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Keto Diet Basics
Ultimate Keto Guide for Beginners
Are you looking to start a ketogenic diet or already on one, but have some questions?
Here's a comprehensive keto guide for beginners that will answer those questions and get you started on the right track.
Firstly, let's look at three important points:
(1) The ketogenic diet is not difficult to follow
(2) But, you have to stay motivated
(3) Your body will go through some phases, but the end result may be worth it
The ketogenic diet has been among the most popular health trends for the past few years and experts believe that its popularity will only increase over time.
One of the simplest explanations of why, is that it delivers results.
Like every diet, it has its own pros and cons, but one cannot neglect the fact that it is generally effective for weight loss among other health claims.
Before we start our ultimate keto guide for beginners, let's cover what exactly a keto diet is.
What are the keto diet basics, why is it effective, and what are its benefits?
First of all, what is the Ketogenic Diet?
A ketogenic diet (aka low carb high fat (LCHF) or very low carb diet) is a moderate protein, low carb, and high-fat diet.
Doing this type of eating causes ketones to be produced in the liver. As a result of that, the body turns itself into a fat-burning machine.
Therefore, when in ketosis, the body uses stored fats to produce energy and this helps in losing weight and maintaining better health and performance.
Types of Keto Plans
*Note: We recommend healthy carbs (like sweet potato or fruits) even when doing the carb loading discussed above so you are gaining nutrition.
Standard Keto Plan:
With the standard keto diet plan, you will eat as we talked about above which is only about 5% carbs.
That usually equates to about 20g to net carbs but some people are lucky and still hit ketosis with up to 50g per day.
To give you a reference point one banana has about 15g net carbs by itself. You can see how this could be a little challenging to get used to.
Targeted Keto Plan:
This one is popular with the athletes. This plan allows for carbs right before and right after an intense workout (30 minutes or so).
The article on the site Fit2Fat2Fit talks about the fact that you should not experiment with this until after your body is used to ketosis and you have made the conversion to fat burning.
Now they don't recommend a binge of carbs by any means. It's a small amount of carbs, at about 10-15g that they eat pre and post workouts.
Cyclical Keto Plan:
This version of a keto diet is also one meant to help athletes with muscle growth. It's really more for those involved in advanced training and elite athletes.
Basically, they leave ketosis briefly so they can replenish their glycogen stores and continue to build muscle.
It's really just about cycling in some higher carb days.
So you would eat the standard keto plan during the week and take one or two weekend days to indulge in up to 150 grams of net carbs but this number may vary.
If this plan interests you then you will want to read this in-depth article on how to best implement a cyclical keto diet.
Why is a Ketogenic Lifestyle Effective? (know the keto diet basics)
Now, it is important for you to understand the following explanation:
Many of us have had a high carb food intake up to now. This results in forcing the body to produce more glucose and insulin:
* Glucose: The body converts it to produce energy because it's the easiest molecule that can be converted. As a result, the body always chooses glucose over any other energy source such as fats.
* Insulin: The body produces more insulin so that it can process the glucose in the bloodstream.
Given the fact that glucose is used as the primary source of energy by the body, the fats are not used to generate energy when you're taking in large amounts of carbs all day long.
As a result, the fats get stored in the body (hence you start gaining more weight).
Basically, if you have a higher carbohydrate diet, then your body will mainly use glucose as the main source of energy.
This is where a keto diet helps. It lowers the intake of carbohydrates and induces the body into a metabolic state called Ketosis.
What is Ketosis?
It is a natural process in which the body goes into survival mode when the intake of food is low.
Then the body produces ketones as a result of the breakdown of fats in the liver.
Needless to say, a properly maintained keto diet ensures that your body enters into ketosis or metabolic state.
But the attractive part is that the whole process is not done through the starvation of calories, instead, it is carried out through the starvation of carbs.
Get Started by Knowing the Keto Diet Basics!
We have a series of informational posts on this topic that explain certain subtopics even further. Please refer to these links as resources for this ultimate keto guide.
It is crucial for you to plan ahead if you want to start a keto diet and be able to stick with it.
Read more about how to maintain a keto lifestyle on a budget which will also help you prepare without spending too much money.
Our goal with this ultimate keto guide for beginners is to give you enough information to do this lifestyle properly and in a healthy way.
We always recommend that you check with your doctor before changing your diet drastically.
We cover this more in our post on whether or not the keto diet is right for everyone.
Be Prepared to Handle Few Hurdles
For new ketoers, experiencing keto flu is quite common. This is uncomfortable but it does goes away within a few days.
You may experience weakness, lethargy, and a temporary decrease in physical performance.
Drinking lots of water and sugar-free electrolytes can be really helpful in minimizing keto flu.
Overall, it can be said that you may experience a few hurdles at the start of your keto journey.
But rest assured experiencing a few hurdles along the way will be worth it.
You can read about what to do in this post on the side effects of a keto diet and what to do about them.
What to Eat on Keto Diet
Planning ahead is extremely important if you want to see encouraging results. That means you need to have a viable diet plan.
Getting into a ketogenic state depends a lot on what you eat.
The fewer carbohydrates you eat in a day (less than 15-20g), the faster you’ll enter the state of ketosis.
You may want to read more detail about macros on our post called, What are keto macros?
Here is what you can eat:
* Meats – beef, poultry, lamb, fish, fatty fish, ground beef, ground lamb, etc. and we further recommend it be organic/clean high quality meats
* High Fat Dairy –if you are lucky and are not sensitive to dairy then you can enjoy high fat cream, hard cheese, butter, cottage cheese, parmesan, Greek yogurt, aged cheddar, cream cheese etc. and once again we recommend organic
* Leafy Greens – kale, spinach, cabbage, romaine lettuce, and more.
* Above Ground Vegetables – cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, green bell peppers, onion, parsnip, mushrooms, garlic, eggplant, etc.
* Low Sugar Fruits – avocados, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and any other low glycemic impact berries
* Nuts and Seeds – walnuts, macadamias, brazil nuts, pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds (avoid eating large amounts of cashews and pistachios as they are higher in carbohydrates)
* Sweeteners – monk fruit, erythritol, stevia, and other low-carb sweeteners in moderation as they can induce cravings for sweet foods
* Fats and Oils –healthy fats: saturated fats (coconut oil, butter, lard, and ghee), Polyunsaturated fats (it is naturally occurring fats in fatty fish and animal proteins) monounsaturated fats (avocado, olive, and macadamia nut oils)
and make sure that you avoid trans fats as they are linked to heart disease.
Think Low Carb, Moderate Protein, High Fat
You need to remember that a keto diet can only be effective if it is low in carbs, moderate in proteins, and high in fat.
In other words, your nutrient intake should be like this: 5% carbohydrate, 20-25% protein, and 70-80% fats.
It is normally recommended to consume 20-30g of net carbs per day.
However, you need to try your best to stick to lower carbohydrate intake and glucose levels.
Keeping a check on your total carbs and net carbs can really help in acquiring better overall results, especially if you’re hoping to lose weight with a keto diet.
If you don’t have any idea what net carbs are, then there is no need to worry – these are your total dietary carbohydrates (minus the total fiber).
Most guides say to keep total carbs below 30g and net carbs below 20g; however you will find what works for you.
After all, everyone is individual with unique needs and this implies to how many carbs you can eat to maintain ketosis.
What Not To Eat on a Keto Diet
Knowledge of what to stay away from is part of the keto diet basics that help a lot with staying on the right track.
Basically you will want to stay away from any refined carbohydrates such as starch (beans, potatoes, legumes), wheat (pasta, bread, cereals), or fruit with a higher amount of carbohydrates like bananas and grapes.
You need to avoid eating:
* Grains – Corn, wheat, cereal, rice, barley etc.
* Sugars – Agave, honey, cakes, chocolates, maple syrup-basically sugar in all its forms. Learn to identify sugar on labels by knowing the different ways its named.
* Tubers - Yams, potatoes, and other root vegetables
* Fruit – They may be healthy but they have sugars in them. So, avoid eating bananas, oranges, apples, grapes and other high sugar fruits.
* Sugar-free diet products – they are highly processed and is best to avoid them as they slow down the progress
* Unhealthy Fats – these are processed fats and if you want results then it is best to stay miles away from unhealthy fats
If you have made up your mind to stick to a keto diet, then you have to let go of one habit – yes, you’ve guessed! You have to avoid drinking alcohol.
The reason behind this is that many alcohols are high carb. You need to cut alcohol back significantly if you want your keto diet to yield encouraging results.
If you must drink then at least take a look at which alcohols are lowest in carbs.
How to Reach Ketosis
You might be surprised to know but activating ketosis is quite simple. It is just that there is lots of information out there and people get confused with it.
The rest of the keto diet basics are actually pretty straightforward and easy to follow:
(1) Limit Your Carbohydrate Intake –
Some people make the mistake of only focusing on net carbs and neglect total carbs intake. It is best to limit both to get great results.
(2) Limit Your Protein Intake –
Did you know that too much protein results in lower levels of ketosis?
If you want to lose weight, then it is recommended to eat between 0.5g to 0.8g protein per pound of your lean body mass.
Here is a site that explains more about how to calculate your daily protein needs.
Keto Diet Basics Continued....
(3) Kick the Fear of Fats Out of Your Head –
If you want your keto diet to show results, then you need to consume more fats.
After all, fats are the primary source of energy when you are on a ketogenic diet. So, eat fats without guilt, but make they are all good, healthy fats.
(4) Stop Snacking –
Part of the deal here is to also stop unnecessary snacking to get better results.
You need lower insulin spikes throughout the day, and that is why you must limit snacking between meals.
(5) Drink Lots of Water –
You need to stay hydrated even when you are not on a keto diet. So, of course it's important on keto too.
Remember that water is going to play a pivotal role for you.
(6) Try Exercising –
Getting the most out of your keto diet is very much possible if you add 15-30 minutes of exercise a day. You can even help regulate blood sugar levels with a slow walk.
Check this article out on keto exercise so you know how to incorporate it into your keto lifestyle safely.
(7) Start Fasting –
One of the best ways to boost ketone levels is through fasting. However, if you are not comfortable with fasting then you can skip it and focus on the low carb aspect of this diet.
Fasting in between meals (no snacks) and between dinner and breakfast is helpful too and not as difficult.
(8) Take Supplements –
Although you can reach ketosis without taking supplements, there is no denying that supplements can help a lot in getting desired results.
Check out some of the keto supplements and products that are very helpful in the beginning.
*In addition, please speak with your doctor about the need for other vitamins and minerals to consider.
Keto Diet Basics-Tests for Ketosis
Entering ketosis is quite simple and straightforward. However, it's hard to "just know" if you are in ketosis or not.
You need to test yourself to check. Below you will see a link to one type of ketosis testing product as an example.
Some people test for ketosis using urine and others use breath testing.
Blood testing is the more expensive method, but believed to be the most accurate (at the time of writing this post).
Follow Keto Diet Meal Plans
Not all of us can afford to pay someone else to plan and make meals though so I would recommend jumping right into that kitchen and doing it yourself at home.
Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet
Here is why the keto diet is highly recommended:
Weight Loss –
It is obvious that you’ll lose weight with a keto diet because it uses the fats stored in your body to produce energy.
Controlled Blood Sugar –
A keto diet also helps in preventing diabetes by naturally lowering the blood sugar levels in your body.
Increased Energy –
Researches have shown that fats are more effective molecules to be used as a source of energy as compared to glucose.
You may feel more energized throughout the day because you are giving your body a more reliable energy source
Enhanced Mental Focus –
Ketones help to increased mental performance because they are the fuel for the brain.
Keto diet lowers the carb intake and this means that blood sugar levels would lower as well.
This helps in improved concentration and focus.
Controlled Blood Pressure and Cholesterol –
Cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels are more related to arterial buildup and a keto diet helps in improving them.
Many studies also show that improved blood pressure can be achieved through low-carb diets.
Helps in Fighting Acne Problems –
Studies have found that a high-carb diet is associated with increased acne. It is best to switch to a keto diet if you want to get rid of acne.
The Bottom Line for Keto Diet Basics
Now that you've read our keto guide for beginners, and are aware of all the keto diet basics, keep in mind that only you can make it effective.
A ketogenic diet delivers results when you strive for them.
That means you have to check what you eat, and what you drink, get exercise and choose high quality organic foods as much as possible.
You also need to stay motivated and always try to gather more knowledge about the keto diet.
New things about it are being discovered as its popularity explodes.
Needless to say, it all comes down to the execution of meal planning and making necessary lifestyle changes that last.
Remember our main goal is to share information and help you gain health -reaching an optimal weight for your body happens naturally as a result of healthier habits.
To help you get started, we have a post with a free 5 day keto meal plan with complete recipes.
If after a few weeks you reach a plateau in your goals, check out this post: How to Break a Weight Loss Plateau on a Keto Diet
Disclaimer for Keto Diet Basics Post:
THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS WEBSITE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES. IT IS BASED ON MY OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCES AND OPINIONS. I AM NOT A MEDICAL DOCTOR AND WHAT IS WRITTEN SHOULD NOT BE USED TO DIAGNOSE OR TREAT ANY DISEASE OR ILLNESS. THE PRODUCT LINKS ARE NOT MEANT TO BE CONSTRUED AS MEDICATIONS OR TREATMENTS AND YOU SHOULD CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE TAKING ANY SUPPLEMENTS, HERBAL PRODUCTS, OR STARTING ANY EXERCISE OR DIET PROGRAMS.