The Ultimate Keto Guide For Beginners: 22 Things to Know About This Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet
If you've never heard of the keto diet until this point, I'm not sure where you've been or what you've been doing. The diet first came into popularity by catching the attention of bacon- and butter-lovers and doesn't seem to be subsiding anytime soon. Especially with celebrity endorsements and jaw-dropping weight-loss successes, it's no wonder this trend is still going strong.
However, doing keto properly is more than a matter of eat this, not that. Anyone who's considering this low-carb, high-fat diet should weigh risk factors, recommended timelines, and everything in between. To provide you with every piece of necessary information, we've put together an all-in-one keto guide for easy reference. Here are 22 things you should know before trying it yourself.
What the Keto Diet's All About
The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that aims to get your body into a metabolic state called ketosis in which you burn fat for fuel.
How to Get Started
First things first: give your fridge a keto makeover. Toss sweets, carbs, and starches, and add healthy-fat items like avocado, eggs, and salmon. Between 60 to 75 percent of your day's calories should now come from fats while only five percent should be sourced by carbs — between 20 and 50 grams.
The biggest downside to the keto diet is the "keto flu" as you body adjusts to the changes in your eating habits. It can strike anytime within your first week or two on the diet and includes symptoms that range from tolerable to downright severe. The most common side effects include headaches, stomachaches, brain fog, fatigue, irritability, and dizziness.
How Long You Need to Stick It Out
Once the keto flu subsides, give the diet a minimum of two more weeks before tapping out. However, it can take up to two to four months of consistently doing this diet before you fully transition into ketosis. The good news, though, is that your body won't kick you out of ketosis after steadily following a keto diet. However, keep in mind that it's not recommended to make this diet a permanent lifestyle beyond three months.
The Pros and Cons
As with anything else in life, there's always the good and the bad sides of keto to consider. Potential benefits can include an increase an energy, weight loss, and better muscle recovery while side effects may include severe bad breath, kidney stress, and symptoms of the dreaded keto flu. That alone is enough to stop people from continuing any further.
Foods You Need to Cut Out
Sorry, pasta-lovers, but prepare to take a break from your favorites. Items like pasta, rice, bread, and potatoes are definitely on the restricted list. And don't even think about chocolate, candy, or other sweets.
The Importance of Healthy Fats
Contrary to popular opinion, there is a huge difference between good and bad fats. Healthy (or unsaturated) fats can actually reduce your risk of health disease and keep your heart in shape. The keto diet largely consists of this macronutrient, but that doesn't mean you should stock up on butter and bacon. Instead, fill your cart with avocados, ghee, nuts, flaxseeds, fish, and eggs.
What to Add to Your Grocery Cart
Overall, this diet is low carb, protein moderate, and high fat. Look here for a complete shopping list, but be sure to leave grains, beans, and starchy veggies out.
Doing Keto as a Vegetarian
It's absolutely possible for vegetarians to try keto. However, you should only attempt it under a dietitian's supervision and for a limited time (30 days max). Getting sufficient amounts of BCAAs (branch-chain amino acids, which are not manufactured in the body and must be eaten) is especially crucial for vegetarians on keto as the diet eliminates whole grains and beans. Try compensating with shiitake and reishi mushrooms instead.
It's recommended you give up alcohol completely in your first 10 to 12 days of starting keto if weight loss is your end goal. Once you've reached that checkpoint, you can enjoy keto-friendly cocktails (from time to time) that use fresh ingredients and limit carbs and sugars. Check out these recipes for inspiration.
Benefits of Keto
In addition to weight loss, the keto diet is also said to be great for regulating insulin and glucose levels (which is especially a perk for diabetics), improving memory, and even easing anxiety. Another potential pro you might see from keto is an increase in your sex drive as it boosts mood and energy while stabilizing your hormones.
The Risks That Come With Keto
Whether this diet is actually sustainable continues to be a hotly debated question. But for the most part, the general consensus seems to be that it's only safe up to a certain period (no more than three months). Making this a permanent lifestyle choice is not recommended as carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient. Women who are pregnant or anyone with gallbladder disease or liver disease should avoid attempting keto altogether. It's a good idea to work with a doctor or dietitian when starting the keto diet.
How to Stay Motivated
Sustaining the keto diet is no easy feat — especially once the keto flu strikes. But there are ways to stay on track and get through those rough first weeks: plan in advance for social outings, look for keto-friendly alternatives, and be patient!
Celebrities Who Love Keto
Stars like Halle Berry and Kourtney Kardashian have been vocal about their love for the keto diet — and with bodies like theirs, who wouldn't? Even Jersey Shore's own Vinny Guadagnino has deemed himself the "Keto Guido."
Desserts You Can Eat
Just because the keto diet requires nearly eliminating sugar doesn't mean you have to throw all treats out. Look here for keto-friendly desserts including pecan pie cheesecake, peanut butter fat bombs, and flourless brownies.
Intermittent Fasting on Keto
Can't decide between intermittent fasting and keto? Turns out that the two go hand in hand. Combining both diets is actually ideal because of keto's ability to decrease hunger and cravings, making fasting much easier. IF can also help raise levels of ketones by controlling insulin levels and allow you to burn more fat as a result.
How to Come Off the Keto Diet
Since keto is only recommended as a temporary diet, you'll need to slowly transition yourself off of it. You may find the process to be much smoother if you switch to the Paleo diet first and carb cycle to maintain your weight and health. The worst thing you can do is to go cold turkey and immediately resume your old eating habits.