The Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet forces the body to burn fats instead of carbohydrates. You can eat high amounts of fat, moderate amounts of protein, and low levels of carbohydrates.

When your body breaks down these macronutrients, it induces ketosis, which leads to numerous physiological benefits and changes the way you use energy.

Scroll to learn the basics. And why so many people are doing it.

What is the Ketogenic Diet

If you normally eat lots of carbohydrates, your body converts those carbs into glucose. Then, your body makes insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells for energy.

People who follow the ketogenic diet eat lots of fats, a modest amount of protein, and very little carbs. This forces the body to become “fat-adapted” and burn fat instead of carbs for fuel.

The Standard Ketogenic Diet Macronutrients

  • 70-80% of calories from fats
  • 20-25% of calories from protein
  • 5-10% of calories from net carbs (Net carbs are the grams of carbohydrates in a food minus the grams of fiber in it)

With this distribution,a person eating 2,500 calories per day will eat:

Carbohydrate Intake

For most people, a range of 20-50 grams of carbohydrate intake per day is ideal for the keto diet. Some people can go as high as 80 grams per day to stay in ketosis, but the majority should stay in the initial range. Each person’s metabolism is different.To get a visual understanding, see our post, What Does 30g of Carbs Look Like?

Protein Intake

Protein should be kept to adequate proportions. Eating too much protein is undesirable because our bodies have a metabolic process named gluconeogenesis.

Gluconeogenesis converts excess protein into glycogen and keeps you in glucose burning-mode (i.e. not in ketosis).

The word gluconeogenesis has three parts to it,

  1. Gluco – coming from the greek root glukos – meaning “sweet wine.”
  2. Neo – “new”
  3. Genesis – “creation.”

To prevent gluconeogenesis, avoid eating more than 1.5 to 2g of protein per kg of lean body mass (0.68 – 1g of protein per lb. of lean body mass). The way to figure out adequate protein levels is by using the Perfect Keto Macro Calculator.

Fat Intake

The remaining 70-75% of your calories come from fats. Since fat is the main source of nutrition on a ketogenic diet, it’s important to source high-quality, healthy fats. See below for more information on what a “high-quality, healthy fat” means.

Benefits of the ketogenic diet

Optimal nutrition is different for everyone, there is no “one-size-fits-all solution.” That being said, a whole-food based ketogenic diet provides most people benefits including improved,

  • Body Composition
  • Physical Performance
  • Mental Focus
  • Healthspan
  • Mood
  • Sleep

The benefits you are targeting will be up to you to decide.

Suggested reading:

Using Ketosis for Medical Conditions

Types of ketogenic diets

There are four general styles of the ketogenic diet. They are slight variations of each other, but the purpose of each is to induce ketosis and accommodate other physiological and lifestyle goals. The four most common versions of the ketogenic diet are:

  • The Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD): 75% of your diet comes from fats, 20% from protein, and 5% from carbohydrate.
  • The Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD): Eat 20-50 grams of net carbs per day, targeted around exercise. This is used by athletes seeking a performance boost but are not as interested in fat loss.
  • The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD): Follow the Standard Ketogenic Diet for a period of time, then eat a higher-carb diet for a couple days and restart the cycle. This diet is less effective for achieving your goals, and can lead to swings in energy, but some find it easier to maintain long-term as it allows “cheat” meals.
  • The High-Protein Ketogenic Diet: 60% fats, 35% protein, and 5% carbs.  This is designed for anyone lifting weights several times per week and seeking to gain lean mass.

The Standard Ketogenic Diet is highly recommended to start with. It’s been heavily researched and tends to be the best fit for the majority of people. Again, the way to design one for yourself is by using the Perfect Keto Macro Calculator.

Supplements on a ketogenic diet

Supplements are a popular way to maximize the benefits of a ketogenic diet. They are effective at their purpose but should be used in conjunction with a nutritious, whole-food based ketogenic diet. The most important supplements on a ketogenic diet are,

  • Exogenous Ketones
  • Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s)
  • Collagen Protein
  • Micronutrients
  • Pre-Workout Exercise Drink

Exogenous Ketones

“Exogenous ketones” are ketones from external sources. Taking exogenous ketones provides the body with extra ketones for energy. Ketone supplements can also be a huge help when transitioning into a state of ketosis or entering a fasted state. Exogenous ketones help you get back into ketosis at any time, instead of having to wait at least a couple days. They can also be taken in between meals to provide a quick punch of ketones or before a workout for additional energy.

Benefits of Exogenous Ketones

Mental:

  • Heightened focus
  • Mental clarity
  • Accessing clean burning, constant source of energy, instead of peaks and valleys of glucose

Physical:

  • Triggers ketosis
  • Increased fat-burning
  • Boost energy for exercise
  • Increases satiety and feeling full

Psychological:

  • Sense of well-being
  • Emotional balance

Disease Prevention:

  • Ketosis induces improved autophagy and apoptosis, where your body purges dead or underperforming cells to allow for new growth. This has innumerable benefits relating to disease prevention and longevity.

For more on exogenous ketones:

MCT Oils and Powders

MCT is short for medium chain triglycerides. MCTs are a type of fat that can be readily used for energy by your body and do not have to be broken down before use. They are precursors to ketones and help your body burn fat instead of burning carbs. The primary whole food source of MCT’s are coconuts.

It normally comes in the form of a liquid oil, but it can also be converted into a more portable and easily mixed powder.

Benefits of MCT Supplements

  • Weight Loss: MCT’s are easily digested and have a thermogenic (energy-creating) effect, also known as “boosting your metabolism.”
  • Energy: MCT’s are a fast-acting source of energy. They break down into ketones which can then be used as fuel for your body.
  • Digestion: MCT’s support our gut microbiome by combating harmful bacteria and parasites.
  • Overall Health: MCT’s contain antioxidant properties which reduce internal inflammation and improve overall performance of your heart, brain, and nervous system.

How to Use MCT’s

  • For Fat Loss: Use a scoop in between meals or in the morning to put your body into an effortless fat burning mode.
  • For Performance: Use a scoop before or during workouts to decrease need for oxygen and increase energy.
  • For Focus: Use a scoop on an empty stomach to have an increased mental output and sharper focus.
  • Ketosis: Use a scoop with or after a meal you’ve consumed that has carbs to get back into the state of ketosis.

For more on MCT’s

Collagen Protein Supplements

Collagen is a type of protein — 1 of over 10,000 in your body. Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, accounting for 25-35% of all protein. It can be considered the glue that holds your body together as it supports the growth of joints, organs, hair, and connective tissues.

Most other animal based protein powders can be inflammatory to many people. Casein and whey are known allergens and egg protein can be quite inflammatory. Collagen protein from grass-fed beef is made in the same way that bone broth is made, low and slow heating to preserve the nutrition.

Benefits of Collagen

  • Energy production
  • Building healthy DNA
  • Detoxification and digestion
  • Rebuilding joints, tendons, cartilage, skin, nails, hair, organs, etc.

How to Use Collagen

For more on collagen:

Micronutrient Supplements

One of the toughest parts of keto is that it cuts out lots of fruits and vegetables that are unfortunately too high in carbohydrates. However, these fruits and vegetables are also packed with nutrients. Keto Micro Greens is the solution to getting enough nutrition from produce, while eating a low carb ketogenic diet. Perfect Keto Micro Greens Powder is 14 servings of 22 different fruits and vegetables, plus herbs and MCT fats to assist with absorption.

In contrast, multivitamins aren’t a good solution as they are synthetic and lack a lot of nutrients like polyphenols, antioxidants, and fiber that green powders and whole food sources provide. And the lack of fats and enzymes make the nutrients they do contain very difficult to process properly. Just because you’re putting something in your body doesn’t mean your body can use it!

Ingredients

  • Greens and Veggie Blend: 4.5 grams of raw and organic greens and vegetables from 12 different sources.
  • Berry and Fruit Blend: 4.5 grams of raw and organic berries and fruits from 10 different sources.
  • MCT Powder: 3.5 grams. We use fat from coconut oil so you more readily absorb the vitamins, minerals and nutrients in plants.
  • Liver Support and Digestive Enzymes: These help your body absorb and utilize the nutrient. Without these, you would waste a lot of the benefit and micronutrients of the product.

When to Use Micro Greens Powder

  • Anytime of day: Keto Micro Greens is what a multivitamin should be
  • Before/During exercise: Many add it to their pre-workout for flavor and convenience
  • Traveling or anytime you need a health boost

Tip: Include this in your coffee, smoothie, desserts, or workout drinks.

For more on Keto Micro Greens:

Ketogenic Pre-Workout Supplements

Pre-workout powders are for people who are on a ketogenic or otherwise low-carb diet and want a healthy, ketogenic pre-workout energy drink without all the crap in other pre-workout drink mixes. They can be used any time of day for a quick, clean and healthy energy boost for physical and cognitive performance without the caffeine crash.

Ingredients

  • 7.7g BHB: Beta-hydroxybutyrate, powerful ketones, precursor of ketosis through its work with acetyl groups to create ATP, the energy currency of cells
  • 5g MCT: Healthy fats and a source of ketones for an energy and cognitive boost
  • 2g Creatine: Increases your body’s ability to produce burst energy through cellular hydration
  • 2g BCAA (2:1:1): Branched chain amino acids, composed of leucine, isoleucine and valine. Together, they promote muscle protein synthesis and cellular glucose uptake for muscle growth and better endurance
  • 1.5g Beta-Alanine: Promotes muscle endurance and more power output during training.
  • 500mg L-citrulline: For reduced muscle soreness, and better endurance for your workouts.
  • 50mg Caffeine: From green tree, for alertness without the blood pressure and heart rate elevation caused by caffeine, as well as numerous other health benefits.

For more on Keto Perform:

Foods to eat

Overview

Upon embarking on a ketogenic diet, many of us are faced with a dilemma: the foods we need to eat are far different from what we currently have in the pantry and refrigerator. This means getting rid of desserts, processed carbs and starches and replacing them with full-fat nutrition. This also means our grocery list and pantries will look quite different. Common foods on the ketogenic diet include,

  • Meats: fatty cuts of grass-fed beef, chicken and other poultry, pork, lamb, goat, turkey, veal, and fish sources like salmon, sardines, catfish, tuna, trout, etc.
  • Oils: oils like olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, ghee, grass-fed butter, and nuts and seeds (whole or as butters),.
  • Whole Eggs: preferably organic, free-range. Yolks preferred as they contain all of the fat content.
  • Dairy: full-fat cheeses, sour cream, full-fat (unsweetened) yogurt, and heavy creams.
  • Low-carb vegetables and fruits: spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and other leafy greens. Small quantities of blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and avocados.

For more on how much veggies and fruits to eat, see our post: What Does 30 Grams of Carbs Look Like?

Ketogenic Foods to Eat: Fats

Healthy fats are the cornerstone of the ketogenic diet. Fat is satiating, and it tastes great, so you can eat a lot of foods that are satisfying and delicious. Here’s what that includes:

  • Butter or ghee (clarified butter from Indian cuisine)
  • Avocados
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Coconut butter
  • Cocoa butter
  • Egg yolks
  • Coconut oil, olive oil, MCT oil, or avocado oil
  • Nuts and seeds or nut butter (choose fattier nuts)
  • Animal Fats
  • Cream
  • Lard

As fat will be your primary source of energy, try to buy the highest quality fats to maintain optimal health. Choose organic and free range products as often as you can. Check out our full article on healthy fats vs. the ones to still avoid even in ketosis.

Ketogenic Foods to Eat: Proteins

Remember eating too much protein in relation to fat can cause the body to break down protein for fuel instead, decreasing or stopping ketosis. If you eat leaner cuts of meat, consider including a fatty side dish or sauce. As much as possible, choose grass-fed and pasture-raised options.

For more on sourcing protein, see:

Ketogenic Foods to Eat: Snacks

“Low-carb” doesn’t always mean keto-approved.  As a rule of thumb, try to stick to whole food-based snacks as much as possible, preferably homemade. Remember, food is supposed to go bad. Preservatives and fake ingredients have not been in the human diet until recently, and we are not well equipped to handle them. The body’s response is usually to create inflammation in response to food-like ingredients that it deems as “foreign.”

Grocery Shopping Tips for Ketogenic Snacks

  • Stick to foods that don’t make health claims (healthy food doesn’t need to say that it’s healthy)
  • Stick to foods that have less than 5 ingredients.
  • Stick to the outside circle of the grocery store.

Meal prep is one of the best ways to set yourself up for success, but when life gets busy, here are some of the best snacks options to grab and go:

  • Beef jerky without preservatives or added sugars/carbs
  • Nuts or nut butters and seeds
  • Seaweed snacks
  • Cheese: Choose the full-fat, creamier versions.
  • Cocoa nibs: These are a nice low-carb alternative to chocolate chips!
  • Avocados
  • Sardines and Anchovies
  • Iced coffee: Drink it black or with full-fat milk or cream or MCT Oil Powder.
  • Olives 
  • Veggie sticks: You could dip these in homemade guacamole or eat with full-fat cheeses.
  • Bacon: Cook some ahead of time to have on hold for snacks on the go.
  • Salad

For more on what to eat on a ketogenic diet, see:

Foods to avoid

Overview

In any healthy diet, there are the obvious things to avoid: processed carbs, sugars, fried food etc. In the ketogenic diet we need to avoid unhealthy foods as well as any food that would kick us out of ketosis. This means we have to be smart about the types of fat we eat, when and how to consume alcohol, eating the right nuts, and managing cheat meals.

Carbohydrates to Avoid on Keto

All grains—and foods that are made from grains, even whole grains—should be avoided because they contain too many carbs and will interfere with ketosis, slowing weight loss. That includes the following,

Grains

  • Grains: Wheat, Oats, rice, quinoa, breads, pastas, cookies, crackers, or pizza crusts
  • Beans and legumes: Kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans, lentils, peas, lima beans, all beans.
  • Almost all fruits: Bananas, pineapples, papaya, apples, oranges, grapes, mangos, tangerines, fruit juices and smoothies, dried fruits, etc.
  • Starchy vegetables: Sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, peas, corn, squash, artichoke. Avoid any vegetables that grow beneath the ground. Focus more on leafy greens.
  • ‍All sugar, syrups, and products with sugar added to them

Protein to Avoid on Keto

Low Fat Dairy

Full-fat dairy products like unsweetened yogurt, butter, heavy cream, and sour cream are okay on the ketogenic diet, but avoid all other milk and low- and reduced-fat dairy products. Dairy products to avoid:

  • Milk (minus some raw milk)
  • Low-fat or reduced-fat dairy products

Factory Farmed Animal Products

As much as possible, choose animal products that are organic and grass-fed. It shouldn’t be so difficult, but it is. Avoid,

  • Grain-fed meats and dairy, as they are lower in nutrients.
  • Try to stay away from factory-farmed fish and pork products, which are high in omega-6s (that are inflammatory in too-large amounts).
  • Processed meats like hot dogs and deli meat as they contain preservatives, large quantities of salt, and filler carbs

Suggested Reading:

  • How I Fixed the Biggest Ketosis Mistakes
  • The Keto Diet vs The Atkins Diet

Bad Fats to Avoid on a Ketogenic Diet

Processed trans fats can be very damaging to your health. Risks of consuming trans fats include:

  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Reduced HDL cholesterol and increased LDL cholesterol
  • Bad for the health of your gut

Avoid trans fats like,

  • Processed products like cookies, crackers, margarine, and fast food
  • Vegetable oils like cottonseed, sunflower, safflower, soybean, and canola oils
  • Fried foods

Consuming Alcohol on Keto

Drinking alcohol slows ketone production. There are some legitimate concerns when it comes to consuming alcohol on a ketogenic diet. Alcohol slows fat burning and ketone production.

Drinks to avoid include:

  • Wines (especially sweet wines)
  • Beers
  • Cocktails
  • Sugary mixers that contain soda, syrups, or juices
  • Flavored alcohols

Basically, anything that tastes sweet is best avoided because it likely contains a lot of added sugar and carbs. Hard liquors are basically just alcohol and water, so they don’t affect sugar and insulin levels like the drinks mentioned above. The best options include:

  • Tequila or Mezcal
  • Whiskey, Scotch, or Bourbon
  • Vodka, Gin, Brandy

To learn more, see the full article: Keto Diet Alcohol Rules

Consuming Nuts on Keto

You absolutely can have nuts on the keto diet—but it’s best to do so with some knowledge. In terms of the high fat on a keto diet, nuts have great macros. As you know, the fats help you stay fuller, more satisfied, and in nutritional ketosis. If you choose the right types of nuts, you’ll be getting mostly fat.

In general, and when eaten in moderate quantities, nuts are low in carbs and great for a ketogenic diet. The key is to source the nuts that are lowest in carbohydrate.

For a full write up see: The Pros and Cons of Nuts on a Ketogenic Diet

Safety on a ketogenic diet

Overview

The benefits of a ketogenic diet sound great but many of us still have concerns about the safety of eating such a high amount of fat each day. There are also common questions about the dangers of high ketone levels or effects on blood tests or dealing with the keto-flu symptoms.

Eating High Fat

Saturated Fats

For years and years, saturated fats were seen as harmful for heart health and we were recommended to reduce them as much as possible. However, recent studies have debunked this, showing no significant link between saturated fats, which humans have been eating for thousands of years, and the risk of heart disease.

Monounsaturated Fats

Unlike saturated fats, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) have been accepted as healthy for many years. Many studies have linked them to health benefits related to good cholesterol and better insulin resistance.

Polyunsaturated Fats

This is where the omega’s come into play. Omega-3 fatty acids are termed as such because the first double bond occurs on the 3rd carbon. Omega-3 can lower inflammation, increase brain and heart health, decrease depression, prevent dementia, stall prostate cancer and reduce ADHD. They are especially important on a ketogenic diet, to source high-quality seafood and meats and consider supplementing with fish oil.

High Ketone Levels

Having high ketone levels (0.5-5.0mmol/L) is not dangerous. Ketosis is a perfectly safe and natural metabolic state, but it is often confused with another, and highly dangerous, metabolic state called ketoacidosis.

Ketosis is a metabolic state when fat is the primary energy source instead of carbohydrates. Ketosis is a perfectly normal state of human metabolism.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a dangerous metabolic state that is most commonly seen in people with type 1 diabetes and sometimes type 2 diabetics if they aren’t properly managing their insulin and diet.

Keto Flu Symptoms

Many folks deal with flu like symptoms as they become fat adapted after decades of running on carbs. These temporary symptoms are byproducts of dehydration and low carbohydrate levels while your body is still trying to use carbohydrates as its primary energy source, including:

  • Headaches
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Brain fog
  • Stomach pain
  • Low motivation.

The keto flu can often be shortened or avoided completely by taking one of our ketone supplements, which help switch the body into ketosis instantly. They make the transition period much shorter and easier.For more on safety in all facets of the ketogenic diet, check out,

  1. Ketosis Side Effects
  2. Why Ketones and Ketosis Can Cause Stomach Pain
  3. Why Exogenous Ketones Taste Bad
  4. How to Maintain Your Ketosis
  5. How to Exercise in Ketosis
  6. A Guide to Testing Ketones

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