Diet

Ketogenic Diet Guide: How It Works, Benefits and Food List

The ketogenic diet is a diet low in carbohydrates, focused on the consumption of natural fats, with adequate protein intake in order to reach the optimal ketosis state (the formation of ketone bodies).

Most typical western diets get 45-65% of their calories from carbohydrates, the ketogenic diet limits your carbohydrates from 2 to 5% of your total calories.

Many thinks that it’s a “high protein” diet, this is false, the ketogenic diet is a high fat diet with a moderate intake of protein and a restriction of carbohydrates.

A typical meal of the ketogenic diet includes a little protein with foods with natural fat (butter, coconut oil, olive oil, pork fat, cream) and some green leafy vegetables.

In this article we will give you information on how to make the ketogenic diet correctly, what foods you should eat, what foods you can’t eat and how to get ketosis.

How the Ketogenic Diet Works?

Glucose is the simplest molecule to convert and use as energy for your body. This molecule will be chosen by your body before all other options.

Insulin is a hormone that is produced to metabolize the glucose present in your blood. As glucose is used as the main source of energy, fats don’t take up, your body stores them as a reserve.

When you digest foods high in carbohydrates, your body uses its energy to convert them into sugar in the blood (glucose). How more carbohydrates you eat, more your glucose rises in your blood. As many diabetics know, the excess of glucose in the blood is toxic to our body.

If you feed more on natural fats and proteins, your body changes the way you get energy, instead of using glucose, your body use fat as a source of energy. This causes rapid weight loss thanks to the ketogenic diet.

If you drastically reduce the intake of carbohydrates you force your body to use fats as a source of energy, the liver converts fats into ketones, these function as a source of energy and the body reaches a state of ketosis. Reaching optimal ketosis is the main goal of the ketogenic diet.

Ketones are an excellent source of energy for the brain and heart.

When your body has high levels of ketones then you are in state of ketosis.

Don’t confuse the ketogenic diet with diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a totally different pathology from ketogenic diet ketosis, in diabetic ketoacidosis you have high levels of blood glucose with high levels of ketone bodies. In the ketogenic diet you have low glucose levels with high levels of ketones.

Different types of ketogenic diet:

There are several versions of the ketogenic diet:

1.The regular ketogenic diet: This type of ketogenic diet is very low in carbohydrates, high in fat and moderate in protein. Contains 5% carbohydrates, 20% protein and 75% fat.

2. The cyclic ketogenic diet: This diet has 2 periods, a 5-day low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet, followed by a 2-day high-carbohydrate diet. It’s used more by bodybuilder and has been little studied.

3. Ketogenic diet for anaerobic athletes: This diet allows you to add carbohydrates before training and it is for people who do weight training or an anabolic exercise.

4. Ketogenic high protein diet: This diet is similar to the regular ketogenic diet but includes much more protein. It’s used more by athletes. Here are 5% carbohydrates, 60% fat and 35% protein.

In this article we will talk only about the regular ketogenic diet, the cyclic ketogenic diet is more for athletes and bodybuilders.

The Ketogenic Diet Can Help You Lose Weight

The ketogenic diet is a very effective way to lose weight and decrease your risk of metabolic diseases. Research in recent years has found that this type of diet is much better than the low-fat diet.

It’s easier to lose weight with a ketogenic diet without counting calories or to keep a strict control of what you eat.

In a study in the UK it was found that patients on ketogenic diet lost twice as fast weight as patients following the diabetic diet recommended by UK authorities.

Increased ketones, decreased blood sugar help improve insulin sensitivity.

Foods You Can Eat and What You Should Avoid in the Ketogenic Diet

To make a ketogenic diet you should plan your menu, since most fast food places are full of high-carbohydrate processed food.

The more limits your intake of net carbohydrates the faster you get to optimal ketosis status.

What are net carbs?

It is the carbohydrates that have a food minus the fiber breasts that have the food.

Example, if you want to eat a cup of broccoli, a cup of broccoli has:

It has 6 grams of carbohydrates

It has 2 grams of fiber

We subtract the 6 grams of carbohydrates – 2 grams of fiber = gives us 4 grams of net carbohydrates

Your intake should be: 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbohydrates.

The carbohydrates you can eat (you must count the calories not to exceed 5% daily) are: nuts, vegetables and dairy.

Foods to Avoid in the Ketogenic Diet

You should avoid or eliminate any foods that are high in carbohydrates.

Here is a list of foods that you should reduce or eliminate within your ketogenic diet.

  • Foods with sugar: Soda, fruit juice, milkshakes, cakes, etc.
  • Grains or Starches: Products based on wheat, rice, pasta, cereals, etc.
  • Fruit: All fruits, except strawberries.
  • Beans or legumes: peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils, etc.
  • Vegetables and Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, etc.
  • Diet products or low-fat: These are highly processed and often high in carbohydrates.
  • Some condiments or sauce: These often contain unhealthy sugar and fat (Barbecue sauce, ketchup, dressings, etc.).
  • Unhealthy Fats: Limit your consumption of processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
  • Alcohol: Due to the high content of carbohydrates, many alcoholic beverages harm your state of ketosis.
  • Sugar Free Diet Foods: These are often high in sugar alcohols, which can affect your ketone levels. These foods are highly processed.

Foods That You Must Eat in the Ketogenic Diet

Your meals should be based on these foods:

  • Meat: Red meat, meat, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken and turkey.
  • Fish: salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel.
  • Eggs: Consume whole eggs containing omega-3.
  • Butter and Cream: Preferably they come from animals fed on grass.
  • Cheese: Raw cheese (cheddar, goat’s, cream, blue cheese or mozzarella).
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
  • Healthy Oils: Mainly try to consume extra virgin olive oils, coconut oil and avocado oil.
  • Avocado: Whole avocados or freshly made guacamole.
  • Low Carbohydrate Vegetables: Most greens, tomatoes, onions, peppers.
  • Condiments: You can use salt, pepper, herbs and spices.

It’s best to base your diet on these foods.

Appetizers You Can Eat on the Ketogenic Diet

In case you get hungry between meals, here is a list of snacks that you can eat in the ketogenic diet.

  • Fish or Meat
  • Cheese
  • A fist of nuts or seeds
  • Cheese with olives
  • 1-2 cooked eggs
  • Dark chocolate (90% or more pure cocoa).
  • A low-carb milk such as almond milk, cocoa powder and almond butter.
  • Yogurt mixed with almond butter and cocoa powder.
  • Strawberries and cream
  • Celery with guacamole and sauce

List of low-carbohydrate vegetables you can eat:

  • Spinach
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Cabbage

Most of your plates should be protein with vegetables and added fat. Example: chicken with olive oil plus broccoli with cheese. If you get hungry during the day you can eat almonds or some cheeses.

Attention: Remember that not all fats are the same, it’s not the same to eat trans fats (such as fried food, heavily processed hamburger meat, margarine) than natural fat like coconut oil, avocado, olive oil. Natural fats have many benefits for your health, trans fats are bad for your health. Avoid trans fats, trans fats are in some types of processed food.

You take less grams of foods high in fat than foods high in protein or carbohydrates, since a gram of fat has 9 calories, a gram of protein or carbohydrates has 4 calories.

How Long Does it Take to Adapt to a State of Ketosis?

It will take you 10 to 30 days to adapt to the ketogenic diet if it’s the first time that you do it. During the adaptation phase you will experience: dizziness, headache, tiredness and need for carbohydrates, only withstand in a few weeks and you will feel great again.

How to Start a Ketogenic Diet?

Make sure you don’t have bad carbs in your house.

List your kitchen. Buy foods that are within the list of foods for the ketogenic diet, this is very important. Just having foods that are within the ketogenic diet forces you to stay in the diet.

Prepare to last a little more time in the kitchen. This is very important. A ketogenic diet menu involves cooking and eating real foods. If you don’t know how to cook, you should try a little, there are recipes very easy to prepare.

Plan your meal menu. This will help you to buy the groceries you need when you go to the grocery store and help you know what to cook and eat at meals. If you know you are going to eat tilapia and broccoli at night, it’s easier to avoid falling into the bad habits of eating refined carbohydrates.

Change your habits. If before work you went to cafe for a donut and a mocha frappe, change it by going to cafe and have a green tea and 10 almonds.

Stay hydrated. Take 6 to 8 glasses water a day.

Look for a way to keep track of the foods and carbohydrates you consume daily.

Anticipate certain social situations that you will have. Anticipate if you are going to a meeting with friends that may be full of food high in sugar or other elements harmful to the body, so that you don’t deviate from your diet.

Don’t focus on your weight. It’s better to focus on the health benefits of this type of diet.

Tips for Eating Out and Not Breaking Your Diet

It’s not difficult to find a restaurant that is friendly with the ketogenic diet.

All restaurants offer meals based on meat or fish. You can always order these meals and replace any high carbohydrate foods with vegetables.

You can also eat foods that have eggs, such as an omelet or eggs with bacon.

One of my favorites is eating hamburgers without bread. You can change the chips for vegetables, add avocado, bacon or cheese.

In All Mexican restaurants you can substitute any high carbohydrate food for meat, extra cheese, guacamole, salsa and sour cream.

When you want to eat a dessert you can order strawberries with cream.

What are the Side Effects of the Ketogenic Diet and How to Minimize Them?

Although the ketogenic diet is safe, at first it has some side effects before body adapts.

Usually the effects last a few days.

The most common side effects are being cranky, having little energy, increased appetite, insomnia, nausea, stomach discomfort and decreased sports performance.

In order to minimize these effects, you can start by eating a low carb diet during the first few weeks. This can help your body burn more fat before completely eliminating carbohydrates.

The ketogenic diet can also vary the water and minerals in your body, so you will need to add more salt to your meals or take mineral supplements.

Try to consume at least 3,000 – 4,000 grams of sodium, 1,000 mg of potassium and 300 mg of magnesium per day to minimize side effects.

At first I recommend you to eat until you feel satisfied and avoid counting calories. Usually, the ketogenic diet at the beginning causes weight loss without carrying a strict caloric count.

Supplements for a Ketogenic Diet

Supplements are not necessary, but they can help.

  • Medium Chain Triglyceride Oil (MCT Oil): You can add it to your drinks, it increases your energy and helps raise your ketone levels.
  • Minerals: The salts and minerals are important to keep your water and mineral levels well in your body.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine gives you more energy, helps you burn fat and boost your performance.
  • Creatine: Creatine has many benefits to your health and performance, while you exercise.
  • Protein Powder: You can add half a teaspoon of protein in your yogurt to increase your protein intake.
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