Want to learn how to start the ketogenic diet? This article will give you a step-by-step guide to starting keto.
How Your Body Uses Energy
Let’s go through some of the basics – starting with general metabolism.
Your body can run on different fuel sources.
- Glucose is the molecule of carbohydrates and it gets stored in the body as glycogen
- Fatty acids can be found in dietary fat and you either burn them off as energy or store them
- Protein consists of amino acids that are essential building blocks for your body. But protein itself can’t be stored inside the body. You only need a certain amount of protein per day for maintaining muscle and what you don’t need right away has to be converted to glucose before you could store it.
All excess calories whether that be from carbohydrates or fat get converted into triglycerides and are stored in your adipose tissue for back up. If you’re in a caloric deficit you’ll take those same triglycerides and burn them for energy.
Ketosis in a Nutshell
By default, your body is using glucose for fuel because it’s quick to absorb and easy to store as fat. Because of that, you don’t need to consume a lot of fat because it causes an excess.
When you’re fasting or when you reduce your carbohydrate intake, your liver glycogen stores will eventually get depleted. The liver will then start producing ketone bodies from stored triglycerides.
In a nutshell –
Ketosis is a metabolic state, in which the body has shifted from using glucose as the primary fuel source for supplying its energy demands with ketone bodies.
You can induce ketosis by fasting for around 3 days or by eating a low carb ketogenic diet with around 30-50 grams NET carbohydrates per day for several weeks.
Ketogenesis involves the creation of ketone bodies, such as acetoacetate that gets converted into acetone and beta-hydroxybutyrate.
Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
There are many advantages to this state
- Ketones produce 25% more energy than glucose
- Glucose metabolism causes more oxidative stress and free radical production, which can speed up aging and cause damage to the mitochondria
- The ketogenic diet mimics the physiology of fasting, which makes it superior for blood sugar and insulin stabilization
- It’s easier to burn fat and lose weight on keto
- Your energy levels throughout the day are constant and you won’t experience the ups and downs of insulin
- Improved endurance and physical performance thanks to burning your own body fat for fuel
- The ketogenic diet has a lot of positive benefits on your health, such as higher HDL cholesterol, lower triglycerides and reduced inflammation
- You’ll have greater mental clarity and clearer thinking because your brain has access to energy 24/7 from your own body fat
- Reduced hunger and increased satiety make it again extremely good for weight loss and improved cognition
I’ve been doing keto for almost 3 years and I must say it has drastically increased my ability to stay energized and focused for long periods of time without having to eat or get sidetracked by hunger.
It’s been great for building muscle and improving my performance at the gym as well.
And of course, it’s very easy to maintain a lean physique year round. If you’re at a caloric deficit on the ketogenic diet, then those missing calories will be directly taken from your own body fat. On a non-ketogenic diet caloric restriction is accompanied by some loss of muscle tissue but this doesn’t happen on keto because your body is using fat as its primary fuel source.
What to Eat on the Ketogenic Diet
Sounds amazing, right, but it may also seem very complicated. It’s really not that hard once you learn a bit about it and then implement some easy habits.
The foods eaten on the ketogenic diet may seem quite restrictive but that positive restriction gives you so much more freedom.
- You eat only low carb foods, green leafy vegetables, some meats, eggs, fish, chicken, a little bit of dairy, some nuts and a lot of healthy fats like olive oil, butter, coconut oil, avocados and seeds.
- You don’t want to eat high carb foods, grains, sugar, legumes, fruit, starchy tubers, potatoes, trans fats, vegetable oils and processed meats.
|Foods to Eat||Foods to Avoid|
|Meats – beef, pork, bacon, lamb, liver, game||Processed Meats – SPAM, bacon cured in sugar, hot dogs, wheat sausages, burgers|
|Fish – salmon, herring, trout, sprats, sardines, mackerel||Legumes – beans, lentils, peas|
|Leafy Greens – spinach, kale, kelp, lettuce||Grains – wheat, oatmeal, bread, rice, buckwheat, quinoa|
|Vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, peppers, cabbage, onions, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms||Fruit – bananas, oranges, grapes, pineapple, pears, apples|
|Eggs and Dairy – cheese, eggs, sour cream, raw kefir||Vegetable Oils and Trans Fats – margarine, sunflower oil, canola oil, rapeseed oil|
|Nuts and Seeds – pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, chia seeds||Sugar – candies, pastries, cereal, doughnuts, chocolate (dark chocolate is fine), snacks|
|Healthy Fats – butter, olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, MCT oil||Starches – potatoes, jams (carrots, turnip and beetroot are fine in very limited amounts)|
|Coffee and Tea||Sodas, fruit juices, energy drinks etc.|
There are some miscellaneous foods like bone broth, pickles, fermented foods, sauerkraut and mustard you can consume.
Getting Your Keto Macros Right
But you can’t expect to just get into ketosis by eating these foods. You have to also eat them in the right amounts.
What makes a diet ketogenic isn’t the foods you eat but the low amounts of carbohydrates and other macronutrient ratios.
The standard ketogenic diet macronutrient ratios are said to be around
- 5-10% carbohydrates (30-50g NET)
- 15-30% protein (0.6-1.0g/lb of LBM)
- 70-80% fat (rest of your calories)
These are just numbers…and your body doesn’t have its own keto calculator. You know, the liver just starts counting how many grams of protein or carbs you actually ate.
The lower your carb intake the faster your liver will start producing ketones. The more physically active and the more muscle you have the more insulin sensitive you are.
How many calories and macros you have to eat depend on your individual condition and circumstance but these percentages are a great guideline.
How to Know If You’re in Ketosis?
To know if you’re in ketosis you can measure your blood ketones using blood ketone meters
- Nutritional ketosis begins when your blood ketones are above 0.5 mMols
- The optimal zone is said to be around 0.5-3.0 mMols
- Above 3.0 mMols indicates starvation ketosis and means you might be in a caloric deficit. It’s not dangerous
- Ketoacidosis occurs at 8-10+ mMols which causes dangerous blood acidity. It won’t occur on a ketogenic diet but with severe alcohol poisoning or on people with type 1 diabetes.
Symptoms of ketosis include
- Dry mouth and thirstiness
- Increased urination (it can stink as well)
- Water weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Increased energy
- The Keto Breath – a metallic and fruity taste in your mouth left there by acetone
How to Fix the Keto Flu
Withdrawal symptoms from carbohydrates can cause THE KETO FLU
- Headaches, Dizziness
- Fatigue, Exhaustion
- Brain fog
- Inability to focus
- Poor performance at the gym
The reason is you’re losing a lot of electrolytes because of excreting them through urine and water loss.
- Add more sodium to your foods
- Drink bone broth, bouillon cubes or pickle juices
- Take some supplements for magnesium, potassium and vitamin D3
- Reduce overall stress levels
- Get more sleep
- During adaptation train less intensely and focus on building up your fat burning engine
Common Keto Mistakes
It takes about 2-3 weeks to become adequately keto-adapted but it yet again depends on how your body individually reacts to the lack of carbohydrates.
Some people feel amazing from the get go. For others it may even take up to several months. If you’re coming off a high carb diet, then it’s inevitably going to take a longer time to adapt than for someone who has been eating paleo for a while now.
- Eating too many carbs – they either have some hidden sugars in their foods or they just eat too much. Low levels of insulin and carbs are key for a ketogenic diet.
- Eating too much protein – protein can also trigger insulin and too much protein may be potentially converted into sugar through gluconeogenesis. You need a whole lot of extra protein for that to happen but it’s a possibility
- Not enough fats – to give your body and brain a substitute for glucose
- Not enough micronutrients, like magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamin d3 or omega3s, which causes extra stress
- Eating the wrong foods, like unhealthy fats, overcooking meats or heating oils
Most importantly, you need a lot of patience when on the ketogenic diet and you need to commit to it long term.
The benefits of proper keto-adaptation take more than a few months. Even now, after years of keto I find new facets to my fat burning abilities and performance.
How to Start a Ketogenic Diet with Meal Plan
That’s why I encourage everyone to try it out at least once. Not only to see what it feels like to have constant energy and mental focus but to also engrave these fat burning pathways into your metabolism.
You don’t need to be in ketosis all the time to be healthy or fit but what you should do is occasionally dip in and out of it. This maintains your metabolic flexibilitty and improves your physiology.
You should be able to go on for days without food because you already have tens of thousands of calories in your adipose tissue. I’m under 10% body fat and I have like 40 000-50 000 calories at my disposal at all times.
This blog has a lot of information on both fasting and the ketogenic diet but if you’re interested in getting a step-by-step guide to starting the ketogenic diet, then I highly recommend you my SIMPLE KETO VIDEO COURSE. It includes
- Information about ketosis and the keto diet
- How to start a well-formulated ketogenic diet
- List of all foods eaten on the ketogenic diet
- How to avoid all the common mistakes people make
- Additional supplements you should take
- Recipes for breakfast, dinner, dessets and snacks
- Extras for maintaining good gut health and overall well-being