The Ketogenic Diet for Beginners

The ketogenic diet – An easy way to lose body weight and stay healthy.

A ketogenic diet is a very low carb diet, which turns the body into a fat-burning machine. It has many proven health and weight loss benefits. The word “keto” comes from the fact that it makes the body produce small fuel molecules called “ketones.” This is an alternative fuel for the body used when blood sugar (glucose) is in short supply. Ketones are produced if you eat very few carbs (that are quickly broken down into blood sugar) and only moderate amounts of protein (excess protein can also be converted to blood sugar).

The purpose of the ketogenic diet is to force the body into a fat-burning state – burning fats instead of carbohydrates for fuel. Those who follow it, eat a diet containing high amounts of fat, moderate amounts of protein, and low levels of carbohydrate. Through this breakdown of macronutrients, you are able to change how the body uses energy. To fully understand this process, you have to grasp how the body uses energy in the first place.

the ketogenic diet

When you eat a diet rich in carbohydrate, your body converts those carbs into glucose. This causes an ‘insulin spike” as insulin carries the glucose to your bloodstream for energy. Glucose is the preferred energy source of the body. When glucose is present, your body will burn it before burning fat. A ketogenic diet lowers your carb intake. In turn, your glucose levels lower, so your body can’t convert it to energy. This sends your body into a state known as ketosis, the basis of the ketogenic diet.

Ketosis transforms your body into a fat-burning machine, burning fat (not carbs) for fuel. Specifically, the liver converts fatty acids in your body into ketone bodies or ketones. This becomes your body’s new energy source. When you increase your fat intake, your body responds by becoming “keto adaptive,” or more efficient at burning fat. Ketosis is a natural survival function in the body. It helps your body function in fat when food is not readily available.

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Types of ketogenic diets

There are four (4) main types of ketogenic diet. Each one takes a slightly different approach to fat vs. carb intake. When deciding which method works best for you, take into account goals, fitness, level, and lifestyle.

  • The Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD): This is the most common and most recommended version of the diet. You stay within 20 – 50 grams of net carbs per day, focusing on moderate protein intake and high fat intake.
  • Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD): This approach is best for those who are active. Targeted keto involves eating roughly 25 – 30 grams of net carb or less 30 minutes to an hour before exercise.
  • Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD): If keto seems intimidating to you, this is an excellent method to start off with. In this case, you cycle between periods of eating a low-carb diet for several days, followed by a period of eating high carb (typically lasting several days).
  • High-protein Ketogenic Diet: This approach is very similar to the SKD approach. The primary difference is the protein intake. While a standard keto diet will include moderate protein, here you up your protein intake considerably.

Take Note: The SKD method is the most used and researched version of keto. Therefore the majority of the information below pertain to this standard method.

How much protein, fat, & carb do you need on a keto diet?

Fat, protein, and carbs are known as macronutrients. When you think of how to build a plate on keto (what each meal will look like), keep this breakdown in mind:

  • High fat
  • Moderate protein
  • Very low carb

Macronutrients breakdown in keto

  • Calories from carb: 5 – 10%
  • Calories from protein: 20 – 25%
  • Calories from fat: 75 – 80% (sometimes more for certain people)
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This is a general range, although numbers can vary slightly depending on each person’s needs and goals on the diet. For example, someone requires 2000 calories per day and is eating 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs, that would come out to 1500 calories/165grams of fat, 400 calories/100grams of protein, and 100 calories/25grams of carbs. This person would make sure he/she stay at or below 25grams of carbs each day.

  • Carb intake: A range of 20 – 25grams of carbohydrate intake per day is ideal. Some individuals can go as high as 100grams per day and stay at ketosis.
  • Protein intake: In order to determine how much protein to consume, take into account your body composition, ideal weight, gender, height, and activity level. Remember, too much protein can impede ketosis. To avoid the breakdown of protein into glucose, avoid eating more than 1.5 – 2grams per kilo of lean body mass.
  • Fat intake: After you calculate the percentage of daily calories that should come from protein and carbs, total the two numbers and subtract from 100. The number you get is the per cent of calories which should come from fat.

Calorie counting is not required or necessary on keto. When you eat a diet high in fat, it is more satiating than a diet high in carbs (e.g sugar). Generally, this cuts down on your chances of overeating. Instead of counting calories, pay attention to your macronutrients levels.

the ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet

Foods to eat on a keto diet include:

  • Meat, eggs, and nuts
  • Low carb vegetables like kale, broccoli, spinach, pepper, onions, sprouts, asparagus, and Brussels.
  • Keto-friendly diary such as cheese, sour cream, yoghurt, and heavy cream.
  • Low-sugar fruits such as blueberries or raspberries in moderation. You can also consume avocado abundantly on keto.
  • Healthy fats and oils like olive oil, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, and MCT oil ( Medium Chain Triglycerides—a type of saturated fatty acids commonly found in coconuts).
  • Herbs and spices can be used freely on keto, make sure they don’t have any added sugar.
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Foods to avoid on keto

  • Grains
  • High sugar fruits
  • Sugar-laden products
  • Beans and legumes
  • Starch
  • Seed Oils
  • Alcohol

Possible concerns with the keto diet

When implementing any new diet – not just keto diet, it’s important to do so safely and in a way that supports your unique lifestyle. Here are potential side effects you should know:

  • Ketoacidosis: Those with diabetes should be aware of diabetes ketoacidosis. This is a rare but dangerous state for diabetics who don’t take enough insulin, get sick or hurt or are not drinking enough fluids. Other causes of ketoacidosis could include alcoholism, an overactive thyroid, or true starvation. In ketoacidosis, ketones levels reach an extremely high level, causing the blood to become acidic.
  • Keto flu: Within the first two weeks of starting keto, some individuals experience adverse effects known as “keto flu.” This is the result of the sudden removal of carbohydrates from the brain and body. Symptoms might include headaches, nausea, mental fogginess, dizziness, weakness, or constipation. If you experience keto flu, drink plenty of water and lower your carb intake gradually.
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