Deciding to take on the ketogenic diet, which is high in fat and low in carbs, can be a journey itself. Along the way, you’ll find both challenges and triumphs. Eating a keto diet sounds simple, but it isn’t always easy. Whether you’re a newbie and don’t even know where to start, you’ve already been doing the keto diet for years and want to refine your diet, or you’ve tried keto a bit and want to move forward, you can use this guide to be motivated daily, correct your mistakes, and achieve maximum levels of ketone so you can perform your best.
First: Figure Out Your Motivation
Before you begin to embark on the ketogenic diet, you need to figure out your “why”. This “why” is what will motivate you and push you when you feel like slacking or quitting. It doesn’t have to be a lofty goal or inspiration; all you need to do is realize what your goal is and your intent behind starting this diet. For example, you might like to lose weight, or be able to run a marathon. Once you realize your goal, identify why you want to achieve this goal. For example, you’d like to lose weight so you’ll have enough energy to be with your family, or your significant other runs marathons and you’d like to be able to run with them.
Once you’ve picked out these, last, you need to decide if you truly think going keto will help you achieve your goals. The keto diet has seen an increase in popularity, due to its fitness and health benefits. However, it is not for everyone, and deciding to try it shouldn’t be taken lightly. You should consider it for a while, before you begin.
What Is The Keto Diet?
The whole idea behind the ketogenic diet is to put your body into a state where it burns fats rather than carbs, for energy and fuel for your cells. People who go on the diet consume a lot of fat, some protein, and very little carbs. As you break down these macronutrients and control how you consume them, you’ll be able to alter the way your body produces energy.
So, how do you make that switch, from gaining energy from carbs, to getting energy from fat? How do you convince your body to change? As you consume a lot of carbs, your body converts the carbs to glucose. This leads to a spike in insulin; insulin is what carries glucose through your bloodstream in order to obtain energy. Naturally, your body prefers to burn glucose as a source for energy. If there’s any glucose present, the body burns it before turning to fat for energy.
The keto diet lowers the amount of carbs you consume, which also lowers the levels of your glucose. Your body won’t be able to convert glucose to energy, and this situation sends the body into ketosis, a certain energy-burning state. Ketosis is what the ketogenic diet is all about; the whole aim of the diet is to put your body into this state. It turns your body into a machine that burns fat. Additionally, your liver takes fatty acids that are present in the body and converts them to ketones, or ketone bodies. These ketones become the new source of energy for your body. As you up your intake of fat, your body becomes “keto-adaptive”, or, it becomes able to burn fat efficiently. Ketosis enables the body to function on a new energy source, when glucose is not available. The keto diet will deplete your body of carbs, but also supplement it with great nutrition as it transforms.
How Can You Tell You’re In Ketosis?
Ketosis is different for everyone, so it’s a little bit of a gray area and it happens in different degrees. Generally, you’ll need one to three days to enter ketosis fully. It is possible to monitor your levels of ketone by conducting tests that you do yourself at home. As you consume a keto diet, there are extra ketones that will enter other areas of your body. These extra ketones are what allow you to take measurements of your ketone levels. You can conduct these measurements in these ways:
- Use a urine strip to test your urine
- Use a glucose meter to test your blood
- Use a breath meter to test your breath
While each method has disadvantages and advantages, they are all effective. Generally, measuring your blood tends to have the best, most accurate results. Urine testing tends to be the least effective and accurate, however it is the most affordable option.
Isn’t Consuming Fat Actually Bad For You?
There’s a myth that fat is bad for you, which the keto diet aims to bust. In the 1970s, studies found that saturated fats had a negative impact on our health, and for years, people were all about consuming low levels of fat. However, obesity soared in America during the time that fat consumption went down. A diet that was high in carbs and low in fat became the most popular way to eat and was touted for weight loss, but for some reason, many people were still gaining weight. Obviously, there was something wrong.
New studies that have been conducted currently have concluded that fats are actually not all that bad. The popularity of the keto diet is especially helping to get rid of the “fat makes you fat” ideal. A diet that requires lots of carbs (especially processed or refined carbs that come from low-fat products) can lead to an increase in levels of blood sugar and insulin, which increases the body’s inflammation. A diet that’s low in carbs can actually help lower inflammation. Additionally, in the context of a diet low in carbs, saturated fat has not been shown to cause harm. It actually improves levels of cholesterol, and increases good, or HDL, cholesterol as it decreases overall levels of triglycerides. All together, this lowers the risk of getting heart disease.
The Different Kinds of Keto Diet
There are four different types of the keto diet. With each one, you’ll take different approaches to your intake of carbs and fat. As you decide which type will work the best for you, keep in mind your lifestyle, level of fitness, and what your goals and intents are with starting the keto diet. The kinds are:
- The Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD). This is the most popular and common version of the keto diet. With this one, you’ll consume 20-50 grams of carbs each day as you focus on a high intake of fats, and moderate intake of proteins.
- The Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD). This version is great for people who work out a lot or who are very active. With this, you’ll consume 25-50 grams of carbs within an hour before you exercise, and your intake of protein will be a little higher.
- The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD). This version is great for beginners. With this one, you’ll cycle between several days of consuming a diet that’s low in carbs, followed by several days of consuming a high amount of carbs.
- The High-Protein Ketogenic Diet. This version is exactly like the SKD kind, but the biggest difference is that you will increase your intake of protein considerably.
No matter which version of the keto diet you decide to embark on, the focus is on macronutrients: protein, carbs, and fat. Keep in mind that every keto diet will focus on:
- High amounts of fat
- Adequate amounts of protein
- Low amounts of carbs
The amount of calories should be roughly:
- Carb calories: 5-10%
- Protein calories: 20-25%
- Fat calories: 75-80%
These are all general ranges. The actual numbers will vary from individual to individual, depending on your needs, fitness, and goals.
Foods that are Consumed on the Keto Diet
- Nuts, meat, and eggs. You can consume any seafood and meat as you’re on the keto diet, if it isn’t fried or breaded. Make sure you choose high quality seafood and meats, and eggs should be free-range.
- Seeds and nuts. These make great snacks if you’re on the keto diet. This includes chia seeds, flax seeds, almonds, and pecans.
- Veggies that are low-carb. Leafy greens are especially good, and this is a great way to get in your micronutrients. Veggies include asparagus, spinach, onions, broccoli, and kale.
- Dairy. Get full-fat dairy if possible, including heavy cream, cheese, and yogurt.
- Fruits that are low in sugar. Berries are especially great; snack on raspberries and blueberries in moderation. Avocados can also be consumed a lot.
- Healthy oils and fats. Fats that are plant-based and saturated can be eaten. Sources of healthy fat include coconut oil, butter, olive oil, and palm oil.
- Spices and herbs. You can season your food freely, as long as the seasoning doesn’t contain added sugar.
Foods that are Avoided on the Keto Diet
- Grains. Grains are filled with carbs, so you should avoid pasta, oats, rice, corn, quinoa, and rye.
- Legumes and beans. While these do have a lot of protein, they also contain a lot of carbs. Avoid chickpeas, black beans, lentils, and kidney beans.
- Fruits that are higher in sugar. Any fruit that are not berries have large amounts of sugar.
- Starch. Avoid vegetables that have starch, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and potatoes.
- Products that have lots of sugar. This one may be obvious, but you shouldn’t consume artificial sweeteners, soda, smoothies, juice, or desserts; these may throw you out of ketosis. These products also include alcohol.
The Health Benefits that a Keto Diet Provides
The keto diet is a great resource for people who would like to lower their levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as reduce their weight. The keto diet may also lower your overall levels of glucose, and improve your resistance to insulin. In addition to this, the keto diet can:
- Be used to treat disease. Multiple studies have found that keto can help with:
- Eliminating diseases that concern blood sugar, such as type II diabetes
- Reducing risks for heart disease, such as HDL cholesterol improvement and reducement of triglycerides
- Decreasing lesions and inflammation of the skin for people who have acne
- Preventing seizures, especially for children who have epilepsy
- Slowing the growth of tumors in people diagnosed with pancreatic, prostate, gastric, brain, and lung cancer
- Be used to improve levels of endurance. This is especially true for athletes who go on the keto diet. Once the body adjusts to using fat as an energy source, performance levels may increase.
- Be used to improve functions of metabolism. Studies have shown that there are many benefits in the long term on both health and weight when someone is on the ketogenic diet. Keto decreases body fat, body mass, and body weight significantly. It’s also been shown that keto puts your body into a high state of metabolism, especially if you’re exercising. If you consume 1-1.2 grams of protein for each pound of your body mass, you’ll both burn fat and preserve muscle mass on the keto diet.
Potential Hazards of the Keto Diet
As with beginning any new diet, it’s important for you to remember that your body will need time to adjust, and this adjustment period may be difficult. You should also ensure that you are always safe, and that your diet supports, not detracts from, your lifestyle. There are two main side effects that may occur with the keto diet:
- Ketoacidosis. With ketoacidosis, the level of ketones reach a very high level and cause the blood to be acidic. This is an uncommon, but harmful, state for people who have diabetes and are on the keto diet. Other causes can include an overactive thyroid, starvation, or alcoholism.
- The keto flu. As some people begin the keto diet, they may experience effects that are known as the keto flu. This occurs due to the sudden absence of carbs for the body and brain. The keto flu includes uncomfortable, but minor, symptoms such as headaches, weakness, nausea, constipation, and dizziness. It’s important as you begin keto to stay hydrated and keep up sufficient levels of salt. You can also begin very slowly, and lower your intake of carbs bit by bit.
Whether you’ve done the keto diet before or are completely new, use this guide to ensure your keto diet experience is done correctly and safely.