The Beginner’s Guide to Keto

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What is a Keto Diet? 

A ketogenic diet is low in carbohydrates and high in fats.  Replace starchy breads and sugary cereals with avocados, butter, and fatty cuts of meat. When you deplete your glycogen stores, your body adapts to using fat for fuel and generates ketones, which are a slower burning fuel source in comparison to glucose.

Many people use the keto lifestyle to treat health conditions like arthritis, diabetes, and chronic inflammation. Change your fuel source from carbs to fats to experience the following benefits.  

  • Sustained energy
  • Less cravings
  • Mental clarity 
  • Satiety 
  • Reduced inflammation

"Food is no longer about weight loss, it's about my energy levels and mood. It's about manipulating my macros to optimize the way I feel. Knowing I can do that is really powerful and I like having that control."

- Chela LeBlanc, @foodieturnedsleevie

The History Behind Dietary Fat

For years, the government has promoted a low fat, high carbohydrate diet, rich in whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables. It was believed that dietary fat, especially saturated fats, clog arteries and cause heart disease. Steak was out and bran muffins were in.

Unfortunately, these dietary guidelines are based off of weak data. Since removing most of the fat from the dietary guidelines and replacing it with starch and sugar, society’s health has plummeted and more than half of Americans are classified as overweight.

The Science behind Carbohydrates

  1. All carbohydrates are converted into sugar in the body.  
  2. When you consume sugar, your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin's job is to lower blood sugar levels by feeding the sugar to the body's cells. Once the body's cells are full of glucose, the insulin then stores the rest as fat in the liver and other places on the body.  
  3. Sugar also activates the reward system in the brain. If you frequently activate this reward system,  you can develop cravings and increase your tolerance to sugar. This means you will want more sugar, more often.
  4. In a state of ketosis, your body breaks fat down in the liver and converts it into ketones to be used for energy. Fat doesn't generate an insulin response, so insulin levels remain stable. This makes it much harder to store excess fat, and easier to tap into body fat stores for energy. Not only will this allow you to maintain your weight, but it will greatly encourage weight loss.

Getting started on a ketogenic diet can be intimidating. For most people this is a drastic shift in their eating habits and can be overwhelming, but you don’t need to know everything before you start. Check out some keto weight loss transformations for more valuable advice on getting started. 

How to Start the Keto Diet

1. Talk to Your Doctor

We are not doctors. We simply share our knowledge and experiences to help others with their journey, so make sure you talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet.

2. Calculate Your Macros

Eating the correct macronutrient ratios will deplete your body of glucose and force it to start producing ketones. Your body will then use these ketones for energy. Use our calculator to find out the ideal macronutrient split for your body. Generally, a ketogenic diet will have the following macronutrient ratios: 

  • High Fat – 60%-80% of total calories come from fat.
  • Moderate Protein15%-35% of total calories come from protein.
  • Low Carbohydrate – 5% or less of total calories come from carbohydrates.

3. Start Eating a Keto Diet 

Eat the following foods:

  • Meat
  • Full-fat dairy
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Natural oils like olive and coconut oil
  • Vegetables that grow above ground like lettuce, spinach, and broccoli.

Avoid the following foods:

  • Sugar and starches, such as...
  • Potatoes and other root vegetables
  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • High-sugar fruit

If you’re confused on where to start, you can reference our Keto Basics Shopping List, or our YouTube channel where we share meal ideas and “Day of Eating” videos. We recommend to eat less than 20 grams of net carbs for the first month.

4. Brace Yourself for the Keto Flu

A lot of changes are happening in your body and you’re going to feel it! The first five to seven days can be pretty rough, but your body is getting over its dependency on sugar. During this time of transition it is essential that you supplement electrolytes. Your body is flushing out lots of water, and with that goes electrolytes. The Keto Flu can be greatly reduced if you add sodium, potassium and magnesium to your diet. Check out our supplements page for a list of electrolyte supplements we recommend. Stay on course and you’ll start feeling better in no time!

5. Don't Restrict Calories

When adapting to the keto diet, it may help you adjust by not restricting your calories, even if your only goal is weight loss. Calorie restriction will be easier, and even happen naturally, when you are fully fat-adapted. You will notice a decrease in cravings and hunger after a few weeks on a ketogenic diet. 

6. Keep Protein Intake Moderate

Protein will induce an insulin response in the body, if consumed in high amounts. The most intuitive way to start a keto diet for most people is by removing all of the carbs they have been eating. Typically people will replace those calories by increasing their lean meat consumption. That's a recipe for disaster! Keeping protein moderate is an often overlooked, but very important part of a keto diet. Most people need around 0.6g to 1.0g of protein per pound of lean body mass.

7. Don't be Afraid of Fat

It’s tough to overcome the low-fat indoctrination we’ve all gone through, but make an effort to do it! Fat is good and should be consumed in high amounts on this diet. Make the paradigm shift in your mind. If you're feeling low energy on a keto diet, the odds are that you are not consuming enough healthy fats.

Watch the Keto for Beginners Video Series!

Macro Nutrients Explained

Low Carb

Carbs are going to make up less than five percent of your caloric intake. When getting started, less than 20g daily is recommended. A good ratio to go by is 1.5g Net Carbs Per 100 calories. 

Net carbs are what we track when following a ketogenic diet. This calculation is pretty straightforward. Net Carbs = Total Carbs – Fiber. For example, one cup of broccoli has 6g of total carbs and 2.4g of fiber. That would mean one cup of broccoli has 3.6g of net carbs. We count Net Carbs  because dietary fiber does not have a significant metabolic effect. 

Moderate Protein

When removing carbs from the diet, it is easy to replace them with protein, but eating a high protein diet does not promote a state of ketosis.  A percentage of protein will be converted to glucose, so view protein as a minimum requirement.

Every day you should be looking to hit your protein target, but you should be just as sure to not exceed it by too much. Moderate is between 0.6 and 1.0 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass.

High Fat

It’s easy to get caught up on the “low-carb” part of the diet and not give enough attention to the “high-fat” part. Fat is what makes you full, gives you energy (when in ketosis), and makes food taste delicious. For most people this figure should be north of 70 percent of daily calories. Keep carbs under 20g, hit your protein goal, and eat fat until you’re full.

At first, you may be overeating calories, but overtime, the keto diet will auto correct that. Your eating patterns and body's natural hunger signals will auto-correct. 

Foods to Eat on a Keto Diet

Eat Plenty of Fat

Add fat to meals for energy, satiety, and flavor. Find fat in meat, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, and oils. Not all cooking oils are considered healthy, check out our Guide to Healthy Cooking Oils. 

  • Butter
  • Ghee
  • Cooking Oils: Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, Coconut Oil, Sesame Oil...etc. 
  • Beef Tallow 
  • Lard 

Enjoy Beef, Poultry, Seafood, and Pork

Animals provide humans with such nutrient dense foods that keep us full and give us energy. Look for fatty cuts of meat like salmon and chicken thighs to keep your fat macros high. 

Find Low-Carb Vegetables

Most vegetables are pretty low-carb since they are full of fiber and water. Avoid root vegetables like potatoes and beets, which are higher in carbohydrates. Stick to leafy greens and plants that grow above ground. 

  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Tomatoes
  • Swiss Chard
  • Spinach, Lettuce, Kale
  • Avocados
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli 
  • Zucchini 

Add Some Fruit

Look for fruit that's low in sugar and high in fiber to keep the carb-count low. A banana is about 30 grams of carbs, while a kiwi is only about 10 grams, so choose wisely.

  • Raspberries - 5 grams
  • Blackberries - 5 grams
  • Strawberries - 6 grams 
  • Coconut - 6 grams 
  • Lemon - 6 grams 
  • Lime - 8 grams
  • Kiwi - 10 grams 
  • Plum - 10 grams 
  • Blueberries - 13 grams

Net Carbs per 100 gram serving

Snack on Low-Carb Nuts

Nuts are a great alternative snack to chips and candy when you need something to crunch on. Nuts are calorie-dense and the carbs can add up quickly when eaten in high amounts, so track how many servings you eat. 

  • Pili Nuts - 0 grams 
  • Pecans - 1 gram
  • Brazil Nuts - 1.5 grams
  • Macadamia Nuts - 2 grams
  • Walnuts - 2 grams 
  • Peanuts - 2 grams
  • Pistachios - 5 grams 
  • Cashews - 8 grams

Benefits of a Keto Diet

Weight Loss

This is the reason most people start a ketogenic diet, and for good reason. Transitioning to running on fat will greatly aid in weight loss as well as make intuitive eating easier. Here is an interesting study on the Ketogenic Diet Vs. Calorie Restriction.

Improved Cholesterol Levels

The myth that dietary fat equates to rises in cholesterol is just that, a myth! In fact, the opposite is true. Keto diets have been shown to improve cholesterol levels.

Increase in Energy

Once you make the shift to burning fat as your primary fuel source you’ll notice increased, stable energy throughout the day. No more ups and downs in energy levels!

Decrease in Hunger

Eating a diet high in fat will leave you feeling more satisfied. Calorie restriction(while not necessary) will be easier when eating a high fat diet.

Lower Blood Sugar & Aid in Diabetes Treatment

Many studies have shown the ketogenic diet to have positive effects on blood sugar levels and diabetics.

How to Eat More Fat

Buy Fattier Cuts of Meat

Simple right? Switch from chicken breast to thighs, wings, or legs. Go for the 80/20 ground beef instead of the 99% lean. Bacon is your friend, your crispy, delicious friend.

Make Fat Bombs

Fat bombs are delicious morsels of pure fat. They are a great way to easily add fat to meals and make great snacks. We have hundreds of recipes, from Oatmeal Cookie, to Snickers Bar

coconut fat bombs horizontal

Add Fat to Vegetables

 Don’t like broccoli? Try drenching it in butter or cheese! Seriously, start viewing veggies and sponges for all the delicious fats you’ll be eating on the regular.

21 Ways to Add Fat

Watch this video for 21 ways to get more fat into your diet.