A Beginners Guide to the Keto Diet
A Ketogenic or ‘Keto’ Diet has become increasing popular during the past few years. Many people, including myself, are experiencing huge health benefits as a result of changing their eating habits.
You might have heard about the Keto diet from friends, or have read about it on a blog or social media. It probably seems like a very different approach to most other diets out there, and in some ways, it is a lot simpler and easier to follow and stick to.
This beginners guide is a quick overview of the basics of Ketogenic Diet to help you get the most out of your first 6 weeks.
Keep in mind the keto diet is meant to be a lifestyle change, not a fad. It is not a quick fix, and if you stop after a few weeks, your efforts will likely be wasted.
In my own experience, and working with many patients, I have seen some amazing results. I have seen many people:
- Reach a healthy weight, after many years of struggling
- Reverse or lowering their risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer
- Have more confidence and sense of control over their health
How does the Ketogenic diet work?
Our bodies are very similar to a hybrid car. They can use different types of fuels, depending which we choose to use.
Your body needs glucose, which is a simple sugar. Glucose helps your brain work and gets energy to your muscles, your heart and your liver. The amount of sugar a person needs depends on their metabolism, energy level and body size.
If you have more glucose than you need at one time, your body stores it as fat.
Why does this happen? Because your body stores fat for future fuel. It assumes you are eating more than you need to store for the times when you can’t fuel yourself.
Carbohydrates are organic compounds found in a lot of foods that contain sugar. Keto is a very low carbohydrates diet, which allows your body to remain in the right metabolic state to lose weight.
Ketosis is a state where where the body is starved of carbohydrate stores, thus it begins breaking down fat and utilizing ketones for fuel. It is a natural function and healthy for the body to do. But in the absence of carbs, there’s another method by which the body can get energy: by breaking down proteins.
Essentially your body uses its’ fat reserves to create glucose instead of using sugars found in carbohydrates. This is the same as a hybrid car switching over from fuel to electricity.
The three simple rules of the Ketogenic Diet
To make the veto diet work, there are basically three simple rules to follow.
1) High fats
If you give your body fat in higher quantities, it will burn it. It won’t store it the same way it will store sugar from carbohydrates.
2) Medium protein
Your body needs protein to build and repair muscles, so you must keep a medium level of protein intake to stay healthy.
3) Low (or no) Carbs
As you are fueling your body with fats and protein, your body doesn’t need the sugar from carbohydrates to create sugar.
Fats and the Keto Diet
Sources of Fats
On the keto diet, you must actively consume more healthy fats. Fat has gotten a bad rap during the past 20 years. Since the 1980s it was thought to be the source of a lot of weight gain. Hence the term ‘fat-free’ has come to represent a healthy option.
Ironically, a lot of foods that are labeled fat free are actually full of carbohydrates and sugars to compensate.
How can eating more fats be healthy?
The first time you hear about the idea of consuming more fat, it seems strange. You are likely used to avoiding it for ‘health’ reasons. But the keto diet is a different approach to nutrition.
Remember the mantra ‘eat fat to burn fat’. This will help during the first few weeks as your body is adjusting to the ketosis metabolic style.
The best healthy fats are:
Extra virgin olive oil Avocados and avocado oil Macadamia nut oil
Lard and bacon fat
Be conscious of calories
One more key point regarding oils and fats. Remember that they are higher in calories than most other foods, and for this reason you cannot simply consume large amounts of fats. When you do consume fat, you likely find it will satisfy you faster and you won’t need to eat as much. This is especially important in the early days of switching to a keto diet. Be aware of the feeling of being full earlier when you eat fats.
Proteins and the Keto Diet
Sources of Protein
Proteins, which consist of amino acids, are essential nutrients for the human body. They are one of the building blocks of body tissue and can be used as a fuel source. Protein has also been shown to increase energy expenditure. This means that by following a diet rich in protein, you will burn more calories.
Although vegetarian versions of this diet are possible it is usually easier to base each meal around a fatty piece of meat, poultry, fish or eggs.
The main protein sources for the keto diet are:
Beef (hamburger and steak) Chicken, Turkey, Duck
Pork, ham, bacon
Processed meats (sausage, pepperoni) Tuna, Salmon, Trout,
Shrimp, Scallops, Lobster
Beware of overeating protein
One of the biggest mistakes people run into when going and staying keto is eating too much protein. When you’re eating a ketogenic diet, it can be pretty easy to eat a lot of foods high in protein.
Make sure your protein sources and natural and whole foods, not processed meats that might contain added sugars and other carbs.
If you need help tracking the correct amount of protein, you can use a tool such as the macronutrient calculator to help you.
Carbs and the Keto Diet
Sources of Carbs
Ideally on a keto diet, the challenge is to keep your carbohydrate intake below 20 total grams per day. This can be a very confusing statement, so lets break it down.
Carbs Vs Net Carbs
Some carbohydrates contain fiber, which is burned by the body.
Breads and what based products have very little fiber and essentially add carbohydrate rates to your diet.
Vegetables have different amounts of carbohydrates and fiber. Fiber essentially cancels out some of the carbs in vegetables. This means that carbs are then reduced, also known as ‘net carbs’.
How to get healthy levels of carbs
One way to get the right amount of carbs is to remove all bread, pasta, rice and legumes from your diet. Stick to vegetables as your source of carbohydrates.
When it comes to vegetables, anything leafy and green is going to have low carbs. You can also think of in terms of above-ground vegetables and below-ground vegetables.
- Vegetables growing above ground are low carb and can be eaten freely.These is include: spinach, avocado, lettuce, asparagus, cucumber, zucchini, celery, broccoli, kale, chard, watercress, cauliflower, green beans, cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes.
- Vegetables growing below ground contain more carbs, so be carefulThese include: carrot, onion, parsnip, beetroot, potatoes and sweet potatoes. It is especially important to avoid potatoes, as these are very high carb vegetables.
The Dreaded ‘Keto Flu’
If you are thinking about trying a keto diet, you will likely hear about something called the ‘keto flu’. This is a set of physical symptoms that you can feel during the first 14 days of your change over to keto.
The keto flu is caused by a withdrawal of carbohydrate rates and sugar from your body. Your body is very used to using carbohydrates as its core source of glucose. For this reason, when the carbohydrates are low, the body will start to act differently. It will begin to adapt to the fat-burning process.
The this happens, some people moving to a keto diet can experience:
Lower strength and stamina
How to beat the Keto Flu
These ‘keto flu’ symptoms are very short lived and are actually a sign that your body is changing. To combat these early stage effects, there are two important steps:
1) Drink lots of water (10-12 glasses) each day
2) Make sure to increase your sodium levels for the first 14 days
A great way to do this is drink one or two glasses of salt water (sea salt is the best) each day along with your other water. Another way is to drink some beef broth each day.
Rest assured that after a few days these symptoms will pass, so just stay on track with your eating plan, and know that you are making positive changes.
How to know if you’re in Ketosis
Losing weight and body size
The results of ketosis means your body begins burning the fat stores. This is what causes a person to lose weight and reduce their body size.
Be patient for the first few weeks, as every persons results are different. If you are not experiencing the same level of weight loss as others, just keep on track, as it may take a little longer for your body to respond.
Dry mouth and increased thirst
Unless you drink enough eater and get enough electrolytes, you may feel a dry
mouth. You may also feel a metallic taste in your mouth. As a rule, if you feel thirsty that means you are already likely dehydrated. So drink lots of water, often!
Ketone bodies may end up in the urine. This can result in having to go
to the bathroom more often. Also, if you increase your water intake, this will increase your need to urinate.
This is due to a ketone body called acetone escaping via our breath. It can make a person’s breath smell “fruity”, or similar to nail polish remover. This smell can sometimes also be felt from sweat, when working out. It’s often temporary.
Many people experience a marked reduction in hunger.This may be caused by an increased ability of the body to be fueled by its fat stores. Many people feel great when they eat just once or twice a day, which is a form intermittent fasting. This saves both time and money, while also speeding up weight loss.
After a few days of feeling tired or experiencing the keto flu, many people experience a clear increase in energy levels. This can also be experienced as clear thinking, a lack of “brain fog” or even a sense of euphoria.
About Dr Jerry Hizon
Jerry Hizon MD, specializes in family practice and medical services for athletes and people who enjoy sports recreationally.
After receiving his undergraduate degree in biology from Loyola Marymount University, Dr. Hizon attended medical school at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and
served as chief resident in family medicine at the University of California Irvine Medical Center.
Whether you’re looking to lose weight, manage a chronic medical condition, or simply want to overhaul your eating habits, changing your diet for the better is one of the best ways to improve your overall health.
From his state-of-the-art medical offices in Murrieta, California, Jerry Hizon, MD strives to demystify the complex science of nutrition, giving his patients sound nutritional guidance designed to set them up for long-term dietary success, whatever their specific goals may be.