Keto Basics: What Is Keto?
The ketogenic diet (keto) is a very low-carb and high-fat diet. The primary goal of the ketogenic diet is to put you in a state of ketosis, which shifts your metabolism to burning fat as fuel and energy instead of glucose. Dozens of studies have shown that the ketogenic diet is successful in treating obesity and accelerating weight loss in patients [*].
Not convincing enough? Read along.
On the ketogenic diet, you get to eat delicious, wholesome foods and still be able to lose weight. Research has shown that high-fat diets resulted in more weight loss than traditional, commonly recommended low-fat diets [*]. In addition, the ketogenic diet provides many health benefits such as increased energy, improved mood and focus as well as relief in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and diabetes.
To achieve your goals and enter a state of ketosis, you have to restrict your carbohydrate intake and increase your consumption of healthy fats.
What are macros?
There are several food rules on the ketogenic diet. One of the simplest and most important is counting your macronutrients. Ketogenic diet consists of limiting your carbohydrate intake, so that your body learns how to switch from using glucose as a main source of fuel, to using fats.
Macronutrients are simply the amount of fat, protein and carbohydrates you eat within your caloric range.
- 1 Gram Of Fat = 9 Kcal
- 1 Gram Of Protein = 4 Kcal
- 1 Gram Of Carbohydrates = 4 Kcal
In order to reach ketosis, you also have to follow a ketogenic macronutrient ratio, where:
- 70-80% Of Your Daily Calories Should Come From Fat
- 20-25% Of Your Daily Calories Should Come From Protein
- 5-10% Of Your Daily Calories Should Come From Carbohydrates
For example, a person who eats 2000 kcal per day should eat:
- 167g Of Fat
- 100g Of Protein
- 25g Of Carbohydrates
However, these calculations may vary for each individual.
What Are Net Carbs?
On the ketogenic diet, carbohydrates are controversial. In order to count your carbohydrate intake accurately, you need to familiarize yourself with the term “net carbs” and why is it so important to the ketogenic diet.
Not all carbohydrates are equal – they all have different impacts on your blood sugar level. For example, carbohydrates with a High Glycemic Index, such as potatoes, white bread and white rice spike up your blood sugar significantly. They are meant to give you an immediate boost of energy, however, they contain too much energy to be used all at once – therefore, the rest is stored in your muscles as glycogen or body fat.
Carbohydrates with a Low Glycemic Index, such as fruits and vegetables, beans, and some grains have a low impact on your blood sugar levels. Because they are digested much slower than carbohydrates with a High Glycemic Index, insulin spikes are less frequent.
How does this relate to the ketogenic diet?
The main goal of the ketogenic diet is to replace most carbohydrates with healthy fats and protein. While you are allowed to eat about 20-50g of net carbs each day, it is important which ones are your best bet – and which ones you should avoid.
Unless you are a high performance athlete, carbohydrates with a High GI Index are not for you. However, if you are a bodybuilder or exercise at high intensities, you may want to read about different types of the ketogenic diet, such as the Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD) and the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD).
Total Carbs vs. Net Carbs
Understanding “net carbs” is vital in reaching the state of ketosis. They are the carbohydrates that your body digests and absorbs.
Fiber is one of the complex carbs your body does not digest, therefore it is subtracted from the amount of total carbohydrates.
Sugar alcohols, also called polyols provide sweetness to most low-carb foods. Yet, not all sugar alcohols are created equal. For example, 90% of your erythritol consumption is found to be excreted through urine [*]. On the other hand, sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and maltitol do, in fact, affect your blood sugar levels and are partially digested by your body. This is why if you are snacking on foods which contain these polyols, you should subtract half of the weight in grams to obtain your net carbs.
Let’s take a look:
Total Carbs – Fiber – Sugar Alcohols = Net Carbs
For example, one avocado is 17g of total carbohydrates and 13g of dietary fiber and no sugar alcohols. Therefore the net carb count for an avocado is:
17g Total Carbs – 13g Fiber – 0g Sugar Alcohols = 4g Net Carbs
What Is Ketosis?
Ketosis is the ultimate goal of the ketogenic diet. It is a normal metabolic state where your body uses fat as a source of energy. This is why the ketogenic diet has been so successful in helping people lose weight and feel their best.
Once you start eating very low-carb, your body will be deprived of glucose (in other words, blood sugar). Glucose and glycogen are your body’s primary sources of fuel – however, once you stop eating carbohydrates, your body will slowly switch to burning through fats.
At this stage, you may experience some unpleasant side effects for a few days, which are commonly known as the “keto flu”. This is the time where your body adjusts to a drastic metabolism shift.
To read more about this phenomenon and find out how you can reduce unwanted symptoms, click here.
What Are Ketones?
Ketones are simply chemicals made in your liver. In order for your body to produce ketones you have to either restrict your carbohydrates, fast for a long period of time, or exercise intensely.
Once you decide to go on the ketogenic diet and decrease your carb intake, your body will no longer rely on glucose (blood sugar) as a source of energy. Now, it will start looking for alternative fuel – in this case, ketones. The more fat you consume and the less carbohydrates you eat, the more ketone bodies you will produce.
In order to lose weight on the ketogenic diet and take advantage of all the benefits, your body has to produce enough ketones to enter a state of ketosis. To read more about ketones, how to measure them to find out if you are in ketosis, click here.
What To Eat On Keto?
The most important virtue of the ketogenic diet is to eat wholesome, unprocessed foods that will provide you with necessary nutrients to fuel your body. On the ketogenic diet, it is best to eat healthy fat sources, such as:
- Flaxseed Oil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Avocados And Avocado Oil
- Fish: Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel, Trout
- Chia Seeds
- Fatty Fish
- Nuts, Such As Macadamia
- Avocado Oil
- Olive Oil
- Fatty Red Meat
- Grass-Fed Butter
- Coconut Oil
- MCT Oil
But – just because the ketogenic diet tells you to eat over 70% of your daily calories from fats, this does not mean you should consume foods and products that contain:
- Corn Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
- Canola Oil
- Rapeseed Oil
- Sunflower Oil
On the ketogenic diet, it is best to consume healthy fats that will help you experience benefits of ketosis without potentially harmful side effects of unhealthy fats.
Foods allowed on the ketogenic diet:
- Meat: Red Meat, Poultry, Bacon
- Fish: Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel
- Seafood: Shrimp, Lobster, Crab
- Eggs: Choose Pastured Eggs
- Low-Carb Vegetables: Leafy Greens, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Peppers, Cucumbers Etc.
- Healthy Oils: Coconut Oil, MCTs, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Avocado Oil
- Cheese & Dairy: Cheese, Butter, Greek Yogurt, Cottage Cheese, Heavy Cream, Sour Cream
- Nuts And Seeds: Macadamia Nuts, Almonds, Chia Seeds, Flax Seeds Etc.
- Low-Carb Fruits: Raspberries, Blackberries, Blueberries (With Limitations!)
Foods to avoid:
- Sugars: Candy, Soda, Fruit Juice, Ice Cream, Milk Chocolate, Cakes, Cookies
- Starches And Grains: Wheat, Oatmeal, Flour, Bread, Quinoa, Barley, Rice Etc.
- Fruits: All Fruits Except A Small Amount Of Berries
- Vegetables: Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Corn, Root Vegetables
- Beans And Legumes: All Kinds Of Beans, Lentils, Chickpeas
- Unhealthy Fats: Processed Fats, Margarine, Canola Oil
- Low-Fat Products: These Are Often Highly Processed
- Alcohol: Beer, Wine, Cocktails
For a full and printable PDF Keto Food List, click here.
Types Of Ketogenic Diets
There are several versions of the ketogenic diet, including:
- Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD): Most Researched And Most Recommended; Macronutrient Ratio Is Often 70-80% Of Daily Calories From Fat; 20-25% From Protein, 5-10% From Carbohydrates. Best For Beginners And Those Want To Lose Weight.
- Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD): More Suitable For Those Who Do High-Performance Activity And Need Energy For Their Workouts. Most Carbohydrates Here Are Consumed About 30-60 Minutes Before Exercising.
- Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD): Mostly For Bodybuilders Or Professional Athletes; Here, You Would Follow The SKD For About 5-6 Days, And Then Significantly Increase Your Carbohydrate Intake For 1-2 Days.
- High Protein Ketogenic Diet (HPKD): Similar To SKD But Includes An Increase In Protein; Most Of The Time Ratio Is 60% Of Daily Calories From Fat, 35% From Protein And 5% From Carbohydrates.
Depending on your goals and your lifestyle, there is a possibility one version of keto can be more beneficial to you than the other. For more information on different types of the ketogenic diet, read this article.
Now that you know the basics of the ketogenic diet, you will be able to achieve your goals in no time!