The ketogenic diet is one of the most popular diets today. The reason is apparent – it is a highly effective, beneficial, and sustainable way to eat. You can lose excess weight and maintain it, as well as enjoy clear thinking, reduced risk of certain cancers, and the improvement of an array of other health issues. The keto diet may be your best bet at claiming all of these prizes in one swoop. Your success is down to understanding the what, why, and how of the ketogenic diet.
What is the Keto Diet
The ketogenic diet is a low carbohydrate, high-fat diet that is similar to Atkins Diet. It calls for the dieter to dramatically reduce the number of carbs they are consuming while increasing healthy fats. This way of eating puts your body in a state called ketosis, where the diet derives its name.
When you stop eating carbs, your body is deprived of glucose. This causes it to produce an alternate form of energy molecules called ketones. These ketones are efficient energy for the whole body, but especially for the brain. People often boast that in ketosis, brain fog is a thing of the past. They enjoy greater focus and clearer thinking.
In ketosis, your fat stores become accessible, so your body turns into a fat-burning machine. As your insulin levels drop significantly, and so does your body fat – all day long.
Types of Keto Diets
Since its conception, the keto diet has branched off into a few types:
- The Standard Ketogenic Diet. This is the strictest form of the diet – 10% carbs, 20% protein, and 70% fat.
- The Lazy Keto Diet. A far more relaxed version of Standard Keto, with dieters only paying attention to the number of carbs they’re consuming – having little or no regard for the other macronutrients.
- Targeted Ketogenic Diet. On this version, you can add carbs with workouts.
- Cyclical Ketogenic Diet. This version allows periods of more and less carb consumption – for instance, five days of low carb and two high carb days.
- High Protein Ketogenic Diet. Similar to the Standard version, this version allows for higher protein intake. The macronutrient ratios become 5% carbs, 35% protein, and 60% of fat.
Most of the studies that prove the efficacy of the keto diet are focused on the standard and high protein versions. So most of the information included in this article is based on the standard keto diet. However, it is easily applicable to the other versions as well.
What to Eat
Here are some foods to freely enjoy on keto:
- Fish and Seafood
- Vegetables that grow above the ground.
- Natural fats like butter, olive oil, etc.
Aim to keep carb consumption under 50 grams – better still, under 20 grams.
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What to Avoid
Here are some foods to avoid on keto:
- Sugar (This includes honey, syrups, agave, etc.)
- Sugary treats
Also, avoid highly processed foods and low-fat foods.
What to Do Before You Start
Here are a few things to keep in mind before you start your keto diet.
- Familiarize yourself with the foods you can freely eat and those you should avoid. You won’t always have time to check a printed or online list, and mistakes can take you out of ketosis. This may require you to be nutritionally re-educated about carbs, fat, and protein.
- Keep in mind that the standard keto diet isn’t a high-protein diet. It’s a moderate-protein diet. So don’t go overboard with the meat.
- Find family or friends who will support you. It’s already challenging to turn down cakes and sweets if you ate loads before, but having people pushing you to break your diet can make success near impossible. You’ll need encouragement.
- Be prepared for the possibility of a few early unpleasant side effects. In the first week to 10 days of the diet, some people suffer from the ‘keto flu.’ It’s the effect of the body adjusting to burning fat and not glucose. It can leave you feeling tired and mentally foggy. You can also become constipated or have diarrhea because of changes in fiber intake.
Tips for Success
There is so much information out about the keto diet. Some of the data is reliable, and some isn’t. But for you to enjoy success, you should limit your focus to a few things that will ensure you reach your goals.
Here are some tips for success on the keto diet:
Keep it Simple
Information can become overwhelming and frustrate your efforts, so at the beginning, keep things simple.
Use this simple plan for mealtimes:
- Pick a protein (meat, protein powder, or eggs)
- Pick a low-carb veggie (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, zucchini, bell peppers, etc.)
- Add fat (butter, cheese, bacon, avocado, mayonnaise, oil, ghee, lard, nuts, etc.)
Stock Your Fridge and Pantry with the Good Stuff
Keep the foods you need on hand; otherwise, you will gravitate back to old habits.
Make sure you have plenty of:
- High-quality meats – beef, pork, chicken, turkey, etc.
- Seafood – fish and shellfish
- Healthy fats – butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, etc.
- Green leafy veggies – spinach, kale, lettuce, cabbage, etc.
- Low-carb veggies – cauliflower, zucchini, asparagus, etc.
- Full-fat dairy – cheese and heavy cream
- Low-carb fruit – raspberries (and other berries), avocados, and coconuts.
- Nuts and seeds – almonds, macadamia nuts, and sunflower or pumpkin seeds.
- Sugar-free sweeteners – monk fruit, erythritol, etc.
- Sugar-free beverages – tea, coffee, water, etc.
Don’t forget to make your meals delicious with plenty of herbs and spices, as well as low-carb condiments.
Filling up your home with these items will hopefully leave less room for the foods you should avoid. Other family members may not be dieting with you, but many of your meals are more than suitable for them as well.
If you’re worried about ‘keto flu,’ move slowly into the keto diet. Give your body a longer lead-up time. Remove carbs slowly and keep your water and fiber intake up.
Portion Size Matters
Ketosis will minimize your appetite and your carb cravings, but before that happens, don’t go crazy on your new diet. Portion size does matter.
The best way to know what you’re eating is to prepare it yourself. Carbs can hide in restaurant meals, not to mention that low-carb may mean something entirely different for your relatives at the family picnic. Get used to cooking your own meals at first.
Stay with It
Embarking on any journey will have its highs and lows. There will be times when your progress is clearly seen, while other times, you won’t be sure it’s working. Hang in there. The results will be worth the work.