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The Ketogenic Diet: A Detailed Beginner’s Guide To Keto

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The ketogenic diet consists of consuming a minimal quantity of carbohydrates and substituting them with fat, which aids in the utilization of fat for energy by the body. It can potentially result in weight loss and reduce the likelihood of certain diseases.

The ketogenic diet, also known as the keto diet, is a diet that is low in carbs and high in fat. It has been found to have numerous health benefits, including weight loss and improved overall health. Research suggests that ketogenic diets may also provide advantages in managing conditions such as diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Here is an in-depth guide for beginners to follow the keto diet.

Keto diet

The ketogenic diet comes in various forms.

According to Cure Epilepsy, the classic ketogenic diet deviates heavily from the Institute of Medicine’s suggested macronutrient distribution. It is extremely high in fat, accounting for about 80% to 90% of daily calories, extraordinarily low in carbohydrates (making up only 4% of calories), and moderately balanced in protein (usually 6-8% of calories).

The key element of the keto diet is the natural process of ketosis, which is when bodies efficiently utilize glucose as the primary source of energy through the breakdown of carbohydrates. This uncomplicated process is why glucose is the body’s favored method for energy production.

When you reduce your carb intake or experience a period of not eating, your body searches for alternative sources of energy. Generally, fat serves as that source. As your blood sugar decreases due to the lack of carb consumption, fat is released from your cells and accumulates in the liver. Subsequently, the liver converts the fat into ketone bodies, which become the second option for energy utilization in your body.

Different types of ketogenic diets

There are multiple variations of the ketogenic diet, such as:

  • Standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This is a very low carb, moderate protein and high fat diet. It typically contains 70% fat, 20% protein, and only 10% carbs.
  • Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This diet involves periods of higher carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high carb days.
  • Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): This diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.
  • High protein ketogenic diet: This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more protein. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbs.

Extensive research has been conducted solely on the standard and high protein ketogenic diets, whereas the more advanced methods of cyclical or targeted ketogenic diets are primarily employed by bodybuilders or athletes.

The majority of the information in this article pertains to the standard ketogenic diet (SKD), but many of the same principles are also applicable to the other variations.

What is ketosis

Ketosis is a metabolic condition in which the body relies on fat rather than carbohydrates as its source of fuel. This happens when a person significantly decreases their carbohydrate intake, thereby reducing the amount of glucose (sugar) available to the cells, which is the primary energy source.

The most effective way to enter ketosis is by following a ketogenic diet, by thinking step by step.

In general, the strategy is to restrict carb intake to approximately 20 to 50 grams daily and substitute with fats from sources like meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and healthy oils. It is equally important to moderate protein consumption since excessive protein intake can potentially hinder the shift into ketosis by converting into glucose.

Engaging in intermittent fasting can also aid in achieving ketosis more quickly.

There are numerous variations of intermittent fasting, but the widely used approach involves restricting food consumption to 8 hours daily and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. Tests for blood, urine, and breath exist to measure the level of ketones produced by your body, aiding in determining if you have entered ketosis.

There are certain symptoms that may also suggest that you have entered ketosis, such as an increase in thirst, a dry mouth, frequent urination, and a decrease in hunger or appetite.

Can the keto diet plan help with weight loss

Is it too good to be true that the keto diet allows you to lose a significant amount of weight in a relatively short time? This is considered one of the main advantages and primary factors contributing to the popularity of the keto diet.

Various studies, such as the research published in the 2018 Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, have suggested that adopting a low-carbohydrate diet (like the keto diet) can lead to weight loss without negatively affecting athletic performance. This appears promising, but it is crucial to note that sustainable long-term weight loss is uncertain.

In a 2020 review published in Cureus, it was suggested that individuals who adhered to the ketogenic diet might have achieved weight loss and demonstrated enhancements in blood pressure, triglycerides, and good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Nevertheless, these positive changes were not evident after the 12-month period, indicating the necessity for additional long-term research to validate the diet’s efficacy.

However, let’s consider a few reasons why keto could be effective for certain individuals as a means to lose weight.

  • Calorie restriction: If you severely restrict your food intake by cutting out many categories of food, you’re quite likely to lose weight.
  • Water loss: There is some evidence that diets like the keto diet may have some weight loss benefits, partially because both fat and protein are satiating, so you don’t feel hungry, but also because of the loss in glycogen stores. Glycogen is the body’s glucose storage that is bound up with water, so when we deplete the glycogen, we also deplete our water storage. Lose a ton of water, and you’re going to drop weight fast.
  • Appetite control: In addition to the satiating capabilities of fat and protein, 2021 research published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care suggests that the keto diet may help suppress the hunger hormone, ghrelin. For people who are always hungry, this can be beneficial to weight loss.

Who shouldn’t do the keto diet plan

It is essential to consult with your health care provider before embarking on any new diet plan, especially in the case of certain groups who should avoid the keto diet for health reasons. These groups comprise (but are not restricted to):

  • People with gallbladder or pancreatic issues: Fat is more difficult than other macronutrients for the body to digest, so this may be a strain for those with gallbladder or pancreatic disease.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women: While research is in its infancy, early animal models in a 2020 study published in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity suggest some of the metabolic changes that occur during ketosis that may impact fetal growth. According to a 2019 Cases in Nephrology article, breastfeeding is not the time to risk under nourishing yourself, as nutritional deficiencies and extreme weight loss may reduce milk supply and stunt infant growth.
  • Children: Childhood is never a time for dieting, never mind an extreme diet like the ketogenic diet.
  • People with kidney issues: Those who are prone to kidney stones may want to avoid the keto diet due to the shifts in sodium, potassium and fluid balance.
    • People with a disordered eating history: As previously mentioned, the keto diet is extreme, and any type of diet that severely restricts or limits foods may perpetuate disordered eating thoughts.

    • Bariatric or gastrointestinal surgery patients: Patients with limited digestive capacities should avoid the keto diet since fat is particularly difficult for the body to digest.

    Keto tips and tricks

    Despite the challenges of starting the ketogenic diet, there are various tips and tricks available to simplify the process.

    • Start by familiarizing yourself with food labels and checking the grams of fat, carbs, and fiber to determine how your favorite foods can fit into your diet.
    • Planning out your meals in advance may also be beneficial and can help you save extra time throughout the week.
    • Many websites, food blogs, apps, and cookbooks also offer keto-friendly recipes and meal ideas that you can use to build your own custom menu.
    • Alternatively, some meal delivery services even offer keto-friendly options for a quick and convenient way to enjoy keto meals at home.
    • Look into healthy frozen keto meals when you’re short on time
    • When going to social gatherings or visiting family and friends, you may also want to consider bringing your own food, which can make it much easier to curb cravings and stick to your meal plan.

    Side notes

    After examining keto research and literature, it appears that our knowledge of the potential therapeutic functions of the keto diet is still limited. Although it remains uncertain whether it surpasses or falls behind other diets in terms of weight loss, it is crucial to acknowledge that there is no universal diet that suits everyone’s needs.

    Not taking into account the fact that weight loss diets are generally ineffective, it is widely acknowledged that the majority of individuals who follow the keto diet will ultimately regain the weight they have lost, and sometimes even gain additional pounds. Considering the difficulty and restrictions involved in sustaining this diet, the long-term result is expected to be the same.

    If you are a fan of carbs, do not completely eradicate them from your diet. Instead, opt for healthier types of carbohydrates more frequently and educate yourself on selecting the most satisfying options to provide you with energy. In case you are interested in attempting the keto diet, it is advisable to consult with a registered dietitian to ensure you follow the diet in a healthy way.

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