Keto Diet 101: Beginners Guide to the Ketogenic Diet
Welcome to Keto Diet 101! For decades, low-fat, calorie-counting diets were on everyone’s minds, with the failed results sitting firmly around their waist. Eating fat to burn fat, however, has been proven to work, faster, time and time again.Saturated fat is not actually linked to heart disease and red meat is not what leads to cancer. Low-carb, high-fat diets are actually good for us and eating natural foods through Paleo or ketogenic meal plans is not a fad. It’s a lifestyle that’s here to stay.
Keto Diet 101: Ketogenic Overview
The ketogenic diet is a lifestyle where the body stays in a state of ketosis, which is similar to three days, or more, of fasting. Essentially, the goal is to keep a certain ratio of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
- 70 percent calories fat
- 25 percent calories protein
- 5 percent calories carbohydrates
For fat and protein calories, the numbers can sway a little, but the number of carbohydrates must stay at 5 percent, or under 20-25 grams. This macronutrient ratio will pushed your body out of glucose and force it to produce ketones.
History of Ketosis
The ketogenic diet originally began to help treat epileptic children, and while it mimics a Paleo or Atkins diet, there are differences to consider. While it seems like all the rage today, it actually began in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Today, new studies are being conducted that prove additional benefits to the lifestyle of high fats and low carbs.
Benefits of Being in Ketosis
There are many benefits to the ketogenic diet when it is followed properly. If you haven’t experienced these benefits by day four or so, it might be a good idea to purchase a urine or blood analysis to check your actual levels. Blood analysis is more accurate but the urine analysis will provide a pass/fail scenario, by letting you know if you have “trace” or “moderate” levels of ketones in the blood.
- No more sugar cravings
- No more hunger pains
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol
- Lower triglycerides
- Decreased joint pains
- Decreased fogginess
- Increased HDL cholesterol
- Increased energy
- Weight loss
For more specific details on the benefits of the ketogenic diet, visit the “30-Day Playbook” that details information on triglycerides, mental fogginess, and more.
Other Low-Carb Diets
On the Bulletproof website, author Dave Asprey writes about the differences between Paleo, Primal, Atkins, and Ketogenic. All of these diets recommend low-carb meals but the ketogenic diet is the only one that really focuses on higher fat intake, which makes all the difference.
For Asprey, who lost over 100 pounds on the his “Bulletproof” version of the diet, the high-fat intake was vital. He lost the first fifty pounds or so on Atkins, but eventually realized the diet sodas and other fake sweeteners were making his weight loss plateau.
Asprey writes, “Diet sodas and artificial sweeteners have always been in the kryptonite zone of the Bulletproof Diet because they make you weak. This study shows that people who drink them regularly have more heart attacks. At this point, there is no biological or ethical argument for allowing unsafe artificial sweeteners like aspartame.”
Back to the original point, the high fat aspect of the diet is what brings everything else together. Fat makes you full and gives you energy. Eating fat helps your body determine when it is actually hungry, unlike carb-heavy diets, where people typically feel hungry every few hours. Many people fail or get stuck when they miss out on eating high fats.
For those who can stick to the ketogenic diet for more than a few days, it’s possible to merely have a bulletproof coffee in the morning and not feel hungry until the early afternoon.
Net carbs are used because the dietary fiber does not alter the metabolism like regularly carbs. When tracking macros, it’s best to use net carbs because they are essentially more accurate.
The website, ketoconnect, details what 20g of net carbs looks like: “Your daily 20g of net carbs should ideally be coming from vegetables. A couple servings of leafy green veggies as well as 1-2 servings of cruciferous veggies like broccoli or cauliflower. You’ll also be picking up trace carbs throughout the day in things like dairy and seasonings.”
Proteins and Fats
After you understand the basics of a net carbs ratio, which is the most complicated of the three, it’s time to look at proteins and fats. Moderate proteins exist around 0.6 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of lean muscle mass. To determine lean muscle mass, ask your local gym to determine your BMI (body mass index) or get a rough estimate here.
Once you know your lean body mass, simply take your current weight and subtract your percentage of body fat. The second part of your protein intake will involve your activity level, which you might also find increases on the diet. If you’re completely sedentary, due to job or illness, stick to the lower side of protein intake. For gym members, trainers usually recommend 1 gram per pound of lean bodyweight.
For fats, however, focus on about 70 percent of your daily calories. Eat fat until you’re full, but do so by consuming grass-fed butters and organic olive oil (more examples below). This might include cooking some asparagus, and then dropping extra butter on your plate or consuming bulletproof coffee in the mornings.
Other fats come from fattier cuts of meat or fat bombs, which can be made with cream cheese or other healthy fats. Some online keto users scarf down cream cheese to boost ketosis.
Sample Shopping List
To master any diet, the best way is to start simple. Anyone who tells you that a diet is complicated is likely trying to sell you something. Instead, focus on the basics. The following list can be mixed and matched to your preference as long as you stick with the overall of high fats, moderate proteins and low carbs.
Not all of these items are necessary, so substitute to find what works for you and check your labels as some of these have carbs, like nuts, so stick with small servings sizes.
Essential Fats (70%)
- Leafy greens
- Avocado (fats, too)
- Brussels sprouts
Nuts / Dairy
Foods to Avoid
When it comes to shopping keto, the best bet is to stick with the foods in the meat and veggie section of your grocery store. Whatever you do, however, avoid the following junk, processed items:
- No Processed foods
- No Sugar-free packaged foods
- No Artificial sweeteners
- No Unhealthy GMOs
- No Additives
- No Diet sports drinks
- No Diet sodas
As listed above, diet sodas and artificial sweeteners can destroy the diet or at least decrease weight loss.
While nearly every article on Keto Flavor has a recipe or two listed, these are some basic recipes so you understand what might be on a ketogenic plate:
- Baked chicken breast with buttery asparagus
- Fatty ground beef patties with salad, low carb dressing, and half an avocado
- Omelet packed with turkey, onion, peppers, and avocado slices or sugar-free salsa.
To get a little more details, let’s examine a slightly more advanced recipe from Martina over at the Keto Diet Blog:
Chicken Sausage and Vegetable Skillet
- 3-6 tbsp butter or ghee
- 5 chicken sausage links, sliced
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 sweet onion, diced
- 1 small zucchini, cut in moons
- 1 summer squash, cut in moons
- 1 red pepper, cut in chunks
- 1 yell pepper, cut in chunks
- 6 mushrooms, quartered
- ½ tsp Italian seasoning
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper
- Sea salt, black pepper
Melt the butter in a large skillet and then add the chicken sausage, garlic, and onion. Saute for ten minutes and then add the zucchini, squash, bell peppers, mushrooms, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and pepper for another ten minutes. For extra fat, add some avocado slices, but also be careful with the peppers as they can contain hidden carbs.
Each serving is 317 calories, 23g fat, 20g protein, and 9.5 carbs.
Pitfalls for Beginners
With every new diet or lifestyle change, there can be difficulties and the ketogenic diet is certainly no different. While it’s true that the mental fog will soon be lifted, the first three days of the diet may create an opposite effect than a benefit.
Some of the pitfalls include:
Essentially, your brain is trying to switch from running on glucose, a method it has used for years, to then start running off of ketones. Meanwhile, your body will also be burning up the last of the glucose in your system. Essentially, you’re cleaning out your engines but there is a hump to get over.
Lack of Endurance
Similar to the mental fogginess mentioned above, the first few days will also create a loss of endurance or strength. This isn’t always the case, but like a detox, it does happen to many people who are entering the ketogenic lifestyle. This also comes as the body moves from glucose to ketones.
Dehydration / Constipation
Finally, because you are transitioning into a whole new lifestyle, it’s possible that you could experience dehydration or constipation. Again, it’s also beneficial to add extra veggies to your diet for a whole host of medical reasons, but rather than going doing that road of medical explanations, just know it helps with constipation issues.
When all of these problems hit at the same time, meaning you may be experiencing fatigue, headaches, cough, sniffles, nausea, or irritability, that’s what has affectionately become known as the “keto flu.” It can be one of the most difficult phases of the new diet, but it too will pass.
For more information on these pitfalls and how to avoid them, visit our guide, the “30-Day Playbook.”
As if it’s not hard enough to beat the internal struggles of a new diet, the external struggles may even be more difficult. Generally speaking, you can beat the internal dialogue within 3-4 days, and after 1-2 weeks where your friends and family see results, they’ll likely be more willing to support your lifestyle change (and they may even want to join you!).
As for those moments of will power struggle, this lifestyle change will begin with discipline but then become a habit. Other than that, it’s important to understand that there is always a way to stay in ketosis, even when eating out with friends or visiting restaurants that are known to be “carb-heavy.”
Most Italian restaurants also offer items like steaks, where you can substitute red potatoes with a side of broccoli. Or, to stay a little closer to the Italian countryside, try to order an antipasto salad with a meat (steak), vegetables, and Alfredo sauce.
At burger joints like Five Guys, ask for a bacon cheeseburger with no bun. We recommend mayo, lettuce, mustard, grilled onions and hot sauce to avoid excess carbs. The menu also includes pickles, grilled mushrooms, green peppers, and A1 Sauce to choose from. Many delis also have an “un-wich” option.
Traveling With Keto
Like the methods above, traveling and sticking with the ketogenic diet is also something that seems difficult at first, or at least less convenient, but it can be mastered just like cooking or ordering keto.
For hiking or camping trips, as an example, pack things like bulletproof coffee, powdered eggs, beef jerky, peanut butter, canned sardines, hard cheese, boiled eggs, keto diet trail mix, or ketogenic protein bars.
On a road trip, instead of stopping at the many golden arches along the way (where a salad or bunless burger might work), consider stopping at a grocery store and pack a cooler with jerky, avocado, sardines, or other keto-friendly foods.
It’s also important to note that you’ll be able to fast if there are no other options as the keto diet doesn’t require food every few hours like typical diets. Whatever you do, that urge to cheat on the diet will pass, so stick to your guns and wait for something on your meal plan.
Costs vs. Benefits
Buying natural olive oils, organic beef, and grass-fed butters will likely cost a little more at first, but it’s no comparison to a lifetime of medical bills from an improper diet of junk foods. This doesn’t even count the pains and disease from following the Standard American Diet (called S.A.D. for a reason…).
As the Nourished Caveman asks, “How much would a hospital stay cost you? Or lost work time for an illness? Did you know that in 2012 (2 years ago!) diabetes cost $245 billion in medical costs and lost worker productivity in the United States?”
Compared to the many health risks from the Standard American Diet of grains and processed foods, investing in your body now will save you in the long run, both in your wallet and maybe even your life. Get rid of that “wheat belly” once and for all!
Keto Diet 101: Getting Started Right Now
Most dieters start on a Monday, and that can be successful, but a true lifestyle change starts right now! As entrepreneur Derek Sivers has said, “If [more] information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.” With that in mind, if you’re read this far, you’re ready to get going.
To jump-start ketosis, entrepreneur and self-proclaimed medical “guinea pig,” Tim Ferriss tells followers to start with a low-carb meal the night before. Plan to sleep in late the next 2-3 days to let sleep take some of the burden off of you.
The morning after the low-carb meal, drink exogenous ketones or MCT oil (like bulletproof coffee or bulletproof tea) and do so again every 3-4 hours that day. Ferriss recommends KetoCaNa and caprylic acid like Brain Octaine. Drink some caffeine and prepare to start a walk 30 minutes after you wake up.
Ferriss writes, “I grab a cold liter of water or Smartwater out of my fridge, and add a dash of pure, unsweetened lemon juice to attenuate boredom, add a few pinches of salt to prevent misery/headaches/cramping, and head out.”
The author listens to podcasts or makes phone calls the next few hours and may even refill the water bottle for the long, brisk walk. Generally speaking, the following day, he and another subject his 0.7 mmol the next morning. However, entering ketosis at your leisure still works, so do whatever you need to do to get started and stick with it!