The Anatomy of a Keto Diet That Gets Results
If you’re looking to start a ketogenic diet, look no further…
Here is a complete guide that will show you how to start a keto diet without messing around with any of that “complicated” stuff.
There are more than 4000 words of the best keto info, and if I were you, I’d make time to read it all.
By the end of reading this guide, you will know more about the ketogenic diet than 99% of people.
- What is a Ketogenic Diet
- How to get into ketosis
- Am I in Ketosis
- Types of Ketogenic Diets
- Ketogenic Diet Macros
- Keto Macro Calculator
- Benefits of Keto
- Keto Side Effects
- The Ultimate Keto Food List
- Keto Snacks
- Foods to Avoid
- Eating Out on a Ketogenic Diet
- Ketosis Supplements
- Sample Ketogenic Meal
Let’s get started!
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
A ketogenic diet (keto diet) is low carb diet that is designed to help your body burn fat more efficiently.
It focuses on restricting carbs, eating sufficient amount of protein, and consuming fat for satiety.
Other low carb diets, like South Beach and Atkins, do not restrict protein intake, where standard ketogenic diet focuses on consuming protein goal in the range of 0.6-0.8 grams per pound of your lean body mass.
The ketogenic diet has been practiced for thousands of years without people fully understanding the underlying biochemistry of it.
Physicians of ancient Greece treated diseases, including epilepsy, using ketogenic diet in the form of fasting.
In the 1920s ketogenic diet became very popular in treating epilepsy. Back then, keto diet consisted of low-calorie vegetarian diet, combined with fasting.
In the 1920s Mynie Peterman established the standard ketogenic diet for children with epilepsy with 10-15 grams of carbs per day, 1 gram of protein per kilo of mass per day, and the rest of calories from fat.
The results in epilepsy patients are indeed astounding. 50% of patients improved their seizures and 33% became seizure-free.
Later scientists discovered other health benefits of a ketogenic diet, like weight loss, enhanced endurance and performance, and an incredible response to patients with other health issues.
These amazing results on a ketogenic diet happen because of the metabolic process called nutritional ketosis.
Let me explain this process to jump start your diet.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic process that is initiated when our body doesn’t have enough glycogen (derived from carbs) for your cells to consume for energy.
Instead, it starts to turn fat deposits (adipose) to energy instead. As part of this process, it produces ketones.
Ketone bodies are water-soluble molecules that are created by our liver from fatty acids. We produce ketones because fatty acids can’t cross the blood-brain barrier and they can’t be used by our brain as energy.
When folks talk about nutritional ketosis they associate it with the presence of ketones in your body.
Nutritional ketosis starts at 0.5 millimolar of ketones in your blood. Optimal ketone concentration is between 1.0-3.0 millimolar.
The highest concentration that I have reached was 3.1 right before going to bed.
How to get into ketosis
If you currently eat high carb meals, your body approximately has a two-day supply of glycogen that you will use as a primary energy source.
Normally, it takes 2-7 days to get into ketosis, depending on your carb intake, activity level, and your body composition.
If you consume 20 grams of net carbs, you should reach the state of ketosis within 3-4 days.
Am I In Ketosis?
How do you get a validation that you are in ketosis?
There are 3 main approaches to measuring the presence of ketones in your body.
Here is a big picture about ketone bodies flow
The liver produces ketones to circulate as blood ketones. Your body uses what it needs for energy and produces a byproduct in some cases (BHB) that is excreted through the breath. The unused ketones are excreted through the urine.
Blood ketone meter
It is the only reliable way of measuring ketone bodies. It tells your current state of ketosis.
With all the advantages having it with you, it can get pretty expensive. Precision Xtra blood ketone meter costs $30. On top of it, you would pay $4 per ketone strip.
If you want to measure your blood ketones once a day, $120 is a bunch of money for accurate blood ketones.
Ketone Test Strips
There are a lot of names for ketone test strips. Ketostix, keto sticks, urine sticks.
They are plastic strips that measure the presence of ketones in your urine. The strips do that by having a reagent known as nitroprusside, which reacts well to ketones (acetoacetate and acetone).
It is definitely a very popular way to measure your ketones, but the truth is that it does not tell you anything about ketones in your blood.
What you see are wasted ketones that are unused by your body.
The only case when I recommend buying Ketostix is when a person is just starting out. They want some sort of confirmation about the production of ketones. Keto sticks would give you that confirmation.
During the first a couple of weeks of the keto diet, you will have a lot of unused ketones in your urine. Your body is not keto adapted yet. $10 for a ketone waste affirmation is a good price to pay to stay calm.
The more keto adapted you get (4-6 weeks), the fewer ketones you will see in your urine. Ketone sticks will become not useful at all.
Ketone Strips Color Chart
Here is a ketone color chart to get you started:
Ketone Breath Meter
It is a decent indicator of ketosis, according to this paper. Ketones breath directly correlates with the levels of beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) in your blood.
What makes it less reliable is that in some cases, extra acetone itself can be excreted through the breath. So the reading can be inaccurate, depending on your alcohol consumption and water intake.
Now that you know about ketosis and how to measure it, let’s talk about different types of ketogenic diets and which one fits your needs.
Types of Ketogenic Diets
Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)
This type of the ketogenic diet is the most researched type out of all. Most of the information on the internet about keto is about this type of the diet.
The goal here is to eat 20-40 grams of carbs per day and keep the macro ratio to 75% fat, 20% protein, and only 5% carbs.
Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)
This approach spun out of the research that you need to eat carbs right before (45 min) intense workouts to enhance performance.
The idea is that you would burn all the glycogen and only temporarily will be out of ketosis.
The latest research suggests that you don’t really need to carb up to enhance performance and some athletes perform better while in ketosis.
High-protein Ketogenic Diet
This type is also known as a modified Atkins diet. If you never tried the standard ketogenic diet you are in for a surprise.
It is pretty difficult to have 75% of your calories to come from fat. Most people who try to follow ketogenic diet unwillingly end up in this category.
No worries, as long as you keep the macro ratio to 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs, you will do just fine.
Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)
This type of ketogenic diet combines 5-6 days of ketogenic dieting with intermittent periods (1-2 days) of high or moderate carbohydrate intake. It is not recommended to be used by beginners or people who are not focused on athletic performance.
Athletes practice this diet to temporarily leave ketosis to fill up their muscle glycogen to improve or sustain performance during the next week of exercise (cycle).
Restricted Ketogenic Diet (RKD)
This type of diet is mainly used in a therapeutic setting when treating cancer, epilepsy, and other neurological disorders.
It is focused on following a standard ketogenic diet (75/20/5) and a calorie restriction.
The RKD is created to reduce the metabolic factors that promote cancer growth while preserving normal cells from the toxic impact of chemotherapies.
Fasted Ketogenic Diet
A lot of people practice intermittent fasting while on a ketogenic diet. Dr. Jason Fung is a big proponent of looking at any diet from a perspective of both timing and nutrition. He suggests that timing could be as important as what you eat every day.
This diet focuses on adapting an intermittent fasting pattern while following a standard ketogenic diet.
Ketogenic Diet Macros
Do you know that measuring and following ketogenic ratio is too complex and for some people even stressful?
Do you want one hack to make it dead simple?
Count your macros in grams and memorize this little poem by /u/rickamore
Carbs are a limit to stay below
Protein is a goal to make you grow
Fat is the fuel so you’re not slow
If you follow this simple rule you will have no problem staying ketogenic without the need of counting “the ratio”.
Keto Macro Calculator
Before you start calculating ketogenic diet macros, visually estimate your body fat percentage here.
Benefits of Keto
In order to see the benefits of a ketogenic lifestyle, you should get your blood work done before starting keto and compare results after 3-4 months.
- Lack of cravings is the biggest benefit that I noticed. Before keto, I would crave certain foods all the time (mostly sweets). My diet became so much easier without constant cravings.
- Filling full. I also noticed that I feel full much faster into the meal. It might be attributed to lower insulin levels that does not block leptin which is responsible for feeling satiated.
- Triglycerides significantly decrease when people follow a ketogenic diet. It is attributed to carb consumption being closely tied to triglyceride levels. Therefore the fewer carbs you eat, the lower triglycerides level will become.
- Foggy brain is not fun. I have suffered from it for years, especially when I stopped daily training. There is some evidence that neurotransmitters in your brain function much better on ketones than on glucose.
- Better skin is another major component for me. When I used to work out 2-3 times per day, I have never had problems with my skin. Now I have an office job and my skin has become much worse. The ketogenic diet helped to clear up my skin within 4-6 weeks.
- Weight loss is a very attractive benefit for a lot of people on keto. On a ketogenic diet, you can effectively lose stubborn fat because your body burns fat deposits as a primary source of energy.
- My HDL Cholesterol levels significantly increased, whereas LDL cholesterol levels significantly decreased after following a ketogenic diet for 24 weeks. The level of total cholesterol decreased from week 1 to week 24.
- My Heart became much more efficient when it runs on ketones. Some people even experience stronger beats on keto. Dr. Veech showed that ketone bodies could increase the hydraulic efficiency of heart by 28% here
Keto Side Effects
All keto side effects are manageable. The better you understand why certain things happen to you the faster you can act to minimize them.
Headaches, Fatigue, and Brain Fog
This is by far the most common keto side effect that people have. This usually happens during the first week of keto.
It happens because during the first days of keto you increase urination which decreases the amount of mineral you have in your body. You also stop eating carby food that usually has a lot of salt in them.
The easiest way to mitigate these symptoms is to increase your intake of salt as well as potassium and magnesium.
I struggled a lot in the beginning with this keto side effect. It is usually caused by being dehydrated.
Try to add magnesium citrate daily before you go to bed every night. If this doesn’t help then I would look at decreasing the consumption of nuts and dairy products.
Yet another keto side effect of being dehydrated. I work out almost every day and waking up from muscle cramps is never fun.
I try to increase my water intake as well as sodium, potassium, and magnesium to avoid having cramps in the future.
This keto side effect is pretty common. It happens if you eat too much protein in your diet while consuming low-carb, low-fat foods.
The solution is to adjust your macros where the protein is no more than 30% of your calorie intake.
This side effect is probably not related to a ketogenic diet. When your body is adjusting to a completely new lifestyle it undergoes a lot of stress.
Another reason might be related to the nature of the ketogenic diet focusing on normalizing your insulin level and getting rid of constant daily sugar spikes.
It seems that this problem should go away after your body adjusts to your new lifestyle.
I have had this problem myself when started out a ketogenic diet. I had trouble falling asleep and I would wake up a lot during the night.
This can vary from person to person, but for me raising my serotonin levels before going to bed was the key.
I would have dark chocolate, berries, or some yogurt before going to bed. The symptoms went away after that.
The Ultimate Keto Food List
Did you know that you can eat vegetables on a keto diet? A lot of vegetables! The ketogenic food list is not a low-vegetable, meat and cheese kind of list. It is filled with a vast variety of vegetables.
Sadly, not all veggies are great on keto!
This carrot is sad because it is not ketogenic enough. Let me clarify why.
The NET carbs for a large carrot are 6.9g (total carbs) – 2g (fiber) = 4.9g. It is a lot for just one carrot if we want to keep it under 20 NET carbs daily! 3.4g of total carbs come from sugar, which will definitely spike up your insulin levels.
What about the rest 4.9g – 3.4g = 1.5g of carbs?
The remainder is the starch, which is an empty carb that we don’t want to eat a lot of. And let me tell you, there are a lot of starchy vegetables that will not fit into your keto macros.
I would suggest avoiding vegetables that are above 10 net carbs, especially if you are doing a standard ketogenic diet with under 20 NET carbs per day. Otherwise, you can eat any vegetables in moderation, just count your daily carbs. I found myfitnesspal to be the best app for easy tracking of ketogenic vegetables and meals.
Here is a list of keto vegetables that I sorted by NET carbs.
Here is the identical chart of ketogenic vegetables per 100g portions: link
Ketogenic Meat and Fish
- Most organ meat from animals
Here is a list of seafood that has some carbs:
- Clams (2.39g per 100g)
- Lobster (1.27g per 100g)
- Mussels (3.44g per 100g)
- Octopus (2.07g per 100g)
- Oysters (3.73g per 100g)
- Scallops (2.41 per 100g)
- Shrimp (1g per 100g)
- Squid (2.92g per 100g)
Here is a list of unprocessed no carb seafood:
- Spanish Mackerel
Alcohol and Ketosis
I wrote a very extensive post about keto alcohol with 340 alcohol items analyzed, plus tips and strategies on how to drink on a ketogenic diet.
Here is a no carb food list for alcohol and beverages that I drink regularly. No flavored spirits. They might have sugar!
- Diet Sodas ( watch out for sweeteners )
- Seltzer water
- Soda water
- Sugar-free and carb-free energy drinks
Keto Condiments and Spices
Low / no carb food list seasoning (1 tsp net carbs)
- Salt (0g)
- Black Pepper (0.9g)
- Chili Powder (0.4g)
- Curry Powder (0.5g)
- Mustard (0.1g)
- Most Hot Sauces (0.2g)
- Dill (0.8g)
- Basil (0g)
- Chives (0g)
- Cinnamon (0.7g)
- Oregano (0.4g)
- Rosemary (0g)
- Thyme (0.1g)
Almost no carb dressings per (1 tbsp net carbs):
- Soy Sauce (0.5g)
- Mayonnaise (0.1 g)
- Caesar Dressing (0.46g)
- Ranch Dressing (0.9g)
- Italian Dressing (0.94g)
- Bacon and Tomato Dressing (0.3g)
- Peppercorn Dressing (0.47g)
- Vinegar (0.05g)
- Sweet and Sour Dressing (0.59g)
Eggs and Dairy
One large egg, for example, has 0.40g net carbs.
What about cheese? Carbs in cheese can vary from 0.1g to 12g per slice.
Here is a list of low carb cheese options per slice (30g):
- Asiago (0.91g)
- Blue (0.66g)
- Brie (0.13g)
- Camembert (0.13g)
- Cheddar (0.36g)
- Colby (0.72g)
- Edam (0.41g)
- Fontina (0.43)
- Goat (0.62g)
- Gouda (0.63g)
- Mexican Blend (0.54g)
- Monterey (0.19g)
- Mozzarella (0.62g)
- Muenster (0.31g)
- Parmesan (0.91g)
- Provolone (0.60g)
- Ricotta (0.86g)
I personally can’t live without snacks. It is how I cope with my cravings. The importance of finding keto snacks was crucial.
Here is a list of no carb snacks as well as snacks that I very low in carbs:
- Pepperoni Slices (0.5g per 14 slices)
- String Cheese (0.7g per stick)
- Pork Rinds (0g)
- Peanut Butter (2g per tbsp)
- No Sugar Jello (2g per cup)
- Pepperoni sticks (1g per stick)
- Biltong (0.3g per piece)
- Seaweed (0.02g per strip)
- Baked zucchini chips (0.04g per piece)
- Almonds (2.5g per 30 grams)
- Sunflower Seeds (2.5g per 30 grams)
Foods to Avoid
There is no confusion out there about which foods are keto friendly, and which are not. Carbs are the limit on keto and so are the foods that contain a lot of carbs, sometimes even hidden carbs.
If you want to stay in ketosis, then you should avoid eating these foods.
To make things a little easier for you, here is a list of the top “healthy” foods you should avoid on a ketogenic diet.
Fruit: I try to avoid all fruit. Sometimes I eat a couple of strawberries and blueberries which have the lowest levels of carbs. Other fruits have much more sugar than fiber so they will not fit your macros.
Milk: If you look at the label of your favorite skim or low-fat milk, you will probably see about 6 grams of sugar per serving. Even full-fat milk has sugar in it. Yikes… I usually just switch to heavy cream in my coffee.
Artificial sweeteners: this can be very tricky on a keto diet. Some artificial sweeteners elevate your glycemic index and are not allowed on keto.
Sweet alcoholic drinks: Did you know you can get drunk on keto? Yes, but you should avoid sweet wines, cocktails, most beers, champagne, liqueurs, some flavored vodkas. Also, watch out for mixers containing sugar in them.
Grains: If you are not following any diet chances are you are eating tons grains. Bread, rice, pasta, bagels, cereal, granola, chips, pizza crust, crackers, pretzels etc. All of these have a lot of carbs in them that turn into glucose in your body.
Starchy foods: I came from a potato country, I love potatoes, but I had to give them up on a ketogenic diet. The same goes with sweet potatoes, beans, yams, corn, parsnips, most types of squash. Stick to leafy greens instead.
Sugar: Lollipops, juices, smoothies, sodas, honey, jams, maple syrup, syrups, candy, most chocolates, cookies. Basically, anything that is in a candy aisle is not going to be on a keto diet.
“Low-fat” products: Sugar industry years ago switched the blame on fat as being evil. That is the reason we have so many low-fat products right now. What makes low-fat foods palatable is the extra sugar. So, watch out for hidden carbs.
The most helpful thing for me was to start looking at labels of all foods that I purchase and re-educate myself about foods that are not allowed. Read all the labels. I found a lot of surprising items (sugar-free) that would still have a lot of starch in them.
Eating Out on a Ketogenic Diet
I love going out with my friends and eating at restaurants. People are getting better at providing paleo options but a ketogenic diet is not mainstream enough for businesses to care.
Don’t worry, most of the time you will be able to get keto friendly options at the restaurants and even fast food places.
If you follow these tips, you will stay in ketosis while staying social.
- Substitute starchy or carby side items for a simple salad
- Drop the bun on burgers and sandwiches
- Ask for extra melted butter to put on your dish for satiety
- Order olive oil and vinegar on your side salad to add healthy fat
- Avoid low carb dressings and condiments
- Drink water, sparkling water, tea, or coffee
- For Alcohol, drink light beer, dry wine, spirits with club soda
- For dessert, order some berries with whipped cream
What if nothing on the menu seems to work?
In these cases, I try to get creative and order a side of meat (burger, chicken or whatever they have) and a big salad with cucumber tomatoes and leafy greens. For my condiments, I order olive oil and vinegar.
Most places also have baked chicken wings, artichoke dip, shrimp as appetizers.
First 4-6 weeks ( to reach keto adaptation and avoid keto flu)
- Magnesium Citrate
- Vitamin C / Multivitamin
- Magnesium Citrate
- Fish Oil
Increase fat macros and raise energy (ketone) levels
- Coconut Oil
- MCT Oil
If you are serious about performance and gains
- Whey Protein
A Sample Ketogenic Meal Plan For 1 Week
Keto Shopping List
- 12 large eggs
- 2 packs of cheese sticks
- 1 bag of almonds
- 1 large pack of full-fat cream cheese
- 1 pack of deli meat (turkey or ham)
- Full-fat sour cream
- 1 large bag of salad mix
- 1 large bag of frozen broccoli
- 3 tomatoes
- 1 pack of real butter (Kerrygold)
- 1 bottle of coconut oil
- 1 bottle of full-fat ranch dressing
- 1 pack of real bacon bites
- 3 cans of light tuna in water
- 1 pound of ground beef
- 6 boneless chicken thighs
- 4 Talapia fillets
Breakfast: 2 boiled eggs, 1 can of tuna with mayo, bulletproof coffee/tea Lunch: BLT salad with full-fat ranch dressing Snack: 2 cheese sticks Dinner: Taco salad with ground beef and sour cream
Breakfast: 3 scrambled eggs with butter, 1 cheese stick, bulletproof coffee/tea Lunch: Deli meat wrapped in cream cheese Snack: 15 almonds Dinner: Steamed broccoli with butter and 2 chicken thighs
Breakfast: 2 boiled eggs, 1 can of tuna with mayo, bulletproof coffee/tea Lunch: Chef’s salad. 1 egg, deli meat, cheese and salad mix with ranch Snack: 2 sticks of cheese Dinner: Taco salad with ground beef and sour cream
Breakfast: 3 scrambled eggs with butter, 1 cheese stick, bulletproof coffee/tea Lunch: Deli meat wrapped in cream cheese Snack: 15 almonds Dinner: Steamed broccoli with butter and 2 chicken thighs
Breakfast: 2 boiled eggs, 1 can of tuna with mayo, bulletproof coffee/tea Lunch: BLT salad with full-fat ranch dressing Snack: 2 sticks of cheese Dinner: Taco salad with ground beef and sour cream
Breakfast: bulletproof coffee/tea Lunch: Chicken ceasar salad. Chicken (leftover boneless chicken thighs baked in the oven), salad, and ceasar dressing. Snack: 15 almonds Dinner: 2 Tilapia fillets pan-fried in butter with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lime. Salad mix on a side with Ranch
Breakfast: bulletproof coffee/tea Lunch: Chicken ceasar salad. Chicken (leftover boneless chicken thighs baked in the oven), salad, and ceasar dressing. Snack: 2 sticks of cheese Dinner: 2 Tilapia fillets pan-fried in butter with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lime. Salad mix on a side with Ranch