A Complete Beginner’s Guide to the Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet, also known as the “keto diet,” is a low-carb, high-fat diet that has numerous health advantages. Numerous studies actually demonstrate that this kind of diet can aid in weight loss and health improvement.

Even the prevention of epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease may be helped by ketogenic diets. An in-depth overview of the keto diet is provided here.

Ketogenic fundamentals

Very low in carbohydrates and high in fat, the ketogenic diet is similar to the Atkins and low carbohydrate diets in many ways. It entails drastically lowering carbohydrate consumption and increasing fat consumption.

This carbohydrate restriction causes your body to enter a metabolic state known as ketosis. When this occurs, your body’s ability to burn fat for energy becomes incredibly efficient. It also converts fat in the liver to ketones, which can provide energy to the brain.

The levels of insulin and blood sugar can be significantly lowered by ketogenic diets. This has some health advantages in addition to the elevated ketones.


A low-carb, high-fat diet is the ketogenic diet. It lowers insulin and blood sugar levels and changes the body’s metabolism so that it burns fat and ketones rather than carbohydrates.

Various kinds of ketogenic diets

The ketogenic diet is available in several variations, including:

  • The Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD), which consists of a high fat, moderate protein, and very low carbohydrate diet. Typically, it has only 10% carbs, 20% protein, and 70% fat.
  • Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This eating plan calls for intervals of higher carb refeeds, such as five days of ketosis followed by two days of high carbs.
  • The targeted ketogenic diet (TKD) allows you to increase your carbohydrate intake around workouts.
  • High protein ketogenic diet: Similar to the standard ketogenic diet, but with more protein. Typically, the breakdown is 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbohydrates.

Only the regular and high-protein ketogenic diets, however, have received in-depth research. Bodybuilders and athletes tend to use more sophisticated techniques like cyclical or targeted ketogenic diets. The majority of the information in this article applies to the standard ketogenic diet (SKD), but many of the same principles apply to the other versions as well.

Ketosis: What is it?

Your body burns fat for energy instead of carbohydrates when you’re in a metabolic state called ketosis. It happens when your body’s ability to produce glucose (sugar), the primary fuel for cells, is restricted due to a significant reduction in your carbohydrate intake.

The best method for reaching ketosis is to follow a ketogenic diet. The general recommendation is to consume no more than 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates daily and eat a diet high in fats from sources like meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and healthy oils.

It’s also critical to limit your protein intake. This is because protein, in large quantities, can be converted into glucose, slowing your transition into ketosis. You might experience quicker ketosis onset if you regularly practice intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting can take many different forms, but the most popular one involves eating only for about eight hours a day and going without food for the other sixteen.

There are tests for blood, urine, and breath that can measure the body’s production of ketones to help determine whether you’ve reached ketosis. Additional signs of entering ketosis include increased thirst, dry mouth, frequent urination, and decreased appetite or hunger.

Ketogenic diets can aid in weight loss

Losing weight and reducing your risk of disease are both achieved through the ketogenic diet. Actually, studies suggest that the ketogenic diet may be just as successful at promoting weight loss as a low-fat diet. Additionally, the diet is so filling that you can lose weight without monitoring your food intake or counting calories.

According to a meta-analysis of 13 studies, a very low carb, ketogenic diet was marginally superior to a low fat diet for long-term weight loss. The keto diet resulted in a 2 pound (0.9 kg) weight loss over the low fat diet.

Furthermore, it resulted in decreases in triglyceride and diastolic blood pressure as well. According to a different study involving 34 senior citizens, those who followed a ketogenic diet for eight weeks shed nearly five times as much total body fat as those who followed a low-fat diet. Improvements in insulin sensitivity, decreased blood sugar, and increased ketones may all be important contributors.

You may be able to lose a little bit more weight on a ketogenic diet than on a low-fat one. This is more common when there is less hunger.

Diabetes and prediabetes ketogenic diets

Affected insulin function, elevated blood sugar, and changes in metabolism are the hallmarks of diabetes. You can reduce your body fat by following a ketogenic diet. Excess body fat has been linked to metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and prediabetes. In a previous study, the ketogenic diet was found to significantly increase insulin sensitivity by 75%.

A small study in type 2 diabetic women discovered that a ketogenic diet for 90 days significantly decreased levels of hemoglobin A1C, a marker of long-term blood sugar control. Following a ketogenic diet resulted in an average loss of 26.2 pounds (11.9 kg) over the course of two years, according to another study involving 349 people with type 2 diabetes.

When taking into account the relationship between type 2 diabetes and weight, this is a significant benefit.

Additionally, they reported better blood sugar control, and over the course of the study, fewer participants used specific blood sugar medications.

For those with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, the ketogenic diet can increase insulin sensitivity and promote fat loss, both of which have significant positive effects on health.

Other advantages of keto

It’s true that the ketogenic diet first appeared as a method of treating neurological conditions like epilepsy. The diet can help with a wide range of different health conditions, according to studies:

  • Cardiovascular disease

Improved levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and body fat are all risk factor-reducing effects of the ketogenic diet.

  • Cancer

Since the diet may help slow tumor growth, it is currently being investigated as a complementary cancer treatment.

  • Alzheimer’s illness

Alzheimer’s disease symptoms could be lessened and the disease’s progression slowed with the ketogenic diet.

  • Epilepsy

According to studies, children with epilepsy who follow a ketogenic diet experience significantly fewer seizures.

  • Parkinson’s disease is one example.

One study discovered that the diet assisted in reducing Parkinson’s disease symptoms, though more research is required.

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

The ketogenic diet may help lower insulin levels, which may be important in polycystic ovary syndrome.

  • Head injuries

According to some studies, the diet may improve the outcomes of traumatic brain injuries. Bear in mind, though, that much of this research is still in need of more investigation.


When it comes to diseases that are metabolic, neurological, or insulin-related, a ketogenic diet may have many health advantages.

Prohibited foods

Carbohydrate-rich foods should be avoided. On a ketogenic diet, the following foods must be reduced or eliminated:

  • Sweetened beverages and foods, such as soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, and candy.
  • Grain or starch products, such as those made from wheat, rice, pasta, or cereal.
  • Fruit: all fruit except small amounts of berries such as strawberries
  • Beans or legumes, such as peas, lentils, chickpeas, and kidney beans.
  • Tubers and root vegetables, such as parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and others.
  • Low-fat or diet goods, including condiments, salad dressings, and mayonnaise
  • a few sauces or condiments, such as ketchup, honey mustard, barbecue sauce, and teriyaki sauce.
  • Unhealthy fats, such as refined vegetable oils and mayonnaise.
  • alcoholic beverages: beer, wine, liquor, and mixed drinks
  • Sugar-free diet foods, such as sugar-free sweeteners, puddings, candies, syrups, and desserts.


Stay away from foods high in carbohydrates, such as grains, sugars, legumes, rice, potatoes, candy, juice, and even the majority of fruits.

Foods to consume

Most of your meals should center on these foods:

  • animal products, including red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken, and turkey.
  • Fatty fish, such as mackerel, salmon, trout, and tuna
  • Whole pastured or omega-3 eggs
  • Heavy cream made from heavy cream and grass-fed butter
  • cheese: unprocessed cheeses such as cheddar, goat cheese, cream cheese, blue cheese, or mozzarella
  • Nuts and seeds, such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and walnuts.
  • Good-for-you oils include avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil.
  • Avocados: fresh guacamole or whole avocados
  • Low carb vegetables: green vegetables, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and so on.
  • seasonings (salt, pepper, herbs, and spices)

Choosing whole, single-ingredient foods as the bulk of your diet is the best option.


Your diet should primarily consist of foods like meat, fish, eggs, butter, nuts, healthy oils, avocados, and a lot of low-carb vegetables.

A one-week keto meal plan example

Here is a sample menu for the first week of a ketogenic diet to get you started:


  • breakfast: tomato-topped egg and vegetable muffins.
  • lunch: a side salad and a chicken salad with feta cheese, olives, and olive oil.
  • dinner: butter-cooked salmon with asparagus.


  • breakfast: omelet with eggs, tomatoes, basil, and spinach.
  • lunch: a milkshake made with almond milk, peanut butter, spinach, cocoa powder, and stevia, served with sliced strawberries as a garnish.
  • dinner: tacos in a cheese shell with salsa.


  • breakfast: pudding made with nut milk, chia seeds, coconut, and blackberries.
  • lunch: Salad with avocado and shrimp.
  • dinner: Parmesan-crusted pork chops, broccoli, and salad.


  • breakfast: Avocado, salsa, onion, peppers, and spices in an omelet.
  • lunch: a few nuts, some celery, and some salsa and guacamole.
  • dinner: Zucchini that has been grilled alongside chicken that has been stuffed with pesto and cream cheese.


  • breakfast: Greek yogurt with whole milk, no added sugar, and berries, peanut butter, and cocoa.
  • lunch: tacos with ground beef lettuce wraps and sliced bell peppers.
  • dinner: with a lot of mixed vegetables and cauliflower.


  • breakfast: pancakes with cream cheese, blueberries, and grilled mushrooms.
  • lunch: Salad with zucchini and beet “noodles”
  • dinner: Kale, toasted pine nuts, and white fish all prepared in olive oil.


  • breakfast: mushrooms and fried eggs.
  • lunch: broccoli and low-carb sesame chicken.
  • dinner: bolognese spaghetti squash.

Vegetables and meat should always be alternated over an extended period of time because they each offer a unique set of nutrients and health advantages.


A ketogenic diet allows you to consume a wide range of delectable and healthy meals. It’s not all about meat and fat. Vegetables are an essential part of any diet.

Keto-friendly snacks

Following are some healthy, keto-friendly snacks in case you get hungry in between meals:

  • fatty meats and fish
  • cheese
  • a small amount of seeds or nuts
  • Sushi bites on a keto diet
  • olives
  • 1-2 deviled or hard-boiled eggs
  • Ketogenic snack bars
  • Dark chocolate (90%)
  • Greek yogurt with added full-fat, nut butter, and cocoa powder
  • guacamole and bell peppers
  • Strawberries and unflavored cottage cheese
  • guacamole and salsa on celery
  • jerky made from beef
  • reducing the size of leftover meals
  • fatty bombs


Pieces of meat, cheese, olives, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, raw vegetables, and dark chocolate are all excellent keto-friendly snacks.

Tips and tricks for keto

There are a number of strategies you can use to make the ketogenic diet more manageable, even though it can be difficult to begin.

  • Begin by reading food labels and calculating the grams of fat, carbs, and fiber to see how your favorite foods fit into your diet.
  • Making your meal plans in advance can also be helpful and time-saving throughout the week.
  • You can create your own unique menu using the keto-friendly recipes and meal suggestions found on numerous websites, food blogs, apps, and cookbooks.
  • For a quick and practical way to enjoy keto meals at home, some meal delivery services even provide keto-friendly options.
  • When you’re pressed for time, consider healthy frozen keto meals.
  • You might also want to take into account bringing your own food when attending social events or visiting family and friends. This can make it much simpler to control cravings and follow your meal plan.


It can be much simpler to follow the ketogenic diet if you read food labels, prepare your meals in advance, and bring your own food when you visit family and friends.

Ketogenic Diet Dining Tips

  • Many restaurant dishes can be keto-friendly.
  • Almost every restaurant serves a meat or fish-based dish. Order this and substitute extra vegetables for any high carbohydrate foods.
  • Egg-based meals, such as an omelet or eggs and bacon, are also excellent choices.
  • Bun-less burgers are another popular option. You could also substitute vegetables for the fries. Add more bacon, cheese, eggs, avocado, or cheese.
  • You can order any kind of meat at Mexican restaurants with extra cheese, guacamole, salsa, and sour cream.
  • For dessert, request either berries with cream or a cheese board.


Choose a meat, fish, or egg-based dish when dining out. Order more vegetables rather than carbohydrates or starches, and for dessert, order cheese.

How to Reduce Side Effects

  1. Although the ketogenic diet is generally safe for most healthy people, some initial side effects may occur as your body adjusts.
  2. These side effects, also known as the keto flu, have some anecdotal evidence. According to reports from those on the eating plan, it usually passes in a matter of days.
  3. Vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation have all been listed as symptoms of the keto flu. Other symptoms that are less common include:
  • low energy and cognitive function.
  • increased appetite.
  • Sleep problems.
  • gastrointestinal distress.
  • reduced exercise performance.
  • You can attempt a typical low-carb diet for the first few weeks to reduce this. This might help your body burn fat more efficiently before you completely cut out carbohydrates.
  • Since a ketogenic diet can alter your body’s water and mineral balance, you might find it helpful to salt your food more or take mineral supplements. Consult your doctor about your nutritional requirements.
  • It’s crucial to eat until you’re satisfied and stay away from excessive calorie restriction, at least at first. A ketogenic diet typically results in weight loss without the use of calorie restriction.


The majority of the negative effects of beginning a ketogenic diet are manageable. It may be beneficial to ease into the diet and take mineral supplements.

The Ketogenic Diet’s Risks

Long-term use of the ketogenic diet may result in a number of drawbacks, including risks of:

  • low blood protein levels
  • an increase in liver fat
  • uric acid stones
  • a lack of micronutrients
  • Sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors, a class of drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes, can raise the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially fatal condition that raises blood acidity. The keto diet should be avoided by anyone taking this medication.
  • More research is being conducted to determine the long-term safety of the keto diet. To help you make decisions, let your doctor know about your eating schedule.


If you intend to follow the keto diet for an extended period of time, you should consult with your doctor about the potential side effects.

Ketogenic Diet Supplements

  • While supplements are not required, they can be beneficial.
  • MCT oil is a type of fat. MCT oil, when mixed into drinks or yogurt, provides energy and aids in the increase of ketone levels. MCT oil can be purchased online.
  • Due to changes in the balance of the minerals in the water, it may be necessary to start out with additional salt and other minerals.
  • The effects of caffeine on performance, fat loss, and energy are possible.
  • Ketones that come from outside the body. This supplement may aid in increasing the body’s ketone levels.
  • Creatine has numerous health and performance benefits. This can be beneficial if you combine a ketogenic diet with exercise.
  • Your daily protein intake can be increased by adding half a scoop of whey protein to shakes or yogurt. Online shopping for tasty whey products.

When following a ketogenic diet, some supplements can be helpful. Among them are minerals, MCT oil, and exogenous ketones.

Commonly Asked Questions

The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about the ketogenic diet.

  1. Will I ever be able to eat carbs again?

Yes. However, you must drastically reduce your carbohydrate intake at first. You can have special occasions where you eat carbs after the first two to three months, but you must immediately resume your diet.

  1. Will I gain or lose muscle?

Any diet has the potential to cause muscle loss. Protein consumption and high ketone levels, particularly if you lift weights, might prevent muscle loss, though.

  1. Can a ketogenic diet help me gain muscle?

Yes, but it might not be as effective as on a diet high in moderate carbs. Read this article to learn more about the relationship between low-carb or ketogenic diets and exercise performance.

  1. How much protein should I consume?

A moderate intake of protein is advised because consuming too much of it can cause insulin levels to spike and lower ketones. The upper limit is probably around 35% of total calorie intake.

  1. What if I’m always tired, weak, or exhausted?

It’s possible that you’re not fully ketotic or not using fats and ketones as effectively as you could. Reduce your carbohydrate intake and go over the points above again to counteract this. A supplement such as MCT oil or ketones may also be beneficial.

  1. My urine smells like fruit. What is the reason for this?

Don’t be concerned. The excretion of waste products produced during ketosis is the only explanation for this.

  1. I have bad breath. What should I do?

This is a typical side effect. Water with natural flavors can be consumed, or you can chew sugar-free gum.

  1. I have heard that ketosis is very dangerous. Is this correct?

Ketosis is frequently confused with ketoacidosis. While ketosis during a ketogenic diet is typically safe for healthy individuals, ketoacidosis is dangerous. Before beginning any new diet, consult with your doctor.

  1. I have diarrhea and digestive problems. What should I do?

This is a common side effect that usually goes away after 3 to 4 weeks. If it persists, increase your intake of high fiber vegetables.


A ketogenic diet may be beneficial to people who:

  • they are overweight
  • suffer from diabetes
  • want to have better metabolic health

Elite athletes and people looking to gain significant amounts of muscle or weight might find it less suitable.

It may also be incompatible with some people’s lifestyles and preferences. To determine if a ketogenic diet is right for you, discuss your eating habits and goals with your doctor.