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What is a ketogenic diet?

A ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet, where the body changes from using carbohydrates to ketones for energy. While you may not be able to control what comes your way, you can choose what goes into your body. When eating a ketogenic diet, the goal is to reach ketosis, a metabolic state in which the body uses fat as its primary fuel source instead of carbs. (You may have also heard the keto diet referred to as the low carb diet or the low carb high-fat diet.)

The keto diet is a low carb, high fat diet. It lowers blood sugar and insulin levels and shifts the body’s metabolism away from carbs and toward fat and ketones.

Different types of ketogenic diets

  • 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.

There are several versions of the keto diet. The standard (SKD) version is the most researched and most recommended.

What is ketosis?

When your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates from food for your cells to burn for energy, your liver kicks into action and produces ketones. When ketones are in your body, this is known as being in ketosis. For most people, that means your body has shifted to burning fat for energy—a process called ketosis. The goal of the keto diet is to get your body into a natural state of ketosis.

Ketogenic diets can help you lose weight

A ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet that shares similarities to paleo, Whole30, and Atkins. You enter ketosis when your body switches to burning fat for its primary fuel source. The Keto diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate eating plan. You are supposed to get at least 70 percent of your calories from fat, 10 percent from protein, and 15 percent from carbohydrates.

Ketogenic diets for diabetes and prediabetes

A ketogenic diet can help you control type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. It’s a low-carbohydrate diet that helps your body enter the state of ketosis. In this state, your body burns fat instead of sugar. By eating a diet rich in fat and protein, you can help your liver produce its own insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels in your body.

Foods to avoid on Keto Diet

Any food that’s high in carbs should be limited.

Here’s a list of foods that need to be reduced or eliminated on a ketogenic diet:

  • Sugary foods: soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc.
  • Grains or starches: wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc.
  • Fruit: all fruit, except small portions of berries like strawberries
  • Beans or legumes: peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
  • Root vegetables and tubers: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
  • Low fat or diet products: low fat mayonnaise, salad dressings, and condiments
  • Some condiments or sauces: barbecue sauce, honey mustard, teriyaki sauce, ketchup, etc.
  • Unhealthy fats: processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
  • Alcohol: beer, wine, liquor, mixed drinks
  • Sugar-free diet foods: sugar-free candies, syrups, puddings, sweeteners, desserts, etc.

Foods to eat

You should base the majority of your meals around these foods:

  • Meat: red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken, and turkey
  • Fatty fish: salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel
  • Eggs: pastured or omega-3 whole eggs
  • Butter and cream: grass-fed butter and heavy cream
  • Cheese: unprocessed cheeses like cheddar, goat, cream, blue, or mozzarella
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
  • Healthy oils: extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil
  • Avocados: whole avocados or freshly made guacamole
  • Low carb veggies: green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
  • Condiments: salt, pepper, herbs, and spices

Keto tips and tricks

Although it may be difficult for some people to start the keto diet, there are several tips and tricks that can help you.

  • Food labels are confusing. You don’t understand what food groups mean, and you don’t know how to read them. What’s the point? Skipping meals is the fastest way to gain weight, and the easiest way for you to increase your risk of disease. Learn how to read food labels so that you can use them to your advantage. Make smart choices by learning what the numbers mean in relation to your health.
  • Planning your meals in advance can save you time during 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.
  • A ketogenic diet (low-carb, high fat) is an effective way to lose weight and improve health. Some meal delivery services even offer keto-friendly meals as an option, which can make it easier to start a low-carb diet.
  • Want to keep up with your keto diet? In this new era, you have to be creative. Healthy frozen keto meals are a great way to stay on track with your diet. They’re also a fun way to spend time with the kids. The next time you’re short on time, look into healthy frozen keto meals. They can be made quickly and easily and are a healthy way to stay on track with your diet.
  • When going to social events, you may also want to consider bringing your own food, which can make it significantly easier to conquer cravings and stick to your meal plan.

Frequently asked questions

1. Can I ever eat carbs again?

Yes! Eating carbs again, while still being in ketosis is absolutely fine. The only thing you need to make sure of is to keep your carb count low enough to stay in ketosis – usually 20 grams or less.

2. Will I lose muscle?

There are myths of muscle loss on the keto diet. In reality, your body burns its own fat and you lose body fat. Your muscle mass stays the same since muscle is made of protein, which is not a fat-based substance. You may even gain muscle on the keto diet because it causes your body to burn fat for energy.

3. How much protein can I eat?

The optimal amount of protein for the ketogenic diet is 20-25% of daily calories, which is about 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of your lean body mass.

4. What if I am constantly tired, weak, or fatigued?

If you are constantly tired, weak, or fatigued, try eliminating foods that could be causing you to feel that way. Foods that are high in carbohydrates will make you tired and fatigued.

5. My urine smells fruity. Why is this?

One of the most common side effects of a keto diet is fruity-smelling urine. This is completely harmless and is caused by the breakdown of acetoacetate, which results in a fruity-smelling compound.

6. My breath smells. What can I do?

When your body is in ketosis, it is normal to have a metallic taste in the mouth, to feel tired or sluggish, and to have bad breath. To reduce bad breath, drink plenty of water and avoid foods that are notorious for causing bad breath.

7. I heard ketosis was extremely dangerous. Is this true?

Ketosis is not dangerous unless one is eating a very high-fat diet which is not sustainable for most people. After a period of keto-adaptation, the body will be able to burn ketones for fuel instead of glucose.

8. I have digestion issues and diarrhoea. What can I do?

There are many reasons why you may experience diarrhoea while on the keto diet. The most common cause of diarrhoea is a lack of electrolytes. To avoid having to deal with this, you can try supplementing your food with the following types of electrolytes: Salt Potassium Magnesium Calcium.

Conclusion

A ketogenic diet can be great for people who:

  • Are overweight
  • Have diabetes
  • Are looking to improve their metabolic health

For elite athletes or those wanting to add large amounts of muscle or weight, the keto diet may not be the best choice.

A Keto diet may not be right for everyone. Speak with a doctor to decide what kind of eating plan is right for you.