A Guide to the Ketogenic Diet
If you’ve ever thought of losing weight or controlling your blood sugar levels, most likely you’ll hear of the ketogenic diet. People who try the keto diet will tell you that living a keto lifestyle has its share of joys and challenges. Together, we’re going to explore in detail what keto is all about.
How does it work? What are the benefits and risks of the diet? What should I eat and avoid? How do I kickstart ketosis today? Don’t worry. We’ll answer all your questions.
The Ketogenic Diet and How It Works
The ketogenic or keto diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate, and moderate protein diet. On keto, your body enters a state known as ketosis. This happens when your liver converts fat into ketones for energy.
When you eat more carbs, normally, carbs are broken down into glucose. Glucose is then carried to your bloodstream for your cells to use it as energy. Starving your body of carbohydrates forces your body to burn fat instead for fuel. As you can see, our bodies are capable of adapting to whatever we feed it with.
How much should you eat on a keto diet?
Most keto dieters limit their carbs to 20-50 grams per day. A classic keto diet would have the following macronutrient ratio: 60-75% of calories from fat, 15-30% of calories from protein, and 5-10% of calories from carbs. Your exact macros depend on a variety of factors. This includes your weight and activity levels. Because it can be tricky to determine optimal macros, most people find a keto calculator helpful.
Pros and Cons of Keto
Prior to starting a keto diet, it’s important to know why you want it. Every plan has a motivation behind it. Knowing your “why” helps you keep pushing especially during times when you just want to indulge in sweets or feel “hangry” after a stressful day at work. At the same time, you should anticipate the possible downsides of keto.
1. Reduces hunger and cravings
If your main goal is to lose weight, you’ll be happy to know that the keto diet can help. Many people have an intense desire for high carbohydrate foods such as pizza, ice cream, and pasta. The danger of relying too much on sugar is that it can be addictive.
A study reveals that sugar acts like opioids in the brain. You constantly need it to feel good. Weaning yourself off sugar is possible with keto. If you’re a sweet tooth, you can take healthy sweeteners like stevia and erythritol.
2. Manages type 2 diabetes
Is a keto diet good for type 2 diabetes? The answer is yes. The explanation behind this is that keto helps diabetic patients lower their blood glucose levels to a healthy range and avoid glucose spikes. Some patients are even able to reduce their need for insulin.
3. Increases healthy HDL cholesterol
There’s a common misconception with the keto diet. Many people believe that because you eat more fats, you’re prone to getting clogged arteries. Studies reveal that eating a low-carb diet improves your HDL levels long-term. Choosing healthy fats (omega-3) which are found in fatty fish and olive oil also increases HDL.
1. Increased risk of kidney stones
One of the factors that cause kidney stones is dehydration. Some keto dieters with a history of kidney stones are likely to develop them if they don’t keep themselves well-hydrated. Here’s why: Lowering your carbs makes your body lose glycogen which causes frequent urination. When you’re peeing more than usual, you need to drink more water.
2. Reduced physical performance (at the beginning)
It’s normal to experience a decrease in performance at the start of a keto lifestyle. Remember that your body is still adjusting to its withdrawal from glucose. When your body becomes fat adapted, your energy will return. In fact, you’ll find yourself performing better especially with endurance exercises.
Foods to Avoid and Eat
Since you’ll be decreasing your carb intake, beware of carb foods such as grains (even whole grains), beans and legumes, and most fruits (bananas, apples, and pineapples, and watermelons). Stay away from sweetened beverages — juices, coffee, and tea. Commercially-baked and processed goodies like cakes and candies are also a no-no.
How about keto foods you can eat? An excellent keto diet food list includes seafood, vegetables that grow above the ground, fattier nuts (cashews and macadamias), eggs, cheese, and healthy oils (avocado, MCT oil, and olive oil).
For a well-formulated keto diet that helps you enjoy the most benefits, you’ll want to steer clear of ingredients that include syrups and anything that sounds like a chemical.
How to Get Into Ketosis
Convinced of our reasons to try the keto diet? Please take note that achieving ketosis doesn’t happen overnight. It will take two days to one week. Here are helpful ways to kickstart ketosis today:
1. Carb-proof your pantry
First things first, make sure that you don’t have instant access to carbohydrates. That means getting rid of foods like pasta, chips, bagels, and fruit juices. I know that it can be difficult to let these things go. The trick is to replace all these carb foods with delicious keto options. Many keto followers find batch cooking an effective technique to stick with the diet.
2. Do intermittent fasting
“Can I mix keto and intermittent fasting?” I hear this question a lot. Sure, you can. In fact, keto and intermittent fasting go well together because they speed up ketosis and fat loss. Also, when you’re fat-adapted, you’ll find intermittent fasting easy to do because your blood sugar is more stable. You can go longer without food.
There are different ways to fast intermittently. Find one that works for you:
- Meal Skipping – You can skip breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
- 24-Hour Fast – Choose a day where you can fast for a full 24 hours.
- Alternate Day Fasting – You eat today, tomorrow you fast. This is the least popular method.
- Extended Fasting – This fasting period goes beyond 24 hours.
- One Meal a Day (OMAD) – You eat all your calories in just one meal per day.
3. Eat more high-quality fats
A common mistake that people make is that they don’t eat enough fat. Remember, fat is your friend. There are many ways to add more fat to your diet. One is to cook with fat such as butter or extra virgin olive oil. Another is to add cheese to your meals. Cheese is keto-approved. Choose cheddar or mozzarella.
4. Test your ketone levels
Are you actually in ketosis? To ensure your compliance with the keto diet, check your ketone levels. Ketone bodies can be found in your breath, urine, and blood.
While testing with urine strips is the easiest method, results are usually inaccurate. Many factors can alter the concentration of ketones in your urine. Hydration levels, exercise, and fasting are some of them. Instead of uring testing, opt for blood ketone testing instead since it’s the most accurate.
5. Include MCT oil in your diet
MCT in MCT oil stands for medium chain triglycerides. MCT oil increases your ketone body production, helping you get into ketosis faster. If you need a boost in brain power and get steady energy throughout the day, MCT oil helps. It comes in liquid form or soft gels.
6. Eat snacks that mostly consist of fat
When you’re hungry or having an energy crash, it’s good to have a readily available keto snack. Fat-filled snacks include pork rinds, high-fat nuts (macadamias, pecans, walnuts), and avocados. Ever heard of fat bombs? These are snack balls and bars made of high-fat ingredients like butter, coconut oil, and cream cheese.
Driven, dedicated and team-oriented professional with more than 6 years of experience providing wellness and nutritional support in various capacities. After Sofia learned about “food deserts” as a kid, she became determined to devote her life to like to making healthy foods accessible to everyone, regardless of income or location. Sofia has traveled around the world, teaching nutrition to communities in extreme poverty. In her spare time, Sofia loves long bike rides and exploring local farmer’s markets.