You’re Starting a Ketogenic Diet—Now What?
Congratulations on taking charge of your health and wellness by choosing to start a ketogenic (keto) diet. While you may know that a ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate way of eating, there is much to learn about how it works and what you can do to successfully follow it.
What is a ketogenic diet?
A ketogenic diet is a very low-carbohydrate way of eating that delivers moderate amounts of high-quality dietary protein and high amounts of healthy dietary fat. This reduction in carbohydrate intake helps the body shift toward a state that promotes the breakdown of fats (from the diet and your body) to produce ketone bodies and enter a state known as “ketosis.” When following a ketogenic diet, your brain, as well as other organs, depends on ketones as an energy source. Ketones are produced in the body once you have reached a state of ketosis and can be measured in the blood and urine to ensure that you stay in ketosis during the keto diet.
What does a healthy ketogenic meal look like?
A ketogenic meal is comprised of approximately 10% of calories coming from healthy carbohydrates such as leafy greens, nonstarchy vegetables, and limited amounts of legumes and berries; 20% of calories coming from proteins such as omega-3-rich fish and grass-fed animal protein; and ~70% of calories coming from high-quality fats such as avocado, unsaturated and medium-chain triglyceride oils, nuts and seeds, and coconut. This 10/20/70 ratio is a guideline for the macronutrient distribution for a given day, including meals, snacks, and beverages. Your practitioner may recommend a slightly modified ratio based on your physical activity and personal health goals. The diagram below highlights how the calories provided from carbohydrate, protein, and fat differs between a standard American diet and a typical ketogenic diet.
What are the benefits of a ketogenic diet?
The benefits of following a ketogenic diet may include weight loss, an increase in cognitive performance, balanced blood sugar, and improved cardiovascular health.3-8
Mental focus—With a ketogenic diet, the brain utilizes ketone bodies instead of glucose as its primary fuel source. This switch can encourage more nerve growth factors and synaptic connections between brain cells3 and result in increased mental alertness, sharper focus, and improved cognitive capabilities.4
Blood sugar management—Studies have shown that low-carbohydrate diets help support insulin metabolism in the body. This is because the absence of carbohydrates from the diet helps your body maintain blood glucose levels by breaking down fats and proteins.5
Weight loss—A reduced calorie ketogenic diet encourages the utilization of body fat as fuel, and clinical studies support its use for weight management. Additionally, a ketogenic diet may help to suppress appetite and reduce cravings.9
Increased energy—Carbohydrates only go so far to sustain energy throughout the day, and especially during a workout. In ketosis, your body uses fat as fuel instead of glucose, to provide the brain with a consistent supply of the ketone bodies necessary to sustain physical performance.10
Cardiovascular and metabolic health—A ketogenic diet has been shown to help support blood lipid and fatty acid metabolism.11