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What is a Ketogenic Diet: A Beginner's Guide

It seems unlikely at this point that there is anyone who has not heard of the ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet has become far more than another trend diet, and the terms that define the ketogenic diet have largely entered the common language. There are ketogenic recipes all over social media, and you can even find sections in grocery stores devoted to ketogenic foods. 

But separating out the popular trends and the scientific facts is another matter. The science behind the ketogenic diet is sound. A Ketogenic Diet can be a real option for losing weight and getting fit, but it is important to understand know how to go about a ketogenic diet in the most healthy and effective ways. 

While the basics of ketogenic diets are everywhere online, it is important to know the real facts on how to proceed with a ketogenic diet. While a ketogenic diet has some similarities to a standard low-carb diet, it is not exactly the same process. To get the benefits of a ketogenic diet, we need to understand how it differs from other similar diets. Ketogenic diets regulate both carbs and fats. As we will see, sticking to a ketogenic diet can be a healthy way to lose weight and get fit. 

What is a keto diet?

A ketogenic diet focuses on lowering carbs and increasing fats to lower blood sugar and insulin levels. This alters your body's metabolism so that you burn fats instead of carbs. By reducing the levels of complex carbohydrates, the metabolism must burn fats in order to generate energy. 

A ketogenic diet, often simply called the keto diet, works by strictly limiting carbs. It differs from the so-called "Adkins diet," because a ketogenic diet helps you accomplish your fitness goals by replacing carbs with fats. By causing a drastic reduction in carbs, the ketogenic diet causes a physiological reaction called ketosis. 

Put simply, ketosis is a metabolic state in which fat becomes the primary fuel for the body. Rather than the ordinary course of metabolism that relies on glycogens derived from carbohydrates, ketosis happens when the levels of glycogens are reduced to a point at which the body must draw on its reserves for energy. These reserves are typically fats. 

The keto diet drastically lowers blood sugar and insulin. This has been shown to have multiple health benefits which we will detail below. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the keto diet is healthy and will help you lose weight and get fit. 

What are ketones?

Ketones consist of a group of organic chemicals that naturally occur in the human body. Ketones are present in the body whether we adhere to s specific diet or not. The presence of ketones in the blood is often tracked as a marker of diabetes, but the mere presence of ketones is a healthy and normal part of metabolic processes. 

Our bodies produce ketones when you do not have enough insulin in your body to convert sugars into energy. When this happens, you need another source of energy, and your body begins to metabolize fats. 

Your liver will turn ketones into a type of organic acid and release this into the bloodstream. From this, your muscles and body tissues can produce energy in the absence of sugars. 

What to eat on a keto diet?

keto

Many people are surprised to find out what you can eat on a ketogenic diet. Unlike low-fat diets and low-calorie diets, you can eat some hearty foods while on a ketogenic diet. Below is a list of foods that are acceptable for a keto diet.

  • Meat: Red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon (yes, bacon), chicken, and turkey. 
  • Fatty fish: Salmons, trout, and tuna are the top choices. 
  • Eggs. Cage-free or omega-3 whole eggs. 
  • Butter and cream: Grass-fed
  • Cheese: Make sure you buy unprocessed cheese. Cheddar, goat, cream, blue, mozzarella. 
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc. These make great keto snacks. 
  • Avocadoes: Fresh guacamole, for example. 
  • Healthy oils: Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil. 
  • Low-carb vegetables: Tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc. 
  • Salt, pepper, healthy unprocessed herbs, and spice. 

Part of the appeal of a ketogenic diet is that you are able to eat all kinds of foods that are filling and satisfying. 

What to avoid on a keto diet?

Again, one of the best things about a ketogenic diet is the number of things you are able to eat as opposed to a traditional diet that involves counting calories. However, there are a number of things you cannot eat on a ketogenic diet. 

keto diet

Examples of foods that you should avoid altogether on the Keto diet:

  • Grains

  • Pastas

  • Starchy vegetables

  • High-sugar fruits

  • Sweetened yogurt

  • Soda and fruit juices

  • Honey, syrup, or sugar in any form

  • Chips and crackers

  • Baked goods, including gluten-free

  • Corn products

  • Seed oils

  • Sugary snacks

The main thing is to avoid carbs of all kinds. Most product labels will tell you how many carbohydrate grams are in them. 

Keto macros: What are they?

If you have done any reading at all about the ketogenic diet, you have undoubtedly come across discussions of keto macros. Macro is simply short for macronutrients. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, protein, and fats. These are the essential dietary compounds we need to survive. 

Carbohydrates are the only macros we do not absolutely require for health and survival. We can safely eliminate carb macros and still maintain our health. 

In order to properly count carb macros, you will need to start reading product labels. These offer the information that is essential to separate total carbs from net carbs. To arrive at net carbs, you simply look at the total carbs on the product label and subtract the fiber content. This will give you the net carb macros in any given product and allow you to stay within your daily allotment of carbs. 

Proteins, on the other hand, are absolutely essential for our health and well-being. Proteins are the building blocks of muscle tissue, hormones, and enzymes, they make up a large part of the immune system, and our blood is partly made from proteins. You need to make certain you are getting the correct amount of protein macros. 

For a ketogenic diet, the key is to consume enough protein to preserve your body mass. As a general rule, protein levels should stick with these formulae:

  • 0.7 to 0.8 grams of dietary protein per pound of muscle to preserve muscle mass
  • 0.8 to 1.2 grams of dietary protein per pound of muscle to gain muscle mass

You will see that you have the option to preserve body mass or gain body mass. This is a crucial difference between keto and other diets. With a ketogenic diet, you do not think in terms of pounds. Rather, you are focused on the type of body mass, and in this case, you are looking for lean muscle.  

It is important to not go overboard with protein. You can cause stress to your kidneys by consuming too much protein. Stay within the rough guidelines above, and you will see excellent results. 

Fats are the other macro that remains important for a ketogenic diet. Fats are important for absorbing certain vitamins. They provide protection for internal organs and maintain cell membranes. We also know that fats provide flavor for food. 

The important thing to remember with fats and a ketogenic diet is to stick with healthy fats. These include things like oils, butter, avocado, heavy cream, animal fat, nuts, and seeds. 

How to get into ketosis?

In order to get the full benefits of a ketogenic diet, you will need to get your body into a condition called ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body must convert fats into molecules called ketones to use as a source of energy in the absence of the glucose that comes from carbs. 

You will achieve ketosis simply by drastically reducing the number of carbs you consume. Your carb count should be under 50 grams per day to make the switch to ketones as a source of fuel. The amount of time this takes varies from person to person, but it generally takes 2-4 days for your body to reach the state where it must rely on ketosis. 

The amount of time varies due to your carb, protein, and fat intake. It can depend on age and your individual metabolism. If you have been consuming large amounts of carbohydrates before going on a ketogenic diet, it may take longer to reach ketosis. 

Keto flu & side effects

keto-flu

The ketogenic diet is medically safe and effective. However, some people may experience certain side effects while adjusting to the keto diet. Some of the side effects include:

Energy loss, poor mental function, increased hunger, and sleep problems are all generally referred to as the “keto flu.” Most of these side effects occur in the early phases of the diet. Drinking plenty of water and adding extra salt to your meals can help minimize or eliminate these symptoms. 

Accelerated weight loss. You can experience drastic weight loss in the beginning. Take care to not overly restrict your calorie intake in the first couple of weeks. 

Keto FAQS

What is a ketogenic diet? 

A ketogenic diet focuses on lowering carbs and increasing fats to lower blood sugar and insulin levels. This alters your body's metabolism so that you burn fats instead of carbs. By reducing the levels of complex carbohydrates, the metabolism must burn fats in order to generate energy. 

What are ketones? 

Ketones consist of a group of organic chemicals that naturally occur in the human body. Ketones are present in the body whether we adhere to s specific diet or not. The presence of ketones in the blood is often tracked as a marker of diabetes, but the mere presence of ketones is a healthy and normal part of metabolic processes. 

What can I eat on a ketogenic diet? 

You can eat almost anything you like as long as it contains little to no carbohydrates. Things that typically make up a keto diet include meats, fish, and poultry. You can also eat plenty of eggs, butter, and cheese. 

What should I not eat on a ketogenic diet? 

Grains, pastas, starchy vegetables, high-sugar fruits, and soda and fruit juices. 

What are keto macros? 

Macro is simply short for macronutrients. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, protein, and fats. These are the essential dietary compounds we need to survive. Carbohydrates are the only macros we do not absolutely require for health and survival. We can safely eliminate carb macros and still maintain our health. 

What is ketosis? 

In order to get the full benefits of a ketogenic diet, you will need to get your body into a condition called ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body must convert fats into molecules called ketones to use a source of energy in the absence of the glucose that comes from carbs. 

Conclusion

The ketogenic diet has steadily gained in popularity over the past several years. The rise of the ketogenic diet s a popular weight loss option is not simply a matter of fads. This popularity, it turns out, is based on real benefits. 

A ketogenic diet is healthy. You can burn fat while retaining, and even increasing, muscle mass. What is more, you get to eat most of your favorite foods while on a ketogenic diet. Rather than counting calories, which usually means cutting out almost everything we like to eat, you simply reduce the number of carbohydrates you consume. 

By drastically cutting carbs, the body switches its metabolic mechanisms to burn fat. Instead of feeding the metabolism with glucose from carbohydrates, our body begins to metabolize fats with a process called ketosis.

You will need to get in the habit of reading product labels. In order to ensure that you are not exceeding the allowed level of carbs, you need to begin figuring out your net carb intake. But this is a matter of simple math. It is nothing like the complex counting and comparing that goes into counting calories.  

Once you get the hang of it, a ketogenic diet is easy and effective. You will quickly begin to see great results. 

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