One of the best diets on the planet is the keto diet plan for beginners.
To many, the ketogenic diet is yet another fad that has been popularized and commercialized by both the media and celebrities.
On the contrary, this eating plan/original ketogenic therapy, known as the classic ketogenic diet and designed by Dr. Russell Wilder in 1923, has not only been proven to have potential health benefits, but has also been backed by an overwhelming majority of registered dietitians including the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association as well as the American Cancer Society.
The Ketogenic Diet involves the consuming of 5-10% of your daily calories from carbs, 70% of your calories from MTC (Medium-chain triglycerides) fats, and the remaining 20-25% from high-quality protein sources.
Because carbohydrate intake is minimal on the plan, it means is that you must limit legumes, like beans and peas, whole grains, dairy, fruit, and some vegetables
Instead, eat foods like avocados, eggs, butter, meat, fish, poultry, salad, nuts, seeds, oily salad dressings, etc… to enter ketosis.
Other variations of the ketogenic diet include the:
- Standard ketogenic diet – A low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet containing 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs
- Cyclical ketogenic diet – A mix of high carb (1-2) days and ketogenic days (5-6).
- Targeted ketogenic diet – Carbs allowed around workouts.
- High-protein ketogenic diet: A standard ketogenic diet, with a 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs ratio.
What is Ketosis on the Ketogenic Diet?
As a beginner looking to start the keto diet plan, you must first understand what ketosis is.
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body learns how to use fat instead of sugar for energy.
Ketosis only occurs when your blood sugar is low, and the glycogen in your muscles has been depleted as a result of fasting or eating a low-carb diet for a prolonged period of time.
Because your body is powered by sugar from micronutrient carbohydrates, it will begin to tap into its glycogen reserves once you drastically limit your carbs intake.
It takes about three days for your body’s sugar reserves to get used up.
In turn, your liver begins to metabolize fat through a process known as ketogenesis to produce byproducts of fat metabolism called ketones that your body can then use as an alternative form of energy.
Research suggests that entering ketosis is a fast and effective way to lose body fat and offer unique health benefits provided you consume almost no carbohydrates.
One study found that persons on the ketogenic diet lost 3 times more weight than those on the Diabetes UK recommended diet.
When followed correctly, this low-carb, high-fat diet will raise blood ketone levels fast
There are a few ways to determine if you’ve entered nutritional ketosis and to what degree.
The most common signs of ketosis include:
- The “keto flu” or the “low carb flu” because your body is adapting to burning fat for fuel instead of carbs
- A general lack of appetite
- Elevated heart rate
- Weight loss – One study found that subjects on the 800 kcal ketogenic diet lost over 1 pound a day.
- Digestive issues like constipation and diarrhea due to changing to a low-carb diet for the first time
- Poor sleep or insomnia, including brain fog during the initial stages of ketosis
- Weakness and fatigue due to low blood sugar levels
- A decrease in workout performance caused by the reduction in your muscles’ glycogen stores
- Muscle cramps
- Dry mouth and bad breath
- A rapid drop in water weight and stored carbs
- Increased ketones in blood, urine, and breath
- Decreased appetite due to increased protein and vegetable intake
What Is The Ketogenic Diet?
When on the ketogenic diet plan, insulin and glycogen or sugar levels drop, consequently, causing a rapid loss of fluids and sodium.
The felt effects are the result of your body’s response to carbohydrate restriction, and while symptoms like the “keto flu” symptoms are no more dangerous than mild everyday dehydration
You can minimize the potential side effects of ketosis by:
- Replenishing the fluid that you loose by drinking at least 2.5 liters of water a day and 3.5 liters for women and men respectively
- Replacing sodium loss by adding a pinch of unrefined salt to your water and meals
- Taking supplements or consume foods that are high in magnesium and potassium such as pumpkin seeds, almonds, spinach, and avocado help relieve leg cramps
- Including more MCT’s like Extra virgin olive oil, high-quality avocado oil, coconut oil, in your diet to help your body adjust to using fat for fuel plus they have proven very effective at pushing you into ketosis more quickly
- To improve keto flu symptoms and increase fat burning, take up low-intensity exercises like walking and cycling. Minimize intense workouts like HIIT exercises while you’re adapting to ketosis because the added stress can slow ketosis
- Adjusting to carbohydrate restriction will leave you sleep-deprived, stressed out, and even make it harder to enter ketosis. In this case, yoga or meditation can help lower stress levels and improve sleep quality
- Use a keto calculator to determine the perfect amount of protein you should be consuming daily
- Look for keto-friendly fiber-rich vegetables to help manage digestive health and alleviate any issues with constipation or diarrhea
- Try the 16/8 keto intermittent fasting method where you only eat during an eight-hour time-frame and then fast for 16. Not only will this help your body reach ketosis quicker, but it may also boost more fat burning than the keto diet alone. Additionally, studies show that intermittent fasting may preserve muscle mass as well as improve energy levels in order to boost athletic performance. When done correctly, intermittent fasting may reduce hunger pangs and promote feelings of fullness during the weight loss process. Check out my article on Intermittent Fasting HERE.
Note that you may experience reactions such as over-eating on non-fasting days, irritability and fatigue when you combine intermittent fasting while on the keto diet plan.
Adapting to the ketogenic diet may prove challenging for some people because a carbohydrate restriction is bound to cause various shifts in the body’s mechanisms.
While ketosis has had a bad reputation with individuals who have uncontrolled diabetes, following the above-mentioned suggestions will make acclimatizing to the diet much easier even help you beat the associated unpleasant ketosis side effects.
If you have controlled type-2 diabetes, there’s hope. One study showed that dietary modification led to improvements in glycemic control and medication reduction/elimination in motivated volunteers with type 2 diabetes. The ketogenic group in this study had improvements in hemoglobin, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, HDL, body weight and weight loss.
If you are on a keto diet plan for beginners and wondering what supplements to take to keep you going because truth be told, it can prove challenging to stick to it long-term, consider exogenous ketones, caffiene, creatine, whey, and healthy electrolytes.
Not only can the ketones help you enter ketosis faster, but they can also boost mental clarity, improve focus, and enhance cognitive function.
When used correctly, exogenous ketones can also help you avoid the keto flu and can be a useful helping hand to speed up your weight loss process because they naturally suppress appetite plus if you have low levels of BHB ketones in your blood the supplements can help elevate them fast.
In one study ketones were also found to possibly have a therapeutic effect on diseases of substrate insufficiency or insulin resistance, diseases resulting from free radical damage, and disease resulting from hypoxia.
Measuring Ketones on the Ketogenic Diet
When you’re in ketosis, ketone levels can range from zero to extremely high, and those that aren’t used will show up in different areas of the body such as your breath, urine, and blood.
Measuring ketones regularly can give you a clear understanding of where you are in ketosis.
Ketone levels are measured in millimoles per liter and someone following the keto diet to a tee will have an optimal ketone range between 0.6 and 3.0 mmol.
While you can get tested for ketones in a lab, it’s not necessary.
You can get a more definitive answer by using quick and affordable at-home color-coded urine test strips that are to help you determine the presence of ketones.
They are also widely available in health stores.
Note that there are also tests that have been developed to detect ketosis through your breath via a Ketonix breath meter.
While it’s not the most reliable, it’s helpful when combined with other methods to test the amount of ketones present on your breath.
Other than the breath and urine testing, the most accurate way of measuring ketosis is by using a blood glucose meter and a test strip to determine your blood ketone levels.
The test requires a small pinprick on your finger to draw blood in order to calculate the amount of beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) in your blood.
Beware that if you’re going to use a blood glucose meter method it can be costly because each test strip can fetch an upwards of 5 to 10 dollars, and that adds up each time you need to check your ketone levels.
As aforementioned, ketone levels can range from zero to very high, and the following ranges should give you a rough idea where yours measure:
- Negative ketone levels – Less than 0.6mmol
- Low to moderate ketone level – Between 0.6 and 1.5mmol
- High ketone level – Between 1.6 and 3.0 mmol
- Extremely high ketone levels – Above 3.0
- Diabetic ketoacidosis – 3-5 times higher than the healthy ranges
How long one stays in ketosis varies from person to person.
While it also depends on your existing health condition, body type, and physical activity, you can remain in the state anywhere between 2 to 7 days provided you keep boosting your ketone levels and follow a strict low-carb plan.
Is Ketosis Safe?
As a beginner on the keto diet plan, you will be wondering whether ketosis is safe.
The internet is rife with all kinds of information, and you might be wondering if the keto diet and being in ketosis is safe.
The thing to understand is that while this type of plan can be a beneficial way to help you get rid of excess fat, it’s not magical, and the keto results vary from person to person.
For example, some individuals can follow a strict low-carb diet and not experience the “keto flu,” while others symptoms may be full-blown.
It’s important to note that ketosis is an individual experience that can be difficult to begin. In fact, the first two or three days are considered as the most challenging since you’ve eliminated sugar. Once your body enters nutritional ketosis the rewards are remarkable.
You will definitely experience feelings of hunger, fatigue, irritability, etc, but the juice is worth the squeeze because once ketosis kicks in your body will start burning fat, your physical energy and mental clarity will return in due time.
That said, there have been numerous studies on ketogenic diet and its long-term effects on obese patients, who after 24-hours reported elevated levels of HDL, the good cholesterol.
The ketogenic diet has proven effective in promoting weight loss since it causes the body to burn stored body fat and because it also restricts the consumption of sugar, it’s an effective way to manage blood sugar levels.
That said, if you have type 1 diabetes, you should not follow a ketogenic diet or seek ketosis without approval and observation from your physician or certified dietician.
This is because you may be susceptible to a potentially dangerous metabolic state known as the diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA, a state in which the acidity of the blood increases.
With DKA, the amount of ketones in the body is extremely high.
One of the leading causes is poor insulin and diet management in people with type 1 diabetes and sometimes type 2 diabetics.
Other possible triggers for DKA that may result in the blood to turn acidic include:
- An overactive thyroid
- Medications that may inhibit the proper use of insulin
- Starvation combined with alcoholism or drug abuse
- Major diseases like pancreatitis including illnesses such as urinary tract infections and pneumonia
Nutritional ketosis, which is the process of breaking down fat for energy can only be achieved by following a well-balanced keto diet. In essence, this state should produce low levels of ketones that are not a cause for concern for the average person.
If you have diabetes or an inconsistent approach to the keto diet, you should use caution if you experience symptoms such as:
- Dehydration due to excessive urination
- Extreme thirst
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue and confusion
- Nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain
- Blood glucose above 250 mg/dl and blood pressure less than 90/60
- Excessive ketones present in the blood may result in kidney stones
One of the goals of the keto diet is to enter a metabolic process where ketones are produced for fuel.
True ketosis is safe and useful in helping mitigate a plethora of health issues like diabetes type 1 and 2, polycystic ovary syndrome, and even heart disease.
However, a ketone production can get critical when insulin is deficient and as mentioned, results in ketoacidosis.
Fortunately, this condition is preventable.
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetics can present healthy blood sugar and ketone levels, allowing them to get off all of their insulin medication.
Benefits of Ketosis on the Ketogenic Diet
While strict macro-tracking, dietary limitations, and unpleasant side effects are enough reason to drop the keto diet, it’s the combination of carbohydrate restriction and ketone production while on the plan that provides a plethora of benefits for people with different health issues.
Losing weight is just one of the benefits of ketosis. Once your body switches to ketosis for energy, it will boost the fat burning and fat loss process.
Another reason why many people report fast weight loss results, as seen on various keto diet reviews, is because high-fat and low-carb intake is generally satisfying and satiating.
Additionally, cutting out refined carbs and sugars means that you don’t need to count calories or portion sizes to lose weight.
You also avoid crazy spikes in blood sugar that often leave you feeling hungry soon after eating.
Is the Ketogenic Diet Healthy?
The following are some of the health benefits of the ketogenic diet plan for beginners:
- With proper diabetes management, the keto diet can be an effective remedy for restoring insulin sensitivity and normal metabolic function.
- The plan has been shown to be helpful in treating children with severe epilepsy, and may also have potential benefits for people with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s because ketosis protects the brain from oxidative damage. One study showed the ketogenic diet proven to be effective in the control of difficult-to-control seizures in children.
- Researchers at Yale School of Medicine found that hypersensitivity to allergens can be significantly reduced when ketone levels are elevated. As such, these ketones help support normal immune system cell recycling process and function because they clear out worn-out cells to make room for healthy immune cells
- Research on the keto diet suggest that a low carb diet supports healthy cognitive function, showing a positive impact on brain health.
- Using fat for fuel also known as “keto-adaptation” can help boost workout performance in athletes who engage in long periods of exercise
- The diet increases mitochondrial production and efficiency
- Reduces chronic inflammation
- It can help reverse or reduce the severity of polycystic ovary syndrome, fatty liver disease, cancer, migraines, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and sugar levels
- Some research even suggests that the ketogenic diet can help slow the effects of aging even improve risk factors for some age-related health conditions by promoting longevity and strength
What is the Difference Between the Ketogenic, Atkins, Low-Carb, and Paleo Diet?
Many fat-loss fads diets come and go, and very few yield lasting results, and the ketogenic diet is one such strategy that has been tried, tested, and proven effective for burning fat.
Keto and Atkins are two of the most popular diets that follow carbohydrate restriction. Both involve the cutting back on some fruit and veggies in order to put the body into ketosis.
Protein and fat intake are a must in both diets, but carbs sources from nuts, seeds, vegetables, and cheese, particularly on Atkins are strictly limited to between 20 and 25 grams.
The ketogenic diet, on the other hand, involves cutting your carb intake down to about 5% and 75% of your remaining calories should come from fat and 20% from high-quality protein sources.
Keto vs. Paleo
Protein and fat are the primary macronutrients of the ketogenic diet, recently gaining popularity as a prime weight-loss regimen.
The paleo diet, also known as the Paleolithic diet focuses on consuming cave-man-like, whole, unprocessed foods.
There are different variations of the paleo diet including some that allow modern foods like grass-fed butter, gluten-free grains, quality red wine and 70% dark chocolate.
The paleo diet restricts all types of dairy foods and is not necessarily low in carbohydrate
The ketogenic diet encourages high-fat dairy consumption and sufficient carb restriction to enter nutritional ketosis.
Ketogenic vs. Low-Carb Diet
Low carb diets have seen a surge in popularity and have proven effective in promoting fast weight loss and health improvement.
The biggest difference to note between these 2 diets is the slightly higher intake of carbs in the low carb diet program.
What to Eat on Ketogenic Diet?
As a beginner, you’re going to wonder exactly what you should be eating on the ketogenic diet plan. There are a large number of delicious keto diet recipes that can help you follow this low-carb, high-fat diet (LCHF), even on a budget.
To start the ketogenic diet, you must be committed to adhere to a rigorous nutrition plan, and in this case, meal planning will keep you on track.
Adhering to the eating plan in the beginning may be difficult, but the good news is, one study showed in the short term that high-protein, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets reduce hunger and lower food intake significantly more than do high-protein, medium-carbohydrate nonketogenic diets.
In creating an excellent ketogenic diet plan for yourself, you need to begin by calculating your macros.
Your dietary and nutritional needs must be adjusted according to your height, weight, and body fat percentage.
Aiming at or below 50g of carbs each day is sufficient enough to help you stay in ketosis provided you consume approximately 75% fat and 20% protein to maintain your muscle mass, but not enough protein to push you out of ketosis.
In addition to taking supplements in order to mitigate nutrient deficiencies and typical keto side effects like brain fog, poor sleep, muscle cramping, and electrolyte imbalances, a well-planned keto diet must consist of healthy fats and high-quality protein foods.
Some variations of the ketogenic meal plans encourage a high consumption of mainly animal-based fats and protein.
Acceptable keto foods you can eat on the ketogenic diet include meat, fish, eggs, butter, cheese, nuts and seeds, keto-based coffee, healthy oils, avocados, veggies, and berries.
Unacceptable keto foods you shouldn’t eat on the ketogenic diet include most fruits, beans, root veggies, sugary foods, unhealthy fats, and alcohol.
Some keto snacks may include dark chocolate, cheese, or nuts.
Keto Diet Plan
A keto diet plan you may consider might look something like this:
- Breakfast: Bacon, eggs, keto pancakes and blueberries.
- Lunch: Keto smoothie
- Dinner: Salmon, asparagus, butter, coconut milk.
- Breakfast: Egg, avocado, spinach, and cheese omelet.
- Lunch: Chicken Cobb salad
- Dinner: Steak and vegetables.
- Breakfast: A ketogenic milkshake, berries
- Lunch: Tuna salad sandwich, avocado
- Dinner: Ribs, broccoli
- Breakfast: Hard boiled eggs, keto waffle and yogurt parfait
- Lunch: Salad with nuts
- Dinner: Baked Chicken and veggies
- Breakfast: Keto protein shake
- Lunch: Tomato Bisque
- Dinner: Pork Chop, brown rice, green beans
- Breakfast: Chicken and veggie omelet
- Lunch: Ham and cheese with nuts.
- Dinner: Burger with baked veggies and olive oil
- Breakfast: Steak and eggs, salsa
- Lunch: Avocado salad, berries
- Dinner: Salmon and quinoa
If you need your weekend alcoholic beverage, the best keto alcohol to stick with would be whiskey, gin, tequila, or a low carb beer such as a Michelob Ultra.
There is a keto recipe for practically everything out there.
There are different keto breakfast options like keto smoothies, keto fruit, and even keto pancakes.
For lunch or dinner you can get a variety of different keto chicken recipes, keto soups, and keto ground beef recipes.
All of these keto recipes focus on low carbs, healthy fats, and excellent protein sources.
One keto smoothie I like to drink is this amazing blackberry smoothie:
- 1 1/4 cups Coconut Milk
- 1 tsp. low-carb sweetener
- 1/4 avocado
- 1/2 cup blackberries
- 2 tsp. unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder
- 1 tsp. peanut or almond butter
My Ketogenic Diet Success Story
I’ve always been a natural follower of the ketogenic diet.
Most breads don’t make it to my plate.
I tend to eat a high protein, low carb, high fat diet.
The greener the plate, the better.
Meats and diary have always been a mainstay, but I’ve definitely cut back on the dairy.
This isn’t a diet for everyone, but for me it’s been a staple of my ability to shed pounds and keep them off.
Summary: A Keto Diet Plan for Beginners (Free)
The ketogenic diet is ideal for beginners and those looking to lose weight. Ketosis is not recommended for pregnant women, endurance athletes, and type 1 diabetics. If you’re serious about starting a ketogenic diet plan for beginners, thoroughly educate yourself and consult your physician first to get the all-clear. A well researched diet and exercise regimen is always the best way to go about any weight loss program.
Need more information? Check out my List of 20 Foods to Eat on the Ketogenic Diet (2020)
Have you tried the ketogenic diet? What have your results been? Let me know in the comments!