per 100 grams)
Bread (46 grams of carbs per 100 grams)
Pasta (29 grams of carbs per 100 grams)
Potatoes (15 grams of carbs per 100 grams)
But be also careful with fruits. Just some examples below
Bananas (20 grams of carbs per 100 grams)
Grapes (16 grams of carbs per 100 grams)
Mango (13 grams of carbs per 100 grams)
Pineapple (12 grams of carbs per 100 grams)
You can use Raspberry and blackberry (5 grams of carbs per 100 grams) but stay away from Blueberry (12 grams of carbs per 100 grams).
Be aware that vegetables growing below ground are really rich in carbs. So, try to avoid:
Sweet potato (17 grams of carbs per 100 grams)
Potato (15 grams of carbs per 100 grams)
Onion (8 grams of carbs per 100 grams)
Carrot (7 grams of carbs per 100 grams)
While beer has a high amount of carbs (13 grams of carbs per glass) you can still drink a glass of wine every now and then (5 grams of carbs per glass).
You can eat meat, fatty fish, eggs, cheese and lots of low carbs vegetables.
If you have heard about keto, you have heard about keto flu.
Shifting from sugar to fat burning is actually a big deal for your body.
Consequently, the first few days you will experience some side effects from the keto diet which will last until your body adapts to the new metabolic status.
The keto flu usually lasts around one week and its most common symptoms are:
A decrease in energy levels
Poor mental function
To minimize these side effects, it is advised to integrate your electrolytes.
While the side effects should go away in a matter of days, to get your body completely adapted to the fat burning system can take up to 6 weeks.
However, once you are on the “fat adapted” metabolic state your life will be awesome.
You will feel more energetic, you will focus more easily and you will have no appetite.
At this stage, you can even increase your carb consumption.
Who should avoid the keto diet
If you have diabetes, suffers from high blood pressure or are breastfeeding it’s recommendable to talk with your doctor before starting the keto diet.
I hope this keto diet for beginners guide can help you when starting with keto. If you have any questions or suggestions please leave them in the comments.