There’s no doubt that more and more people are jumping on the keto bandwagon. But starting keto is not easy. This low-carb diet is very different from what you’re probably used to. If you are curious to learn how one should go about starting a ketogenic diet, read this quick overview.
What Is the Keto Diet?
In case you’re not familiar with keto, it’s a low-carbohydrate, moderate-protein, and high-fat diet. The diet relies on strict macronutrient ratios that look something like this:
- 5-10% calories from carbohydrates
- 20-25% calories from protein
- 70-80% calories from fat
Besides limiting carbs to the above percentages, most keto guidelines state not to eat more than 50g of carbs a day. The main purpose of eating this way is to force the body into a metabolic state called ketosis. When you are in ketosis, you have elevated levels of ketones in your blood and your body is burning fat at a higher rate.
Keto Diet Health Benefits
Most keto diet benefits have to do with ketosis, but some are the result of the diet itself. Below some well-known keto diet benefits explained.
1. Weight loss
Weight loss is the most sought-after benefit of going keto. Studies comparing the ketogenic diet to low-calorie diets found that it produced greater weight loss in addition to improvements in metabolic health.
2. Glycemic support
Because keto is a low-carb diet, it helps stabilize blood glucose levels. A study involving 49 patients with diabetes found that most were able to discontinue or reduce their medication after being on a ketogenic diet.
3. Better brain health
The ketogenic diet was originally used as an epilepsy treatment. However, its positive impact on the brain goes beyond seizure control. There’s evidence this diet can help with brain injury, cognitive decline, and sleep problems.
4. More energy
Ketones are a more efficient fuel than glucose. They yield more ATP (the energy currency of your cells) per unit of oxygen used than glucose. This shows as increased mental and physical energy when in ketosis.
5. Reduced disease risk
The keto diet can reduce your risk of dangerous and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and even cancer.
Things to Consider Before Starting A Keto Diet
Keto is safe for most people. However, it is quite different from your standard diet, so caution is advised. If you have any of the following, you may want to reconsider going keto or speak to your doctor:
Fat metabolism disorders
If you suffer from things like carnitine transport deficiency, Gaucher disease, or Tay-Sachs disease, then avoid keto. This diet relies heavily on normal fat metabolism to do the job right.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Researchers know little about how keto impacts pregnancy and breastfeeding. While you may come across stories of successful keto dieting during both, it’s best to play it safe until more research comes along.
Porphyria is a rare genetic disorder that is often treated with a high-carb diet. Avoid keto if you happen to suffer from porphyria.
While keto can improve glycemic control in people with all types of diabetes, it is important to have your medication adjusted when starting this diet. Otherwise, you run the risk of hypoglycemia.
How to Start A Keto Diet
Now that you know more about this diet, it’s time to move on to the nitty-gritty of going low carb. Here is how to successfully start your keto diet journey.
1. Research the diet
Learn everything there is to know about the keto diet, from its mechanism of action to practical application. The more you know, the fewer mistakes you’ll make.
2. Make a shopping list
The keto diet comes with a list of food you can and cannot eat. Wheat, legumes, and sugar are examples of forbidden foods while bacon, butter, and avocados are allowed on this diet. Make a shopping list of keto-approved foods before getting started.
3. Plan your meals
Once you have your fridge and pantry filled with keto diet food, make a daily or weekly meal plan. This will help you stay on track and prevent you from cheating. You can find sample meal plans online or simply make your own by searching for keto and low-carb recipes.
4. Use a diet app
Diet apps such as My Fitness Pal contain large databases of food and their nutritional profile. Using these apps will help you keep an eye on your macros intake on the keto diet. They are also handy when shopping for low-carb food.
5. Check for ketosis
After being on the keto diet for 3-7 days, check for signs of ketosis or use ketone test strips. Ketone test strips are easy to order online or buy at the pharmacy. Signs of ketosis include a fruity breath, increased energy, flu-like symptoms, and weight loss.
Keto Diet Sample Meal Plan
A keto diet plan sample will help you picture how this diet looks like in practice. You can find countless meal plans online or simply make your own based on your keto shopping list. Below is how your daily meal plan should look like.
A two-egg omelet with spinach and mushrooms, fried in butter.
Calories: 350, Fat: 32g, Protein: 14g, Carbs: 2.7g
A cup of brie cheese with cucumber slices
Calories: 497, Fat: 40g, Protein: 30g, Carbs: 3.9g
Chicken salad from one fried chicken breast, half an avocado, tomato, mixed greens, a boiled egg, drizzled with 2 tbsp olive oil.
Calories: 813, Fat: 58g, Protein: 64g, Carbs: 4.4g
One baked salmon fillet with pesto and a cup of Brussels sprouts
Calories: 408, Fat: 24g, Protein: 40g, Carbs: 6.2g
Two gingersnap cookies made with almond flour and butter.
Calories: 159, Fat: 13g, Protein: 4g, Carbs: 2g
Starting a keto diet is not something you can do without careful planning and research. This diet relies on precise macronutrient ratios and eating only certain types of food to work. But the extra effort put into going low-carb may just be worth it considering the countless documented keto diet benefits.