Did you know half of all Americans claim they are trying to lose weight?
But while many people say they want to shed those extra pounds, how many take the right steps to reach their weight loss goals?
For those who are serious about losing weight and enhancing their health and wellness, the keto diet can be a great way to do so.
There is, sadly, a lot of false information about how to eat a low carb or keto diet and the effects of keto. That’s why we’ve put together this informative guide to help you better understand keto life.
How Does the Keto Diet Work?
What is the keto diet? Simply put, the ketogenic diet involves eating foods low in carbohydrates. You’ll get all sorts of other definitions, but this is it: If you are eating a few enough carb, usually below 30g per day, you will be ketogenic.
Everything else in any different description is just “noise,” that is, rules that people have created because of their experiences rather than because of human physiology.
When you remove carbohydrates from your diet, your body enters a metabolic state called ketosis. To spare glucose in your blood for cells that must use it for energy, the body’s cells begin to use more body fat (either stored body fat or that from your food). This pathway can reduce body fat and weight loss if it is coupled with a calorie deficit.
Ketosis causes the body to convert fatty acids into ketones in the liver. The ketones, because of their size, can pass the boundary between your brain and the rest of your body (the “blood-brain barrier”) to supply energy to the brain. That, coupled with more well-regulated blood glucose, is why many people think clearer and feel more alert while following a keto diet.
The 70-20-10 Rule…or is it the 65-30-5 Rule…or is it the 60-30-10 Rule
Simply said, there is only one rule – reduce carbohydrates significantly enough to induce ketosis. For many people, reducing below 100g total carbohydrates is sufficient, but we recommend remaining below 30g of total carbohydrates per day for near-certainty. However, because people need protein based upon their age, goals, and current body composition, there are no other “rules” around percentages or ratios that matter. Your fat intake will similarly be dictated by your goals and your current body composition. Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates are referred to as macronutrients, or “macros.” If you need some assistance determining your macros needs, take a look at our Ketogains Macros Calculator.
Sadly, a real theme has taken root in the low carb and ketogenic communities that “excess protein” converts to glucose. This expression is one of those things that is both true and untrue, and its popularity certainly has done more harm than good. The truth is that a tiny percentage of all protein will convert to glucose. The same is true of a component of fat called “glycerol.” For within reason, the risks of eating too little protein outweigh any risks of overeating protein in almost every circumstance.
Many people use food tracking apps to ensure they are keeping tabs on what they are eating. We do not recommend that people worry about remaining in a state of ketosis all the time and discourage the use of tracking devices. The reason for this advice is one of pragmatics. We see many individuals tracking and drawing false inferences about their status. It can turn into a cultish practice where you are married to those results rather than the results in your body that matter.
Some participants practice intermittent fasting. For this, you only eat during a particular window (usually eight hours) and spend the rest of the time fasting (typically 16 hours). Generally speaking, we do not recommend fasts longer than 18 hours, except for things like spiritual or religious fasts.
What Are the Health Benefits of the Keto Diet?
Is the keto diet healthy? Yes, it’s one of the best things you can do for your body if you are overweight and desire fat loss.
The number one reason people choose the keto diet is for weight loss.
When your body burns fat, the pounds fall off. With consistency and diligence, it is feasible to shed one to two pounds per week of fat loss without feeling overwhelmed with rice cakes and suffering.
Eating low-carb foods can introduce a decrease in appetite, but this is not universally true. Many people report that the keto diet lowers their hunger to maintain that deficit of calories more easily. When your stomach isn’t growling, it’s easy to maintain portion control and hit your weight loss goals.
But there are other benefits to living the keto life aside from shedding the extra pounds.
Less Visceral Fat for a Healthier Body
Not only does the keto diet help you lose weight, but quite rapidly, the fat is generally stripped from organs of the abdominal cavity. This type of fat, called visceral fat, invades and even enters into the organs and can exacerbate metabolic dysfunction. Less visceral fat reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, along with the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Fewer Triglycerides in Your Bloodstream
Fat molecules in transit through your bloodstream are known as triglycerides. A healthy triglyceride level is less than 150 mg/dl. High triglycerides (200 mg/dl and above) increase your risk of stroke, heart attack, and hypertension.
Overeating, especially with extremely high carb intakes, leads to high levels of triglycerides. When you reduce your carbohydrate intake, the level of triglycerides in your blood drastically decreases. This fact is essential to consider if you are currently taking medication for hypertriglyceridemia.
Regulated Insulin and Blood Sugar Levels
People with diabetes have to watch what they eat as certain foods raise blood sugar and insulin levels. The keto diet encourages low-carb foods, which naturally help regulate insulin and blood sugar levels. For Type 2 diabetics, it is crucial to keep track of blood glucose if medication needs change. They often do!
Fewer Epilepsy Symptoms
A higher fat low-carb diet has proved to help deal with a variety of epilepsy conditions. Doctors often recommend children with epilepsy follow a keto lifestyle if they are having trouble managing their symptoms.
Positive Effects on Mental Health
The keto diet is linked to a reduction in migraines and dementia. The increase in brain energy from a high-fat diet leads to enhanced cognition and mental clarity, but there does seem to be more to it than just that. Research is ongoing, however, and still quite early.
Researchers have also found that the keto diet can treat mood disorders like depression and anxiety. The foods consumed positively affect the central nervous system and the brain, leading to enhanced mood and fewer depressive episodes. This advice is generalized and should be discussed with your medical team.
What Can You Eat on a Keto Diet?
Before embarking on your keto journey, get familiar with what you can eat on a keto diet. Education plays a crucial role in creating a successful keto diet meal plan.
Examples of non-keto foods include (basically, avoid these foods!):
- Bread and Croutons, flours
- Pasta and wheat
- High starch vegetables such as potatoes (and of coure, products made with them)
- High fructose (sugar) fruits such as bananas
- Corn and corn based products
- Milk, most yogurts
- Beer (basically, liquid carbs)
- Full-Sugar Soda
What determines a keto vs. non-keto food? The number of carbohydrates in the food relative to total calorie intake.
Just because it’s labeled as a vegetable doesn’t mean it’s suitable for this diet. Many veggies are starchy and high in carbohydrates. Those foods have to be avoided if you want to maintain ketosis.
Incorporate these veggies into your meal plan:
- Peppers (red, yellow, and green)
- Green beans
- Romaine lettuce
- Tomatoes (in moderation)
- Onions (in limited amounts)
In addition to helping you feel full and achieving ketosis, these vegetables are high in other essential vitamins and minerals to keep your body in tip-top shape.
Shellfish and fish filets are ideal for the keto diet. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Seafood also contains plenty of B vitamins and very few carbs.
What fish and seafood should you add to your diet? Try:
- Wild caught tuna
We recommend incorporating fish into one to two keto meals a week.
Cheese-lovers can rejoice because most cheeses are low in carbs and keto-friendly. .
Some of the best cheeses to add to your keto diet plan are those that are harder (less moisture content) and from high-quality sources of production.
Eating can help provide sufficient calcium while eating minimal carbohydrates. Cheese also adds flavor to keto meals.
However, they are not calorie-friendly and should be consumed in moderation or removed altogether as needed for your goals. If your goal is fat loss, we strongly suggest you avoid cheese: try it, and see that you will lose more body fat.
Many fruits are not keto-friendly, but quite a few berries are.
Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries are high in fiber and antioxidants, making them nutritious foods to include with some regularity. Their low carbohydrates qualify them for your keto meal plan, and many people eat berries for an occasional dessert while on the keto diet.
One large egg only contains just over half a gram of carbohydrate. You can eat all parts of the egg without hindering ketosis, and we are huge fans of eggs! Many keto dieters use eggs as a base for their keto recipes because of their protein and versatile flavor.
How to Start the Keto Diet
What steps should a beginner take to start their keto journey?
As a newbie, sticking to the keto diet can be difficult. Planning and placing a priority on maintaining a healthy life (inside and outside of the kitchen) can help you start and stick with the keto diet.
Meal Prep as Much as Possible
Meal prepping saves time, reduces cooking costs, lowers food waste, and, most importantly, helps you stick to your diet.
Try to prep as many meals as possible for the week to come. You can prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner foods and keep them in your fridge or freezer until you’re ready to eat them. The more healthy food you prepare, the less tempted you will be to get a burger or a slice of pizza.
Avoid the Keto Flu
Beginners need to be wary of the keto flu. People complain of flu-like symptoms that appear two to seven days after they begin the keto diet. They experience fatigue, irritability, nausea, constipation, headaches, and insomnia.
To prevent the keto flu, be sure to:
- Stay hydrated – especially with electrolytes (sodium, potassium & magnesium)
- Eat your veggies
- Not overwork your body with intense physical activity
The consumption of electrolytes can mitigate almost all of the symptoms of this “flu.” The needs for electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and magnesium in specific) in a ketogenic diet go up drastically. Often up to 5-7g per day of sodium! Finding a way to get plenty of electrolytes isn’t as simple as downing sports drinks, and not everyone enjoys making saltwater shots. So we created LMNT Recharge as a means to help supplement when food and flavor aren’t giving you sufficient amounts.
Are You Ready for the Keto Life?
With the right planning, education, and attitude, you can find the right macros for you, create a delicious keto meal plan, and enjoy the benefits ketosis provides.
Are you ready to dive into keto?
Our Ketogains Bootcamp provides you with top-notch coaching, workouts, and motivation to help you reach your weight loss goals. Sign up now.