All information in KETO APP FAQ is written and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.
What is the Keto diet?
The keto diet is more than a popular diet. It’s a “viral diet”, according to fitness journalist and author, Anthony Roberts. (1) And there are probably two main reasons why Keto is viral right now. First of all, it’s not necessarily a new diet. It’s a high-fat, low-carb diet that compares to other weight loss programs like South Beach and Atkins. As Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD and founder of health company, Diet Doctor, says, the keto diet is a “super-charged version of an old idea.” (2)
Another reason why the keto diet has lasting power is because it works. Along with helping countless people lose weight, the Keto diet also helps with type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, brain health and so much more.
So, what is the Keto diet? It’s a low-carb, high-fat and moderate-protein lifestyle that allows the body to use fat for energy rather than sugar. Similar to the paleo diet, which is built off the premise that we should only eat foods that our ancient ancestors would have been able to eat, the keto diet argues that our ancestors didn’t have access to refined carbohydrates and sugar. And we might not be adapted for these foods either – especially not in the high amounts we consume them in today.
High carbohydrate diets, especially those replete with processed and refined sugars are wreaking havoc on health and wellness – leading to things like inflammation, weight gain, obesity, cardiovascular problems, brain health, diabetes and more.
What does “keto” mean?
“Keto” comes from the word “ketogenic”, which is the metabolic state in which the body gets its energy from fat. Sometimes, you’ll see the keto and ketogenic used interchangeably for this diet. If you’re not following a ketogenic, or low-carb diet, you’re most likely getting your energy from carbohydrates, or glucose.
Most people get energy from carbohydrates
The main premise of the Keto diet is placing the body in a state of “ketosis” so that it can burn fat instead of sugar for energy. Doing so helps you lose weight, stabilize blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, along with a whole slew of other health benefits. How does ketosis work?
Before answering that question, take a look at how most people get their energy: from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates always get broken down into sugar, or glucose. It doesn’t matter if your carbohydrate of choice is a chocolate donut or an apple. Your body takes these carbohydrates and breaks them down into usable energy, called glucose. When there’s an increase in glucose in your bloodstream, there’s also an increase in insulin.
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas and it’s crucial for helping your body metabolize sugar or fat. Insulin’s main job is instructing cells to take glucose out of the blood stream. This keeps the blood sugar levels from becoming or remaining too high. This also allows insulin levels to return to a healthy physiological level.
Once the cells have taken their fill of glucose, insulin sends the remaining glucose over to the liver. From there, it gets stored as fat throughout the body. One of the most prominent places where insulin stores fat is in the midsection. Elevated insulin levels also prevent the body from burning fat.
Getting energy from carbohydrates is the most common way for people to get their energy. How do you get energy and burn fat on the low-carb, high-fat Keto diet?
How ketosis works
When you reduce your carb intake, as well as eating moderate protein, you influence insulin. Remember, insulin spikes when you eat carbohydrates. Insulin can spike a lot or a little, depending on where that carb is ranked in the glycemic index. But if you maintain a low-carb diet, two things happen.
First, your body runs out of usable glucose for energy. Second, your insulin levels stay low. But your body needs energy from something, so it switches over to become a fat-burning machine rather than what it’s always been: a sugar-burning machine.
This switch happens when your liver takes fat and produces molecules called “ketones”, which your body – and brain! – use as their new form of fuel. There are several different types of ketones, including acetate, acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutryate (BHB).
When your body enters into a state of ketosis, you obtain all of your energy from fat, which is a very efficient and smooth source of energy compared to glucose. Fat doesn’t trigger an insulin response the way glucose does. On the Keto diet, insulin levels remain stable. For this reason, it’s harder to store fat in the body and easier to lose weight.
On the Keto diet, you still have healthy blood sugar levels. However, as long as you keep your carbohydrates adequately low enough and eat the right amount of healthy fats, just enough glucose is derived from amino acids (building blocks of protein) and the breakdown of fatty acids.
Doesn’t the brain need glucose?
Glucose is excellent brain fuel. But the brain can run on a low-carb diet, too. The brain cannot directly use fat as energy. To make sure the brain always has enough fuel, the liver creates ketones from fat, which the brain can use for fuel. And it’s not just that the brain gets by with ketones. It may actually be better off with them. Research shows that the Keto diet can boost the number of mitochondria, which are basically the power plants inside brain cells. (3) In fact, some argue that making brain energy from ketones is more efficient than making it from glucose. (4)
This boost in cellular energy is thought to be the reason why the Keto diet can boost memory, learning and cognitive function, as well as preventing age-related brain degeneration.
Ketosis is not the same as being in “starvation mode”
Weight loss is often a good and necessary thing. But the brain can feel threatened by this and try to “save” you. Starvation mode can occur in some diets when the brain senses calorie restrictions. To protect your body and energy levels, your brain tries to conserve as much energy as possible by slowing down the amount of calories you burn. (5) During starvation, your body can also tap into muscles stores to fuel the body.
This is not the same as ketosis. The Keto diet mimics starvation by placing the body in a ketogenic state by restricting carbohydrates, but you don’t cut them out completely. Additionally, you eat moderate amounts of protein and high amounts of fat. In short, you are not starving the body or enforcing severe calorie restrictions.
You definitely restrict carbs, but not calories. By doing so, you fuel your body and support sustainable weight loss without feeling hungry.
The difference between ketosis and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)
Ketones are molecules that provide fuel for the body. In healthy ketosis™ – a term coined by Dr. Eric Berg, DC and author of The 7 Principles of Fat Burning, “You don’t lose weight and get healthy. Rather, you get healthy to lose weight….Ketosis is healthy because it allows you to run your body on a cleaner fuel.” (6)
In nutritional ketosis, i.e., the Keto diet, your body produces ketones for energy, which is a normal and healthy process when there isn’t any glucose. The result is low levels of ketones in the blood.
In the condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA, ketones rise to toxic levels and can lead to acidic blood, which can be dangerous if left untreated. DKA occurs when diabetic individuals don’t take enough insulin, or when they become sick. DKA can also occur in individuals who are starving, or are alcoholics.
However, if you create nutritional ketosis as laid out in the Keto diet, you are not at risk for DKA.
How long does it take for the body to enter into ketosis
Most people burn sugar for energy for much of their lives. So, the body doesn’t switch to burning fat automatically. There’s always a transition time and it can be as short as 48 hours, or up to a week. It depends on different factors, like your activity levels, body type, lifestyle and carbohydrate intake.
In general, the body kicks into ketosis once the liver is depleted of its glycogen stores. Since the liver only holds enough glycogen to provide glucose for 12 to 16 hours, if you limit your net carbs to 20 grams or less, your body should shift into ketosis within 24 hours.
How to start the Keto diet
The whole point of the Keto diet is to help your body enter into a state of ketosis so you start using fat, rather than glucose, for energy. In order to do that, you need to eat the right foods in the right amounts.
All three macronutrients, carbohydrates, fats and proteins, are allowed. However, you need to eat them in the right proportion. The Keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat and moderate-protein diet. This means your daily caloric intake should be approximately 5% carbohydrates, 70% fat and 25% protein.
It might seem impossible to lose weight when 70% of your total daily calories come from fat. But based on how carbs, fat and protein effect ketosis, this breakdown makes perfect sense.
Carbohydrates are completely anti-ketogenic. This means they will always raise the level of glucose in the blood, and therefore, insulin levels. Remember, when insulin levels are elevated, the body doesn’t burn fat for energy, but rather, glucose.
Fat, on the other hand, is about 90% ketogenic. Therefore, when fat comprises most of your daily calories, you allow your body to stay in ketosis. Fat doesn’t necessary influence ketosis. That’s what carbs and protein do. What is fat’s role in the Keto diet? According to Lyle McDonald, author of The Ketogenic Diet, “Fat intake will primarily affect how much body fat is used for fuel.” (7) That’s why it’s important not to overdo it on fat. Yes, it plays a n important role in the Keto diet, but consuming too many calories can increase your overall caloric intake and actually slow weight loss.
Protein is a 50-50 food. 46% of protein is ketogenic, while the rest is anti-ketogenic. The reason for this is because over 50% of the protein we consume gets converted into glucose, which therefore, raises insulin and prevents fat burning. For this reason, the Keto diet allows for moderate protein intake. Too much will throw you out of ketosis.
Within each of those three macronutrient groups, you also need to avoid or include specific foods to enter into and stay in a ketogenic state.
In addition to eating keto-friendly foods, and eating them in the right ratio, you also need to prepare for the “Keto Flu”, which happens when the body transitions into a state of ketosis.
How many CARBS can you eat on the Keto diet?
It’s crucial to keep carbohydrates low on the Keto diet. They are the only macronutrient that has a meaningful impact on ketosis. But just how low? In order to understand your carb limit, use a Keto Calculator by clicking here or here. (Not sure if the App has a calculator?) By inputting your basic information, like age, weight, height, gender and activity level, you will see suggested amounts for each macronutrient.
In general, you will end up with a limit of 25 to 30 grams of net carbohydrates per day. How many net carbohydrates you need can depend on how fast or slow your metabolism is, your insulin tolerance levels, and activity levels, too.
What are net carbs?
But what are net carbs exactly? Net carbs are carbohydrates minus their fiber content. Why don’t we count fiber in the total carb count? Fiber isn’t digestible and it doesn’t trigger an insulin response. Therefore, the fiber amount doesn’t count toward your total carb count for the day. This also applies to certain non-digestible sugar alcohols, such as erythritol. The reason for this is because they don’t get broken down into glucose, or the body doesn’t absorb them.
Carbs you can eat on the Keto diet
You can enjoy a wide variety of carbohydrates by consuming specific fruits, vegetables and nuts. Below you can find an extensive list for each food:
Following every fruit, you will see the net carb amount in grams for a 100-gram serving (8)
- Raspberries (5)
- Blackberries (5)
- Strawberries (6)
- Coconut (6)
- Lemon (6)
- Lime (8)
- Kiwi (12)
- Plum (10)
- Blueberries (12)
Avoid high-sugar fruits, like bananas, apples, oranges, grapes and pineapple.
A good rule of thumb for veggies on the Keto diet is to eat vegetables that grow above ground. They usually contain less carbs than those which grow below ground, like carrots, potatoes, turnips, onions, etc. And while it is true that some vegetables have more carbs than others, it’s important to include vegetables in your diet to promote and support a healthy microbiome and digestive system.
For every 100 grams of each vegetable, here is the net carb amount: (9)
- Broccoli Raab (0.15)
- Spinach (1.43)
- Asparagus (1.78)
- Radish (1.8)
- Avocado (1.84)
- Lettuce (2)
- Arugula (2.05)
- Zucchini (2.11)
- Swiss chard (2.14)
- Mushrooms (2.26)
- Tomatoes (2.69)
- Bell peppers (2.9)
- Cauliflower (2.97)
- Eggplant (3)
- Artichokes (3.88)
- Cucumber (3.13)
- Broccoli (4.04)
- Brussels sprouts (5.15)
- Kale (5.15)
- Onions (7.64)
In general, vegetables with a net carb value of 5 or less can be eaten freely. Veggies that have 5 or more net carbs should be eaten with caution. These are not the only keto-friendly vegetables, but this quick list gives you an idea.
Just like fruits and vegetables, some nuts have a higher net carb amount than others. (10) Here’s a basic breakdown of nectars per 100 grams.
- Pecan (4)
- Brazil (4)
- Macadamia (5)
- Hazelnut (7)
- Walnut (7)
- Peanut (7)
- Pine (9)
- Almond (10)
- Pistachio (18)
- Cashew (27)
Based on their low net carb amounts, the best nut choices for the Keto diet are pecans, Brazil nuts and Macadamia.
Carbs to avoid on the Keto diet
There are plenty of yummy carbs you can eat while following the Keto diet, but there are also many carbs to avoid.
- High-sugar fruit
- Potatoes and most root vegetables
- Sugar, including natural sugars like honey and maple syrup
- Grains, and their food products, like pasta, bagels, bread and rice
- Baked goods, including donuts, cookies, cakes, muffins, etc.
- Candy, like chocolates, lollipops, etc.
- Alcoholic beverages, like beer and certain cocktails, including rum & coke, white russian, gin & tonic, and vodka & orange juice (11)
Artificial sweeteners on the Keto diet
We know that sugar causes a spike in insulin, but what about artificial sweeteners. There are many varieties out there, and research has found that many of the popular artificial sweeteners do not elicit an insulin response. (12). If you would like to add them to your diet, be sure to educate yourself on which ones are best for the Keto diet.
Carb “hacks” on the Keto diet: do they work?
You may have heard about negating bad carbs with good carbs. That means eating a low net carb food to make up for a high net carb food. For example, eating lots of lettuce to make up for a bowl of ice-cream. However, you can’t negate, or cancel out, high net carbs with low net carbs.
Another way some try to get around the powerful effect carbohydrates have on ketosis is by taking “carb blockers.” And while studies do show that they may be effective in preventing the absorption of some carbohydrates, they are always a type of supplement. (13) As such, they should not replace a healthy lifestyle, which in this case, is the Keto diet.
The Keto diet requires low carbohydrates to enter into a ketogenic, fat-burning state. Using carb blockers may only set you back.
Can you ever have more carbs on Keto diet?
You might get tired of the small list of keto-friendly fruits. And boredom is something you want to avoid on any diet – especially a diet where low-carb is key to remaining in a ketogenic state.
After being on the Keto diet for 2 – 3 months, and after you’re comfortably keto-adapted, you may enjoy a higher-carb fruit on occasion. Just be sure you return to your regular Keto diet immediately.
How much PROTEIN can you eat on the Keto diet?
Carbohydrate intake is extremely important in the Keto diet. However, protein is crucial, too. It’s true carbs have a much more direct impact on insulin levels, you shouldn’t underestimate protein.
It’s common to read about how healthy lean (low-fat) protein is. But on the Keto diet, be sure to look for high-fat protein sources. According to Dr. Berg, “The fattier the animal protein, the lower its effect on insulin.” (14)
And even though protein contains the basic building blocks (amino acids) for the human body, and provides muscle fuel, too much protein is problematic. It will get broken down into glucose, increase insulin levels and pushing your body out of ketosis.
Basically, when it comes to protein, you want to be like Goldilocks and find the ratio that’s “Juust right.” When you do, you stay in ketosis. Plus, you provide your muscles with fuel so they can help you burn body fat.
Protein should make up about 25% of your daily caloric intake. In general, most people only need to consume between 0.6 to 1.0grams of protein per pound of lean body mass per day. Dr. Eric Berg, DC, recommends three to six ounces of protein per meal while on the Keto diet. (15 ) To get more specific about your protein allowance, use a Keto Calculator by clicking here or here.
You’ll notice, that keto-friendly protein is largely animal-based. Be sure to avoid meat that is prepared and/or packed with glazes or sauces, or meats topped with breading or batter.
- Poultry, including chicken, duck and turkey (Avoid products that have been bulked up with flour)
- Cured meats (Avoid meats cured with sugars and honey)
- Shellfish, such as clams, scallops, lobster, crabs and oysters (Always double check shellfish and seafood as some have a high carb content.
- Wild game, such as venison
(Use more info from https://www.verywellfit.com/high-protein-foods-and-the-amount-of-protein-in-each-2242514)
- https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/keto, visited 10/30/2018
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15469884, visited 10/30/2018
- https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201104/your-brain-ketones, visited 10/30/2018
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22535969, visited 10//20/2018
- https://www.drberg.com/blog-article/ketogenic-diet-plan, visited 10//20/2018
- The Ketogenic Diet, by Lyle McDonald, page 52
- https://www.instagram.com/p/BnzjoTogVnu/?taken-by=keto.connect, visited 10/30/2018
- https://www.ruled.me/best-low-carb-vegetables-ketogenic-diet/, visited 10/30/2018
- https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/keto/nuts, visited 10/30/2018
- https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/keto/alcohol-guide, visited 10/30/2018
- https://www.marksdailyapple.com/artificial-sweeteners-insulin/#axzz1pyVZNann, visited 10/30/2018
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26824775, visited 10/30/2018
- https://www.drberg.com/blog-article/ketogenic-diet-plan, visited 10/30/2018
- Ibid., visited 10/30/2018
How much FAT can you eat on the Keto diet?
Fat should make up about 70 percent of your daily intake. For many people, that’s a lot to wrap your head around. For years, we’ve been told that fat is bad and leads not only to weight gain, but to many serious health concerns, like heart disease. But in the decades since the government has promoted a low-fat, high-carb diet, the increase in diabetes, obesity and chronic disease has skyrocketed. (1, 2, 3, 4)
Here, we have a diet that is loaded with fat that supports sustainable weight loss and optimal health. How is this possible?
Don’t be scared of dietary fat or the high amounts of it required in the Keto diet. Yes, it stands in direct opposition to recommendations from both the USDA and the standard dietary reference intake (DRI). The fat DRI for adults is 20 to 25 percent – a percentage which the Keto diet essentially flips on its head. (5,6)
Why does this work for weight loss and overall health? Dr. Eric Berg reminds us that “99% of the studies involving high-fat diets” actually examine a “combination of high-fat and high-carbohydrate diets.” And that “When you combine high carbohydrates with fat or even protein, insulin will spike dramatically.” On the other hand, “If you consume dietary fats with LOW CARBS, you will not spike insulin. High-fats is safe as long as it goes with low carbs.” (7)
In short, dietary fats, in and of themselves, have almost no influence on insulin. This allows your body to remain in a ketogenic state and burn fat (ketones) instead of sugar (glucose). In other words, dietary fat doesn’t make you fat unless it is combined with high amounts of carbohydrates, which is exactly what you avoid on the Keto diet.
Not only has fat gotten a bad rap, but saturated fats in particular. Just last year the American Heart Association warned that coconut oil can, along with other saturated fats, can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease (8).
However, we know this isn’t true. Studies actually show saturated fat actually helps with heart disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. (9)
Another thing to remember is that apart from trans fat, which everyone should avoid whether they follow the Keto diet or not, is that all fats contain a ratio of saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. None of them are inherently good or bad. They are all necessary for overall health. Some foods have a dominant fat type, so we tend to think of that food as saturated (coconut oil), polyunsaturated (soy oil) or monounsaturated fat (olive oil). But the truth is, all fat is a combination of these three fat types.
When you’re in a ketogenic, the body quickly oxidizes saturated fats into a usable energy source. This is especially true for coconut oil, which never gets stored in the body and is oxidized immediately.
Monounsaturated fats provide many cardiovascular benefits and polyunsaturated fats tend to have a high omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio. For example, the optimum ratio should be two parts omega-6 to one part omega-3. Even better is equal parts omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. However, in many oils, high in polyunsaturated fats, the ratio goes way out of healthy proportion, and can even be 20 to 1, as is the case with oils like corn and soy.
Therefore, in the proper amounts, all three types of fat (saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) all have a place in the Keto diet. The only fat that is completely unwelcome are trans-fats. These are highly processed fats that increase inflammation and wreak havoc on health.
How to eat fats on the Keto diet?
Fat should make up 70 percent of your daily caloric intake. But there are a few things to remember about fat on the Keto diet.
First of all, staying in ketosis doesn’t have much to do with incoming fat. Instead, you maintain ketosis by keeping your carb intake low and your protein intake moderate. These are non-negotiables.
Fat’s basic function in the Keto diet is to provide fuel and to manipulate how quickly or how slowly you lose weight. In other words, use fat as a lever.
It is high in calories and the basic premise of weight loss applies in the Keto diet: if you consume more calories than you expend, you can gain weight. Therefore, always keep your carbs low and protein moderate, and just eat enough fat so that you feel full. You don’t have to overdo it on fat.
That being said, this may not be the best way to start the Keto diet. Certified nutrition and health coach, Christina Oman agrees that it’s important to eat a lot of fat when just starting out. She advises, “My advice to someone starting Keto is always to eat lots of dietary fat. As much as possible. Add butter or coconut oil to everything – coffee, vegetables and meat. Eat keto fat bombs galore…What I’m doing is helping you to teach your body that fat is a source of fuel that is not going to be in short supply, especially if the goal of keto, for you, is weight loss. In other words we need to force the body to burn fat by making it the most abundant fuel.” (10)
Once you settle into the state of ketosis (after about a week or so), you can start to leverage your dietary fat intake so that you’re full and fueled up, but not taking in excess calories.
Keto-friendly fats are both animal- and plant-based. And since they make up 70 percent of your daily caloric intake, you’ll be happy to see you have lots to choose from.
- Coconut oil
- MCT oil*
- Butter, grass-fed
- Avocado oil
- Sesame oil
- Heavy cream
- Full-fat cheeses
- Mayonnaise (avoid mayonnaise containing added sugars or high amounts of polyunsaturated oils)
*MCT oil stands for medium chain triglyceride oil, and it’s usually made from coconut oil. These are fats are perfect for the Keto diet because they support ketone production. A word of warning: start with a small amount because if your digestive system isn’t accustomed to it, it can cause diarrhea.
Another source of dietary fats will come in the form of high-fat protein, such as skin-on poultry, beef, poultry and fatty fish.
If you’re not used to a high-fat diet, your body may respond with diarrhea. A tip to avoid these digestive upsets is to introduce oils slowly and gradually.
What about dairy on the keto diet?
For individuals with a milk allergy or lactose intolerance, following a dairy-free Keto diet can provide relief from diverse symptoms and reactions. If you don’t necessarily need to remove diary from your diet, you will have noticed that there isn’t much dairy in the Keto diet.
The reason why you need to be careful with dairy is because some products are high in carbohydrates and others are high in protein – both of which can spike insulin and disport ketosis if you eat too much of them.
The best dairy product on the Keto diet is ghee, or clarified butter. Other low-carb, low-protein dairy products that are Keto-friendly, include (https://www.ruled.me/ketogenic-diet-food-list/):
- Heavy cream
- Cream cheese
Of course, you can enjoy other dairy foods like mozzarella, Brie, parmesan and cheddar, but since these are higher in protein, be sure you make necessary adjustments to your other meals to keep your protein intake moderate for that day.
Drink lots of water on the Keto diet
Water is your best beverage on this diet. Yes, it may sound boring, but here’s why water is so important. When we eat a carbohydrate-heavy diet (and most of us do), the body stores extra glycogen in the liver, where they are bound to water molecules.
When you switch over to a high-fat, low-carb diet, this depletes your glycogen stores, which also means your body stores less water.
This can make it easier to become dehydrated. The standard water recommendation is about eight cups per day. However, if you’re on the Keto diet, aim for 16 cups.
Another reason why water is so essential during ketosis is because it helps prevent or minimize the Keto flu (see Keto Flu section below)
Along with water, you can also enjoy coffee and tea. Just be sure to avoid adding sugar and milk to your coffee and tea. This will increase insulin levels and disrupt ketosis. Remember that both coffee and tea can be dehydrating. Therefore, be sure that you’re drinking enough water, too.
Can I drink alcohol on the Keto diet?
Keto diet expert, Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD, offers helpful tips on alcohol for the Keto diet. (11)
Because alcoholic beverages can range from low to high carb content, it’s important to know which ones can interfere with insulin levels and ketosis. Below are popular alcoholic beverages, along with the number of carbs (in grams) per serving.
- Champagne (1)
- Red wine (2)
- White wine (2)
Remember, the sweeter the drink, the more likely it is higher in carbs. The dryer it is, the less likely it has a high carb content.
- Whiskey (0)
- Brandy (0)
- Tequila shot (0)
- Dry martini (0)
- Vodka & soda (0)
You can enjoy other spirit-based drinks on the Keto diet, but they usually rank much higher in carb content and this is something to watch out for. (See Carb section)
You may be wondering where beers fit into this equation. In the words of Dr. Eenfeldt, “Most beers are a disaster for weight control and should be avoided on Keto.” The reason for this is because “There are tons of rapidly digestible carbs in beer.” (12)
If you choose to enjoy alcoholic beverages on the Keto diet, be forewarned: it’s likely you will get drunk a bit faster than you used to. To avoid a nasty hangover and to enjoy alcohol safely, be sure to stay hydrated while drinking.
The “Keto Flu” explained
The keto flu is not an actual illness, even though it might feel like one. Instead, it’s a collection of symptoms that happen when the body transitions from a high-carb to high-fat diet. Remember, the body has been working as a carb-burning machine for most of your life. It takes some time to adjust to the high-fat diet.
Common keto flu symptoms include headaches, brain fog, nausea, fatigue and irritability. Nausea can be the result of eating large amounts of fat – something your digestive system isn’t quite accustomed to yet.
However, many of the other symptoms can be the result of dehydration. As your body loses glycogen stores, it also loses water weight, too. Additionally, your kidneys switch from retaining sodium to excreting sodium. And because the kidneys don’t have as much sodium to excrete, they start to release potassium instead. With this drop in both sodium and potassium, your body’s water and mineral balance changes – especially with key electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium and magnesium.
How to get over the “Keto Flu”
The keto flu typically occurs at the beginning of the diet. However, it can occur at any time, especially if your electrolytes go out of balance. To minimize the keto flu and move through it quickly, consider these tips:
- Add more fats to your diet. Once your body gets used to burning fat for fuel, you can start to use fat as a leverage. But until then, don’t be shy with fats. You want your body to get used to them as your main source of energy. You can add fats to your meals, as well as as to your beverages, such as coconut oil in coffee or tea.
- Try MCT oil to help your body enter ketosis more quickly. Remember, this can result in diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration and contribute to keto flu.
- Consider sodium supplements at 3,000–4,000 mg per day
- Add salt to your your meals to boost sodium
- Consider potassium supplements at 1,000 mg per day
- Try Magnesium supplements at 300 mg per day
- Allow your body to rest. Now is not the time to push yourself through an intense workout. There will be time for exercise once your body is keto-adapted.
How to start the Keto diet
The Keto diet isn’t just a food plan. It’s a lifestyle, and one that may be much different from your current lifestyle. You’re changing both your physiology and your lifestyle. And because it’s such a big shift for both your body and your mind, it’s important to start smart.
What is your “Why” for this diet?
Why do you want to follow the Keto diet? Identifying your “Why” can keep you focused and motivated whenever it’s challenging. Another reason why your “Why” is important is because it helps you tailor Keto to fit your needs. Do you want it to help you lose weight? Do you want to improve athletic performance? Are you trying to manage a health problem? Knowing your “Why” can help you get the most out of your Keto lifestyle.
The Keto diet is a long-term lifestyle and not a quick fix. Try to have a long-term mindset, too. And instead of comparing yourself to a future, weight loss goal, continue to compare yourself to yesterday’s self/body weight, etc. This is a better way to track progress and encourage yourself to continue.
Do your research and get to know keto-friendly foods
The Keto diet may be popular, but avoid jumping in head first without giving due diligence. Get to know keto-friendly foods so you can avoid setbacks and throwing yourself out of ketosis. Understand how the macronutrients work and why Keto requires a specific ratio for each one (70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbohydrates).
Clear out all the carbohydrates you need to avoid and replace them with all the yummy Keto-friendly foods you can have. While some processed foods may qualify as Keto-friendly, try to avoid these. Instead, fill up on nutrient-dense whole foods.
Finally, remember to remove labels from food. Our society is very good at demonizing food. Sometimes, it’s sugar. Sometimes, it’s fat. Instead, remember that you need all macronutrients, in the right proportion, in order to maintain ketosis and burn fat, rather than glucose, for fuel.
Starting and maintaining the Keto diet may mean lots of home cooked meals. This, in and of itself, is a big lifestyle change for some people.
What’s more, you may have to forego many of your usual meals on the Keto diet. So, before you officially start this diet, take some time to cook up different Keto recipes so you become more familiar with this approach. And before the official “launch date”, create a meal plan to help you make it through your first, second and third weeks. (See Keto Recipe Section below)
What exactly does 5% carbohydrates look like? What about 25% protein and 70% fat. First, start with a Keto calculator. This will tell you approximately how many grams of each macronutrient you can have every day. Then, get a simple kitchen scale and start weighing your foods.
Avoid restricting calories at the beginning – even if your goal is weight loss. Instead, restrict carbs. The lower the carbs the better, as this will help you transition into a fat-adapted state more quickly. For most people 5% carbs comes to about 20 grams per day.
As you practice measuring your carbs, you’ll soon understand just how many grams are in each serving of food.
Choose a non-stressful week to start
The Keto diet can be difficult at first, so don’t make it harder on yourself by starting during a busy, stressful week. Instead, choose a week, in which you have enough time to cook new and different meals for yourself, and in which the Keto Flu won’t be too disruptive for your routine.
Know the signs of ketosis
It usually takes about 3 days after starting a ketogenic diet to enter into a ketogenic state. It will usually take a few weeks before you are completely “fat adapted” and can burn fat efficiently as your main energy source.
You can measure your ketones to know if you’ve reached ketosis. But you can also observe some pretty simple physical signs.
- A dry mouth happens because your body loses water on a low-carb diet. Remember to stay hydrated to prevent a dry mouth and thirst.
- Urination may increase since a low-carb, high-fat diet acts as a diuretic.
- Fruity-smelling urine may take you by surprise but this is due to the ketones that are being excreted in your urine.
- “Keto breath” occurs when your body starts to produce lots of acetone – a type of ketone. It gets excreted through your urine and breath.
- Less hunger and decreased appetite are also signs your body is being satiated by all the fats in your new diet.
- Diarrhea and constipation can occur as your digestive system gets used to the new diet. This should pass as your body adapts to ketosis.
- Feeling tired is pretty normal as your body starts to gear up for ketone production. So, allow yourself a grace period. This, too, shall pass.
- Insomnia can also occur alongside fatigue. Be sure to stay hydrated, fill up on satiating fats and be sure you have enough electrolytes like sodium, magnesium and potassium.
How to measure ketones
It is not necessary to measure ketones to be successful in the Keto diet. By adjusting your macronutrients accordingly, and tracking the signs of ketosis, you can identify that your body has started to burn ketones instead of glucose.
However, you may still choose to measure your ketones to understand your overall progress. There are three ways to measure ketones: urine sticks, breath meters and blood meters.
Urine sticks for early ketosis:
When just starting out, urine sticks are an affordable and easy way to measure your body’s ketone production. The level of ketones will change the color of the urine strip. Usually, the light pink color indicates low ketone levels, while the darker shades reflect high levels of ketones.
Breath meters for advanced ketosis:
Once you’ve committed to the Keto diet for several months and are at a more advanced level, you can begin to analyze your body’s ketone production more accurately with breath meters.
Breath meters measure acetate, which usually correlates very well with ketone blood levels.
Blood ketone meters are the most expensive options available, however, they do provide the most accurate ketone measurement. There are some drawbacks, however. If you don’t like pricking your finger for each reading, this may not be the right test for you. Another problem is that some readers are not accurate and it is possible to waste an entire testing strip. That being said, if you are in advanced ketosis, and like to track your ketone production, blood ketone measuring is your gold standard.
Weight loss: what to expect on the Keto diet
By restricting carbs, consuming moderate amounts of protein and increasing dietary fat, you can support sustainable weight loss. Why? Because you’re tapping into your body’s fat stores for energy – a source of energy that has long been ignored
But what can you expect on the Keto diet as far as weight loss is concerned? There are three main phases of the Keto diet: the dramatic drop, keto-adaptation and ketosis.
In the dramatic drop, you see a quick drop in weight in the first several weeks. This is often the result in a loss in water weight and as your body starts to dip into your fat stores for fuel. For the rest of your Keto diet, loosing up to 2 lb per week is safe, healthy and sustainable.
In keto-adaptation, you make adjustments to your macro-nutrient intake. Remember, you can use fat as a lever. Similarly, you may find you can lower your carbs even more. This is your tweaking stage.
In the final stage, ketosis, your body is an efficient, energetic fat-burning machine. Here, you’ve reached your weight goal, while maintaining health, wellness and energy.
I’ve hit a weight loss plateau. Now what?
A weight loss plateau is when you stop loosing weight for two weeks or more. Plateaus may be frustrating, but they are not random. They happen for a reason. (13)
Here are some simple questions to ask yourself if you’re stuck in a plateau:
- Am I eating too many carbs?
- Am I eating too much protein?
- Am I consuming too many calories?
- Am I eating whole foods?
- Am I consuming too many nuts?
- Am I already pretty close to my weight loss goal?
- Am I stressed out?
- Are my hormones imbalanced?
- Am I sleeping enough?
Remember, the basic principles about weight gain and weight loss apply to the Keto diet. If you consume more calories than you expend, you gain weight. If you consume fewer calories than you use, you lose weight. It can be that simple.
However, if you’re keeping your carbs low and your calories low, and you’re still not losing weight, it’s time to to some trouble shooting. Weight loss is great, but the brain doesn’t always see it that way. It sees this calorie restriction as threatening. And sometimes, when we don’t get enough calories, the hypothalamus holds onto body weight, i.e., homeostatic weight. It’s a way to protect the body – and the brain.
Too much weight gain can also cause hormonal imbalances, as is the case with hypothalamic amenorrhea, in which a woman stops menstruating because she is not obtaining sufficient energy from her diet.
How to trouble shoot a weight loss plateau
If you’re still stuck on why you’re plateauing, consider the following causes of a Keto plateau. (14)
When your cells aren’t sensitive enough to glucose, it can cause problems like insulin resistance, insulin sensitivity and an over-secretion of insulin. This can stall weight loss.
Weight gain occurs when insulin moves the extra glucose to different areas of the body where its stored as fat. The most common place for fat storage is the abode. The only problem is this fat is hormonally active and these hormones can interfere with fat loss.
Which hormone are we talking about? Leptin. It’s a hormone that increases appetite and tells your brain to eat, eat, eat.
At the beginning of your Keto journey, it’s important to restrict carbs, but not to restrict fat. However, after a couple weeks, you should use fat as a lever and only eat enough so you feel full and satisfied. Remember, consuming more calories than we expend – yes, even fat calories – can result in weight gain.
You’re a fat-burning machine
When you’re comfortably cruising in ketosis, your body may become pretty efficient in producing and using ketones. This may result in losing less weight than you want.
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KETO FAQ Part III
Keto-friendly sweeteners and flours
Keeping carbohydrates low is crucial role for maintaining ketosis. However, there are many hidden sources of carbs. To be sure you avoid them, read your food labels carefully. Remember, the ingredient list doesn’t necessarily have to say “sugar”. Instead, the following terms are code for sugar:
- Beet sugar
- Brown sugar
- Cane sugar/syrup
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Maple syrup
- MSG (monosodium glutamate)
- Rice syrup
Instead of these hidden sugars, consider using the following Keto-friendly sweeteners:(1, 2)
- Monk fruit
It is possible to enjoy tasty treats on the Keto diet, however, be sure to use Keto-friendly, low-carb flours. Even here, you can consume too many carbs, so get to know the net carb amount and enjoy these low-carb flours occasionally – the exception, rather than the norm. (3)
- Almond flour
- Almond meal
- Coconut flour
- Ground flax seed meal
- Hazelnut meal/flour
- Pumpkin seed meal
- Sunflower seed meal
- Walnut meal
Snacks on the Keto diet?
The Keto diet mimics starvation but because you enjoy fat-rich, satiating foods, you avoid feeling hungry. Snacks are allowed on the Keto diet, but remember that eating increases the chance of an insulin increase. So, you should only enjoy Keto-friendly, whole food snacks when you’re truly hungry.
Factor them into your daily macronutrient intake to maintain low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. Remember, even on the Keto diet, you can gain weight if you consume more energy than you expend.
Keto-friendly snacks include:
- Beef jerky
- Berries (keto-friendly) with heavy cream
- Cherry tomatoes
- Cheese, high-fat and aged
- Dark chocolate (90% cacao)
- Egg, boiled
- Fish, fatty
- Kale chips
- Meat, fatty
- Nut butter and celery
- Seaweed snacks
- Smoothie, made with coconut cream, nut butter and cocoa powder
- Yogurt, full fat, mixed with cocoa powder and nut butter
Can you cheat on the Keto diet?
When following a long-term diet, cheat days can be a nice break every now and again. But can you have cheat days on the strict, low-carb Keto diet? The simple answer is, Yes, of course you can, but the consequences might not be worth that big piece bowl of ice cream.
In order to burn fat, your body has to alter specific hormone and enzyme levels. When you “cheat” or introduce a high-carb meal, it might taste great, but it causes insulin to spike, pushes you out of ketosis, and makes your body switch from burning fat to burning glucose. Then, when you make steps to return to ketosis, your body will have to reset again.
Another reason why cheat days are problematic is because it can trigger food cravings. As low as you avoid high-carb foods, your taste buds adjust and adapt to the Keto diet. But if you introduce processed carbs and high amounts of sugar, you could develop a craving that makes it harder to return and commit to Keto.
Finally, cheat meals may increase your risk of having the Keto flu – both after you eat the cheat meal and when you’re trying to get back into ketosis.
Of course, if you choose to hear consciously, just be aware that your body will exist ketosis and will require some time to reset. It’s just up to you to decide if it’s worth the trouble or not.
Intermittent fasting and Keto
Intermittent fasting is not about what you eat but when you eat. It isn’t necessary while following a Keto diet, but it can boost ketosis. Every time we eat – yes, even if we have healthy meals and snacks – we increase insulin. However, when you eat less often, your pancreas produces less insulin. This helps the body stay in a keto-adapted state, and it also helps your body tap into any remaining glycogen stores.
In general, intermittent fasting means eating within an 8-hour window, while abstaining from food for approximately 16 hours. That might seem like a long time to go without food. However, on the Keto diet, 70% of your calories come from fat, which not only help you stay full and satiated, but also prevent insulin activation.
The goal with intermittent fasting is to eat two meals within an 8-hour window. This meal schedule, along with a new Keto diet, might be difficult lifestyle changes to make all at once. At first, you can eat three meals within an 8-hour window: 10:00 a.m. breakfast, 2:00 p.m. lunch and 6:00 p.m. dinner. Then, when you’re ready to eat just two meals a day, try 12:00 p.m. lunch and 4:00 p.m. dinner. You can always adjust these times to fit your lifestyle and body’s needs.
Consider trying intermittent fasting after you’ve gotten a hang out of the Keto diet.
It’s highly effective at increasing weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. It’s also helpful after a cheat day, or when you’re fully keto-adapted and want to turn up the heat.
Can you exercise on the Keto Diet?
Diet and exercise are important pillars of health. As we know, carbs are a great source of ready fuel for exercise routines, but they’re very low in the Keto diet. Can you still exercise?
As your body transitions into ketosis, you may feel fatigued. So, try not to push yourself. Once you become keto-adapted, you can introduce exercise again. But before you do, return to your “Why” for the Keto diet. What do you want to achieve? Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to build muscle? Knowing your goals will help you decide on how to exercise and how to adjust your Keto diet accordingly.
Studies show that keto-adapted athletes can burn a lot of fat and have enough energy for their fitness routines even while on a ketogenic diet, but there is no research showing that a low-carb diet is better at supporting muscle growth and muscle recovery than a moderate-carb or carb cycling diet. (4, 5, 6)
Research shows that carbs give your body energy for high intensity workouts, while fat provides energy for less intense exercise (7). That’s not to say that a HIIT workout isn’t possible on Keto, but it may be more difficult to sustain.
Consider these three types of exercise on the Keto diet (8)
- Aerobic exercise, such as long-duration, low-intensity cardio
- Anaerobic exercise, such as strength training or short-duration HIIT workouts
- Flexibility, stability and stretching exercises, such as yoga, Pilates and core training
If you’re a committed athlete and need more glucose for energy, consider either the TKD (targeted keto diet) or the CKD (cyclical keto diet).
On the TKD, you consume 20 to 50 grams of net carbs (or less) 30 to 60 minutes before exercise. This is appropriate for high-intensity training athletes.
On the CKD, you eat a low-carb Keto diet for about five days, followed by a couple days of high-carbs. Doing so may push your body out of ketosis, but it can provide high-intensity athletes with the quick energy they need, while also helping them preserve lean muscle mass. The CKD only works when the muscle glycogen stores are completely depleted due to intense workouts.
However you decide to exercise on the Keto diet, be sure to stay within your macronutrient allowances; sometimes, exercise can lead to overeating.
How the keto diet affects woman’s cycle
The Keto diet can be both beneficial and problematic for hormonal balance and the monthly cycle. For some women, being keto-adapted can restore hormonal health, but for others it can wreak havoc.
First and foremost, the ketogenic diet can prompt quick weight loss. However, this drop in pounds can also lead to a steep drop in estrogen. This can lead to irregular periods when you first begin the ketogenic diet.
The Keto diet can also disrupt hormones by restricting carbohydrates. Even when women consume adequate calories in high-fat and moderate-protein, they simply stop ovulating and end up with hypothalamic amenorrhea if they don’t consume enough carbohydrates. (9) This can result in light or heavy periods, or irregular cycles.
Ketosis can also lower thyroid hormone, T3, however, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, reduced T3 can lead to “euthyroid” or a normal thyroid. Plus, it may mean you have more energy and lower free radical levels. (10)
Another benefit of the Keto diet is that it doesn’t disrupt an all-important hormonal pathway: the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or HPA axis. The HPA is responsible for producing your body’s main stress hormone, cortisol, as well as several key sex hormones. It appears that “A true ketogenic diet can actually increase hypothalamic stimulation, which benefits the HPA axis.” (11)
Finally, Keto may support women, whose hormonal issues stem from insulin problems and excess sugar – both of which cause hormonal mayhem, such as PCOS and menstrual disorders. (12)
Who is the Keto diet not safe for?
Avoid the Keto diet if you:
- Take insulin or diabetes medication
- Take high blood pressure medication
Budget friendly Keto diet
The Keto diet might sound great, but it can also be pretty expensive. After all, you have to replace affordable carbohydrates with high-quality fats and protein. In order for this diet to work, it has to be both sustainable and affordable. These tips can help you enjoy all the keto-friendly foods without breaking the bank.
- If there are sales, buy more now so that you save in the long run. This works for pricey items like coconut oil, MCT, and certain meats.
- Optimize your region: if you live near the sea or ocean, tap into the local fish market. Get to know the farmers and butchers at the local market.
- Consider a farm share, which allows you to have fresh produce at a fraction of the cost.
- Ask your local butcher to save you lard or tallow
- Remember, chicken thighs and legs are perfectly acceptable Keto protein sources.
- Try canned fish if fresh fish isn’t available to you.
- Consider that there isn’t always that big of a difference between 75/25 and 80/20 ground beef.
- Purchase your own cow or pig. It’s a big investment up front, but it can save you in the long run.
In addition to these savvy tips, remember that you’ll also be saving money by cutting out a lot of your previous grocery items, like processed foods, pasta, bread, sodas, beers, fruits, etc.
How long can you stay on the keto diet?
The Keto diet is a long-term plan. So, to get the best results, be ready to commit for at least two to three months and for up to a year – depending on your weight and body goals.
You can continue on the Keto diet even after you reach your goals as long as you can:
- Maintain a healthy weight and body composition,
- Enjoy health, happiness and overall wellbeing
Keto diet health benefits
There are both short- and long-term health benefits that come with the Keto diet.
Short-term benefits include:
- Burning fat for energy instead of glucose
- Reducing hunger and appetite control
- Stabilizing blood sugar
Long-term health benefits include:
- Stabilize insulin, high levels of which are associated with Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, dementia, fatty liver and obesity (13)
- Maintain healthy blood sugar levels and even reverse type 2 diabetes (14,15)
- Decrease inflammation and reduce pain. Remember, sugar is a top inflammatory food. A recent study, in fact, found that the ketogenic diet reduced inflammation. (16, 17)
- Supports a healthy microbiome by eliminating processed carbohydrates, which bad bacteria feed upon. Keto friendly fats also support a strong gut barrier. (18, 19)
- Boost energy and mental performance
- Boost physical endurance performance
- Helps to control seizures in individuals with epilepsy (20)
- Studies show that the ketogenic diet may be helpful in treating certain forms of cancer, including malignant brain cancer (21, 22, 23)
The Keto diet may provide many short- and long-term health benefits. If you have a specific health condition, consider speaking to your doctor before trying the Keto diet.
Vegans, vegetarians and Paleo on the Keto diet
Is Keto compatible with other diets and lifestyles, such as veganism, vegetarianism and the Paleo diet? It is possible for vegans and vegetarians to follow the Keto diet successfully. However, they must seek out alternative, plant-based sources of fat and protein.
Possible fat alternatives involve olive, coconut, and flax seed oils. Fish oils are another great choice if that’s a part of your diet. Protein can be obtained from nuts, tofu, nut butters, as well as eggs and fish (if you include them in your diet).
For the most part, Paleo and Keto diets are pretty similar. Along with a focus on whole foods, they also eliminate sugar, grains and legumes. However, they differ when it comes to carbohydrates. Keto is low-carb and also makes little room for sweeteners and fruits.
Paleo isn’t a low-carb diet, at least not on purpose. It allows carbs, but only in the form which our ancestors would have had access to. Therefore, GMO fruits and veggies are unwelcome in a traditional, strict Paleo diet, as our industrially extracted oils.
Despite these distinctions, it is possible to reconcile these dietary differences and enjoy Keto while being vegan, vegetarian or Paleo.
Keto recipes and meal ideas
It’s great to know the science behind ketosis and what’s going on in your body. But if you want to do the Keto diet, you have to know what to eat, too. Here are some simple meal ideas to get you started. (24, 25, 26)
- Bacon and cheese omelet
- Coffee with heavy cream
- Cucumber filled with cream cheese and topped with salmon
- Bacon, eggs and tomatoes
- Omelet, with tomato, basil and cheddar cheese
- A Keto shake, with coconut milk, almond milk, your favorite nut butter and ice (27)
- Omelet, with avocado, peppers, onions and salsa
- “Tacos” made with sliced roast beef, tomato, cheese, mayo and lettuce
- Nuts, celery with guacamole
- Sauteed chicken and a salad
- Beef and vegetables, cooked in coconut oil
- Crustless quiches
- Nuts, and ham and cheese
- Flaxseed wrap, made with Keto-friendly meats and vegetables
- Chicken salad
- Keto shake
- Broccoli and meat served with hollandaise sauce
- Meatballs, vegetables and cheese
- Salmon with vegetables
- Pesto- and cream cheese-stuffed chicken with vegetables
- Stuffed mushrooms
- Bacon, egg and cheese burger, without the bun
- Fish, eggs and spinach cooked in oil
- Asian stir fry using Keto-friendly meats and vegetables
- Baked fish with vegetables
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