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Ketogenic Diet 101: The Ultimate Guide for Losing Weight

You’ve probably heard that low-carbohydrate diets are very effective for losing weight.

Over 20 scientific studies have proved that these type of diets are good for weight loss and overall health of the body.

Low carb diets have positive effects on many diseases, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, and epilepsy.

Foundation of the ketogenic diet is low carbohydrate intake.

Although the diet is very old, it became popular in 1994 after a Hollywood star Jim Abrahams’s son won the battle against epilepsy by following the ketogenic diet nutrition plan.

In this in-depth article, I present you everything you need to know about the keto diet.

Table of contents:

  1. Ketogenic diet
  2. Impact on weight loss
  3. Health benefits
  4. Types of keto diet
  5. What should I eat? Allowed food list
  6. Not allowed food
  7. Side effects
  8. Keto meal plan
  9. Frequently asked questions
  10. Final words and conclusion

What is Keto diet?

The ketogenic diet (also known as Keto diet) dates back to the 1920s. It was created by an endocrinologist Henry Geyelin in order to treat epilepsy.

In 1921, Geyelin found that the diet positively influenced how the body processes nutrients, which led to fewer heart attacks in patients.

The Keto diet is based on replacing food rich in carbohydrate with food rich in fats.

It’s very similar to Atkins diet. In fact, the Atkins induction phase is actually the keto diet.

By drastically reducing carbohydrate intake our body enters a metabolic state called ketosis.

In the ketosis phase, the body starts using accumulated fat as a primary source of energy. In the liver, fat transforms into ketone, which provides brain with energy.

Ketogenic diet can cause drastic reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels.

How it impacts weight loss?

In normal conditions, during digestion, carbohydrates from food are converted into glucose, which is then further used as cell energy.

However, if the body is in the ketosis phase, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketones, which is then used as energy for cells.

In order to achieve and maintain the state of ketosis, it’s necessary to drastically reduce carbohydrate intake.

Most of what you eat should be rich in proteins and fats.

Carbohydrate sources should only come from vegetables that grow above the ground.

According to the ketogenic diet rules, maximum carbohydrate intake can be 50 grams per day.

Science still doesn’t have a good explanation as to why the keto diet is so successful with altering natural body processes.

It greatly helps not only with weight reduction and epilepsy, but with various neurological disorders.

Studies show that ketogenic diet is much more effective compared to other diets based on the same low-carb principles.

The most interesting part is that a high protein keto diet positively affects the sense of satiety.

This makes the whole weight loss process even easier!

One study shows that people who followed the ketogenic diet lost 2.2 times more pounds compared to those who followed a diet that focused on limiting calorie and fat intake. In addition, participants saw an improvement in triglyceride levels and “good” HDL cholesterol.

Another study showed that people on keto diet lost 3 times more pounds than people on a diet recommended by the Diabetes UK organization.

One of the main reasons why keto diet is more effective than other low-fat diets is because it includes a lot of high protein food.

This develops a sense of satiety and increases muscle mass.

Increased muscle size burns more calories.

Sense of satiety leads to eating less calories during a day, because you don’t have sudden feelings of starvation.

Increased ketone levels play an important role in reducing blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.

Getting to an optimal level of ketosis is not an easy task!

However, the positive side is that it forces the body to burn fat instead of other primary energy sources such as starch and sugar.

Many athletes and bodybuilders often recommend this diet.

The mechanism behind the keto diet

  • Food restriction – by eliminating carb-rich food you drastically limit the number of foods you can eat
  • Increased protein intake
  • Decreased appetite – this diet provides you with sense of satiety for long periods. This positively affects the hormone of hunger, which leads to eating less food.
  • Improved insulin sensitivity which can affect metabolism and energy use in the body.
  • Increased fat burning
  • Reduced fat accumulation – some studies show that ketogenic diet can reduce lipogenesis, the process of converting sugar into fat.

Other health benefits

Diabetes and prediabetes

Diabetes is characterized as a metabolic disorder, followed by high blood sugar levels and an uneven insulin secretion.

The ketogenic diet can help with reduction of excess pounds. Overweight is closely related to the onset of type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

One study shows that the ketogenic diet has improved insulin sensitivity by as much as 75%.

Another study shows that 7 out of 21 patients with type 2 diabetes managed to stop using diabetes medication.

In this study, a group of participants who were on keto diet lost 11.1 kg, compared to those who were on a high carb diet who lost 6.9 kg.

What’s interesting is that 95.2% of the keto group has managed to stop or reduce the intake of diabetes medication. While the other group had a success of only 62%.

Other benefits

  • Alzheimer’s disease – it can reduce symptoms and slow down the progress of the disease
  • Fighting cancer – currently used to treat several cancers and to slow down tumor growth
  • Parkinson’s disease – in this study, it was observed that the diet positively influenced reduction of symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
  • Heart disease – positively affects the level of good HDL cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Epilepsy – studies show that this diet can reduce the number of attacks
  • Brain injury – studies performed on animals show that keto diet can improve recovery after brain injury and alleviate brain concussion
  • Acne – reduced intake of sugars and refined foods can help with acne problems

Types of ketogenic diets

There are several types of ketogenic diets:

  • Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD) – Low carbohydrate intake, moderate protein intake and high amount of fatty foods. (healthy fats only!)
  • Cyclic Ketogenic Diet (CKD) – During certain days carbohydrate intake increases. For example: 5 regular keto days followed by 2 days of high carbohydrate intake.
  • High Protein Diet – Same as standard only that includes more proteins. The ratio is 60% fat, 35% proteins and 5% carbohydrates.
  • Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD) – Increased carbohydrate intake is allowed during high physical activity days.

Only the standard ketogenic diet has been studied in great details. Therefore, most of the information in this article relates to the standard type.

Food you should eat

Keto food can be very delicious.

Since the goal is to maintain the ketosis phase, you can use this keto calculator to accurately determine how much macro nutrients you need.

Depending of your weight loss goal, here are some recommendations to follow.

Classic formula recommends 4:1 ratio of fat and proteins.

Some experts (people who use keto diet for treating cancer) recommend 75% fat, 23% proteins and 2% carbohydrates.

For bodybuilders, only 30-50 grams of carbohydrates a day is recommended. Source of carbs should be from vegetables.

For people who want to remove fat from the stomach should follow the 50% fat, 30-40% protein and 10% carb ratio. Carbohydrates should also come from vegetables sources.

Proteins and fats cause a greater sense of satiety compared to carbohydrates.

Therefore, during the ketogenic diet, many often unconsciously eat less calories because they are simply not hungry.

Most calories come from fat, but some people have a problem when digesting omega-6 fat, so pay attention to the content of these fats in cheap vegetable oils.

It’s recommended that you base most meals based on the following foods:

  • Eggs
  • Meat – ham, beefsteak, chicken, turkey, bacon, red meat
  • Butter
  • Cheese – such as mozzarella, cheddar, goat cheese etc. Avoid processed cheese.
  • Avocado
  • Oily fish such as tuna, salmon or mackerel
  • Seeds and nuts – walnut, linseed, pumpkin seeds, almonds, chia seeds
  • Healthy oils such as olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil
  • Spices – pepper, salt and other various medicinal herbs
  • Low-carb vegetables – tomato, onion, paper and most green vegetables

Foods to avoid

All foods rich in carbohydrates should be avoided.

  • All fruits except small quantities of berries such as strawberries
  • Artificially sweetened food such as smoothies and fruit juices, cakes, ice cream, sweets, soda etc.
  • Starch and cereals – pastas, rice, pasta, wheat bread etc.
  • Legumes – beans, lentils, peas, etc.
  • Root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots etc.
  • Anything that contains added sugar
  • Alcohol because a lot of drinks contain carbohydrates and can kick out the body from the ketosis phase
  • Unhealthy fat such as mayonnaise or vegetable oil
  • Dietary products – these products usually contain sugar alcohols that affect the level of ketosis in the body. Also, it’s often a highly processed food.

Off course, avoid trans fat as much as possible!

From time to time you will feel a strong need for sugar!

Especially if you’re used to consuming large amounts of carbs.

It’s important to stay strong and resist sugar cravings.

I recommend that you use healthy and natural alternatives to sugar such as stevia.

Stevia is 200 to 400 times sweeter than sugar, yet it doesn’t have energy value (0 calories).

TIP: Go for liquid stevia instead of powder. This is because stevia powders usually contain maltodextrin, so be sure to carefully read the product label.

Side effects

Although the keto diet is safe for most people, mild side effects may occur at the early stages.

This effect is called the “keto flu” or the “induction flu”. Often it lasts only a few days.

Some of the minor side effects are increased hunger, impaired cerebral function, lower energy levels, digestive problems, sleeping problems, nausea and poor workout performance.

In order to reduce these early stage side effects, you can first go for a regular low-carb diet and then switch to keto.

This way you can gradually prepare your body for low-carb intakes.

Ketogenic diet can also disrupt the balance of fluids and minerals in the body.

Therefore it’s recommended to slightly increase salt intake or to use supplements such as vitamins and minerals.

As for minerals, try to consume 3000 to 4000 mg of sodium, 1000 mg of potassium and 300 mg of magnesium throughout the day.

Keto weekly meal plan

Monday

  • Breakfast – Egg, bacon and tomato
  • Lunch – Salad with chicken, olive oil and feta cheese
  • Dinner – Asparagus cooked on a butter

Tuesday

  • Breakfast – cheese, eggs, tomato and goat cheese
  • Lunch – Peanut butter, almond milk, cocoa butter and milk shake with stevia
  • Dinner – Cupcakes with vegetables and cheddar cheese

Wednesday

  • BreakfastKeto milk shake
  • Lunch – Scampi salad with avocado and olive oil
  • Dinner – Pork chops, with broccoli, parmesan and salad

Thursday

  • Breakfast – Omelette with avocado, paprika, onion, spices and salsa
  • Lunch – A handful of nuts and celery with guacamole and salsa
  • Dinner – Stuffed chicken with cheese and vegetables

Friday

  • Breakfast – Omelet with cheese and tomato
  • Lunch – Remnants of the previous dinner
  • Dinner – Egg, steak, mushrooms and salad

Saturday

  • Breakfast – Omelet with ham and vegetables
  • Lunch – Ham with cheese and a handful of nuts
  • Dinner – White fish with eggs and spinach cooked on coconut oil

Sunday

  • Breakfast – Egg with bacon and mushrooms
  • Lunch – Hamburger with salsa, cheese and guacamole
  • Dinner – Beefsteak with eggs and salad

Keto snacks

If you get hungry between the meals, try to reduce hunger with these snacks:

  • Cheese
  • Cheese with olives
  • 1-2 hard boiled eggs
  • Black chocolate with 90% cocoa content
  • Celery with salsa and guacamole
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Yogurt mixed with cocoa butter and walnut butter
  • Strawberries with whipped cream
  • Milk shake with low sugar and carbohydrates, cocoa butter and walnut butter
  • Remnants of previous meals

Keto supplements

Supplements are not necessary, but very helpful.

  • Whey protein – this supplement can help you reach the recommended daily intake of proteins.
  • Creatine – use if you want to improve workout performance
  • Exogenous ketones increase ketone levels in the body
  • Caffeine increases energy, fat loss and performance
  • Minerals are very important for establishing the recommended level of minerals in the initial stage of ketogenic diet.

Frequently asked questions

I have bad breath, what can I do about it?

This is a very common problem. Drink more water with flavors and use chewing gum.

How much proteins do I have to eat?

Maximum of 35% of calories should come from protein sources.

Is ketosis harmful?

Ketosis is a natural state while ketoacidosis occurs in uncontrolled diabetes. People often mix these two concepts.

Ketoacidosis is dangerous, while ketosis in the ketogenic diet is quite normal, natural and healthy.

Why does my urine have fruit smell?

The reason is high secretion of side products in the body during the ketosis phase. Nothing dramatic!

I have a diarrhea, what can I do?

This is very common and usually goes away after 2-4 weeks. If it doesn’t then try to add more fiber and magnesium to your diet. Also I would suggest that you use probiotics on a daily basis.

Is ketogenic diet for women or for men?

For both!

Will I lose muscle mass?

High protein intake and ketone levels can reduce the likelihood of losing muscle mass, especially if you regularly exercise.

However, for every diet there is a risk of muscle loss.

I often feel tired and weak, what can I do about it?

You probably aren’t at the ketosis stage yet or your body doesn’t use enough fat and ketone. Try to reduce carbohydrate intake.

Will I ever be able to eat carbohydrates again?

Off course!

However, the ketogenic diet is not time limited, as this is a long-term diet plan.

It’s very important to remove carbohydrates at the early stages.

After 3-4 months you can eat carbohydrates again in low quantities. For example during special occasions.

However, it’s important to return to the keto diet immediately to avoid losing traction.

Conclusion and final words

There is a strong evidence that ketogenic diet is very effective for removing fat and reducing weight.

However, diets are not meant for everyone, especially since every person has different metabolism, genetics, body type, lifestyle and taste.

But certainly, the keto diet can be a great choice for people who are obese and who have a risk of getting metabolic syndrome.

If you like foods that are rich in carbohydrates, then it will be a bit harder to adjust to a standard keto diet.

I always advise my clients to try cyclic keto diet first. Also, standard low-carb diets might be a good option too.

Ketogenic diet can also be used in the short term to improve health and burn fat. However  this requires even more rigorous discipline.

This diet may not be the best choice for athletes and people who want to build large muscle mass.

For vegetarians and vegans it is a very hard to follow diet because main food includes eggs, fish, meat and dairy products.

For its full potential, eat foods rich in healthy fats and consume 30-50 grams of carbs per day.

If you manage to survive the early stages, the results can be very impressive.

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About Mia Lopez

Mia is a personal fitness trainer and a certified nutritionist from New York. She has helped hundreds of women across the world to slim down and keep healthy lifestyles with good eating habits and exercising.

Role: Chief Content Officer

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