You may have heard the term “keto diet” or heard about the amazing results that others have been getting with this diet, but what is it?
The keto diet is a very low carb, high fat diet. It's sometimes also referred to as the ketogenic diet, low carb diet, or LCHF (low carb high fat) diet.
The goal of a keto diet is to force your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.
What is Ketosis?
When you eat carbohydrates, your body produces glucose for energy and insulin to deliver the glucose around the body.
Your body prefers glucose as a primary source of energy. When you have plenty of glucose in your system, excess fats are not needed, and are therefore stored in the body. Restricting carbohydrates limits the amount of glucose the body can use for energy, forcing your body into metabolic ketosis.
In ketosis, your body begins to use ketones for energy instead of glucose.
Ketones are essentially fat converted into energy that the body can use. Your body's ability to convert fat to energy is a metabolic survival mechanism that kept your ancestors alive during times of food scarcity.
Ketones are a more stable source of energy than carbohydrates. Forcing your body to use ketones for energy instead of carbohydrates also allows your body to more readily burn body fat.
The Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet
The keto diet is beneficial for a variety of reasons, and people have different reasons for utilizing it. Here are just a few:
One of the main reasons people choose the ketogenic diet is to lose weight and maintain weight.
Despite what many of us have heard, weight loss and weight maintenance is about much more than calories in, calories out. What kind of calories we consume can make a difference in inflammation, hormones, glucose and insulin levels, and more.
Over 20 scientific studies have found that low carb diets and ketogenic diets are more effective for weight loss compared to other diets, probably because of the effect they have on glucose and insulin, as well as their ability burn fat stores and satiate hunger.
Type 2 Diabetes Reversal
Many type 2 diabetics are finding the ketogenic diet to be an ideal tool for managing and even reversing their diabetes. The ketogenic diet lowers blood-glucose levels and can help regulate insulin levels, an ideal for diabetics.
Because the keto diet changes your metabolic state quickly, diabetics may require rapid adjustments to medications. If you are diabetic, speak with your doctor or endocrinologist before starting a ketogenic diet in order to develop a plan for keeping track of your levels and adjusting medications accordingly.
Here's a helpful article from The Diabetes Council about using the keto diet to manage diabetes.
Stored carbohydrates (glycogen) only last for a couple of hours, while fat stores can fuel your energy needs for weeks or even months.
When your body is used to burning primarily carbohydrates, it cannot easily utilize fat stores for energy. The result is that you have to eat regularly just to fuel your daily activities and avoid dealing with hunger and irritability when your blood glucose levels drop. This also requires you to “refuel” more often before, during, and after intense workout sessions.
When you're keto-adapted, your body (and brain) can tap into powerful fat stores on a 24/7 basis. This allows you to go longer periods of time without eating, and reduces irritability from fluctuating blood-glucose levels.
In addition to aiding weight loss, improving the health of type 2 diabetics, and providing better physical endurance, the keto diet has a myriad of other health benefits.
What Can You Eat on the Ketogenic Diet?
In order to get your body into a state of ketosis, the keto diet requires that you restrict your carbohydrate intake to under 50 grams of net carbs per day. Ideally, you should eat below 20 grams of net carbs per day, especially if you are first starting out.
You may find that you can increase this slightly the longer you stay on the diet. But, if you find yourself kicked out of ketosis easily, go back to 20 grams of net carbs per day.
The fewer carbs you eat, the faster your body will enter a state of ketosis. Getting your body into ketosis can take anywhere from 3 days to a week. The longer you eat a keto diet, the easier it is to get back into ketosis after being “kicked out” of it.
As your body adjusts to the keto diet, you may experience what is known as the keto flu: mental fuzziness, irritability, low energy, nausea, and a generally unwell feeling. This is normal, and your body's way of telling you it's not used to converting fat into fuel.
What to Eat on the Keto Diet
So, what should you eat?
Avoid sugary and sweet foods (including most fruits), and carbohydrates like bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes.
Your daily calorie intake should be roughly 10% carbohydrates (the less carbs, the better), 15-25% protein (moderate protein, but try not to go too low or too high on protein), and 70% or more from fat.
Some common foods consumed on the keto diet include eggs, meat, cheese, oils (such as butter, avocado oil, or coconut oil), high fiber vegetables, and high fiber / low sugar fruits (mainly berries).
Here are some keto meals / food ideas that I love:
It seems daunting at first, but soon you will discover foods and recipes that you like on the keto diet. Plus, you will begin to experience the amazing benefits if you stick with it.
Subscribe below to follow along this FREE keto diet basics series. I'll be sharing meal ideas, offering personal tips from being on the keto diet for nearly 2 years, and answer frequently asked questions.
You can read about my keto journey here.
If you have questions about the keto diet, please feel free to leave a comment. I will get to your question as soon as possible. I may even turn your question into an article!