Ketogenic Diet: What Is It and Does It Work?
Let’s face it – there is no magic diet that makes the fat go away and leaves you with nothing but muscle. However, there are a lot of diet variations that promise you just that.
The ketogenic diet is definitely one of them. It is known as an effective way to fight disease, lose fat and stay in good shape.
Related – Does the Keto Diet Fight Cancer?
To this day, the ketogenic diet remains one of the most popular fat loss diet choices. It is available in many different forms and variations. Before we go in depth about each of them, let’s see what it actually is and how does it help people lose weight fast.
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
Also known as keto diet, the ketogenic diet is basically a meal plan with focus on low intake of carbohydrates. In fact, the ketogenic diet is the king of all low carb diets and is usually known under the terms low carb high fat, low carb diet, keto diet etc.
But what happens when you start practicing this diet? Well…
Eating foods that are high in carbohydrates makes your body produce glucose, a molecule that converts and preferentially uses this energy over others. Glucose also causes the insulin level in your body to rise as it is transported throughout the body.
However, when you practice the low carb ketogenic diet, your body does not produce high levels of glucose and insulin. This means it wastes the primary sources of energy instead of storing them as fat.
Since the glucose isn’t being used as a primary energy source, your body uses its natural sources of energy and does not store fats or need them at all. So, by lowering the intake of carbs, your body enters a state known as ketosis.
In a nutshell, ketosis is a natural process in our body that is initiated every time our food intake is low. During this state, the body produces ketones which are actually a result of the breakdown of fats in the liver. This way, the body isn’t storing any fats and is naturally wasting the already stored fats by converting them to energy. Obviously, the result is a body that loses fat instead of gaining it.
Below, we are listing all the benefits of a ketogenic diet starting with its primary one.
The Primary Benefit of Every Ketogenic Diet
Everyone who decides to try the ketogenic diet plan knows that there is one primary benefit to it. Just like many diets out there, the ketogenic one focuses on weight loss. In fact, it is designed to use your body fat as an energy source and prevent the body from storing it.
Hence, there are obvious weight loss benefits to this diet. There is evidence that shows the keto diets work better compared to low-fat and high-carb diets, even in the long run. This is because of the obvious and scientifically-backed energy source that uses your fat as its fuel.
Weight loss aside, there are many other health benefits of the keto diets – most of which listed in the section below.
Other Important Health Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
There are many different health benefits offered by the ketogenic diet. Most of them promote the overall health of your body and even give you better concentration and focus. So, the ketogenic diet is great because it:
Controls the blood sugar levels in your body – The type of foods you eat during a ketogenic diet have been found to manage and prevent diabetes in a better way compared to low-calorie diets. Even if you are pre-diabetic or have type II diabetes, the ketogenic diet can help you regulate the blood sugar. This is because of the glucose and insulin levels that are lowered and regulated without the intake of carbohydrates as keto’s main focus.
Helps you concentrate – Remember eating a burger and then falling asleep? It is your carb levels that put you to sleep and prevent you from being focused. That is why ketogenic diets are specifically used for increased mental performance and focus. With the low carb intake, they let you avoid big spikes in your blood sugar and control your brain’s function at its peak level.
Increased energy – Twenty to thirty grams of carbs per day is enough to fuel your workouts and make the most of your energy levels. By giving your body a better and more reliable energy source in the form of fat, you feel more energized during the day and burn fat as a fuel.
No food cravings – It is known that fat is more naturally satisfying and lets you be “full” for longer. The science behind this is simple – when you eat fat, your body doesn’t convert it to glucose, triggering you to crave for more food. Instead, it keeps the fat into your organism ready to be burnt as energy.
Treats epilepsy – The ketogenic diet has been used to treat epilepsy successfully even since the early 1900s. In the world, it is among the most widely used therapies for children with uncontrolled epilepsy. Basically, what it does is control the organism while reducing the number of medications to be used.
Cholesterol and blood pressure – Keto diets are great for improving the triglyceride and cholesterol levels linked to arterial buildup. According to research, the low-carb and high-fat diet shows a dramatic increase in HDL and decrease in LDL particle concentration as compared to low-fat diets.
Insulin resistance – If you are suffering from insulin resistance, you probably know that it can easily lead to type II diabetes if left untreated. According to studies, the ketogenic diet helps people lower their insulin levels to healthy ranges.
Acne – Ketogenic diets are great for treating acne, mostly because of the reduced skin inflammation coming from high-carb eating. That being said, the keto diet can be perfect for acne along with a strict skin cleaning regimen.
Now that you know the benefits of this type of diet, let’s see the different types of ketogenic diets that focus on different levels of protein/carb intake.
Keto diet for beginners.
Types of Ketogenic Diets
Ketogenic diets made a splash which put them to the spotlight, letting many people try seeing whether they work or are just another myth. However, the keto diets are proven to work scientifically. So, as long as you keep up a strict schedule – the results will come.
There is a formula to every single fat, protein and carb – and how it affects your body while it is in the state of ketosis. To best illustrate the effects, just refer to the list below:
- Too much protein = knocked out of ketosis
- Too little protein = loss of muscle mass
- Too many fats = gaining body fat
- Too little fats = low energy
- Too many carbs = knocked out of ketosis
As you can see, the lack of fats, carbs or protein can affect a diet in different ways. That is why there are different ketogenic diet types that tailor to different individuals and their goals.
In order for you to start expecting some results, you have to consider the type of ketogenic diet you will be sticking to. Speaking of which, the most common types nowadays include:
The Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD) – A diet that consists of low carbohydrate, moderate protein and high fat intake, containing approximately 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs.
The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) – With periods of higher carb refeeds such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days etc.
The Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD) – Designed to include carbs around workouts in order to fuel them and give you more energy to burn calories while working out.
The High-Protein Ketogenic Diet – Similar to the standard ketogenic diet, this one includes more protein and focuses on muscle growth during fat loss. The ratio is 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.
So, which diet to try?
The truth is, all you need is to see your nutritional needs. To do that, you will first need to consider your calorie intake and find out what your caloric and nutrient needs are. For example, if you want to lose weight, you should subtract 10% to 15% of the calories you are consuming per day. Instead, if you want to gain muscle, try increasing your calorie intake for 10% to 15% per day.
However, that is still not the right answer to the results you want.
How Much Fat, Protein and Carb Should My Ketogenic Diet Consist Of?
In order to find the best percentage that works and the right ketogenic diet type for you, you need to consider the fat, protein and carbs as well. The ideal percentage here is:
- 40%-60% fat
- 35%-40% protein
- 10%-25% carbs
Obviously, the ketogenic diet focuses on fat and protein, while the carb is the only remainder that you need only to fuel your workouts and feel some energy. If your goal is to lose weight, you should definitely keep the carbs at a minimum and compensate them with consuming fat-rich foods. However, if you also want to get lean muscle, you should add a decent protein intake.
There is no strict eating schedule. You can eat once, twice or 5 times a day as long as you keep yourself hydrated and don’t go over your macros. Once your body enters ketosis, it will start using the fat you consume as your primary source of energy instead of glucose, and you will start losing weight.
A great way to calculate macros and balance your ketogenic diet is by using a calculator like this one.
What to Eat on a Ketogenic Diet?
Another important aspect of every ketogenic diet is to know what you eat. In order to start, you definitely need an eating plan that is viable and one that works to your taste.
Basically, what you eat depends on how fast you want to get into the ketogenic state. Therefore, the more restrictive you are on your (low) carbohydrate levels, the faster you will see results. Still, you should not totally reduce your carbohydrate intake. Instead, start lowering it and primarily consuming it from vegetables, nuts, and dairy. The reason why is because these carbs are not refined (as in pasta, bread, cereals, potatoes, beans, legumes) meaning that they are healthier for you and your organism.
So, the foods you should definitely avoid while on a ketogenic diet include:
- Grains – wheat, rice, cereal, corn, etc.
- Sugar – honey, agave, maple syrup
- Fruit – apples, bananas, oranges, etc.
- Tubers – potato, yams etc.
So, the best way to maintain a ketogenic diet is to eat the following foods:
- Meats – fish, lamb, poultry, eggs, beef
- Leafy greens – spinach, kale
- Above-ground vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower
- Nuts and seeds – macadamias, walnuts, sunflower seeds
- Avocado and berries – raspberries, blackberries and other low-glycemic fruits
- Sweeteners – stevia, erythritol, monk fruit
- High-fat dairy – hard cheeses, high fat cream, butter
- Other fats – coconut oil, high-fat salad dressing, saturated fats etc.
Most of the meals in your keto diet should be based on a combination of vegetables and meat – with an extra side of fat. That way, you will intake a minimal amount of carbs, a great amount of protein and extra fat that is enough to be stored in your body and burnt instead of glucose.
That being said, the dark and leafy vegetables (kale, collard greens, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, spinach) are your best choice – best consumed in ½ cup per meal. Combined with a non-processed meat such as lamb, fish or poultry, you will get the right dose of what you need for a sustainable ketogenic diet.
Some of the most popular ketogenic recipes with low-carb foods include:
- Breakfast cauliflower waffles
- Cinnamon sugar donut muffins
- Low-carb cinnamon orange scones
- Low-carb taco tartlets
- Buffalo chicken soup
- Keto grilled cheese sandwich
- Chicken enchilada soup
- Ginger sesame glazed salmon
- Egg salad stuffed avocado
- Skillet chicken pot pie
- Jalapeño popper soup
- Bacon cheeseburger soup
and many others.
How to Know If You Successfully Reached the State of Ketosis?
As you probably know by now, the state of ketosis is actually the phase where you know that you are burning every food that you are eating, with no glucose converting to fat and therefore making you fatter.
The easiest way to measure if you are in ketosis is with blood strips or via urine. However, these methods are not much worth it because they are considered as pretty inaccurate and quite expensive ($5 per strip). So, instead of spending money without a purpose, there are some natural ways your body will tell you that it reached the state of ketosis, like:
- Increased urination – Since keto is a natural diuretic, you should notice that you are going to the bathroom more than often.
- Dry mouth – Increased urination leads to dry mouth and increased thirst as another sign that you are in ketosis. However, make sure to stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water and replenishing your electrolytes.
- Bad breath – Your breath includes a body known as acetone which partially excretes which means that it is temporary. It smells like over ripe fruit or as sharp as a nail polish remover.
- Reduced hunger and increased energy – As soon as you pass the ‘keto flu’ that gives you carb cravings, you will experience a lower hunger level and a clear or energized mental state – all thanks to the state of ketosis.
One thing you should not do is drive yourself crazy and measure or test your ketosis levels all the time. Instead, try focusing on the nutritional aspect and make sure that you are following your ketogenic diet for weight loss in the right way with all the proper foods and macro ranges.
Speaking of macro ranges…
What Are Macros & Their Link to Keto Diet
We already mentioned the term macros but didn’t explain what it is. Basically, macros refers to macronutrients or the daily intake of the ‘big 3’ nutrients including fats, protein and carbohydrates.
The best way to see how much you should eat throughout the day is once again, to calculate your details into an online calculator. That way, you will enter all of your metrics and lifestyle habits as well as workout routines and find out how much macros your daily diet should consist of. Once you know the numbers, you will be able to split them into your favorite meals throughout the day.
For example, if you are a 25-year old male weighing 180lbs with a height of 6 inches and an active lifestyle with daily workouts, the best way to lose weight is to eat foods with a 30% calorie deficit and never go above a 15% calorie surplus.
The best way to set your goals and see which group you are in is to use an online calculator.
Are There Any Side Effects to the Ketogenic Diet?
Even though the ketogenic diet is generally safe for all healthy individuals, there may be some initial side effects while your body adapts to it. After all, it completely changes the regimen of eating and transforms your glucose-storing capacity to fat-burning mode.
The initial side effects that may appear in the beginning may include poor energy and mental function, increased hunger, sleep issues, nausea or digestive discomfort and decreased exercise performance – all known under the term “keto flu.” If you want to prevent this from happening, you can try a regular low-carb diet for the first few weeks and gradually decrease the amount of carbs as the time goes by, teaching your body to focus on burning fats instead.
Additionally, a keto diet can change the water and mineral balance in your body which is why you might consider adding extra salt to your meals or taking certain mineral supplements that can help. Sodium, magnesium and potassium are all great ways to prevent this from happening.
Once your body adapts to the ketogenic diet and starts fueling itself from the foods you are eating, these effects are going to normalize and you will feel pretty much normal. However, the keto diet is not suitable to mothers who are breastfeeding or pregnant or anyone with diabetes
So, How To Start?
The best way to start is to pick a ketogenic diet type that best works for you. The following 4 steps will help you to successfully start:
- Calculate your caloric needs and subtract or add calories based on your goals (for example, if you want to lose weight and you burn 2700 calories a day, try consuming 2000-2400 calories per day)
- Set your protein levels according to your goals – and know that 0.8g to 1g of protein is recommended per pound of lean body mass
- Set your carbohydrate levels, including 20g to 30g of carbs a day just to fuel your energy
- Set your fat intake levels based on the calories you have left (know that fats are 9kcal/gram, proteins are 4kcal/gram and carbs are 4kcal/gram)
In order to help you on your mission, we are sharing our one week ketogenic diet plan for immediate weight loss.
Complete Week of the Ketogenic Diet Plan
Here is our ketogenic diet plan for every day of the week, including the three standard daily meals.
One thing that most people need to understand, though, is that there is no such thing as a perfect ketogenic diet plan. After all, not everyone has the same budget, time, eating habits or taste in the first place to stick to it. Still, the table above can definitely help and give you an idea about the meals in the keto diet.
What about eating out on a ketogenic diet?
Well, the great thing about this diet is that it lets you easily balance your eating habits while you are out with friends, on vacation or while working. That is because most restaurants offer some kind of meat or fish based dishes as the perfect replacement for high-carb foods.
You can eat omelette or fried eggs for breakfast, salad with a dressing plus a meat for lunch and a meat based soup for a dinner. And if you sometimes get the cravings for a burger – all you need to do is ditch the bun – or swap the fries for vegetables instead.
Mexican restaurants get a big plus here – they let you enjoy any type of meat with extra cheese, guacamole, salsa or sour cream. And if you are a desert type of person, you can always ask for a mixed cheesecake or double cream with berries.
7 Best Supplements to Use on a Ketogenic Diet
A lot of people think that the ketogenic diet is enough, and does not require any supplementation whatsoever. However, supplements can help and actually boost the weight loss process or additionally build up muscle.
We already mentioned that during ketosis, the body needs more water and minerals, as well sa salt, potassium and magnesium. That is why most of the supplements are based on this aspect, ensuring that the body is properly supplemented.
In order to help you start shopping, we are listing the seven best ketogenic diet supplements and their benefits below:
Kaged Muscle Hydra-Charge
This supplement is known as the “next level of hydration.” It is meant to hydrate and defend your organism, allowing full customization of you pre, intra, or post-workout stacks. That way, it supports hydration both before, during and after intense training.
Most importantly, it gives your body the five essential electrolytes it needs while supporting its antioxidant potential.
E-Pharm Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is of big importance to keto diets because it consists of carbs and protein. Also, it can be the only place you get pure fat.
So, adding coconut (or even MCT oil) is a great source of fat that enters the bloodstream quickly and is a great fuel source for the brain and muscles, especially before workouts. This coconut oil by E-Pharm tastes fantastic, is great for your skin and can be even used for cooking.
On Fitness Fiber
Fiber is recommended for everyone and not just people on a ketogenic diet. Even though the recommended standards are between 25 and 35 grams per day, the average person consumes less than half of this dosage.
In the ketogenic diet, fiber is known to be a carb – but a carb that helps you fuel your energy, especially if you don’t like veggies like broccoli and greens (that are rich of it). The fiber capsules by On Fitness contain a unique blend of six different fiber sources and pack only 10 calories per serving.
MTS Drop Factor
Your caffeine intake is very important while on a ketogenic diet. In fact, so important that you might consider raising it just so your organism switches to running on fat from running on carbs.
Caffeine will also boost your fat burning during workouts and calm down your eating desires. With Drop Factor you get the benefits of caffeine and many other ingredients to promote fat loss.
We all know that eating fruits and veggies is healthy – but there is hardly a person who eats the recommended dosage of greens on a daily basis.
If you feel the same but want to boost up your immunity and lose weight fast thanks to the keto greens, you can start supplementing yourself with Machine Greens + Multi by MTS Nutrition.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
There are tons of great BCAA supplements on our website which makes it difficult to pick one and link to it. However, you should know that BCAA works for keto diets because the enzymes responsible for their degradation are low in your tissues.
Therefore, they expose your muscle to high concentrations leading to muscle breakdown even during exercise. Supplementing with BCAAs will therefore offer you faster recovery and will certainly slow down the muscle breakdown. We recommend the highest quality BCAA on the market from Marc Lobliner, the man who popularized BCAA supplements – MTS Nutrition Machine Fuel.
Magnesium, Sodium, and Potassium
It is a common fact that around 70% of people don’t get anywhere near enough magnesium – the ingredient that helps our bones and makes them stronger.
The truth is, lack of magnesium during a low carb diet is a very common scenario – and one that leads to muscle discomfort, nighttime leg cramping and similar discomforts.
A Final Word
In the end…
Even if it sounds delicious and promising, you should know that adapting to a keto diet is definitely difficult. As an effective way to lower your blood sugar, control your insulin levels and lose weight – the ketogenic diet is among the most popular fat loss solutions out there and one that truly works.
Seeing the first results can happen in a matter of a couple of days or weeks – motivating you to push and achieve even more. For that, the keto diet is a true godsend, and definitely a diet that shreds fat fast in a great way, once your body adapts to it.
Have you ever tried the ketogenic diet – or maybe planning to? Let us know what you think about it in the comments!