It is rare that a person has only tried one diet and stuck with it. When dieting, they achieve some (or a lot of) success; however, once they return to their “normal” way of eating, they put on all the weight they’ve lost, plus more! The key when you want to lose weight is finding a diet that (1) works for you, (2) is sustainable – thus, becoming a lifestyle and not something temporary – and (3) is something that is natural.
The keto diet ticks all of these boxes and we’ll delve into the why in the next couple of sections.
Here is a short rundown of what you can expect to learn about in this Keto Starter Guide:
• What is the ketogenic diet
• Health benefits and overall pros
• Side effects and information about the keto flu, plus how to deal with it successfully
• Foods you can eat and what to avoid
• How to get started
• Combining keto and intermittent fasting for great results
• Some other tips and tricks to make the following keto as easy as possible
Let’s get started!
The ketogenic diet, commonly shortened to the keto (pronounced key-toe) diet, is a high-fat, low-carb, and moderate protein diet, which causes your liver to produce ketones to change the source of energy your body uses from sugar to fat.
This diet has recently gained a lot of popularity, with search results on Google nearly exploding.
And while many may think this is a relatively new diet, it was developed in the 1920s and 30s as therapy for epilepsy and metabolic diseases.
So, why this newfound interest in keto? Well, this diet helps you burn more fat, more effectively, and has many health benefits, besides the main one people turn to this diet for losing weight.
Common Keto Terms
There are a handful of terms you will need to know on your keto journey, and your success relies on your understanding of these as well as the changes your body will undergo.
Benefits of the Keto Diet
There are many diets claiming to have various benefits, both in general and for certain health issues. The keto diet, however, can back up its claims with over 500 studies to date with evidence that it is a form of medical nutritional therapy. This means the keto diet has many health benefits, with new research studies ongoing.
Here are the 7 main benefits of the following keto:
1. Weight loss & the fight against obesity
The most common use and benefit of the keto diet is weight loss. Restricting carbohydrates is one of the most effective ways to achieve weight loss as a low-carb, high-fat diet helps you get rid of any excess water (think: no more – or very little – water weight!) and lowers your insulin levels. This leads to rapid weight loss in the first couple of weeks when you start the keto diet.
Furthermore, once your body reaches a state of ketosis, it will burn ketones instead of glucose for energy. You will, essentially, become a fat-burning machine – your body will burn body fat at a fast rate to use as fuel.
2. Reduced appetite
One of the worst side effects of many diets is hunger; this is also one of the key reasons diets are unsustainable.
On the plus side with keto, you will benefit from a reduced appetite as protein and fat keep you satisfied for longer. Additionally, when you cut carbs and eat more fat and protein, you will likely consume fewer calories than people following a high carb diet.
3. Decreased triglycerides
Triglycerides are a type of fat that is found in your bloodstream. High levels of triglycerides after an overnight fast are a high risk of heart disease and a key driver of increased triglycerides in a sedentary person is their consumption of carbs, especially simple sugars such as fructose. However, when you follow a low-carb diet, like keto, you’ll experience a sharp decline in triglycerides.
4. More good cholesterol & less bad cholesterol
Low-carb diets are often high in healthy fats, which helps increase your levels of good cholesterol, or high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Bad cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL), increases your risk of heart diseases; however, just like the following keto improves HDL, so does it increase the size of LDL particles in your blood, thus reducing their harmful effects. Keto promotes heart health!
5. Decreased insulin & blood sugar levels
Restricting carbs in a ketogenic diet helps to decrease your blood sugar and insulin levels. This is key for people suffering from insulin resistance and diabetes. Research has shown that diabetics starting a low- carb diet may need to decrease their dosage of insulin by half.
Pro Tip: Check with your doctor first if you are planning to make changes to your intake of carbs while taking blood sugar medication. Your dosage may require adjusting to prevent low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
6. Lower blood pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a serious risk factor for a variety of diseases, from kidney failure and heart disease to a stroke. To help combat hypertension, follow a low- carb diet.
7. Reversal of metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome increases your risk for type 2 diabetes, a stroke, and heart disease.
Following the keto diet can effectively reverse metabolic syndrome, which includes 5 risk factors (all of which keto combats):
1. high blood pressure
2. high levels of blood sugar 3. abdominal obesity
4. high levels of triglycerides 5. low levels of HDL (good cholesterol)
Possible Side Effects of Keto
While the keto diet has a plethora of health benefits, there are a few possible side effects. The benefits far outweigh the risks with proper knowledge and preparation.
Here are the 3 main possible side effects of the Ketogenic Diet:
1. Keto flu
The keto flu is a common side effect of the keto diet, affecting mostly those starting the diet in the beginning stages. You can expect flu-like symptoms due to your body getting used to burning ketones and an electrolyte imbalance.
Symptoms of the keto flu include:
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Insomnia and feeling tired
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Carb cravings
- Headaches and brain fog
- Muscle pain
- The good news is that the keto flu is temporary, lasting about 1 to 2 weeks. There are a few things you can do to manage the side effects:
- Drink water to help reduce feeling weak and muscle cramps.
- Take it easy but keep moving. If you aren’t feeling up to high-intensity workouts, then walking or yoga is good alternatives.
- Replenish your electrolytes by drinking water with Himalayan pink salt.
• Rest when you can; create a calming night-time routine and get in a habit regarding when you go to bed and wake up each morning.
2. Digestive issues
Starting the keto diet means you’ll likely experience a change in your bowel movements; stomach cramping, constipation, diarrhea and bloating are common side effects as the meal plan, in general, is lower in fiber if you aren’t tracking how much fiber you are getting.
Here are a few tips to help with digestive side effects:
- Introduce MCT oil and coconut products gradually to get your body get used to them, especially if you haven’t used these prior to starting keto.
- Increase your fiber intake with keto-friendly food, like spinach and broccoli. You can also take psyllium husk.
- Take probiotics to help fight the negative changes in your gut bacteria.
3. Cholesterol levels
You learned about the cholesterol benefits of following a keto diet plan above in the Benefits of Keto section; however, it is important to note that a higher intake of saturated fat can cause cholesterol particles to increase in size in some people, particularly those with a family history of heart disease. Genetics can play a significant role in heart disease and high levels of cholesterol.
Pro Tip: Talk to your doctor and get your levels tested regularly if you start the keto diet and have concerns about your cholesterol levels.
Also, have a look at this very informative video:
When to Avoid the Keto Diet
Some people have a higher mortality risk when following the keto diet long term due to multiple factors, like changes in gut bacteria, metabolism of nutrients that’s influenced by genetics, a higher intake of animal proteins, and reduced intakes of nutrients and fiber.
The keto diet should also be off-limits if you:
• Are pregnant
• Have liver or kidney disease
• Have type 1 diabetes
• Have genetic metabolic diseases
In these cases, it is best to get clearance from your doctor and to discuss the risk factors.
What to Eat & Avoid on Keto
There are a wide variety of foods that are keto-friendly, just like there are those that are keto-UNfriendly. The greater variety of keto-friendly foods you consume, the greater your nutrient intake – this is ideal for preventing any nutrient deficiencies. Let’s take a closer look.
Here is a list (although not exhaustive) of keto-friendly foods you can have while following this diet:
- Fats – avocado, butter, ghee, coconut products, oils, seeds, and nuts
- Fruits – berries, lemon, lime, and coconut
- Vegetables – cruciferous veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, kale), leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard), peppers, sprouts, asparagus, green beans, cucumbers, tomato, and zucchini (Note: Veggies like pumpkin and carrots are higher in carbs and should be eaten in moderation.)
- Proteins – beef, chicken, eggs, fish, pork, turkey, seafood, tofu, and protein powders (check the label for carb content)
- Beverages – water, unsweetened tea, and coffee
Foods to Avoid
In general, you want to avoid foods that are rich in carbohydrates as these jeopardize your ability to stay in ketosis and may limit weight loss. Here is a list (also not exhaustive) of foods to avoid:
- Grains – Wheat, oats, rice, quinoa, and corn
- Beans and legumes – black beans, kidney beans, and lentils
- Diary – low-fat milk, whipped cream, and cream cheese (opt for full-fat options), shredded cheese, and ice cream
- Fruits – apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, dried fruit, and fruit juices
- Starchy vegetables – potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Sugars – cane sugar, honey, high- fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, and sucralose (Note: Try stevia or monk fruit as healthy alternatives)
- Processed meat – hot dogs, canned meat, and beef jerky
- Beverages – beer, cocktails, sweet wines, sodas, and other sweetened drinks