That’s why I want to pass on what I’ve learned to you.
So, here’s my complete guide to the ketogenic diet, where I answer popular questions like:
What Is The Ketogenic Diet?The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carb, moderate-protein diet. The goal of eating this way is to induce ketosis, which is a metabolic state that enables you to burn fat (converted into ketones) for fuel instead of carbs (glucose).
You get into ketosis by drastically reducing carbohydrates long enough to deplete the body’s glycogen stores.
The ketogenic diet was initially used to treat epilepsy in children. However, now that the benefits of keto are becoming more well-known, most people start eating a ketogenic diet to:
- Lose body fat
- Balance hormones
- Gain more energy and mental clarity
- Promote longevity
- Manage a chronic health condition.
Don’t worry, you won’t get fat from eating fat. You’re just replacing the energy you’d otherwise eat as carbs with more effective energy for your body.
Understanding Keto: What Is Ketosis?Keto, ketogenic, ketosis, ketones… there are a lot of terms that sound the same, aren’t there? Let’s go a bit deeper into ketosis, so you can understand what it is and how it plays into the ketogenic lifestyle.
As I mentioned above, ketosis is the goal of eating a ketogenic diet. It’s a state your body enters when you restrict carbs to 5-10% of your daily caloric intake and increase dietary fat to 70-75%.
Without carbs, your body starts producing chemicals called ‘ketones,’ which burn fat as energy instead of carbs. This may sound too good to be true, but it’s a totally natural process.
And let me just say, ketosis is pretty amazing, especially if you’re trying to lose or maintain weight. Burning fat as your primary fuel source means you don’t just burn fat exercising, but when you’re at work or even when you’re sleeping.
Ketosis can help you reach other fitness goals, too. Eating lots of full-fat foods and protein keeps me fueled and helps me add muscle without counting calories.
How Long Does it Take to Get Into Ketosis?At a minimum, it takes a few days to get into ketosis, but it can take up to a couple of weeks for somebody who is transitioning from a standard American diet or who has decreased insulin sensitivity. The amount of time it takes to achieve ketosis will vary from person to person.
The Benefits of the Ketogenic DietResearchers are still discovering new benefits of keto, but it’s had its share of the spotlight in recent years. The benefits that draw most people to start and stick to the ketogenic diet include:
- Easier weight loss and maintenance
- Enhanced mental clarity
- More energy and improved physical performance
- Improved metabolic functioning
- Hormonal balance
- Better moods and mood stability
- The state of ketosis and your body’s utilization of ketones for fuel. Ketones are the body and brain’s preferred fuel source. In fact, research has shown that “ketones can provide as much as 70% of the brain's energy needs, more efficiently than glucose” .
- The increased intake of dietary fats. Dietary fats can be a highly satiating macronutrient, especially when compared to carbohydrates, as they’re digested more slowly. The quality sources of fats also tend to pack in micronutrients, minerals, and fatty acids crucial for peak physical performance.
- The reduction of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the fastest source of fuel for your body, and are converted into glucose in the bloodstream, which is what elicits the strong blood sugar response (and that midday crash!).
Some research suggests that those in ketosis lose body fat more effectively. Fats break down more slowly in the digestive system than carbs do, leaving you satiated for longer and stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Because of the brain’s efficient utilization of ketones, ketosis supports improved mental clarity, and your energy levels remain high throughout the day. That’s because your blood sugars are not experiencing the traditional spikes and valleys induced by sugars and carbs.
What Do You Eat On Keto? The Ketogenic Diet Food ListI don’t mind calling it a diet, but some people attach negative things to that word. They assume they must eat tiny portions or can’t eat good-tasting food.
One reason I love the ketogenic diet is that neither of those things are true.
Instead of approaching keto like a rigid or restrictive diet, think of keto as a nutritional framework. Rather than counting calories or eating unsatisfying low-calorie, low-fat foods, focus on eating:
- 20 to 25 percent of your daily calories from protein
- 70 percent of your daily calories from fat
- About 5 percent of your daily calories from carbs (50 grams or less)
What to Eat on KetoDepending on how creative you’re willing to get, there are a ton of food options on keto! If you follow the macro breakdown above, you can pretty much eat anything within it.
Your body is unique and will respond to food differently than mine, or even a family members.
Some people find that too much dairy prevents them from reaching ketosis, but I find dairy to be fine. Many people can get away with consuming 10-15% of their daily caloric intake from carbs, whereas some can only consume 5-10%.
The best thing you can do is test your ketone levels daily when you first start out so you can understand how your body responds to what you eat.
The most popular keto foods include:
Fatty fish and meats
- Chicken or turkey thigh
Nuts and seeds
- Macadamia nuts
- Coconut milk
- Fats and oils
Dairy and animal products
- Heavy cream
- Butter or ghee
Foods to Avoid on Keto
Above all, avoid sugar. Whether it’s added sugar or sweeteners, sugar is bad for your body and makes it difficult to stay in ketosis.
As a guideline, you want to avoid:
- Grains (wheat, pasta, rice, oatmeal, flour, etc.)
- Starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn)
- Most fruits
- High-carb nuts
- Legumes (beans, peanuts, lentils, etc.)
- Processed foods
- Low-fat or non-fat dairy options
I recommend you find your staple foods. You’re way more likely to stick to any diet if you like the foods you’re eating. My staples are eggs, smoothies, steak, full-fat Greek yogurt, avocados, and boosted coffee.
If you’re feeling a bit lost, you can check out my favorite keto recipes here.
If you’ve never eaten low carb before, I highly recommend you spend the first few weeks experimenting. Find foods you love to eat so you can look forward to your meals.
What Keto Supplements Should You Take?
Supplements aren’t necessary on the keto diet, but they may help you make progress faster.
Supplements are meant to be an add-on to your food, and many keto followers love supplements to help them feel their best. Here are the most popular supplements on keto:
- Exogenous ketones: Also called beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), exogenous ketones are a ketone body that promotes ketosis, provides mental clarity, gives you a boost before workouts, and curbs your appetite.
- MCT oil: Besides exogenous ketones, MCT oil is the most well-known keto supplement and one that I use every day. MCT stands for medium-chain triglyceride and this oil is derived from coconuts. Known for its many health benefits, it’s used by ketogenic dieters to promote ketosis and improve energy and mental clarity.
- Fish oil: Keto-friendly foods like eggs and salmon are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain and metabolic health. If you’re not eating a ton of fish, this might be an option for you.
- Caffeine: Coffee has a natural thermogenic (calorie-burning) effect because of the caffeine. A cup of coffee or green tea in the morning is great for a boost. I love boosting my morning coffee with quality fats for a delicious morning (or mid-afternoon) drink. Check out my Keto Mocha Coffee Recipe.
- A keto meal replacement: Many new keto-ers find that replacing a meal a day with a keto shake helps them stay on track. Having a convenient shake means they don’t have to think about their macros, meal prep, or worry about calories. I love KetoMeal for a quick and convenient meal replacement. My favorite flavor is Strawberry, but they’re honestly all delicious.
Why Did I Decide to Start the Ketogenic Diet?The short answer: I’m always looking for ways to improve myself. To me, nutrition is one of the most important aspects of maximizing my potential as an athlete and professional.
Going keto allows me to bring my best to every activity, no matter the time of day. I never have to deal with hunger or mid-afternoon sugar crashes.
I’ve followed a keto diet since late 2011. Even after all these years, I rarely feel the need to “cheat” or feel like I’m missing out on my favorite foods. I don’t need to have cheat days or meals because I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, plus I don’t want to take a step back.
People laugh when they hear I haven’t had soda since I was 15. Maybe it’s the way I’m wired, but the keto diet keeps me satisfied and helps me pursue the things that matter most to me. Plus, I don’t need soda when I have La Croix mixed with a scoop of Keto BHB.
And there are things like keto ice cream. So, that helps.
3 Top Keto Tips from a Long-Time Keto ProSo you know what keto is, how ketones work, and what you can and can’t eat. Let me leave you with a few tips that will help you switch to a low carb diet.
- Be patient. You may feel a little sluggish the first few days; that’s totally natural. You may be experiencing what we call the “keto flu,” which is a normal and manageable side effect of switching your body’s fuel source. Think of it sort of like withdrawing from carbs. After all, your body is used to running on carbs. It can take some people over a week to get into ketosis. The only real way to truly know whether you’re in ketosis, by the way, is to test your ketones. There are affordable home ketone monitoring kits like the Keto-Mojo Ketone Monitor you can get to test your levels.
- Meal prep every week. Have healthy foods on hand so you’re not tempted to splurge or eat something unhealthy or non-keto. Preparation is the key to success in so many things in life, diet included. You don’t want to get caught up in a carb craving unprepared to fight it!
- Don’t get caught up in the minutiae. Messing up once isn’t the end of the world. The fact that you’re trying to live a healthier life is a step in the right direction.
You’ve got this. I believe in you!