The Ketogenic Diet: A Detailed Beginner’s Guide to Keto| What’s a ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet (or keto diet for short) offers many health benefits.

In fact, many studies show that this type of diet can help you lose weight and improve your health (1Trusted Source).

The ketogenic diet may have some benefits for diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease (Trusted Source), 3TrustedSource, 4TrustedSource, 5TrustedSource).

This is a comprehensive guide for beginners to the keto diet.

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The ketogenic diet, which is very low in carbs and high in fat, shares many similarities to the Atkins diet.

This involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake, and replacing it by fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.

When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It can also convert fat into ketones in liver, which can provide energy for the brain (6TrustedSource).

Ketogenic diets may result in significant drops in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, in combination with increased ketones, can have some health benefits (6TrustedSource, 7TrustedSource, 8TrustedSource).


The keto diet is low in carbs and high in fat. It lowers blood sugar levels and insulin and shifts the body’s metabolism towards fats and ketones.

There are many versions of the ketogenic diet.

  • Standard ketogenic diet (SKD):It is very low in carbs, high in protein, and high in fat. It usually contains 70% fat, 20% protein and 10% carbohydrates (9Trusted Source).
  • Cyclical ketogenic Diet (CKD).This diet includes periods of high-carb refeeds such as 5 ketogenic days followed 2 high carb days.
  • Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD):This diet allows you add carbs to your workouts.
  • High protein ketogenic diet:This diet is very similar to the standard ketogenic diet but contains more.protein. This ratio is usually 60% fat, 35% protein, 5% carbohydrates.

The standard and high-protein ketogenic diets are the most studied. The more sophisticated targeted or cyclical ketogenic diets, which are mainly used by athletes and bodybuilders, are more popular.

Although the majority of this article is for the standard ketogenic diet (SKD), many of the same principles can also be applied to other versions.


There are many versions of the keto diet. The most popular and recommended version of the keto diet is the standard (SKD).

Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body uses fat for fuel instead of carbs.

This happens when your body reduces your intake of carbohydrates.

The best way to get into ketosis is to follow a ketogenic diet. Generally, this involves limiting carb consumption to around 20 to 50 grams per day and filling up on fats, such as meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and healthy oils (6Trusted Source).

You should also limit your intake of protein. This is because protein can be converted into glucose if consumed in high amounts, which may slow your transition into ketosis (10Trusted Source).

Practicing intermittent fasting could also help you enter ketosis faster. There are many different forms of intermittent fasting, but the most common method involves limiting food intake to around 8 hours per day and fasting for the remaining 16 hours (11Trusted Source).

Blood, urine, and breath tests are available, which can help determine whether you’ve entered ketosis by measuring the amount of ketones produced by your body.

Certain symptoms may also indicate that you’ve entered ketosis, including increased thirst, dry mouth, frequent urination, and decreased hunger or appetite (12Trusted Source).


Ketosis refers to a metabolic state where your body uses fat instead of carbs for fuel. You can enter ketosis quicker by changing your diet and engaging in intermittent fasting. You can also determine if you are in ketosis by looking for certain symptoms and tests.

The ketogenic diet is a great way to lose weight, and reduce your risk of developing disease (1Trusted Source 2, 2Trusted Source 3, 3Trusted Source 4, 4Trusted Source 5, 5Trusted Source).

Research has shown that the ketogenic diet is as effective in weight loss as low-fat diets (13TrustedSource, 14TrustedSource, 15TrustedSource).

The diet is so filling, you can lose weight without having to count calories or track your food intake (16Trusted source).

One review of 13 studies found that following a very low carb, ketogenic diet was slightly more effective for long-term weight loss than a low fat diet. People who followed the keto diet lost an average of 2 pounds (0.9 kg) more than the group that followed a low fat diet (13Trusted Source).

It also resulted in a reduction of diastolic blood pressure (13Trusted Source)

Another study in 34 older adults found that those who followed a ketogenic diet for 8 weeks lost nearly five times as much total body fat as those who followed a low fat diet (17Trusted Source).

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A key role may be played by the increased ketones, lower levels of blood sugar, and improved insulin sensitivity (18TrustedSource, 19TrustedSource).

For more details on the weight loss effects of a ketogenic diet, read this article.


The ketogenic diet is able to help you lose weight slightly faster than low-fat diets. This can often happen with less hunger.

Diabetes is characterised by metabolic changes, high blood sugar and impaired insulin function (20Trusted source).

The ketogenic diet is a way to lose excess fat. This can be closely linked with type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and metabolic syndrome (21TrustedSource, 22TrustedSource, 23TrustedSource, 24TrustedSource).

One older study found that the ketogenic diet improved insulin sensitivity by a whopping 75% (25Trusted Source).

A small study in women with type 2 diabetes also found that following a ketogenic diet for 90 days significantly reduced levels of hemoglobin A1C, which is a measure of long-term blood sugar management (26Trusted Source).

A study of 349 type 2 diabetics found that people who adopted a ketogenic diet lost on average 26.2 pounds (11.9kg) in just 2 years. This is a significant benefit considering the relationship between type 2 diabetes and weight (Trusted Source24TrustedSource, 27TrustedSource).

They also had better blood sugar management and used fewer blood sugar medications over the course of the study. (Trusted Source27Trusted source).

For more information, check out this article on the benefits of low carb diets for people with diabetes.


People with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes may benefit from the ketogenic diet. It can increase insulin sensitivity and cause weight loss.

The ketogenic diet actually originated as a tool for treating neurological diseases such as epilepsy.

Numerous health conditions can be helped by a healthy diet, according to studies.

  • Heart disease.The ketogenic diet may help reduce risk factors such asBody fatHDL (good cholesterol), blood pressure, and blood glucose (28Trusted Source?29Trusted Source).
  • Cancer.A diet that slows down tumor growth is being investigated as an alternative treatment for cancer. (4Trusted Source?30Trusted Source?31Trusted Source).
  • Alzheimer’s disease.The keto diet could help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by reducing symptoms.5Trusted Source?32Trusted Source?33Trusted Source).
  • Epilepsy.Research has shown that epileptic children who are on the ketogenic diet have significantly fewer seizures (3Trusted Source).
  • Parkinson’s disease.While more research is necessary, one study showed that the diet could help improve Parkinson’s symptoms (although there are still many to be done).34Trusted Source).
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.The ketogenic diet may help lower insulin levels. This could be a key factor in polycystic-ovary syndrome (PCOS).35Trusted Source?36Trusted Source).
  • Brain injuries.Research suggests that a diet may improve the outcome of traumatic brain injury (TBI)37Trusted Source).

Keep in mind, however, that research into many areas of this nature is not conclusive.


The ketogenic diet can provide many health benefits, particularly for those with insulin-related, metabolic, neurological or insulin-related diseases.

Any food that’s high in carbs should be limited.

Here is a list of foods you should reduce or eliminate from a ketogenic diet.

  • Sugary foods soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc.
  • Starches or grains:Products made from wheat, such as rice, pasta and cereals, are all available.
  • fruit:All fruits, except for small amounts of strawberries
  • Beans or legumesPeas, kidney beans and lentils as well as chickpeas and chickpeas are all possible.
  • Root vegetables and tubers potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
  • low fat or diet products:Low fat mayonnaise, salad dressings and condiments
  • Some condiments and sauces barbecue sauce, honey mustard, teriyaki sauce, ketchup, etc.
  • Unhealthy fats processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
  • alcohol:Beer, wine, liquor and mixed drinks
  • sugar-free diet foods: sugar-free candies, syrups, puddings, sweeteners, desserts, etc.


Avoid carb-based foods such as grains, sugars and legumes, rice potatoes, sugars, sweets, syrups, carrots, juices, and most fruits.

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You should base the majority of your meals around these foods:

  • MeatRed meat, steak, ham and sausage.
  • Fatty fish:Salmon, trout and tuna are all available.
  • eggs:Whole eggs that are pastured or containing omega-3
  • Butter and creamHeavy cream and butter made from grass-fed butter
  • Cheese unprocessed cheeses like cheddar, goat, cream, blue, or mozzarella
  • Nuts and seedsAlmonds, walnuts and flaxseeds.
  • Healthy oilsExtra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil
  • avocados: whole avocados or freshly made guacamole
  • Low-carb vegetables: green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
  • condiments:Salt, pepper, herbs and spices

Your diet should be based primarily on whole, single-ingredient food. Here’s a list of 44 healthy low carb foods.


Your diet should include meat, eggs, butter and nuts as well as healthy oils and avocados.

To help get you started, here’s a sample ketogenic diet meal plan for one week:


  • Breakfast: Vegetable and egg muffinsWith tomatoes
  • Lunch:Chicken salad with olive oil, feta cheese and olives.
  • Dinner:Salmon with asparagus, sautéed in butter


  • Breakfast:Egg, tomato, basil and spinach omelet
  • Lunch:Almond milk, peanut butter and chocolate, as well as stevia milkshakes (more).Here are keto smoothiesWith a side of sliced strawberries
  • Dinner: Cheese-shell tacosWith salsa



  • Breakfast:Avocado, salsa, peppers and onion in an omelet
  • Lunch:A few nuts and celery sticks, along with salsa and guacamole
  • Dinner:Chicken stuffed with pesto, cream cheese and grilled zucchini




Rotating vegetables and meats over the long-term is a good idea, as each type of food has different nutrients and health benefits.

These 101 low-carb recipes are great for a variety of dishes. Also, this shopping list is great for keto recipes.


A ketogenic diet allows you to eat many delicious and nutritious meals. You don’t have to eat only meats or fats. Vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet.

Here are some keto-approved healthy snacks to help you eat between meals.


A keto diet calls for snacks that include meat, cheese and olives.

Even though it can be difficult to get started with the ketogenic diet, there are many tips and tricks you can use.

  • Start by familiarizing yourself with food labels and checking the grams of fat, carbs, and fiber to determine how your favorite foods can fit into your diet.
  • Planning out your meals in advance may also be beneficial and can help you save extra time throughout the week.
  • Many websites, food blogs, apps, and cookbooks also offer keto-friendly recipes and meal ideas that you can use to build your own custom menu.
  • Alternatively, some meal delivery services even offer keto-friendly options for a quick and convenient way to enjoy keto meals at home.
  • Look into healthy frozen keto meals when you’re short on time
  • You might also consider bringing your own food to social events or visits to family and friends. This will make it easier to control cravings and keep to your meal plan.


It is easier to adhere to the ketogenic diet by reading food labels and planning ahead.

Many restaurant meals can be made keto-friendly.

Many restaurants offer a variety of fish- or meat-based dishes. This will replace high-carb food with additional vegetables.

You can also make egg-based meals, like an omelet or eggs with bacon.

Another favorite is bun-less burgers. You can also substitute the fries with vegetables. Add extra avocado, cheese, bacon, or eggs.

Mexican restaurants offer a variety of meats with salsa, cheese, guacamole and sour-cream.

Ask for dessert with a mix cheese board or berries and cream.


Choose a meat- or fish-based dish when dining out. For dessert, order extra vegetables instead of starches or carbs and cheese.

The ketogenic diet is generally safe for most people. However, you may experience some side effects as your body adjusts.

These effects are often called the keto flu, based on anecdotal evidence (38Trusted Source). According to reports by people who have used the keto eating plan, it usually passes within a few days.

Reported keto flu symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting (39Trusted Source). Other less common symptoms include:

  • Poor energy and mental function
  • Increased hunger
  • Sleep problems
  • nausea
  • digestive discomfort
  • Performance has been reduced

For the first few weeks, you may want to stick to a low-carb diet. This could help your body burn more fat than if you eliminate all carbs.

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The ketogenic diet can also alter the water and mineral balance of your bodies. This is why you might consider adding salt to your meals, or taking mineral supplements. Discuss your nutritional requirements with your doctor.

It’s important that you eat until your stomach is full, and not restrict calories. A ketogenic diet is a good option for weight loss, even if you don’t intend to restrict calories.


The side effects of a ketogenic diet are often minimal. You can ease into the diet by taking mineral supplements.

Staying on the keto diet in the long term may have some negative effectsTrusted Source, including risks of the following:

  • Low levels of protein in the blood
  • Extra fat in the liver
  • Kidney stones
  • micronutrient deficiencies

A type of medication called sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors for type 2 diabetes can increase the risk for diabetic ketoacidosis, a dangerous condition that increases blood acidity. This medication should be avoided by anyone taking it (40Trusted source, 41Trusted source).

To determine if the keto diet is safe long-term, more research is needed. To help you make informed choices, keep your doctor updated about your eating habits.


If you are considering a long-term stay on the keto diet, you should talk to your doctor about side effects.

While supplements are not required, they can be very useful.


Some supplements may be helpful when you are on a ketogenic diet. Exogenous ketones, MCT oils, and minerals are some examples.

These are some common questions regarding the ketogenic diet.

1. 1. Can I ever eat carbs again

Yes. It’s important to reduce your carb intake first. You can still eat carbs for special occasions after the initial 2 to 3 month period. Just make sure to return to your diet immediately.

2. What happens if I lose muscle?

Any diet can lead to some muscle loss. High ketone and protein intake may be able to minimize muscle loss, particularly if you lift weights (50TrustedSource, 51TrustedSource).

3. Is it possible to build muscle using a ketogenic diet.

It may work, but not as well as a moderate-carb diet (52TrustedSource, 53TrustedSource). For more details about low carb or keto diets and exercise performance, read this article.

4. What amount of protein can I eat?

Moderate intake of protein is recommended as high levels can cause insulin to spike and lower ketones. The upper limit is likely to be around 35% of total calories.

5. 5. What if I feel constantly tired, weak or fatigued?

It is possible that you are not in ketosis, or may not be using fats and ketones as efficiently. Reduce your carb intake, and remember the tips above. Supplements like MCT oil and ketones could also be helpful (42TrustedSource, 43TrustedSource).

6. My urine smells fruity. Is this normal?

Do not be alarmed. This is simply due to the excretion of by-products created during ketosis (54Trusted Source).

7. My breath is stale. What can I do to stop it?

This is a common side effect. You can try drinking natural flavored water, or chewing sugar-free gum.

8. I was told ketosis could be dangerous. Is it true?

People often confuse ketosis with ketoacidosis. Although ketoacidosis can be dangerous, the ketosis of a ketogenic diet can be fine for healthy people. Before you start any new diet, consult your doctor.

9. I have diarrhea and digestive problems. What can I do to help?

This side effect is usually gone within 3-4 weeks. Try eating higher fiber vegetables (55Trusted Source 56).

People who are:

  • are overweight
  • Have diabetes
  • They are interested in improving their metabolic health

It might not be suitable for elite athletes, or people who wish to gain large amounts of muscle and weight.

Some people may not find it sustainable due to their lifestyles or preferences. Talk to your doctor about your goals and eating habits in order to determine if keto is right for you.

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