Getting Started with the Keto Diet
By now, you have undoubtedly heard of the ketogenic diet, often referred to as the keto diet or simply keto. You’ve probably seen someone from your university posting crazy before and after photos boasting significant weight loss and talking about how easy it has been. So, why not look into this diet for yourself?
The ketogenic diet has been around longer than the fad—it was developed in the 1920s means to treat pediatric epilepsy. In fact, the keto diet is still prescribed to people whose seizures aren’t well controlled by modern pharmaceutical drugs alone. It’s no surprise that the diet industry latched onto this diet plan—the basics include severely reducing carbohydrate intake. What happens when you cut out carbs? Rapid weight loss. However, the keto diet is different than your more traditional low-carb diet trends like the Atkins diet. Let’s dive in.
What is the Keto Diet?
The ketogenic diet is defined by extremely low carbohydrate intake and very high fat intake. We mentioned that the diet shares similarities with all the other low-carb diet trends, but the one thing you will hear with the keto diet that you won’t with others are the words “ketones” and “ketosis.”
These phrases pop up when answering the question, “What is the keto diet?” They are essential to a keto lifestyle. Ketones and ketosis are the reason for switching up the standard macronutrient split to focus on fats instead of the body’s natural fuel source, carbs. There are some different variations of the keto diet, all designed to switch your body into ketosis.
Types of Ketogenic Diets
The following are the common variations of the ketogenic diet:
Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)
The cyclical keto diet combines standard “keto” days with a couple of days with higher carbohydrate allowances known as “re-feed” days. A typical split is five keto days followed by two re-feed days.
Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)
Like the CKD variation, the targeted keto diet allows for more carb intake strategically planned around workouts.
High Protein Ketogenic Die
This variation includes more protein than the standard keto version. A typical macro split is 5% carbs, 35% protein, and 60% fat.
Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)
The standard keto diet is the variation most people use, and it is also the only variation to which the research studies refer. The other variations have yet to be thoroughly researched. For this reason, we will focus on the standard variation. A typical macro split for the SKD is 10% carbs, 20% protein, and 70% fat.
In theory, following these specific macro splits will put your body into ketosis. So, what does that mean?
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a natural metabolic process that occurs when there is a high ratio of ketones in an individual’s blood. Ketones are chemicals produced by the liver. They are the product of metabolized fats. The body metabolizes fats when the glycogen reserves (from carbohydrates) are depleted. The body then uses ketones for fuel. Essentially, you use up all of the carbs you ingested and don’t replenish them so that your body starts to turn fats into ketones and use them for energy.
The goal of following the keto diet is to operate in a state of ketosis as much as possible, which ideally burns your excess fat and helps you lose weight.
Benefits of the Keto Diet
There are various benefits to following the keto diet, many with scientific research to back up the claims.
1. It’s Great for Weight Loss
A far cry from the popular low-fat diets of the 80s, studies have found that the keto diet is more effective than low-fat diet plans. Researchers believe that the diet’s increase in ketones combined with lower sugar and better insulin sensitivity is responsible for results in which adults lost five times as much body fat during an eight-week study than participants who followed a low-calorie, low-fat diet.
2. It Has the Potential to Manage or Reverse Diabetes
While these results might be related to weight loss and not specifically the keto diet, the keto diet is linked to controlling type 2 diabetes. One study showed that after one year of the ketogenic diet, people with type 2 diabetes needed less medication, lost weight, and lowered their A1c measurements.
3. It Has Other Potential Health Benefits
More studies are needed, but preliminary research links the ketogenic diet with other health benefits such as:
- improving heart health by reducing body fat, improving the good HDL cholesterol, lowing blood pressure, and improving blood sugar
- improving symptoms in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients
- slowing the growth of tumors in cancer patients
- improving polycystic ovary syndrome
- treating traumatic brain injuries
- treating epilepsy
Food on the Keto Diet
To get started with the keto diet, you must understand that you have to strictly limit carbohydrates to a daily consumption below 50 grams per day for about three to four consecutive days for the body to reach ketosis. The following foods are very high in carbohydrates and are typically eliminated from the diet. This is not an exhaustive list, and it will help to learn how to read nutrition labels to ensure what you are eating is keto diet food.
Foods to Eliminate:
- alcohol with carbs like wine, mixed drinks, beer, and most liquor
- highly processed sugar-free or low-fat diet foods
- unhealthy fats like mayonnaise and vegetable oils
- condiments like teriyaki sauce, ketchup, ranch, etc.
- processed sugary foods like cake, candy, ice cream, yogurts, fruit juices, etc.
- grains and starches like pasta, rice, cereal, and bread
- beans and legumes
- root vegetables like potatoes and carrots
Keto Diet Foods
We know the list of keto-no’s contains some “healthy” foods, so you’re likely wondering what you can eat. Again, this is not an exhaustive list, but most keto diet foods revolve around:
- meats like beef, poultry, and pork
- oils like olive oil and coconut oil
- vegetable with lower carbs, like leafy greens, tomatoes, onions, etc.
As with any diet, it’s best to find whole foods that work for you and avoid relying on convenient but processed diet foods. With the rise in the ketogenic diet’s popularity, a growing number of supplements and snacks are designed to appeal to people on the keto diet. These are excellent tools to have on hand for when you’re in a rut or to help you meet the diet’s high protein and fat requirements, but they should never be relied on entirely for the bulk of your nutrition.
Keto Diet Supplements
Some keto-friendly supplements that might help you to not only hit your nutritional goals each day but also combat the adverse side effects associated with starting and maintaining the diet include:
- Ketone Supplements - Ketovita by ANS Performance
ANS Performance shows up a lot on our keto-friendly supplement list because of their incredible Ketosys line of products designed to support the ketogenic diet. Ketovita is a ketone supplement with exogenic BHB ketones, essential vitamins, and electrolytes. Supplementing with ketones like those in Ketovita can help put your body into ketosis faster and ward off the keto flu symptoms when you’re in the transition period.
- Keto-Friendly Protein Supplements - Ketogenic Performance Fuel by ANS Performance
Most athletic people have a difficult time meeting the protein requirements to support healthy muscle growth. People on the ketogenic diet are no different, and while many protein supplements are very low carb, they also tend to be very low in healthy fats. There are better protein supplement options for the keto diet, like this performance fuel from the Ketosys by ANS Performance line. This supplement contains 20 grams of protein to support your active lifestyle and meet those protein goals, but it also contains a whopping 32 grams of healthy fats to help meet your fat goals, too.
- MCT Oil - 100% Pure MCT Oil by PVL
Speaking of healthy fats, many people on the keto diet like to include pure MCT or medium-chain triglycerides in their everyday diet. These heart-healthy fats provide carbohydrate-free energy and fuel.
- Keto Snack Bars - Keto Wow Snack Bars by ANS Performance
Most protein bars and granola bars you might typically use to satisfy hunger in a rush are off-limits to the ketogenic dieter. Instead, keep some keto-friendly snack bars handy. They contain 180 calories, 8 grams of protein, and only four net carbohydrates.
- Keto-Friendly Functional Foods - Ketomate Coffee, Tea and Shake Booster by ANS Performance
Like traditional protein bars, most coffee creamers are out on the keto diet. If you’ve made it this far but are about to throw out the idea because you can’t bear to part with your beloved morning coffee and cream, don’t fret. Keto-friendly creamers like Ketomate are here for you. With 110 calories, 9 grams of fat, and only one net carb, this beverage booster tastes great and keeps you on track with your diet.
Keto Pancake Mix and Keto Brownie Mix by ANS Performance
Arguably the most challenging part of any diet is missing out on comfort foods like pancakes and brownies. With ANS Performance’s keto-friendly options, you’ll be able to have the foods you love on occasion without wrecking your progress. These are great options to keep on hand because some indulgence can help with diet adherence in the long run.
Sample Keto Day of Eating
To give you an idea of what a day of eating looks like on the ketogenic diet, here is a sample meal plan for a day:
Breakfast: a keto-friendly smoothie with ice, almond milk, avocado, spinach, and keto-friendly protein powder
Morning Snack: egg bite muffins with red peppers, green onions, and cheddar cheese
Lunch: lunch meat and cheese slice roll-ups with a handful of nuts
Afternoon Snack: celery sticks smeared with PB2
Dinner: taco lettuce wraps with ground beef
The Dreaded Keto Flu
The keto diet is safe for most healthy adults, but because your body isn’t accustomed to using fat for fuel, you might experience some unpleasant side effects as your body adapts. These symptoms are lovingly referred to as the keto flu, and they can include:
- low energy
- brain fog and reduced mental function
- excessive hunger
- trouble sleeping
- upset stomach and diarrhea
- fatigue during exercise and reduced performance
- night sweats and chills
Symptoms typically resolve by themselves in about a week, but you might be feeling lousy for up to a month in more extreme cases. Some people don’t experience any symptoms at all.
A Few Words of Caution Regarding the Keto Diet
The keto diet is not a diet that can extend to the whole family—growing children and teenagers cannot thrive on a low carbohydrate diet. Even clinically obese children require carbohydrates to grow, maintain their natural activity level and use their brains for things like homework or problem-solving. Teens and children should only ever be put on the ketogenic diet by the prescription of a trusted medical professional for specific health conditions.
The keto diet is rising in popularity because it really does work. Any time you cut out carbohydrates, you will experience weight loss. The problem is that the keto diet is restrictive, and in general, restriction rarely creates lasting results. As soon as you resume eating carbs again, you might put back on all the weight you had lost and more.
A diet is only good if you can maintain it. If you’ve struggled with disordered eating, obsessive calorie counting, or cyclical yo-yo dieting, the keto diet might not work any better for you than the other diets have. You might be better off learning about intuitive eating and mindful eating.
If you choose to follow the keto diet, ketone supplements can help you over the keto flu hump, and keto-friendly supplements can help you meet your nutritional goals to keep you healthy and happy while you crush your weight loss goals.