Everything You Need to Know Before You Start the Ketogenic Diet
On the Internet, there are many resources with various information on the ketogenic diet.
However, there are not many articles where you can find all the information in one place.
This is why I have prepared this Ultimate Guide where you can find everything you need to know before you turn your new diet into a success.
1 What is the ketogenic diet?
On the ketogenic diet, the body gets energy from fat instead of sugar. Hence, your diet should be high fat, moderate protein, and low carb.
The fact that the body can burn fat for energy was discovered in the 1920s. It was found that the liver makes ketones out of fat to fuel the body. It was also discovered that the brain functions much better when it is fueled by fat. For this reason, the ketogenic diet was first recommended to epileptic patients to reduce their seizures.
Other benefits of the ketogenic diet include increased mental clarity, higher performance, better sleep, and weight loss.
2 Difference between the Ketogenic and a Low-Carb Diet
While the ketogenic diet makes you feel energized and gives you clarity, a low-carb diet does not.
Since you are not restricting your carbs enough for your body to use fat as energy, you are still running on sugar.
Since you are restricting your sugar intake, your body does not have enough fuel for normal functioning.
Unlike the ketogenic diet, on a low-carb diet you feel tired and drained.
3 Will my Metabolism Slow Down because of the Ketogenic Diet?
Usually, when you lose weight, the metabolic rate (the calories your body burns when it rests) drops.
For this reason, people quickly re-gain weight after they have finished their diet.
Research shows that this doesn’t happen where people lose weight with the ketogenic diet.
One reason is that you don’t lose any muscle mass. Muscles burn a lot of energy even when you are not doing anything.
Another reason is that the ketogenic diet is not a calorie-restrictive diet, and consequently, the body does not enter the “saving mode”. This happens any time you restrict your calories in order to lose weight. Since there is less fuel than usual available for getting energy, the body gets cautious and more economical with spending energy.
We might think that fewer calories mean faster weight loss, but research shows the opposite.
As soon as the body gets enough fuel again, it will strive to achieve its starting weight again.
4 Fat Adaptation
After your body has been in ketosis for some time, it gets adapted to using fat for energy.
Even if you stay on the ketogenic diet for a limited amount of time, your body will remain a more efficient fuel – burner: it will be able to use sugar and fat for energy.
How quickly does the body get fat-adapted? It depends on person to person, but it may start as soon as after being 6 weeks in ketosis.
It is a good idea to follow the ketogenic lifestyle for a longer period of time. After that, your body will be a more efficient fat-burning machine.
5 Preparing for Keto
Nothing will undermine your results more than a lack of preparation. So be sure to prepare your fridge and pantry in advance.
The first week you are most susceptible to cravings, so it is equally important that you eliminate anything that does not belong to the keto diet from your home.
Make sure you are not hungry.
For more details on food, read my post The Ketogenic Diet Foods.
At the beginning of your diet, minimize your carb intake and go easy on the protein. Maximize your fat intake.
In proportions, this means that the ideal ratio is 3:1 fat to protein.
Why is this important?
It will show your body to utilize fat as the main fuel source. Once your body starts burning fat for energy, you can lower the fat intake.
6 Coffee and the Ketogenic Diet
You don’t have to abstain from coffee during the ketogenic diet.
On the contrary, you are encouraged to have it.
Why? Coffee mobilizes fatty acids to go into the liver and be converted into ketones.
This means that when you drink coffee, your level of ketones will be higher and you will feel more energized.
In addition, coffee contains polyphenols, which put the body in the state of autophagy.
It sounds complicated, but autophagy is the process where the good cells in your body eat the bad ones. As a result, your body is healthier and rejuvenated.
7 How to start?
The beginning of your ketogenic diet is the most important time.
It should be focused on reducing inflammation.
Weight gain is just a consequence of your body being in a state of inflammation. If you can reduce inflammation, weight loss will be a breeze.
How do you reduce inflammation?
By avoiding foods that cause it. These are sugary drinks, trans fats, found in fried foods, white bread, white pasta, gluten, soybean oil, processed snack foods, excess alcohol, too many carbohydrates. A big factor for many people is dairy because lactose-intolerance increases the older we become.
The ketogenic diet excludes almost all foods that cause inflammation in the body, apart from dairy. For this reason, eliminate dairy for the first 2 weeks.
If you notice that after adding dairy back to the diet you still feel great, you are not lactose intolerant.
8 The Keto Flu
Keto flu occurs at the beginning of your diet. When the body is emptying its sugar reserves, major changes happen.
Usually, it takes three days to one week for the body to utilize all the sugar from cells and the liver.
Each gram of sugar is stored together with 3 grams of water. As the sugar is released, so is the water, which results in significant weight loss at the beginning.
Although it is just water weight, you will start losing fat when you reach ketosis.
As this water releases, the levels of sodium and magnesium fluctuate significantly. Consequently, you may feel tired and even sick since the symptoms of the keto flu are very similar to the real flu.
To prevent this from happening, be sure to consume enough sodium (2,5 teaspoons every day) and magnesium.
Whenever you drink water, add some quality salt to it (Himalayan salt) and you will feel much better.
In the first week when your body is switching fuels, abstain from heavy workouts.
Show some understanding for your body and let it adjust to the new diet.
After that, you can work out as usual.
If you want to be more efficient at burning fat and losing weight, exercise during your fasted period.
During this time, your body will produce energy directly from the stored fat, making your weight loss journey much faster.
People are often concerned about the high levels of cholesterol during the ketogenic diet.
The truth is that cholesterol is not necessarily related to the dietary fat you consume; it is more connected to the inflammation in the cells.
Another important factor is heredity.
However, on the ketogenic diet, you might notice that your cholesterol levels went up.
Why is that?
The cholesterol in your blood is not connected to the dietary fat but to the stored fat which is released in your body.
As you lose weight, there will not be much stored fat left and the level of cholesterol in your blood will drop as well.
11 Bulletproof Coffee
Usually, it is very calorie-dense, so you should not consider it just as having coffee. Since it can contain from 200 to 500 calories, you should count it as a meal.
There are different kinds of bulletproof coffee. Here are some suggestions for you:
- Coffee with ghee, coconut oil, cinnamon (very anti-inflammatory)
- Coffee with butter, heavy cream, ghee, MCT oil (tastes good)
- Matcha green tea and butter (less of caffeine, very healthy)
12 How to Measure Ketones?
When people start the ketogenic diet, they usually measure their ketones with urine tests.
The problem is that urine strips only measure excess ketones which are only present at the beginning of their diet.
Once they get fat-adapted, their bodies do not produce excess ketones anymore and urine tests stop showing them.
It does not mean they are out of ketosis. It is a sign that they are fat-adapted.
If you want a more accurate picture of your ketones, get a blood test.
I know, nobody is keen on pricking their fingers, but checking your blood will give you more accurate results.
Do you need to check your ketones anyway?
No. If you are doing everything right, you should know it from the way you feel that you are in ketosis.
Keto-sweeteners which will not kick you out of ketosis:
- Monk fruit
- Aspartame (equal, which is approved but far from being healthy)
- Xylitol because it’s hard on the body
- High fructose corn syrup
- Coconut sugar
- Regular sugar
14 The Frequency of Meals
To lose weight successfully, the timing of your meals is important.
When you eat frequently, your blood sugar stays up (remember that your blood sugar goes up every time you eat something) and it is impossible to lose weight.
However, if you allow enough time to pass between your meals, your body will use body fat after it has processed the dietary fat.
The ideal time to have your next meal is from 3 to 5 hours after the last one.
The best strategy for meals is to have more fats in the morning and night and more protein during the day. This will make sure that your ketones are high and that you are losing weight during the day.
15 Best Keto Vegetables
As a rule, vegetables that grow above the ground are suitable for the ketogenic diet.
Vegetables that grow underground are starchy and contain lots of sugars, which makes them unsuitable for the keto diet.
The ideal vegetables for the ketogenic diet are:
- Asparagus promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria
- Cabbage keeps you full and promotes digestion
- Bok Choy helps you look leaner, reduces estrogen in males and females
16 Can I Drink Alcohol?
Whenever you drink alcohol, the liver stops producing ketones for some time. However, this only takes a while and you will be back in ketosis quickly.
You can have alcohol drinks that are easily processed by the body, such as hard liquor (vodka, gin), dry wine (it is a bit tougher on the body). Beer, on the other hand, should be avoided
17 Protein Powder and How Much Protein?
Whey protein spikes your insulin and can kick you out of ketosis.
It is better to have other sources of protein, for example, meat, cheese, and nuts.
Can you have too much protein?
The ketogenic diet is, as a rule, a diet with moderate protein intake. Protein has half the effect that carbs have on insulin. This means that you should not make this diet a high protein diet.
On the flip side, the latest research shows you can have a lot of protein as long as you keep your fats twice as high. This information is especially useful for people who go to the gym regularly. They need a lot of protein to build muscles and are more likely to use the extra calories they will get from such a diet.
18 Fruit and Nuts
Be cautious when it comes to fruit, not only because it contains a lot of sugar. The body processes fruit differently.
Normally, sugar from food is deposited in the muscles and liver for storage. Fruit, however, gets stored only in the lungs.
This means that small amounts can kick you out of ketosis.
The only recommended fruits are berries: strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries in small quantities.
However, nuts are on the plan.
The only thing you need to be careful about is their skin because it contains chemicals that are meant to prevent animals and people from eating them.
It makes sense that an almond wants to grow into a tree and not be eaten by the first animal that comes by.
Therefore, if you eat nuts in their raw form, you will probably have digestive issues.
How can you avoid them? Soak the nuts overnight and you will be fine.
Most recommended nuts on the keto diet are:
- Almonds, and
Now It’s Your Turn!
I hope that this Ultimate Guide to the Ketogenic Diet gave you enough information to make the most out of your ketogenic journey.
Share it with friends if you find it useful, You are invited to check my other posts on the ketogenic diet.