Beginner's Guide to the Ketogenic Diet
About This Ebook
If you’re interested in trying the ketogenic diet, this ebook is for you. Inside, you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions, helpful tips for starting and sustaining a keto diet, and everything you need to know about the “keto flu.” You’ll also find information about achieving your athletic goals, weight loss goals, or health goals with the keto diet.
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What Is a Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet, or keto, is a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb diet that helps the body transition from using simple sugars for fuel to using ketones and fat molecules for fuel. In its simplest definition, a ketogenic diet is designed to change the way your body turns food into energy.
Think of the human body as a highly efficient energy machine. When offered the choice between a simple energy source (carbohydrates and simple sugars) and a more complex energy source (fats and proteins), your body will default to the quickest, simplest source of energy. In our modern society, which is increasingly saturated with simple sugars and carbohydrates, a ketogenic diet “resets” the body to rely on fats and a moderate amount of protein for energy.
A Shift in Energy Conversion
As you replace simple sugars (glucose) with fats and protein in your diet, your body will deplete its glycogen levels and begin producing molecules called “ketones” for the purpose of converting fat into energy. This process is known as ketosis. It’s important to moderate your macronutrients during a ketogenic diet, since too much protein will be converted into glycogen stores. It’s also important to pay special attention to your intake of vitamins and supplements to minimize uncomfortable symptoms of “keto flu,” a brief but uncomfortable transition in which the body experiences withdrawal from relying on simple sugars.
In general, the fewer carbs you consume while on a keto diet, the better! You’ll need to stay below 50 grams of carbs per day, and ideally closer to 20 grams. The percentage of macronutrients you should aim for to remain in ketosis are as follows: 70% fat, 5-10% carb, and 15-25% protein.
Is the Keto Diet a Good Fit for You?
Many people use the ketogenic diet to help them achieve their goals, including weight loss, exercise performance, or improving their physical or mental health.
Your body is designed to get fuel from two different sources: sugar, and ketones. When the body’s glycogen stores are depleted through the ketogenic diet, the body creates ketones, which rely on stored fat to produce energy. The result is weight loss!
Other health benefits of making the switch to relying on fat as a primary energy source include more sustained energy (no more sugar crashes) and less erratic hunger throughout the day. A keto diet also lowers your body’s insulin production, which decreases the amount of fat your body stores on a daily basis, as well as improving conditions like PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), acne, and migraines.
Because the ketogenic diet retrains your body to rely on fat intake and fat stores for energy, you’ll find that your capacity for physical endurance increases significantly. This allows for longer, more intense exercise and helps many people achieve their fitness and performance goals more quickly and efficiently.
A ketogenic diet may not be a good fit for you if you’re managing diabetes, have certain conditions that cause high blood pressure, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you’re not sure whether a keto diet is right for you, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor!
Researching and asking questions are some of the best ways to find out how keto really works--and whether the rumors you’ve heard are true! Still have questions after perusing this FAQ and exploring the Beginner's Guide to the Ketogenic Diet? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always happy to chat!
How long has the keto diet been around?
The keto diet, in its most basic form, has been around since 500 BCE. In more modern times, keto was discovered to be an effective treatment for epilepsy in the early 1900s.
Who is the keto diet for?
The keto diet has diverse applications, from effective, sustainable weight loss to the management of chronic inflammatory conditions and epilepsy. Many people use keto as a way to lower and regulate their insulin levels, which can yield benefits like mental clarity, improved insulin sensitivity, and weight loss. Individuals whose goals include athletic performance or training also find that keto is an effective way to improve endurance and overall health
Is the ketogenic diet safe?
Nutritional ketosis, in which the body produces ketones to use fat for energy efficiently, is quite safe. Many people mistakenly compare nutritional ketosis to ketoacidosis, a condition that can affect individuals with compromised liver function and insulin production. In ketoacidosis, ketone levels are 3-5 times higher than nutritional ketosis.
What can you eat on the keto diet?
While the shift from a high-carb, low-fat diet to a high-fat, low-carb diet can seem daunting or limiting at first, there are countless delicious keto-friendly foods and recipes. The goal of the keto diet is to eat real, unprocessed foods that are nutrient rich and meet the percentages of high fat, moderate protein, and low carbs that keep the body in nutritional ketosis. You’ll be eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, and fats.
How is it possible to lose fat by eating fat?
When it comes to energy production, the body has two options: sugar or fat. Sugar causes insulin levels to spike--resulting in fat storage. When the body adapts to using fat as fuel, on the other hand, insulin levels remain low, and the body produces ketones to actively used ingested fat and fat stores as fuel.
Do I need to count calories with keto?
That all depends on your goals! In general, it’s best to simply listen to your body’s signals of satiety when you eat on a keto diet. Without the rollercoaster of sugar spikes and lows, it’s far easier to eat as motivated by true hunger--rather than a feel-good “sugar rush.” Simply by staying within your macro percentages and eating to satiety, most people find that they are able to accomplish their goals with keto without counting calories. However, if you find that your progress has plateaued, you may wish to pay closer attention to your calorie counts on a daily basis.
How much/how often should I eat?
Keto isn’t a starvation diet--nor should it be a white-knuckled experience. You should eat when you are hungry, until you are full. If you aren’t hungry, skip a meal. If you find that you are hungry, have a snack! Listen to your body, and pay attention to true hunger cues.
Do any studies support the effectiveness of the keto diet?
Yes! Even a cursory review of the scientific literature reveals a great deal of evidence for the effectiveness of the keto diet, particularly when it comes to certain medical conditions and weight loss. Many studies are still ongoing, and new research becomes available regularly! Will eating saturated fats increase my cholesterol? For most people, a ketogenic diet raises their “good” cholesterol, or HDL and reduces their “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides--by far the two most important factors in heart health. It’s still critical to avoid processed fats and trans fats; however, there’s little evidence that suggests saturated fats are the villains popular culture purports, particularly in the absence of high levels of carbohydrates.
Is it possible to exercise effectively without carbs?
Yes! While it will take time for your body to adjust to using fat as an energy source (usually several weeks), it’s not only possible but beneficial to exercise without carb-loading, provided you maintain proper protein levels in your diet. Exercising on a low-carb diet can yield greater endurance, higher fat loss, and less fatigue.
How will I know when I’m in ketosis?
Your body will indicate nutritional ketosis through several signs, including a “fruity” or “nail polish remover” taste in your mouth for the first few weeks during the adjustment period. You’ll also begin to notice that your cravings for sugar and carbs begin to disappear. You can use a breathalyzer or urine strips to get a basic idea of whether or not your liver is producing ketones, but for the most accurate results a pin-prick blood tester (similar to an insulin-level tester) can be used.
How long will it take me to enter ketosis?
It can take the body anywhere from 24-48 hours to deplete its glycogen stores and begin producing ketones in the liver. After this period, your body will be in nutritional ketosis; however, it can still take several weeks to become fully adapted to burning fat for energy.
What is the keto flu?
The keto flu is the symptoms most people experience during the time it takes their body to adjust to using fat for energy. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks and include tiredness, irritability, weakness, nausea, and cravings for sugar. Unsurprisingly, withdrawing from sugar has surprisingly similar symptoms to withdrawing from many types of drugs. Symptoms can be alleviated by keeping electrolyte levels high and supplementing with beta hydroxybutyrate to help the body produce ketones.
What sweeteners can I use on keto?
When you need a little sweetness without the sugar on keto, natural sweeteners like Stevia or monk fruit powder are your best options. Keep in mind that even calorie-free sweeteners can cause cravings, so use them sparingly, and be sure to avoid synthetic sweeteners like aspartame.
Can I drink alcohol on keto?
Yes. Red and dry white wine, in addition to pure alcohols like whiskey. However, it’s unadvisable to consume alcohol as your body adjusts to a keto diet, since the body is unable to metabolize it and will use it for fuel instead of ketones and fat. If your goals include weight loss, it’s a good idea to steer clear of alcohol completely, for the same reason.
Is keto safe for pregnant women?
While pregnant women can participate in a keto diet with doctor supervision, it is not recommended that you try to lose weight during this time or restrict your calories. Pregnant women who use keto should pay extra attention to their nutrient intake.
Is keto safe for diabetics?
Keto can be a very effective way for people with diabetes to manage their insulin levels and avoid spikes. However, if you do have diabetes, you should always consult with your doctor first before beginning a ketogenic diet. Your doctor may want to monitor your health closely during your diet, particularly as your body adjusts.
Will keto give me bad breath?
No. Most people aren’t bothered by the fruity, or “nail-polish remover” taste that accompanies early ketosis. However, if this taste or smell does bother you, know that it will disappear when you become fully adapted to keto.
Can I eat unlimited protein with keto?
No. Keto requires moderate amounts of protein to preserve and build muscle mass. High amounts of protein will be converted into glycogen, which will take the body out of ketosis.
Are more ketones better?
No. Having higher levels of ketones in your bloodstream will not improve your results from a ketogenic diet.
Are “cheat days” allowed?
While it’s true that your body will recover from a “cheat day” quickly and return to ketosis once your body has become fat adapted, it’s not advisable. “Cheat days” can cause a resurgence in cravings and temporary water retention.