What Is the Keto Diet?

Getting most of your energy from fat is the main principle of the ketogenic diet. For your body to use fat as energy, you need to reduce carbs from your diet because this is the first source your body will use for fuel. But this diet also has other health benefits.

Keto basics

The keto diet has been around for decades, mostly as a treatment for epilepsy. It’s now often used to improve body composition and possibly help reduce certain illnesses caused by excessive carb consumption. Most people get 50% or more of their daily calories from carbs, whereas a typical keto diet strives to use 5 to 10% of daily calories for energy. This reduction allows healthy fats to be burned for fuel in the body through the production of ketones—chemicals your liver makes, turning fat into energy—instead of being stored indefinitely.

Macronutrient profile

On the keto diet, you typically get 75% of calories from fat, 20% from protein, and 5% from carbs. (The meals in this book denote how many net carbs and dietary fiber each recipe has. Add these two numbers together for the total carbs.) The carb restrictions required to induce ketosis—the metabolic state in which fat makes fuel—differs from person to person and often relies on such factors as insulin resistance, level of physical activity, and past dieting experiences. If you’re unsure if the keto diet is right for you, consult your doctor, a nutritionist, or a dietitian for your specific nutrient requirements.

Can the keto diet help with weight loss?

Being in a state of ketosis is often confused with being in a state of weight loss, which is often a by-product of eating a keto diet. Your metabolism will probably have turned to fat stores at the point of ketosis, but you don’t have to be in ketosis or producing ketones for that to happen. However, following a keto diet can help facilitate a reduction in hunger and lower your need for a consistent source of food because of the metabolic adaptations made inside the body, which often lead to a reduction in body fat and improve insulin sensitivity.

Energy balance, macronutrient ratios, micronutrient balances, and metabolic health are all important factors in weight loss, so don’t focus too much on being in a state of ketosis if weight loss is your primary goal. Speaking with a nutritionist who’s experienced with low-carb diets is the best way to understand how to move effectively toward your goals.

Is there such a thing as too much protein?

Protein is composed of many amino acids, which are used as building blocks in your body as well as sources of energy. Those building blocks are important for metabolic health, especially when physically active. A process called gluconeogenesis, in which excess amino acids are converted into glucose, can prevent you from reaching a deep level of ketosis.

If you’re following a strict keto diet, working with your doctor or a nutrition specialist to find your protein threshold is important. If you’re not following a strict keto diet, don’t worry too much about protein affecting your level of ketosis because your body might meet its energy needs by burning protein instead of fat.

The Modern Western Plate

The average Western plate is mostly composed of carbs. When you consume excess carbs, your body converts them to fat and stores them for energy use.

The Keto Plate

The basic idea of the keto diet is to enable your body to turn to fat for energy instead of carbs or protein. Your body just burns its own fat as needed.

Tips for keto success

Take these steps to ensure you stay on track, stay healthy, and reap the full benefits of following a keto diet.

KEEP THINGS SIMPLE. Start by replacing your regular breakfast with a keto-friendly one. Once you’ve done this for a week, then add a keto-friendly lunch and then progress to replacing all dinners and snacks with keto-friendly options. These gradual changes will ensure your body adjusts to the diet at a steady, sustainable pace.

FIGHT THROUGH THE KETO FLU. This isn’t caused by a virus. The flu-like symptoms you might experience when you start a keto diet— lack of energy, intense cravings, thirst, fatigue, and irritability—are the side effects of your body adjusting and withdrawing from the glucose it depended on for years. Most people will experience these symptoms. But this isn’t a serious medical condition and can usually be tolerated by staying hydrated, maintaining your electrolytes, and getting plenty of rest. Symptoms usually begin to disappear by the third or fourth day, so hang in there. You’ll be amazed at how you feel afterward!

RESIST CRAVINGS. When your body is accustomed to consuming carbs for energy, it’s used to a never-ending cycle of bursts of energy followed by crashes, but when your body is depleted of the carbs it craves, it can lead to some pretty significant cravings. Because cravings can be intense, consume a meal or snack that’s high in fat or protein to help stave them. Other causes of cravings, like boredom, stress, and fatigue, can make us seek out a high-carb fix—even when we aren’t hungry. Try to recognize these moments and look for another activity, like exercise, to divert your attention away from eating when you’re not actually hungry.

CREATE VARIETY IN YOUR MEALS. Every chapter in this book has a great mix of recipes, so you won’t feel like you’re eating the same meal day after day. Eating a variety of snacks throughout a week can also keep you from getting bored with the same meals as well as staying satisfied between meals.

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