What is keto? A Keto Diet for beginners!
Authors: Saahil Karkera & Lotte Damen
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Over the past few years, there has been a spectacular rise in searches for the Keto Diet. It seems that this Diet is the new kid on the block in the Nutrition and Diet industry. Thousands of people decide to join the Keto Family or are simply curious about it, especially due to impressive weight loss stories. But did you know that a Keto Diet was originally developed in the 1920s as a medical treatment to control epileptic seizures? Therefore, we should actually say: the diet is brought back by popular demand. Now, the word is slowly spreading from countries like the United Kingdom and America to other countries like The Netherlands.
So without further ado, let’s talk about the nuances of the Keto Diet in an uncomplicated and evidence-based way. We also discuss the possible health benefits and side-effects you can expect, and how to get started with it. In other words: Keto Diet for beginners!
First things first: what is keto?
A Keto Diet is short for a Ketogenic Diet, and is a very low-carb high-fat (LCHF) way of eating. This diet shares similarities with the Dr. Atkins, other low-carb diets, and paleo diets, but there’s one big difference. Namely, its main goal. A Ketogenic Diets main goal is to put the body in a constant metabolic state in which it primarily relies on fat for energy instead of on carbohydrates. This may sound confusing…. Carbohydrates are the most important source for energy right? Well, let’s see how this works 🙂
Think of your body as a vehicle that can run on two types of fuel. Let’s call them Fuel A & Fuel B. Fuel A provides fast energy for a shorter period of time, whereas Fuel B provides a slow but steady energy supply. To illustrate this: your body can store up to 90.000 calories of Fuel B. It can only store up to a couple of thousand calories of Fuel A. Therefore, Fuel A needs to be constantly topped up while Fuel B doesn’t. Does this description ring any bells with you?
If it does, you probably know that Fuel A is known as carbohydrates & Fuel B is known as Ketones. According to most Dietary Guidelines, the main fuel for our bodies are the carbohydrates. When you eat mainly products high in carb, the digestive tract breaks these high-carb foods down into glucose which converts into energy. Your bloodstream carries this energy around the body to your muscles, your liver, and fat tissues. Your pancreas produce the hormone insulin, that regulates this process.
Since your body always takes the quickest and most comfortable path, it now uses glucose as primary fuel. Therefore, it cannot use fats for energy, and it stores them in fat cells. But, in the case of carbohydrate deprivation, your body needs to find other ways to provide energy for its functions. The process of making energy out of other components than glucose, is called ketogenesis. This component is, as you may guess, Fuel B, the Ketones. During carbohydrate deprivation, your liver breaks down body fat into Ketones. This is an usable energy source that can be used by all body parts.
The main goal of a Keto Diet: Nutritional Ketosis
When your body relies on Ketones as primary fuel for a matter of days, you put your body in a state in which it efficiently relies on for energy instead of on carbohydrates. This is exactly the main goal of a Keto Diet! Being in this metabolic state, which is called Nutritional Ketosis, is more and more linked to many different health benefits. Read further to discover examples of these Keto benefits!
Now you now the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of a Keto Diet, you probably want to know the ‘how to’ too! Good news, the implementation of a Keto Diet is relatively simple. There are actually 3 main types of a Ketogenic Diet, but we will discuss that in a next article. In this article, we refer to the type that most people follow, which is the Standard Ketogenic Diet.
Daily Keto macros of a Standard Ketogenic Diet are: 70-80% fat, 10-25% protein, and only 5-10% net carbs. In addition to this, you should eat at least 25-30 grams of fibers each day. So which food products fit these Keto Diet macros? Here’s a quick rundown on how to fill your Keto macros. Expect to see a detailed guide of approved Keto food products sometime soon!
Your carbs come from mostly non-starchy vegetables (minimum 450 grams/day), and nuts & berries in moderation. This means no bread, no pasta, no potatoes, no sugar, no high-carb fruits and no starchy vegetables, – you get the picture. Proteins come from high-quality fatty meats, eggs, and fatty fish. And finally the healthy fats, oh yes the FATS, come from products like avocados, low-carb nuts like macadamias, pecans & brazil nuts, fat cheese, full-fat dairy products, coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter, coconut milk etcetera. Skip the highly processed food products!
How long does it take to get into ketosis?
In the situation that your body uses fat (the ketones) as primary fuel instead of carbohydrates, you can enter Nutritional Ketosis in a matter of days. This basically happens when you’ve depleted all your stored glucose in the form of glycogen or when you fast. The amount of days depends on individual circumstances like your activity level, and your metabolism. When your body is in Nutritional Ketosis for a prolonged duration (3-4 weeks or longer), it becomes “fat adapted”. This is a fancy way to say your body now runs on fats instead of on carbs for energy. Once your body is fat-adapted, you can experience the health benefits!
Right, let’s talk about what goodies you can expect from a well-formulated Keto Diet and fat-adaptation. Weight loss is currently one of the most well-discussed benefits of a Keto Diet, since your body uses stored fats as energy. When you provide your body with a steady source of energy, it results into reduced hunger / appetite and less spikes in energy levels.
Weight loss is actually not necessarily the most profound reason why you should try and live this high-fat low-carb lifestyle. It has the potential to decrease blood sugar glucose levels, due to lower insulin levels. This can greatly reduce the risk of insulin resistance, Prediabetes and therefore Type 2 Diabetes. Many studies support low-carb diets for the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes, and luckily a low-carb approach has now been accepted as an effective treatment! Other Keto benefits are increased energy levels, lower LDL cholesterol levels, and improved endurance performances. In addition, studies have shown potential health benefits for a wide variety of health conditions such as heart diseases, cancer, alzheimer’s, polycystic ovary syndrome, acne and depression.
So: how to start Keto?
So now you know all the essentials of a keto diet, you probably want to know how to reach Ketosis as fast as possible and become fat-adapted. It is also very understandable that you have no idea how to do it, so we guide you through the first steps. It has to be mentioned that the practical implementation depends on individual differences, needs and goals. If your main goal is weight loss, then stick to the Standard Ketogenic Diet. However, if you want to get into the Keto Diet to treat one of the above mentioned health conditions, you need to consult your health professional or doctor!
If you’re a healthy individual aiming at more energy, losing weight, or increased endurance performances the way to start is basically the same. First of all, it is important to keep track of your macros with an app like MyFitnessPal. Restrict your carb-intake to a maximum of 30 grams, and increase your fat-intake. Keep meals down to two or three a day, and finally add 30 minutes of exercise to your daily routine.
In the beginning, it might feel a bit odd to extremely increase your fat intake. You might even go through something that is unnecessarily feared and easily avoided – the Keto flu. The Keto flu is nothing but the flu-like feeling. While your body switches from carbs to fats as a source of energy, your body produces less insulin since there are less carbohydrates to absorb. As a result of decreased insulin levels, the kidneys release more sodium from the body. You can easily avoid this “Flu”. How? Stay hydrated, ideally with some salt and liquid electrolytes. Bouillon is also a great choice. In addition, eat more potassium rich keto foods such as avocado and leafy vegetables.
If you follow all these steps, your body should be in Ketosis after a week or so. And then: congratulations, welcome to the Keto family. Enjoy the fat life and its benefits 😉
Important note to this article
Keep in mind that the Ketogenic Diet is not an one-size-fits-all answer to all of our individual health circumstances, needs, and goals. Therefore, we always recommend to talk to your health professional before starting to implement a significant diet change. On Lots of Keto you can get advice from a certified dietician who’ll create a personalised program for you!
Personal note from Saahil Karkera
Personally, the biggest and most noticeable benefit for me has been shedding twelve kilos of body fat while gaining some quality muscles, all while eating one third of the amounts of proteins I was consuming earlier(freedom from all those whey shake-yay). Later this year, I will do a blood test to compare markers, pre and post one year of doing Keto!
Stay tuned! More articles will be online soon
- The 3 types of a Ketogenic Diet explained: which one is right for you?
- 5 keto health benefits besides rapid weight loss
- How to get enough fiber on keto: 5 easy ways!
- 10 things you should know before starting Keto
- Is a Keto Diet safe for everybody?
- Does a Keto Diet ask for vitamin or mineral supplementation?
Let me know if there’s any topic you want to read on my blog!