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Many people are in a constant struggle with their diet and their health and weight. Most of us are looking for an efficient way to lose weight without risk to our health and sanity. A popular diet option at the moment is the ketogenic diet.
So, what is a keto diet? We take a look at the basics of the keto diet, whether it really works, and how you can get started.
What is a Keto Diet?
Essentially, the keto diet is a high-fat low-carb diet. Lowering your carb intake will starve your body of glucose forcing it to switch from using glucose as a fuel source to using fat, or ketones, instead.
To understand this a bit better think of the body as being like a hybrid car. Such a car is designed to use both fuel and electricity to keep it running. When the car is low on electricity or battery charge the system automatically switches to fuel as it’s power source. A body that is starved of glucose, or carbs, will switch to burning fat instead.
What are ketones? Ketones are compounds created by the liver which are derived from the fat stored in the body. The liver produces ketones throughout your life but at very low levels when you’re consuming substantial amounts of carbohydrates and protein.
However, once the body detects a low intake of carbs the liver is forced to go to full throttle when it comes to the production of ketones. The more carbs you consume, the more the body will use glucose as its main fuel.
When you eat more fat and fewer carbs the body switches from using glucose for energy and starts to create more ketones to be used as an alternative fuel source. This is called ketosis. Ketosis is a natural metabolic state that helps you burn excess fat, gives you more energy, and encourages weight loss.
Once you start a keto diet it can take a few days for your body to enter ketosis. During this transition time you may experience what is known as the keto flu. This can include flu-like symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, aches, and pains. Once you get through this transition you will start to notice the benefits of being in ketosis.
You can use any number of keto supplements and exogenous ketones to help you enter ketosis quicker and avoid this transition period.
What Do You Eat on a Ketogenic Diet?
The first part of any diet is knowing what you should and shouldn’t eat. Planning ahead before you start your diet is crucial to your success. Knowing the right foods to eat and organizing your meals ahead of time is the first step. Remember what you eat, and more importantly how many carbs you eat, highly depends on whether you’ll achieve a ketogenic state or not.
Foods to Avoid on the Keto Diet
To get started on the keto diet you’ll need to eliminate most carbohydrates from your diet. Here is a list of some of the main foods you will need to avoid.
- Grains of all kinds including rice, corn, and wheat
- Fruits except some low sugar kinds like berries
- Sugar in all forms including honey and maple syrup
- Starchy vegetables that are high in carbs like potatoes and yams
- Refined carbohydrates like cereals and breads
- Processed foods and junk foods
- Sugar filled drinks like juices and sodas.
The goal is to keep your carb intake to less than 50g a day.
Foods You Can Eat on a Keto Diet
Moving on to the good stuff. What you can eat. The focus here is on high-fat low-carb foods.
- Meat including fish, beef, lamb, eggs, and poultry (the higher quality the better)
- Leafy greens such as spinach and kale
- Vegetables that grow above ground like cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, and squash
- Nuts and seeds
- Full-fat dairy foods
- Artificial sweeteners are okay if you need to sweeten something, but should be used with caution
- Black tea and coffee
- Water, and lots of it.
Your ideal macronutrient calorie goals (or macros) should be around 5% carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 70% fat.
Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet
There are many health benefits of being in a ketogenic state. For most, the obvious main benefit will be weight loss. But, this metabolic state also increases your energy levels and improves brain function. Let’s look more closely at some of the more notable benefits of a keto diet.
Once your body is in ketosis your insulin levels gradually decrease forcing the body to burn stored fats for purposes of metabolism. This leads to weight loss for most people who are carrying excess fat.
As time goes on and your body becomes more fat-adapted, you will find you can lose weight without feeling hungry. Fats are more satiating than carbs. This is often why a high-fat diet can be easier to stick to because you are feeling hunger constantly like with some other diets.
Lower blood sugar levels
Do we have people with type 2 diabetes in the house? Well, this is for you. A keto diet has been scientifically proven to lower blood sugar levels due to the reduction of glucose intake. This is a significant benefit for those with type 2 diabetes.
Enhanced mental focus
Ketosis allows a steady flow of ketones to the brain which improves your mental focus and brain performance. When you lower your carb intake you actually prevent your brain from being impaired by high sugar levels in the blood.
Recent studies have actually revealed that most academicians are moving to a keto diet as a way of improving their brain performance while working.
This is also a great benefit for students who need to concentrate for long periods of time. Who doesn’t want a better brain?
Increased physical endurance
For athletes or those who love their daily workouts, a ketogenic diet can increase your physical endurance. How? When using glucose as the main fuel source the body gets exhausted pretty quickly. Glucose is a fast burning fuel so your body uses it up quickly giving you a spike of energy and then a quick drop off. This will force you to eat more frequently.
However, when the body is using fat as the main fuel source there’s more energy to fuel you for a longer amount of time. So you can workout for longer without losing energy or impacting your performance.
To sum up, a keto diet requires you to consume an extremely low amount of carbohydrates and increase your intake of healthy fats. Focus your meals around real food, good quality meats and vegetables, and limit your intake of grains, processed foods, sugar, and fruits.
You can lose weight, feel more energetic, have better concentration, and lower your blood sugar with some simple changes to your diet. Find some good quality keto supplements to help you succeed on your keto diet journey. Good luck.