Ketogenic diet- what is it?
What is Keto? the ketogenic (keto) diet is a high fat, low carb, moderate protein diet, it was originally used to treat epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, parkinson’s and this is the way our ancestors would have been eating thousands of years ago, now it is one of the leading diets for treating obesity.
The easiest way to explain how the Ketogenic diet works is this, our bodies need energy, there are two ways that the body can get this energy and that’s from fat and carbohydrates. Eating carbs makes our bodies produce glucose, it finds glucose to be the easiest to convert and use for energy so it chooses this over over using fat. Since we are not using the fat for energy our bodies start storing it for later use.
This constant over eating of carbs makes us store more and more fat as we are never actually using the fat as an energy source. When we restrict carbs our bodies start using our stored fat as its main energy source, leading to weight loss.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic state, it’s when the body changes in to fat burning mode, low carb diets encourage the body to switch from using carbohydrates for energy to using stored fat. The fat is then broken down in the liver which produce Ketones. Ketones are a good indication that the body is in Ketosis and burning fat which can be measured in the blood or in a urine sample.
Are we required to eat carbohydrates?
No the body does not require carbs to function, carbs are ok in small doses, the problem with carbs is that people are eating far too many, when we eat carbs we produce insulin, insulin is a fat storer the more carbs we eat the fatter we get. Insulin also makes you hungry and gives you cravings so you get into the cycle of eating far more carbs than you need. The Keto diet reduces insulin, which reduces hunger and food cravings and allow us to burn fat.
How many carbs do I need to get into Ketosis?
This is where everyone is different, my level of carbs before I get kicked out of Ketosis is around 25-30 for some its 15-20 and others its up to 50g, it’s up to you to decide how many carbs you want per day but the suggested daily amount to reach optimal Ketosis is 15g to 20g per day.
There are 2 ways of measuring the amount of carbs you eat that is by the total amount of carbs per meal or net carbs, this is the total amount of carbs minus the dietary fibre. Here in the UK our nutritional information listed on packages already has the fibre deducted so we don’t need to do it.
Working out your macros
Not everyone who does the Ketogenic diet follows their macros, and there are going to be people who say well if your not following macros your’e not doing Keto, that is rubbish! If you are eating enough fat, moderate protein and your carbs are 20g or below you are doing Keto, your body will go into Ketosis and you will burn fat.
Macros are macro-nutrients they are your daily intake of fats protein and carbohydrates, usually macros are around 70% fat 25% protein and 5% carbs. Go here to find your own personal macros, you don’t have to track macros this is what we call lazy keto, as long as you eat only food from the allowed list, lots of fat, up to 20g of carbs and moderate amounts of protein per day you should still get into Ketosis and lose weight.
If you feel like you hit a stall, (a stall being no inch or weight loss for at least 4 weeks) then you can try working from your macros to help kick start your weight loss again, macros are easier to understand once you have been doing the diet for a while.
Many people are scared by macros either because they don’t understand it or they don’t want to have track everything they put in their mouth for the rest of their lives, it’s all about finding a balance that suits you. if you are following macros you will need to re-calculate them after a 10lb loss or if your energy expenditure (activity level) changes.
10 rules to live by when following a Ketogenic diet
- Keep it simple
- Top up electrolytes
- Stick to 10-20g of carbs per day
- Avoid sugar
- If you are not hungry don’t eat
- Stop eating before you get full
- Check labels if it’s over 2g of carbs per 100g (for meat products) or over 5 carbs per 100g for everything else leave it alone
- Remember your fats
- Measure yourself
- Weigh yourself only once a week
Is Ketosis dangerous?
No, nutritional Ketosis is not dangerous. Many people confuse Ketosis with Ketoacidosis. Nutritional Ketosis is when the insulin in your body is a regulated by a reduction in carbohydrate intake. Your body makes a metabolic shift, burning fat for fuel instead of carbs. Your body produces ketones, these ketones are used by the body and any excess ketones are excreated in your urine.
Ketoacidosis is caused by the lack of insulin in the body, type one diabetics are unable to produce insulin and without it blood sugar rises and causes a build-up of Ketones in the blood, without insulin the body can’t flush them away quickly enough leading to ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis only affects type one diabetics due to poorly managed blood sugars, it can be extremely dangerous and life threatening but it does not have anything to do with nutritional Ketosis which is normal and harmless.
Should I eat low fat?
Modern day diets say fat is bad for you, you should eat low fat, and it has been drummed into us for years and years, the government is now starting to back track on vilifying fat and are now saying the opposite.
The trouble is low fat is usually stuffed full of sugar, the right fat is good for you. The most common mistake people make when starting a low carb diet is to go low fat but what they don’t realise is the body’s 2 main sources of energy are carbohydrates and fat, you have to have one of them or you will become hungry fatigued and crave bad food leading you to fail.
When should I eat?
Growing up, in schools college and even in the work place we have been set to think that certain times of the day are for eating, oh its 7.30am I should have breakfast, or its 12.30pm I should have lunch, we have unconsciously programmed ourselves to eat when we probably were not hungry but because the time of the day told us to.
From now on you need to ask yourself am I really hungry? Do I need to eat now? If the answer is no DO NOT EAT, do not be afraid of skipping, meals intermittent fasting is recommended on a Ketogenic diet, as you are eating sufficient amounts of fat you will not go hungry and your body will be able to go longer and longer without food, this intermittent fasting also promotes fat loss.
When should I stop eating?
Lots of us have lost the “I’m full signal” and some of us no longer recognise it at all, we have conditioned ourselves to over eat. The Ketogenic diet encourages you to stop eating before you get to that absolutely stuffed I can’t eat another thing but oh there’s dessert stage. Start to recognise when you have eaten enough and gradually your portion sizes will become smaller, remember the only reason we need food is to fuel our bodies not because a craving said so.
How do I know if I am in Ketosis?
There are a couple of ways to test if you are in Ketosis, with a finger prick blood test and a urine test, the blood tests can be expensive, so I use Keto sticks quick simple and easy You can purchase Ketone sticks here, you simply urinate on the sample stick and check the colour against the tube any change in colour means you are in Ketosis.
Keto sticks can be unreliable as they only measure the excess Ketones that are in urine if you drink a lot more you can dilute the Ketones giving you a false reading, and after a few months they stop registering altogether, this does not mean you are not in ketosis it just means the ketones you are producing are not showing on the stick, if you stay 20g or under on your carbs you are almost guaranteed to be in ketosis so don’t rely on them completely.
What to eat on a Ketogenic diet?
Meat: Any type, minced, steaks, stew pieces, fillets, etc. Bacon, Beef, pork, lamb, game, poultry, etc. Feel free to eat the fat on the meat as well as the skin on the chicken. If possible try to choose organic or grass-fed meats.
Fish and shellfish: All kinds, Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines or herring are great, avoid breaded food items.
Eggs: All kinds, Boiled, fried, scrambled, omelettes, etc.
Natural fat healthy fat: Butter, full fat cream, olive oil or coconut oil, avocado, fatty oily fish
Vegetables that grow above ground: Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, bok choy, spinach, asparagus, zucchini, eggplant, olives, spinach, mushrooms, cucumber, lettuce, avocado, onions, peppers, tomatoes etc.
Dairy products: Always choose full-fat options. Real butter, cream (40% fat), sour cream, Greek/Turkish yogurt and high-fat cheeses, Turkish yoghurt (10% fat)
Nuts: Great as a treat instead of popcorn, sweets or crisps. (in moderation)
Berries: Berries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries ect are okay in moderation, if you are not super strict or sensitive they are great served over whipped cream.
Avoid all processed, flavoured, sugary and low-fat products.
See our full keto approved food list here
What can I drink on a Ketogenic diet?
- Water (minimum of 2 litres per day)
- Flavoured water (Zero carb, avoid if you have issues with sweetener)
- Tea as well as green tea
- Coffee made with cream
- Bullet proof coffee made with cream butter and coconut oil (see recipes)
The scales aren’t moving am I losing weight?
Yes, weight fluctuates daily and we can see lbs added and lbs taken away within a few hours it is IMPOSSIBLE to put on 6lbs of fat in a day or two. Invest in a tape measure and measure yourself on a regular basis inch loss is better than weight loss.
Many people including myself can become obsessed with the weighing scales, we jump on every morning with excitement to see how much we weigh, what we have lost and usually end up feeling disheartened and disappointed to see either a gain, a stay the same or minimal loss especially when we have been trying so hard, don’t obsess about it because this can totally change how you feel and you could end up falling off the wagon.
We want to weigh on the day of starting Keto and then forget about them for a week, after that only weigh yourself once a week! Don’t be surprised to see that the scales don’t change for a couple of weeks at a time it happens, this is usually because our busy little fat cells are deciding what to do with themselves, do they stay open ready for the next storage of fat or do they close? So in the meantime they stay open and retain fluid, once the body realises it is not getting any stored fat it then gets rid of the water retention and the fat cells close.
Do I need to take a supplement?
Yes because we are cutting out a lot of fruit and vegetables we need to replace them it is recommended to take a few extra supplements on a daily basis we recommend
- Vitamin D
- Multi vitamin
- B12 complex
Be sure to check the carb content and also for hidden, sugar wheat & gluten
See here for recommended supplements for the Keto way of eating.
Are there any side effects when starting Keto?
It is common to experience some side effects while starting Keto so it is important that you ease yourself into it slowly, if you ditch everything and go all out Keto it is likely that you will experience Keto flu, some of the symptoms included;
- Heart palpitations
- Cold/flu symptoms
See here for full side effects of keto
How to overcome Keto side effects
Start of by lowering your carbs over a few days or even the first 2 weeks, going cold turkey can make you feel really crappy especially if you have been consuming lots of carbs and sugar.
Make sure you are getting enough sodium, magnesium and potassium, Keto is a diuretic meaning that you do not retain water, when we lose water we lose electrolytes so it is important to replenish our electrolytes on a daily basis, you can do this by
- For sodium you need to be drinking 1-2 cups of bone broth, bullion or stock per day and salting your food, you can also drink water with added pink Himalayan rock salt with a squeeze of lemon, without adequate sodium intake you lose potassium.
- Potassium can be regulated by eating leafy greens and avocado, it is not recommended to supplement potassium as it is dangerous if you get too much.
- Magnesium can be supplemented using magnesium citrate or malate
What are the benefits of a Keto diet?
- Weight loss
- Increased labido
- Improved mental health
- Improved mental clarity
- Lowered cholesterol.
- Lowered blood Sugar
- More energy
- Lack of hunger
- Lack of cravings
- Improved skin
- Improves autism
- Cures cancers
- Reverses type 2 diabetes
- Relieves migraines
- Heals leaky gut
- Heals systemic candida overgrowth
- Stops depression
It helps with many many other illnesses
You should always consult your doctor or dietitian before starting a new diet or healthy eating plan. Please do also remember a doctor’s role is to diagnose and treat illnesses and diseases they are not trained in dietary issues and some have no nutritional training or the minimum which is around 6 hours for their entire career, so the advice a doctor gives can be misleading and incorrect, so always seek a second, third or fourth opinion if you need to, we know our bodies.
What happens when i get to target?
While you are on a Ketogenic diet you are burning the fat that’s been stored, once your body has used it all up it continues to use the fat that you ingest on a daily basis.
When you get to target you can then add more carbs up to around 50g add in 5g of carbs per week and keep an eye on any weight gain, if you do gain weight you can just reduce the carbs again untill you are able to fine your own personal tolerance, when you find what suits you best you can stick with that to maintain your weight loss while continuing keto.
Not everyone is supportive of the Keto lifestyle and I’ve even know people to lose friends and fall out with family because of it, some people cannot get their head around eating fat to lose weight, the logical thing they think is how on earth can you eat fat you will clog up your arteries blah blah blah, your body burns fat for fuel once you cut carbohydrates, fat is only stored when you eat too many carbohydrates! Remember you do not have to explain yourself to anyone.
Good luck on your journey on becoming a fat adapted Keto loser and choosing the Ketogenic diet. feel free to join our group on Facebook let us know how you are getting on.
If you would like to be featured on our website with your journey on the ketogenic way of eating please send your before and after pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org