How To Start Keto: The Ultimate Beginners Guide To The Ketogenic Diet

So, you’ve heard about this crazy-sounding diet called ‘keto’ where your friends are losing loads of weight, feeling healthier than ever, and still getting their Starbucks Frappucino fix.

And you want in?

I’ve got you, girl.

The Keto diet is a low-carb, high fat diet plan.

Now, the problem with most diets is that people view them as ways to quickly shed excess weight, then go back to their normal ways of eating (yep – we’ve all been there).

The Keto diet however, is not a fad diet, or a temporary solution to weight loss. It is actually designed to be a lifestyle plan that not only results in successful weight loss, but also promotes overall health, energy, and vitality.

What Is The Keto Diet?

As I mentioned above – the Keto Diet (ketogenic diet) is a low-carb, high-fat diet. As a diet plan, it shares many of the same foods and drinks as the Atkins diet and other low-carb diets.

What makes a Keto diet different is that it focuses on drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing those carbohydrates with fat. This drastic reduction in carbohydrates puts your body into a metabolic state that is called ketosis.

The point of going into ketosis is to help your body become efficient at burning fat for energy. While this is happening, your body turns the fat into ketones in the liver, supplying energy to the brain.

A cautionary note: ketogenic diets can cause massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. So while this can be a good thing for some people, it can cause problems for other people.

Why Go Keto? The Health Benefits Of The Keto Diet

There are many health benefits experienced by those on the ketogenic diet. The basis of the diet is that it is designed to get a certain response from the body. Those on the keto diet eat normal amounts of protein, higher amounts of fat, and they keep their carbohydrate intake very low.

Because carbohydrate intake is low, the blood sugar (glucose) level is low, and the brain pulls from this alternative energy source, which is fat. Before fats can be used by the body, the liver has to first convert them to ketones. It is ketones that are used as energy for the body and brain when there is lack of glucose.

The ketogenic diet actually originated as a tool for treating neurological diseases, such as epilepsy. Studies have shown that this diet can have benefits for a wide variety of health conditions.

Before we list these health conditions, a few wonderful side effects most people on the diet will experience include:

Weight Loss

This is one of the main reasons the keto diet has gained so much traction. Due to lowered insulin levels and the body’s ability to burn stored fat, those who follow the diet find that they lose weight more quickly than with conventional diets.

Clarity of Mind

An unbalanced diet can lead to lack of mental clarity, and it feels like a foggy brain. People find it difficult to remember facts or struggle with staying focused on tasks. The keto diet, by helping the body burn fat as energy, sends energy to the brain and helps it to stay focused.

Improve Productivity

Many people are not aware that ketones are a more efficient energy source than glucose. And for the brain, energy is everything. This type of energy helps better protect the brain — and the rest of the body — from oxidative stress, which negatively affects mental performance and brain aging. Improved mental performance, improved clarity, improved memory all combine to improve productivity.

Acne

Lower insulin levels and eating less sugar and processed foods help improve acne. In addition, an increase in water intake will occur due to the lack of carbohydrates, offering good hydration of the skin.

Other serious health conditions can be improved, reduced, and in some cases cured when on the keto diet. These include:

Heart Disease

In addition to weight loss, the risk factors of body fat, HDL levels, blood pressure and blood sugar are improved.

Cancer

There are medical studies, such as those conducted by the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa, and the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, that are showing good results with the ketogenic diet being an effective treatment for several types of cancer and slow tumor growth.

Alzheimer’s disease

Ketogenic diets are being used to help treat Alzheimer’s symptoms. Those patients on the diet have shown a reduction in those symptoms and improved cognitive function.

Epilepsy

The Epilepsy Foundation endorses the ketogenic diet because it has been shown to help control seizures in some people with epilepsy. Doctors usually recommend the keto diet for children whose seizures have not responded to several different seizure medicines. . (In fact – the keto diet was originally developed for children suffering from epilepsy, as part of the treatment to reduce seizures. It had excellent results!)

While no research is conclusive that a ketogenic diet will reduce the symptoms or actually cure major health issues, there is evidence that it does not do any harm. As for the side benefits of mental clarity and weight loss, those are shown to occur in otherwise healthy adults.

How The Keto Diet Works

It’s all about ketosis.

Attaining it and maintaining it.

The Keto diet is similar to many low-carb, high-fat diets. But, there is a difference. That difference is the intentional reduction of carbohydrates to the point of putting your body into ketosis. No other low-carb, high-fat diet does this.

Ketosis is a normal process that the body does every day, regardless of the number of carbs you eat.
Your body processes different types of nutrients into the fuels that it needs. Proteins, fats, and carbs are all processed for use. The keto diet, which is a low carb, high fat diet, ramps up this process.

When in ketosis, your body is in a metabolic state where most of the body’s energy comes from ketone bodies in the blood. Ketones are molecules that occur when your body burns fat as an energy source.

This is in contrast to a glycolysis state where blood glucose provides most of the energy. So this means your body is burning fat for energy instead of carbohydrates.

Why does this happen? Our bodies normally run on glucose for energy. We can’t create glucose and only store 24 hours-worth in our muscles and liver. Once this glucose is no longer available, we begin to burn stored fat. The ketogenic diet, therefore, eliminates glucose and causes the body to burn stored fat.

The Keto Diet

The Keto Diet is low-carb, high fat, high protein and these elements are eaten daily in these amounts: at least 70% of your food intake is from fat. This leaves you with about 25% proteins and the last 5% can be an additional 5% of fat or 5% of dark green low carb vegetables like dandelion leaves, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, etc.

Understanding what can and cannot be eaten is vital to making the keto diet work as a weight loss diet.

Macronutrients, and tracking the intake of those nutrients, becomes part of the process of attaining and maintaining ketosis.

Macronutrients are the largest class of nutrients the body requires for energy. They include protein, carbohydrates, and fats. When we refer to “macros,” we are referring to these major nutrients. Since “macros” means large, macronutrients are those nutrients we need in large amounts.

There are three major macronutrients important to health and energy:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Healthy Fats
  • Protein

Remember, the keto diet is low-carb, not no-carb.

So there will be carbohydrates in the daily food that is eaten, just a much lower number than the average person eats. And, to replace the lost carbs there is an increase in protein and fat intake. This is why monitoring and tracking macronutrients each day helps to achieve success while on the keto diet.

How To Calculate Net Carbs

On any low-carb diet, you will be reducing your net carb gram intake. It is important that you understand how to actually count net carbs. First, net carbs are simply the grams of total carbohydrates in a portion of food minus its grams of fiber. Because fiber is a carbohydrate that your body cannot digest, it does not raise your blood sugar levels or trigger an insulin response.

Foods that are low in net carbs, which include nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits, are less likely to interfere with weight loss and do not have a significant impact on blood sugar. Here are a few zero- and low-carb foods to help you get started on understanding why they are often listed as acceptable foods in low-carb diets:

Examples of Zero Carbs

  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Bacon (but avoid the bacon cured in sugar)
  • Salmon
  • Trout

Examples of Low Carb Vegetables

  • Broccoli – 6 grams per cup or 7 grams per 100 grams.
  • Tomatoes – 7 grams in a large tomato, or 4 grams per 100 grams.
  • Onions – 11 grams per cup or 9 grams per 100 grams.
  • Brussels Sprouts – 6 grams per half cup, or 7 grams per 100 grams.
  • Cauliflower – 5 grams per cup and 5 grams per 100 grams.
  • Kale – 7 grams per cup or 10 grams per 100 grams.
  • Cucumber – 2 grams per half cup or 4 grams per 100 grams.

Examples of Low Carb Fruits

Be careful, as you can see fruits are higher in carbs than vegetables due to their sugar content.

  • Strawberries – 11 grams per cup or 8 grams per 100 grams.
  • Apricots – 8 grams in 2 apricots, or 11 grams per 100 grams.
  • Avocado – 13 grams per cup or 8.5 grams per 100 grams.
  • Grapefruit – 13 grams in a half grapefruit, or 11 grams per 100 grams.

You can calculate, for yourself, the approximate number of net carb grams in a low-carb product. First look at the information on the food label:

Total Carbohydrates
– Dietary Fiber
– Sugar alcohol
= Net carbs

Often, the food label will break down carbohydrates into total carbohydrates, fiber, and sugars.

Total carbohydrates combine all of the carbs and include fiber, sugars, starches, sugar alcohols and glycerin. The label will show the amount found per serving and is measured in grams. They are found in starches, vegetables, fruits, sweets, and milk.

Dietary fiber is the amount of indigestible or partially digestible bulk from plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, oats, nuts and seeds and is measured in grams.

Sugar alcohols are found most often in foods labeled “sugar-free,” including candy, cookies, chewing gums, and soda, but have recently become popular in packaged health foods. Sugar alcohol gets its name from its molecular structure, which is a hybrid between a sugar molecule and an alcohol molecule. Biochemically speaking, sugar alcohols are structurally similar to sugar but are either poorly digested or poorly metabolized.

Sugar alcohol has grown in popularity as a sugar replacement in foods because they contain few calories, have a minimal impact on insulin levels, and are safe for those with diabetes

Here’s a list of some popular sugar alcohols so you can identify them when you look at a nutrition label:

  • Erythritol
  • Maltitol
  • Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
  • Isomalt
  • Lactitol
  • Mannitol
  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol

It can be confusing, at first, when trying to calculate net carbs on your own, but now that you have the basic information you can practice it at home first. Soon you will be confident in your ability to count net carbs during your next trip to the grocery store.

What Can You Eat On A Keto Diet

The key to a keto diet is to build ketones. And, the key to building ketones is a mixture of fasting and a diet with at least 70% of your food intake being from fat. This leaves you with about 25% proteins and the last 5% can be an additional 5% of fat or 5% of dark green low carb vegetables like dandelion leaves, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, etc.

The diet has a strict 5% carbohydrate allowance. In general, you can eat from the following food groups: Fats and Oils, Protein, Vegetables and Fruits, Dairy products, Nuts and Seeds, Water and Beverages.

Starting a new diet isn’t easy, especially when you need to eat specific foods and stay from other types of foods. This ketogenic diet food list should help you be able to make decisions about what you are eating and shopping for.

In the Keto Kitchen we have put together a downloadable shopping list that you can print and take with you when you go grocery shopping. To get yours sign up (for free) to the Keto Kitchen here.

Fats and Oils.

Try to get your fat from natural sources like meat and nuts. Supplement with saturated and monounsaturated fats like coconut oil, butter, and olive oil. Here are some to choose from:

  • Fatty Fish
  • Animal Fat (non-hydrogenated)
  • Lard
  • Tallow
  • Avocados
  • Egg Yolks
  • Macadamia/Brazil Nuts
  • Butter/Ghee
  • Coconut Butter
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Avocado Oil
  • Macadamia Oil
  • MCT Oil

Protein

Remember that too much protein on a ketogenic diet is not a good thing. Choose from the following:

Fish: Anything that is caught wild like catfish, cod, flounder, halibut, mackerel, mahi-mahi, salmon, snapper, trout, and tuna. Fattier fish is better.

Shellfish: Clams, oysters, lobster, crab, scallops, mussels, and squid.

Whole Eggs: You can prepare them in many different ways like fried, deviled, boiled, poached, and scrambled.

Beef: Ground beef, steak, roasts, and stew meat. Stick with fattier cuts where possible.

Pork: Ground pork, pork loin, pork chops, tenderloin, and ham. Watch out for added sugars and try to stick with fattier cuts.

Poultry: Chicken, duck, quail, pheasant and other wild game.

Offal/Organ: Heart, liver, kidney, and tongue. Offal is one of the best sources of vitamins/nutrients.

Other Meat: Veal, Goat, Lamb, Turkey and other wild game. Stick with fattier cuts where possible.

Bacon and Sausage: Check labels for anything cured in sugar, or if it contains extra fillers. Don’t be overly concerned with nitrates.

Nut Butter: Go for natural, unsweetened nuts

Vegetables and Fruits

  • Nightshades. This includes tomato, eggplant, and peppers.
  • Root Vegetables. This includes onion, parsnip, garlic, mushrooms, and squash.
  • Berries. This includes raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.
  • Citrus. This includes lemon, lime, and orange juice (or zest) in water and in recipes.
  • Completely avoid starchy vegetables and large fruits like potatoes and bananas.

Dairy products

  • Greek yogurt
  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
  • Spreadable items including cottage cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, mascarpone, crème fraiche, etc.
  • Soft Cheese including mozzarella, brie, blue, Colby, Monterey jack, etc.
  • Hard Cheese including aged cheddar, parmesan, feta, Swiss, etc.

Nuts and Seeds

Fatty, low carbohydrate nuts: Macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, and pecans can be consumed with meals to supplement fat.

Fatty, moderate carbohydrate nuts: Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, and pine nuts can be used in moderation to supplement for texture or flavor.

Higher carbohydrate nuts: Pistachios and cashews should rarely be eaten or avoided as they’re very high in carbohydrates

Water and Beverages

Water: This will be your staple, go-to source for hydration. You can drink tap, bottled or sparkling water.

Broth: Loaded with vitamins and nutrients. More importantly, it will kick start your energy by replenishing your electrolytes.

Coffee: Improves mental focus and has some added weight loss benefits.

Tea: Has the same effect as coffee. Try to stick with black or green.

Coconut/Almond milk: You can use the unsweetened versions in the carton from the store to replace your favorite dairy beverage.

Diet soda: Try to severely reduce or completely stop drinking this. It can lead to sugar cravings and sometimes insulin spikes in the long run.

Flavoring: The small packets that are flavored with sucralose or stevia are fine. You can alternatively add a squeeze of lemon, lime, or orange to your water bottle.

Alcohol: Choose hard liquor. More beer and wine will be too high carb to consume. Frequent consumption of alcohol will slow weight loss down

Foods to Avoid on the Keto Diet

If you are uncertain about any products or food items that might not be keto friendly here is a list of things that you should always be on the lookout for and avoid:

Sugar

It’s typically found in soda, juice, sports drinks, candy, chocolate, and ice cream. Avoid sugar at all costs.

Grains

Any wheat products, pasta, cereal, cakes, pastries, rice, corn, and beer should be avoided. This includes whole grains like wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat, and quinoa.

Starch

Avoid vegetables like potatoes and yams and other things like oats, muesli, etc. Some root vegetables are okay in moderation – be sure to read the section on vegetables.

Trans Fats

Margarine or any other spreadable replacement butter should be avoided as they contain hydrogenated fats.

Fruit

Avoid any large fruits such as apples, oranges, bananas as they’re extremely high in sugar. Some berries can be consumed in moderation – be sure to read the section on fruits.

Low-fat foods

These tend to be much higher in carbs and sugar than full-fat versions. Make sure you read the package.

A keto meal plan for a day could look like this:

Breakfast: 2 eggs cooked any way with yolks. Sausage containing no carbs or sugar. Bacon.
Lunch: Chicken with as much skin and oily gooey bits as possible. Steamed spinach or broccoli.
Supper: Steak with cheese. Fried mushrooms. Leafy green salad.
Before bed 1 glass of wine with a slice of cheese.

Or like this:

Breakfast: 2 egg omelet with fried mushrooms, cheese, and chopped parsley.
Lunch: A whole duck breast if you can get it or chicken again with as much fatty skin as possible. Leafy green salad.
Supper: Hamburger made with high-fat mince without the bun. The mince can contain the usual paprika, chopped onions, and garlic if you like, but absolutely no syrup or sugar. Add cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and any other leafy low-carb greens you like.
Before bed 1 glass of wine with a slice of cheese.

It will be difficult to change your eating habits, at first, but with meals like those listed above it won’t be long before you enjoy eating a ketogenic diet.

Tracking Your Macros To Stay In Ketosis

What is Ketosis?

Ketosis is a process that the body does every day, regardless of the number of carbs you eat. Your body processes different types of nutrients into the fuels that it needs. Proteins, fats, and carbs are all processed for use. The ketogenic diet ramps up this process.

This process, ketosis, is a metabolic state where most of the body’s energy comes from ketone bodies in the blood. Ketone bodies are molecules that occur when your body burns fat as an energy source.

What Are Macros?

Macronutrients are the largest class of nutrients the body requires for energy. They include protein, carbohydrates, and fats. When we refer to “macros,” we are referring to these major nutrients. Since “macros” means large, macronutrients are those nutrients we need in large amounts.

There are three major macronutrients important to health and energy:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Healthy Fats
  • Protein

On a low carb diet, the point is to limit the carbohydrate intake to force the body to burn fat for energy instead of carbs or sugar. This is done by limiting your carbs to achieve a state of ketosis.

How to Track Macros

On a low-carb diet, it is important to track the net carbs with a limit of 20 net carbs per day as a maximum number. It is also important to track the healthy fats, protein, and fiber because on the keto diet the goal is to maintain ketosis, the state of burning fat as energy. To do this, the fat is to be 70% of the daily intake and protein is to be 25% and the net carb intake is to be 5%.

Your first step is to find out what your macros are, unique to your body and needs. Use a keto macro calculator here. It is used to measure your nutritional needs on a ketogenic diet.

Once you have worked out your macros, you need to know if you are sticking to them. You can do this by tracking what you eat.

An excellent free tracker is MyFitnessPal. It is a fun app that gives you free access to the world’s largest nutrition and calorie database with over 5 million foods listed. It is a great way to keep up with your progress. It also allows you track exercise and calories burned, water intake, and determine accurate nutrition facts for your recipes.

How easy is it to track? Simply download the app, enter the food group you will be eating from, the serving size, and how it will be prepared.

Not only will it save that information, it will give you information about calories, and a space to track your exercise. By the end of the first day of meals, you will see how well you were able to stay on track with your keto diet plan.

And, you will see at a glance if you were able to maintain ketosis by eating the right amounts of fat, protein, and carbs.

Isn’t Ketosis Dangerous?

No, not at all.

Many people confuse ketosis with ketoacidosis and they are not the same at all.

In addition, your body fluctuates throughout the day and can be in and out of ketosis. With the ketogenic diet, the purpose is to achieve and maintain a state of ketosis, and that is not dangerous.

Ketosis and Ketoacidosis

Despite the similarity in name, ketosis and ketoacidosis are two different things. And because of the similarity in the name, it can be easy to confuse the two.

What is Ketosis?

Ketosis is a process that the body does every day, regardless of the number of carbs you eat. Your body processes different types of nutrients into the fuels that it needs. Proteins, fats, and carbs are all processed for use. The ketogenic diet, a low carb, high fat diet, ramps up this process.

This process, ketosis, is a metabolic state where most of the body’s energy comes from ketone bodies in the blood. Ketone bodies are molecules that occur when your body burns fat as an energy source.

You can be in ketosis if you’re on a low-carbohydrate diet or fasting, or if you’ve consumed too much alcohol. If you are in ketosis, you have a higher than usual level of ketones in your blood or urine, but not high enough to cause acidosis.

Symptoms When You Are In Ketosis

Bad Breath

Bad breath is a common side effect due to elevated ketone levels. The culprit is acetone. Sugar-free gum or mints can be used to solve the issue. And rest assured, it is not a permanent thing, it will go away.

Weight Loss

Fast weight loss can occur during the first week.

Increased Ketones in the Blood

Reduction in blood sugar levels and an increase in ketones.

Appetite Suppression

Many people report decreased hunger while following a ketogenic diet.

Increased Focus and Energy

Eliminating carbs can help control and stabilize blood sugar levels. This may further increase focus and improve brain function.

Short-Term Fatigue

Initially, you may suffer from tiredness and low energy. This will pass once your body becomes adapted to running on fat and ketones.

Short-Term Decreases in Performance

Short-term decreases in performance can occur. However, they tend to improve again after the initial adaptation phase is over.

Digestive Issues

You might experience digestive issues such as constipation when you first switch to a ketogenic diet.

Insomnia

Many people report insomnia or waking up at night when they first reduce their carbs drastically. However, this usually improves in a matter of weeks.

What is Ketoacidosis?

Ketoacidosis refers to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and is a complication of type 1 diabetes mellitus, where an individual with uncontrolled diabetes is starving due to the lack of insulin. Insulin brings glucose into the cells and without it the body switches to ketones. The brain can function with the energy from glucose, fat, or ketones.

Ketoacidosis can be caused by not getting enough insulin, having a severe infection or other illness, becoming severely dehydrated, or some combination of these things.

Symptoms of ketoacidosis:

  • Flushed, hot, dry skin
  • Blurred vision
  • Feeling thirsty and urinating a lot
  • Drowsiness or difficulty waking up. Young children may lack interest in their normal activities
  • Rapid, deep breathing
  • A strong, fruity breath odor
  • Loss of appetite, belly pain, and vomiting
  • Confusion

The symptoms are very different and make it easy to see why achieving and maintaining ketosis is not dangerous. And because the symptoms are so different it is easy to determine when you are in ketosis.

Why You Lose Weight On A Keto Diet

“Regular” Diets Focus on Calories and Exercise

The ‘regular’ way to lose weight over a long period of time is to reduce the number of calories you take in and increase the number of calories you use as fuel in your daily activity. Science has discovered that this actually doesn’t work as well as we would like it to, and that is because calorie counting does not address cravings nor does it offer guidance on what type of food to eat for long term weight loss. Additional science has taught us that carbohydrates and sugar foods are what need to be removed from our diet, or greatly reduced from our diet, for long term weight loss.

From Burning Sugar to Burning Fat

The ketogenic diet works for weight loss because the intention is to force the body into ketosis. This is not a bad thing! It is a process, a metabolic state where most of the body’s energy comes from ketone bodies in the blood. Ketone bodies are molecules that occur when your body burns fat as an energy source. So what you are doing is setting up your body to stop using sugar (glucose) for energy and start using fat for energy.

Why does weight loss happen? Our bodies normally run on glucose for energy. We can’t create glucose and only store 24 hours-worth in our muscles and liver. Once this glucose is no longer available, we begin to burn stored fat. The ketogenic diet, by eliminating glucose, causes the body to burn stored fat. And fat is what we want to lose.

Less Sugar Means Less Water Weight

There is a strong relationship between water retention and glycogen (glucose) that is stored in the body. If your body manages to store some extra glycogen, you also increase water retention. This happens literally from one day to the next. Hence, when you eliminate or reduce sugar from your diet, you reduce the likelihood of carrying extra weight that is simply extra water.

Reduced Appetite

Ketosis does not completely reduce your appetite but instead helps to reduce your cravings for food that can sometimes lead you to overeat. The heart, brain, and other muscle tissues “prefer” to burn ketones because this allows the body to conserve blood sugar. As a side effect, this is definitely one of the better ones. Your body is put in a state of not wanting to eat or overeat, making it much easier to lose weight.

The Keto Flu Explained

Any time we begin a new diet or habit we can expect a bit of discomfort. And, the keto diet is no exception.

The keto flu. It is a real thing. It can happen when you drastically and suddenly remove carbs from your diet. Most people will experience some of the symptoms, and some people have been known to experience most of the symptoms. Either way, you need to know about it so you can prepare yourself for it.

Also known as the ‘carb flu,’ the keto flu is a natural reaction your body experiences when switching from burning glucose (sugar) as energy to burning fat instead.

In the beginning of practicing the keto diet, you may feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Intense cravings for carbohydrate and sugar
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Body aches
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Irritableness

No need to be alarmed. These symptoms are a natural reaction to removing carbs from your diet, and if you are experiencing them then it means you are doing the diet right. Most people do not experience all of the symptoms, only some. And, they will pass in less than a week.

Manage the Symptoms

If you know the symptoms are possible, you can prepare yourself and your kitchen cabinet and pantry to manage them.

  • Take an electrolyte supplement to replace the salt that has been removed through increased water intake and reduced carbs.
  • Hydrate with water, drink when thirsty, and adding a bit of salt will help
  • Drink bone broth because it contains a good amount of water, fat, and salt
  • Eat more fat by increasing your use of oil in cooking
  • Gentle exercise such as walking or yoga.
  • Sleep better. Take an Epsom salt bath: soaking in a warm Epsom salt bath can help soothe and relax your muscles and improve electrolyte absorption.
  • Take an exogenous ketone supplement such Perfect Keto. Exogenous ketones help fight fatigue and boost energy levels by raising the ketone levels in your blood.

Be prepared for the symptoms and make a plan to reduce them so that you only experience them for a few days.

Being prepared will help you focus on the end goal, which is to lose weight. It will also help you be mindful that at the beginning of anything new, there will be a few days of discomfort. If you are prepared for that, you will view the discomfort as simply part of the process.

How Do I Know I’m In Ketosis?

You are on the keto diet. You are beyond the initial symptoms that come from transitioning into a new diet. You think you are in ketosis, but how do you know for sure?

There are some naturally occurring physical symptoms that you can use to tell that you are in ketosis because you will feel different.

Remember, your body is depending on fat for fuel. This includes dietary fats like oils and fatty meats, but it also includes the extra fat you are carrying on your body. You will feel the loss of some of this fat, whether it is around the belly or on the thighs.

You will notice a decrease in your appetite

As ketones are created and used for energy, there is no more craving for sugary foods or foods you used to eat. No more cravings mean that you are not as hungry and that means you will not be eating as much or want to eat as much as you did before starting the diet.

Your mental clarity will improve

An unbalanced diet can lead to lack of mental clarity, and it feels like a foggy brain. You have difficulty remembering facts or struggle with staying focused on tasks. When you are in ketosis, your brain is receiving energy through the ketones using fat as energy, and you will find that you are able to think much more clearly, you will remember facts and details much better.

Urine Strips and Ketone Meter

If you want real accuracy, you can measure the ketones in your body by detecting them in your urine or in your blood.

First, the urine. The way to do this is to use ketone urine testing strips, often referred to by the brand name Ketostix. They are inexpensive and very easy to use. Simply pass one directly through your urine stream, shake off any excess fluid and wait 15 seconds. If you are in ketosis, the strip will change color from beige to varying shades of purple. There will be a color guide provided so you can measure your ketone levels accurately.

Second, the blood test. This is a truly accurate way to measure if you are in ketosis. And this is something you can do and it can be done in your home. You will need a blood ketone meter and a kit that includes the lancet pen and ketone test strips.

Two brands that are used by many people are:

Precision Xtra: This meter from Abbott Diabetes Care can store up to 450 measurements and will display your blood glucose averages over different time periods. You need to enter a code to switch from glucose testing to ketone testing

Nova Max Plus: This meter from Nova Biomedical is often provided free with the purchase of two boxes of test strips. You don’t have to enter a code to switch it from blood glucose to ketone testing; it does that automatically when you insert a ketone test strip.

Different Types Of The Keto Diet

Keto is flexible (to a point) and there are three distinct plans that target different goals.
You will most likely end up following the Standard Ketogenic Diet, but it is helpful to know the other options available.

Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)

This one is very low in carbs, with moderate protein, and high in healthy fats.
The ratio is typically, 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs

High-Protein Ketogenic Diet

This plan is similar to SKD, but incudes more protein.
The ratio is typically 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs

Cyclical Ketogenic Diet or CKD

This plan is widely used by athletes, bodybuilders, weight lifters and anyone participating in high intensity exercise and features short periods of high carb intake
5 keto days followed by 2 high carb intake days

Targeted Ketogenic Diet or TKD

This plan is also used by bodybuilders, athletes and those who workout regularly to fuel intense workouts.
High load carb intake based around workouts

Keto And Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting (IF) is often used in conjunction with the ketogenic diet.

Intermittent fasting promotes weight loss, fat burning, muscle building, and many other health benefits through a very simple eating pattern.

Many people call intermittent fasting a diet, but it is rather a pattern of eating or dieting for optimal success.

You are following a specific pattern each day, where you only eat during a shorter block of time, fasting for the rest of the day, except for having coffee, tea, and water. This pattern helps your body to burn food more quickly, so that there is more time for burning fat.

Intermittent Fasting Protocols

IF very flexible, so you can look at the different methods and choose which one works best for your schedule and your lifestyle. Here are some popular IF protocols people like to turn to:

16:8/LeanGains – This is a popular option, allowing you to eat for 8 hours, then fast for 16 hours. You try to do it as often as possible. It can be done every day of the week.

5:2 – The 5:2 diet requires you to eat how you normally would 5 days out of the week, then have 2 alternating days of the week where you fast for 24 hours. You can often have a low amount of calories on fasted days, up to 500-600 calories.

Warrior Diet – With the warrior diet, you go 24 hours between eating, having just one large meal at the end of every fasted day.

Eat-Stop-Eat/24-Hour – This is similar to 5:2, except you may only go 24 hours once a week. You also don’t have the calories, but a full fasting day with only water, coffee, or tea.

Keto & Exercise

Without doubt, exercise is extremely important, whether you are following a low carb, ketogenic lifestyle or not.

Not only do we want to look good, but there are so many health benefits to regular excise.

Exercise Improves Insulin Sensitivity

In many people, insulin sensitivity decreases with age, along with level of physical activity. Sedentary persons are much more likely to have elevated levels of blood glucose, record a higher level of insulin secretion over the course of the day, retain excess body fat and may likely pave the way to pre-diabetes.

Exercise, especially weight bearing, anaerobic activity has been shown to improve the efficiency of insulin in response to blood glucose, or amino acid levels, and promotes absorption of nutrients.

When following the ketogenic diet, blood glucose levels are lowered, along with muscle glycogen stores, making the body more efficient at handling small bursts of glucose either ingested or produced via Krebs cycle.

Fat Burning Is Amplified

One of the most sought after benefits of low carb diets, but more specifically the ketogenic diet, is its marked effect on fat metabolism. In the absence of carbohydrates, insulin’s activity is markedly decreased, paving the way for significantly increased levels of lipolysis.

Under the influence of insulin, fat burning is stalled, in addition to storage of more fat being promoted. This is a terrible scenario if you are trying to lose weight, since at this time if you exercise your body will be utilizing strictly carbohydrates for energy.

Not following a strict ketogenic diet?

That’s fine. In fact, there are many variations of the ketogenic diet that are not as strict, but which still reap many of the benefits associated with it. For example, exercising first thing in the morning on an empty stomach places the body in a position to be able to burn fat for energy, as glucose levels are depleted following 8 hours of fasting. This is the preferred time many athletes perform cardiovascular exercise, as it amplifies fat metabolism.

Exercise Promotes Muscle Gain

Well, this depends largely on the type of exercise you perform; weight bearing, anaerobic types providing significantly more onus for muscle growth that steady state aerobic varieties.

Now – I’m not suggesting you become a power lifter and develop bulging muscles. But focusing on strengthening your muscles is important to overall health (especially as you age).

Why is muscle growth important?

Muscle is where the “powerhouse” in our bodies is located. These powerhouses, better known as the mitochondria, is what’s responsible for the literal burning and oxidation of ATP. The more muscle we have, either the more of these power units we have, or the larger they are.

The result?

Greater caloric burn while doing absolutely nothing, including enhanced fat burning. It is also important for you to keep exercising, as the old adage, “use it or lose it” is very much true.

If want the maximum benefit from the ketogenic lifestyle, exercise is a mandatory addition. Your health will significantly improve; including glucose and lipid profile, but so will your overall body composition.

And if you truly want to look your best, you will not attain it unless you incorporate sessions of both aerobic (cardio) and anaerobic (weight bearing) sessions.

Exercise may seem difficult during the first two weeks or so of adapting to the ketogenic lifestyle, but once your body efficiently begins producing ketones, fat loss, strength, and muscle gains will ensue.

Keto For Women

Keto isn’t as straightforward for women as for men. As a woman, your body is much more complicated and nuanced, your hormones will likely play up a bit – but will some understanding and some adaptations you healthy follow the keto diet worry free.

Hormones are complicated and can complicate your keto.

This is especially the case when you go cold-turkey. Big changes in a small amount of time can be difficult for your body to deal with. It’s not just the change of diet that will tax your system or cause hormones to act up but as a woman, your hormones are more sensitive to other factors such as the amount of sleep you get, your menstrual cycles and stress. Keto is not a recommended diet if you are pregnant or breastfeeding – talk with your doctor.

You can make Keto work for you and your body, but that will require listening to it – paying attention to whether you feel energized or tired on fewer carbs

Taking Supplements On Keto

While no particular supplement is required, some can be very useful.

MCT Oil

Fatigue and weakness can occur when the body is not in full ketosis or is not using fats and ketones efficiently. MCT (medium chain triglycerides) oil can help, as it provides energy and helps increase ketone levels. A couple of teaspoons of MCTs daily can help increase energy levels and decrease fat stores due to its thermogenic effect.

MCT’s are found in coconut oil, but they are also offered in a purer supplement form called MCT oil that contains much more of the raw MCT’s than coconut oil offers. It can be added to coffee, or mixed into dressings without any added taste.

Choose a quality MCT oil product that includes the highest level of caprylic acids, preferably pure, which act in the body as real MCT’s and are able to bypass the metabolic burden of processing in the liver and quickly become energy in the muscles and the brain.

Caprylic acid has potent anti-microbial properties for healthy digestion and it only takes 3 steps to turn it into cellular fuel, versus sugar that takes 16 steps. It is highly ketogenic and quickly converts to ketones in the body.

This is especially useful in those with high levels of carb sensitivity, who have a hard time reaching high levels of ketones in their urine.

Caution: In some users, MCT oil can cause digestive problems and loose stools so it is best to start slow to allow the body to adjust, begin with a teaspoon at a time, and no more than 2 tablespoons a day and take it with food.

Consult your doctor before using, especially if you are prone to kidney stones.

Exogenous Ketones

This type of supplement can help raise the body’s ketone levels and may be especially useful in those with high levels of carb sensitivity.

Whey Protein Shakes

Whey protein is a the highest quality protein supplement, and can help increase protein intake in a more convenient manner for those who lack it in their diet. Look for products with pure whey content, and not those that fluff their product with concentrates to get a more quality protein.

Multi Vitamin

Ask your doctor or nutritionist about taking a multivitamin that can boost nutrient intake.

Want to kick-start your weight loss - the delicious & healthy way?

Lose body fat and eliminate out of control cravings and hunger, while still eating delicious foods. The ketogenic diet sounds like a dream come true. As with any new way of eating though, it takes time to get used to what you can and can’t eat, how to deal with eating out, and meal and recipe ideas to make at home. The Keto Kitchen is a FREE resource to help you on your keto journey. In here you will find guides, cheat sheets, shopping lists – and more.

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Hi! I'm Joelle...

Keto coach-in-training and health enthusiast.

Here at Kali Zone we’re not about being perfect.

We’re about making good choices, and taking one day at a time. We’re about good food and fun exercise. Improving our health and fitness in a sustainable, enjoyable way. And supporting each other along the way.

What is the ketogenic diet? This guide will help you through the entire keto journey and help your body reach the fat burning state of ketosis in no time.

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Want to kick-start your weight loss - the delicious & healthy way?

Lose body fat and eliminate out of control cravings and hunger, while still eating delicious foods. The Keto Kitchen is a FREE resource to help you on your keto journey. In here you will find guides, cheat sheets, shopping lists - and more.