Do you want to start the ketogenic diet but don’t know how? This is a comprehensive and guide for Keto beginners to get you started on your new health journey.
What is Ketogenic Diet?
Keto seems to be the buzz word on everybody’s lips these days, but what is the ketogenic diet and why is it so popular?
The ketogenic diet is popularly known as keto. It is a very low-carbohydrate, high-fat, moderate protein diet that shares similar traits to Atkins diet and other low carb high fat (LCHF) regimes. It is also a popular and effective way to lose weight. Ketogenic was originally developed to treat neurological diseases such as epilepsy in the 20’s. However recent studies have uncovered other wide ranging health benefits.
The ketogenic diet puts your body in a state of ketosis in which your body to produces fuel molecules called Ketone bodies, that are eventually used by the body and the brain for fuel. Ketone bodies are produced by the liver as an alternative fuel source when blood sugar is in short supply.
The fastest way to reach the state of ketosis is by fasting. Some people may choose to fast for three days to induce the state of ketosis. However, the same results can be attained by reducing one’s carb intake to less than 20 g per day. Doing this, people with healthy metabolisms will normally reach the state of ketosis within 72 hours. Those with carb sensitivities and metabolic issues may require longer periods of time and additional aids to successfully get into a state of ketosis.
Types of Ketogenic Diet
There are numerous types of ketogenic diets and lifestyles, some of which are considered here:
The Standard Keto Diet (SKD) is a strictly very low carbohydrate intake, moderate protein and high-fat diet. This involves balancing macos to 75% fat, 20 % protein and 5% carbohydrates only. The general rule here is to avoid fruits and starches.
Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) is known as ‘carb-cycling’. It is a low-carbohydrate diet with intermittent periods of high to moderate carbohydrate intake.  An example would be five days in ketosis and then two days of high to moderate carbohydrate intake. The CKD is designed for people who follow advance training exercises like bodybuilders and athletes.
Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD) is a diet wherein you can eat carbohydrates around your workouts. This diet is recommended to those who are maintaining high-intensity exercise performance. For the TKD approach, you should eat carbohydrates right before training.
High-Protein Ketogenic Diet. This variety is similar to the standard ketogenic diet, except that a higher percentage of protein is consumed. The macros involved are typically 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbohydrates. Proteins contain amino acids which are essential nutrients for our body and are the building blocks of the body’s tissues.
The Benefits of Ketogenic Diet
I mentioned earlier that there were numerous health benefits associated with keto. This section looks at some of the associated health benefits:
- Weight management – the ketogenic diet is an effective and healthy way to lose weight long term. Numerous testimonials can be found about people who have eaten fat to lose fat with incredible body transformations.
- Managing Prediabetes and Diabetes – Many endocrinologists and nutritionist experts recommend the ketogenic as a way of managing blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. There have been many cases of people using keto to manage and reverse Type 2 diabetes. Research also shows that 92% of the ketogenic group helps the patient to reduce or stop diabetes medication, compared to 62% for those who have higher carb intake group. 
- Epilepsy – The Ketogenic diet was originally designed for people suffering epilepsy. Since the 1920s, this kind of therapy has proven effective in controlling and reducing the epileptic seizures mainly in children and without the need to use medication. Recently, the keto diet has been tested on adults with promising results.
- Cancer – Recent studies show that keto diet can be an alternative or a supportive treatment for certain types of cancers and can slow the growth of a tumours.  Cancer cells are dependent on glucose as a fuel source. Restricting glucose intake can have an effect of the growth of certain tumours.
- Heart Disease – The diet can improve heart health. Researchers found that fat, which has been long vilified is not the main culprit in heart disease and that sugar plays a role in the deterioration of heart health. Studies show a significant reduction on blood pressure, which also lowers the risk of a heart disease and a stroke.
- Brain Injuries – The ketogenic diet has been shown to help the brain to heal faster and is an effective method of healing trauma to the brain.
- Alzheimer’s disease – The ketogenic diet has been shown to help to reduce the symptoms and slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – PCOS is one of the most common endocrine conditions affecting women’s reproductive system. In a study, the ketogenic diet showed positive results in reducing insulin levels which plays a key role in PCOS.
- Parkinson’s Disease – There is a feasibility study that the ketogenic diet helped improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
- Acne – Eating less sugar and processed foods which lowers insulin levels can help improve acne. Keto can give the skin a healthy looking glow, because of the focus on eating organic whole and unprocessed foods.
- Cholesterol – Those people who are already on ketogenic diet showed a marked improvement in cholesterol levels over a long period of time.
- Energy and mental focus – Many people on the ketogenic diet have reported heightened energy levels and productivity, increased focus, mental clarity and enhance cognitive performance.
An introduction to Macros
Starting a ketogenic diet is not just about knowing the benefits, recipes and how to prepare your meals. It is also important to know their nutritional profiles and why they are an important part of a well-formulated ketogenic diet.
What are Macronutrients and Micronutrients?
Nutrients are environmental substances used for energy, growth, and bodily functions by organisms. They have two substances, macronutrients provide the bulk energy and organism’s metabolic system needs to function. There are 3 macronutrients required by humans, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Micronutrients provide the necessary cofactors for metabolism to be carried out. Micronutrients help build and repair tissues. It is also to regulate body processes while macronutrients are converted to, and used for energy.
The ketogenic diet macronutrients ratio varies within the following ranges:
- 60-75% of calories from fat
- 15-30% of calories from protein
- 5-10% of calories from carbohydrates
Most people who are in ketogenic diet don’t consume more than 5% calories from carbohydrates.
Maintenance level also known as the Total Energy Expenditure, is a level at which you maintain a stable body weight.
Maintenance level = BMR + TEA + TEF
BMR ( Basal Metabolic Rate ) – Amount of energy expended daily at rest and calculated using the Mifflin – St. Jeor Formula.
TEA ( Thermal Effect of Activity ) – Also known as the Activity level, determines additional expenditure due to moving around and exercising.
TEF ( Thermal Effect of Feeding )– increase in metabolic rate when food is ingested. Protein and carbs have the highest specific dynamic action, while fat has the lowest. TEF on the ketogenic diet will be 10% on average.
Ever wondered why fat is the highest percentage of the macros consumed on a ketogenic diet? It’s because good fats are really good for the body. Fats and Protein are essentials for the body’s survival. Whereas there is nothing like an essential carbohydrate. There are 3 types of carbohydrates:
Simple Carbohydrate which have a simple molecule structure consisting of one to two sugar molecules. Glucose is the simplest form of carbohydrate. A good example of simple carbohydrate is the table sugar. Just for clarification, not all simple carbs are bad. There are good simple carbs that are permissible on keto, such as certain fruits and vegetables in moderate quantities.
The second type of carbohydrate is a Complex Carbohydrate. These also have sugars, but a more complex arrangement of chains as the sugar molecules. A good example of complex carbs is white rice, white sugar and pasta. Just like the simple carbohydrates not all complex carbohydrates are bad, the unrefined foods such as some rice’s is healthy like the brown rice and wholemeal flour and it should still be eaten in moderation. Although these are generally considered healthy, they do not form part of a well-formulated ketogenic diet, or lifestyle in which grains, pulses and whole wheat are foods to avoid.
The third type of carbohydrate is the Complex Fibrous Carbohydrates which are typically keto approved. These are fibrous carbs that is rich in vitamins, phytochemicals, minerals and other nutrients that our body needs. Complex fibrous carbs have low calories and are good colon-friendly foods that help clean and keep the colon healthy. A good example of these are fresh leafy vegetables and cruciferous varieties such as broccoli and cabbage.
And don’t forget to watch your calorie intake, the more calories you consume. Although many people on may say that calories don’t count on the ketogenic diet, sadly they do. Contrary to popular belief, keto is not just for weight loss, but also be used for weight gain and there are millions of people who use it for weight maintenance and you can put on weight on keto. So, it is important to start out right and starting out right begins with calculating the macros that support your goal. Fat is the most calorie dense of the three macros at 9 calories per gram as opposed to 4 calories per gram of protein, or carbs. You can lose weight be eating more fat, because fat has a negligible effect of insulin levels and so the process of burning fat is uncompromised. Whereas carbohydrates and protein both have an effect on insulin (which is the fat-storing hormone) and so although they may contain less calories, they also have a greater effect on the fat metabolism. The is further proof that weight gain is not just a calories-in, calories-out problem, but there is also possibly a hormonal element to take into account.
What to eat on a Keto diet
Keto approved carbohydrates are mostly green leafy vegetables which tend to have lower carb count and certain nuts. Keep your diet mostly on whole simple unprocessed ingredients and foods and just sprinkle condiments to season to taste.
Here are some recommended ketogenic foods that you should have at home and should be eating on a regular basis.
- Meat – choose the red meat, bacon, steak, ham, chicken and turkey. Sausages are permitted. However, beware of hidden sugars such as dextrose and maltose.
- Low-carb veggies – green veggies, onions, tomatoes, pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
- Fatty fish – tuna, salmon, mackerel and trout
- Eggs – Whole eggs.
- Butter and cream – choose grass-fed butter
- Healthy oils – Extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil only.
- Avocados – Fresh guacamole!
- Cheese – unprocessed raw cheese (Cream, blue, cheddar or mozzarella)
- Condiments – Salt, pepper, healthy herbs and spices.
Foods to avoid on Keto
Refined carb should be treated with caution. Get your carbs from mainly leafy green vegetables. Limit your carbs to no more than 20 g per day to begin with. Avoid refined foods as they are devoid of most healthy nutrients and enzymes and often contain undesirable ingredients.
Here are some common foods to reduce or eliminate
- Grains or starches– wheat, rice, cereal, corn, pasta, white bread, etc.
- Sugary foods – honey, maple syrup, agave, smoothies, ice cream, cakes, candy, sweeteners, soda, fruit juice, etc.
- Fruit – All fruits except small portion of berries like strawberries
- Root vegetables and tubers – potato, yam, carrots, parsnips, cassava, etc.
- Alcohol – NO beers!
- Sugar-free and diet products – they are highly processed foods and high in sugar which can affect the Ketone levels.
- Unhealthy fats – Margarine, processed vegetable and seed oils, etc.
- Beans or legumes – lentils, chickpeas, peas, etc.
- Some condiments or sauces – they usually contain sugar and unhealthy fats.
The Side Effects of Ketogenic Diet
Despite the glowing references for the ketogenic diet and lifestyle, nothing in life is ever that simple. There are side effects associated with the ketogenic diet. Here are the common side effects of the keto diet in our body.
Keto Flu – This flu is very common for people starting out on the ketogenic diet. They experience discomfort such as headaches, nausea, fatigue, cramps, ‘brain-fog’, increased hunger, sleep issues, heart palpitations and constipation. Everyone experiences the keto-flu in different ways. The symptoms vary by person and it is a normal part of the pre-adaptation phase when your body is not yet used to utilising ketones for fuel. It can take a few weeks or so to pass, but it does pass and in the meantime, can be managed by balancing electrolytes and adding sea salt to food and adding mineral supplements.
Ketoacidosis – It’s a very life-threatening condition where ketones in the blood surge to levels exceeding 7 mMol and can result in death and requires urgent medical care. This is a risk for Type 1 diabetics with impaired pancreatic function. Ketoacidosis is not a risk for normal healthy adults including Type 2 diabetics who are able to produce trace amounts of insulin to maintains insulin levels below danger levels.
How to start the keto diet?
First and foremost, when starting to any diet, you should be committed, because getting in a state of ketosis for sustained periods long enough to enjoy the therapeutic effects of ketones is actually quite a difficult thing to do. It doesn’t happen by chance. Being in ketosis does not necessarily mean you are burning fat, or adapted and failure to prepare is preparing to fail.
Here are some basic 101 tips on how to get started:
Do a comprehensive research about Keto and decide if the ketogenic diet and lifestyle is right for you.
Visit to a doctor for a full physical examination. Ask them to compute your body fats, weight, height, glucose count calories and body muscles. This will also give you an indication of your starting position.
You can also consult a Keto expert or Keto coach who can give you a comprehensive breakdown of the realities of starting a ketogenic lifestyle and teach you how to compute your macros in order for you to reach the state of ketosis, get through the flu and adaptation. They will also be able to share cost-saving tips for monitoring progress and practical hints for keto meal prep. Sometimes coaches also offer keto meal services developed by nutritionist experts that prepare your meals and deliver it to your home or office.
If you are working on a budget, you can find almost anything and everything you need online from how to calculate macros, meal plans, recipes, meal prep ideas and how to beat the temptation with keto-compliant snacks that you should always have at the ready just in case that mind starts playing games on you.
Aim to eat unprocessed whole foods and commit to learning to cook for yourself. It is not just so you know exactly what you are eating, but it is actually mentally rewarding and some careful planning allows you to enjoy your new keto lifestyle without breaking the bank. Make your own food. You will love you for it. We also have a blog which give you tips on keto on a budget. Also, set your carb intake. Normally 20 – 30g per day. The lower the better.
Invest in yourself and your knowledge. Being on keto is often an eye-opener. The first realisation is how much you will feel you have been lied to for most of your life about fats and certain foods. Most people at this point disappear down a rabbit hole for six months and read every clinical study about food facts and fats and carbs etc. It is not necessary to be Alice in Wonderland. However, it is important to stay ahead and abreast of the latest developments, because going down this route means you are going against the grain and that also puts much of the responsibility for your health on yourself.
Some tools that may be interesting for monitoring progress are a blood glucose monitor and of course the keto strips for testing urine. You can now also get the ketone blood testing strips, but they are very expensive and are not always necessary. For those into high tech, a breath tester can also be acquired for testing ketones in the breath.
Find a community of like-minded people. This is a key success criteria, because many things will happen and it helps not only to have people who have already been through what you are about to go through to guide you, but also people to share delicious meal ideas, and their stories and motivations pictures for inspiration.
Diet is part of a healthy lifestyle and people often forget the rest – such as exercise in boosting mood, well-being reducing saggy skin and you lose weight and building muscle. Exercising helps keep you happy as when you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins.
Drink lots of water. Make it a challenge for yourself to drink a gallon of water every day.
Get that beauty sleep. It does a lot more than keep you beautiful.
Why not give your body a real shot at health, turn a new leaf and stop the bad habits, such as smoking and excessive drinking.
After about three to eight weeks your body will most likely be adapted. Be patient. Your body will reward you.
Be proud and flaunt your achievement.
So, there you have it, I hope you enjoyed reading our ultimate guide for Keto beginners and learned something from us. Stay tuned for our free e-book soon which is our way of saying thank you for all the love and support you have shown. It will include even more information, more tips for beginners such as meal plans, recipes, meal prep ideas and inspiration, supplements and exercises to get your body and mind in tip top condition.
 Rudy Mawer, “The ketogenic Diet 101: Detailed beginner’s guide,” healthline.com, June 17, 2017 retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ketogenic-diet-101
 Unknown, “Cyclic Ketogenic Diet,” August 15, 2017, Wikipedia.com, retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclic_ketogenic_diet
 E.Westman, W. Yancy Jr., J. Mavropolous, M.Marquart, J. McDuffe, “The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet on glycemic controls in type Diabetes mellitus,” December 19, 2008, NCBI.NLM.NIH.com retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2633336/
 Department of Biology, Boston College, “The Calorically restricted ketogenic diet, an effective alternative therapy for malignant brain cancer,” February 21, 2007, NCBI.NLM.NIH.com retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17313687