You may have heard of the ketogenic diet, but have no idea what it means. Or you are looking for a new diet low in carbs that will actually give you results. Here is our guide to this low-carb dietary lifestyle.
Ketogenic Diet Review
The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that aims to alter your metabolism so that you burn fat instead of carbs. The idea behind the ketogenic diet is to change your body’s main fuel source from carbohydrates to ketones, which are the products of fat metabolism.
Switching from your current diet to a ketogenic diet transitions your body into a state of ketosis, which just means your body is deriving the majority of your energy from ketones instead of from glucose (sugar).
When discussing the ketogenic diet, it is important to distinguish ketosis from ketoacidosis, as the two are identical in origin but not the same physical state. Both involve higher levels of ketones in the body and fat metabolism. However, unlike ketosis, ketoacidosis is a life threatening medical condition often observed in diabetic patients that occurs when ketone levels in the body become poisonous.
A ketogenic diet will not result in ketoacidosis as long as your insulin levels are normal. The reason those with diabetes experience ketoacidosis is because they do not produce enough insulin to communicate to fat cells to keep their fatty acids. They are, therefore, released into the body and larger than safe amounts of ketones result. So as long as you are not diabetic, you are safe.
Ketogenic Diet Plan Basics and Rules
The ketogenic diet is more like a shift in the primary nutrients you consume rather than a complete diet overhaul. The biggest difference is cutting out processed foods and foods high in sugar, which is a lot easier than it seems once you learn how to replace foods high in sugar with foods high in protein and fat.
A diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat will lead you to eat foods high in protein and fat and very few carbs per serving, which means you will be eating plenty of meat, full-fat dairy and vegetables. You will consume very little fruit, if any at all, and no grains whatsoever. Let’s start by breaking down your protein intake while on the ketogenic diet.
How to get more protein on the ketogenic diet
You can use this calculator to enter your information and find out how many carbs and how much protein and fat you should try to consume on the ketogenic diet. It all depends on your lifestyle (how active you are) as well as age, gender, etc. It is likely you will be consuming more protein than you are used to, which is not a bad thing – your dietary choices may just need some adjustments.
Try combining different protein sources with other food groups, such as a spinach based salad with a hard cooked egg, grilled chicken and a light oil based dressing to introduce your body to a wider variety of nutrients in one sitting.
How to eat more vegetables on the ketogenic diet
Veggies are low in carbs, which means you can eat half a plate full of them, literally, and still consume fewer calories than a single serving of other types of foods. Vegetables are high in fiber, which is not only great for helping to control your appetite, but is also great for your digestive system.
If you aren’t accustomed to eating multiple servings of vegetables every day (because let’s be honest: many of us are not), it isn’t so hard to make this kind of positive change as part of a new diet. Nerd Fitness has a detailed guide to help you ease your way into eating more vegetables, even if you think you do not like them.
Saturated and unsaturated fats
Don’t let these big words confuse you. While the science is a bit complicated, to put things simply, different kinds of fat behave differently in our bodies, which really does mean not all fat is bad for us. (This page explains the very basics of the differences.)
Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature (butter) while unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature (olive oil). Saturated fats are found in animal products, such as meat, dairy and eggs, while unsaturated fats are derived from plant sources, such as nuts and seeds as well as some fruits (avocados and olives).
On the ketogenic diet you will consume a certain amount of fat grams per day based on your specific parameters and diet goal, so do your best to consume equal amounts of saturated and unsaturated fats for best results.
Things you cannot eat on the ketogenic diet
- Grains, including whole grains (pizza, pasta, bread, cookies, crackers)
- Artificial sweeteners or foods containing artificial sweeteners
- Most processed foods
- Low fat and low carb “diet” products, which are either high in carbohydrates or contain large amounts of artificial ingredients
- Most fruit (it is recommended to eat foods like berries rarely, in small amounts)
Things to keep in mind before starting a ketogenic diet
- Be aware of the side effects associated with low-carb diets, especially early on as you are still getting used to the metabolic shift.
- As with any other diet, start slow and ease your way in. Gradually reduce and cut out certain foods instead of trying to stop eating them all at once, which does not usually work very well.
- It is in your best interest to see a professional (doctor and/or dietitian) before going on this diet to (a) get your blood tested to make sure you don’t have any underlying conditions and (b) make sure you are able to make healthy choices instead of just cutting out food and eating too little.
Menu and Meal Planning
Starting a new way of eating such as the ketogenic diet can be overwhelming, especially when you are used to eating a lot of carbs and processed foods high in added sugars (it’s okay, we’re all guilty!). Here is a sample menu outlining what one day of eating on the ketogenic diet might look like, including suggestions for snacks.
- Cheese, onion and pepper omelet (2 eggs)
- Full-fat cream cheese pancakes (no flour!)
- Butter-sauteed mushrooms
- Seasoned green beans with bacon
- Barbecue pulled pork (no bun) with melted full-fat mozzarella
Grocery Shopping List
Here is a list of food items you can add to your shopping cart to help you prepare meals high in fat and protein.
- Grass-fed beef, lamb, pork
- Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck)
- Olive oil, vegetable oil, salad dressings
- Fish and seafood
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole eggs (whites and yolks)
- Nut butter (except peanut)
- Full-fat dairy products (cheeses, creams, yogurt)
Does the Ketogenic Diet Work?
- Because you will be eating foods higher in protein and fiber (the fiber comes from the vegetables), you won’t be so hungry so often. You will be much less likely to overeat.
- Eliminating processed foods means dumping fewer added sugars and other potentially harmful ingredients into our bodies, which helps us feel better in the short term and helps us maintain our health in the long term.
- Diets lower in carbs (without trying to eliminate them completely) have been shown to promote healthy weight loss because of fewer sugars and higher amounts of protein, fatty foods and veggies.
- A ketogenic diet can help reduce blood pressure and regulate your blood sugar levels over time.
Reviews and Weight Loss Results
The ketogenic diet has proven not only to be successful for weight loss but some have experienced even greater positive side effects of the diet, including clearer thinking, clearer skin and no more sugar crashes.
“I have been on keto for a little over week and received phenomenal results! I have lost 12lbs in one week following the ketogenic diet. I haven’t measured myself but I can tell you that I am down at least one pant size. It’s incredible! I have so much more energy on this diet. It may sound strange, but by having a high-fat diet but I feel like I’m on top of the world. Another incredible change that I’ve noticed is that I have always had a really hard time focusing and never did great in school, but I recently tried an online course and I read a lecture. I almost cried because I didn’t have to re-read it. I understood it the first time. That has never happened to me before. My body and brain are adapting very well to this diet. My brain feels so at ease… Like it took a breath of fresh air. I know I sound crazy but it’s the truth.
The most difficult part of the diet was that I faced the “keto flu”. It lasted a couple days and I was miserable but I knew I had to push through it and I’m glad I did. The outcome so far has been fantastic. The easy part is being able to enjoy food and not be bored with a typical salad and veggies all the time like you see in other diets.
If you want to give keto a try, don’t give up! You may face some challenges as I did but push through and you won’t be disappointed.”
“I have been on the Keto diet now since January of 2015. I have experienced weight loss, with my highest weight being 162 and my lowest being 128lbs. I have also seen changes in my energy levels, I used to crash after about 3 hours without a snack. I would get shaky and cranky and feel like I could faint. Now, if I am being true to this diet, I do not have these crashes and I can go 5, even 7 hours during the day without really needing to eat. I also see that my skin is clearer and brighter, and my nails are stronger. Cutting sugar out is a lifestyle choice for me, and I plan to maintain it.
The most difficult thing about the diet was the adjustment in the beginning. Cutting out all of the delicious bread and ice cream 🙂 After really cutting the sweet flavor, I no longer had cravings for it at all and was not tempted by those types of foods. After maintaining this diet for a year and a half now, I have (unfortunately) introduced some sugar substitutes into my diet… and it has been hard for me as my cravings for sweet has returned. The easiest part of the diet is finding delicious meal options and not feeling like I am starving myself. This isn’t a diet for me, it has just become a lifestyle. My friends, coworkers and family are all on board and very supportive.
If you are at all interested in this diet, give it at least a month! And, do your best to cut out the sweet flavor entirely for a while. I lost the bulk of my weight when I had zero artificial sweeteners in my diet. Also, do your reading! It makes it easier to explain to friends and family, and having that support is so important.”
“I have been following the Keto Diet since April of 2015. I’ve lost 46lbs and about 20 inches over all. In addition to the inches and weight loss, my overall well being has improved. I wake up with more energy, my acne on my face and back has cleared up enormously. I use to have cystic acne on my back from the age of 13-31 and now I don’t even get blemishes. My hunger levels are more in control and I never get “hangry”.
The easiest thing about the diet is that you can find food at almost every restaurant. It isn’t a hard diet to follow because for the most part you can eat as much protein and fat as you want, and just cut out carbohydrates. It would be hard to find a restaurant that doesn’t have a burger that you can ask for without the bun. The most difficult thing about any diet is overcoming your previous mentality when it comes to food. Sticking to any way of eating or exercise plan is more of a mental game than a physical one.
If you’re thinking of trying the keto diet,I would suggest you do your own research. Read up on a Ketogenic way of life and see if it will fit your needs. I’ve introduced about 4 others to this way of eating since I started and point them in the direction of some good resources to get them started.”
Before and After Success Stories
These woman have had amazing success with the ketogenic diet, see for yourself!
“I’ve been following a ketogenic diet for 2 years and have lost 198 pounds – over 100 inches (since I started keeping track), 10 dress sizes, and 1 shoe size!
The most difficult part of transitioning to a keto lifestyle is mindset – realizing that I had an addiction to carbs and sugar and that moderation wasn’t an option. I choose to eat clean and I choose to stick to my plan.
The easiest part is that because Keto is high fat, I’m not constantly hungry – so food doesn’t rule my thoughts or my life. It’s incredibly liberating.
My advice to anyone interested in trying keto: You have to commit to this – it’s not a diet – it’s a lifestyle change. You won’t see the results you want if you treat it like a diet. The health benefits are enormous- weight loss is the bonus.”
“I started the Keto diet last October after having ACL surgery. So far, I have lost 90 pounds.
The hardest part of making the move to keto for me was learning that eating fat was okay and that veggies have carbs in them. I was so used to low-fat diets where you can have an unlimited amount of vegetables that I was shocked to learn everything I thought was wrong.
Easiest part is eating bacon. Seriously, I eat all the bacon and then some.
The keto lifestyle doesn’t take a ton of effort, I started this diet while on bed rest. I was in a wheelchair for weeks after that and without really moving around I was able to eat cheese, butter, bacon, and other fats while losing weight. If you’re looking for a little keto inspiration, you can find a ton on my website, Love at First Spice!”
Always remember, before beginning any diet, that healthy eating does not always mean instant results. Be patient. Go slowly and don’t forget to enjoy your food!