The main proposed benefit of the keto diet is losing weight, though there is some research showing it may help with certain health conditions. The weight loss comes because the body burns fat and because the fat you’re taking in is filling, which can lead you to eat fewer calories overall, says Abby Langer, RD, founder of Abby Langer Nutrition, who is based in Toronto, Canada.
A word of warning: be very wary of “keto” or “low carb” versions of cakes, cookies, chocolate bars, candies, ice cream, and other sweets. They will keep your cravings for a sugary taste, and can make you eat more than you need. They are oftan full of sugar alcohols – that can raise your blood sugar – and artificial sweeteners, whose health impacts are not yet known. Weight loss may also stall or slow. Learn more
Actually, YES—ketchup, BBQ sauce, Asian sauces like duck sauce and sweet and sour sauce are LOADED with sugar and eating sugar with protein greatly spikes INSULIN—exactly what you don’t want to do. Mustard doesn’t. So choose fattier salad dressings like ranch. I like Paul Newman’s line of salad dressings as they contain almost no sugar. Start looking at sugar grams on EVERYTHING. Try to stick around one or less. Two max and only once a day.
Those issues can be part of what's known as the “keto flu,” Warren says. Other side effects of the keto diet, all of which are tied to carb withdrawal, can include lightheadedness, nausea, mental fog, cramps, and headaches, in addition to tiredness. Luckily, the keto flu doesn't usually last more than a week—which is coincidentally about when people start to see the number on the scale go down, says Warren.
Some keto cookies or a keto brownie can certainly be delicious, but if you’re looking for a dessert that’s a little more interesting, then you have to try this chocolate chia pudding! I love chia seeds for a number of reasons. They’re high in antioxidants, vitamins such as calcium, potassium and magnesium, Omega-3 ALA, dietary fiber and even protein. So, while this dish feels like a dessert, you’re receiving plenty of necessary nutrients. Enjoy guilty-free!
Diarrhea can also be due to a lack of fiber in the diet, says Kizer, which can happen when someone cuts way back on carbs (like whole-grain bread and pasta) and doesn’t supplement with other fiber-rich foods, like vegetables. It can also be caused by an intolerance to dairy or artificial sweeteners—things you might be eating more of since switching to a high-fat, low-carb lifestyle.
Use fat as a lever. We’ve been taught to fear fat, but don’t! Both keto and low carb are high fat diets. Fat is our source of energy as well as satiety. The key to understand, though, is that fat is a lever on a low carb or keto diet. Carbs and protein stay constant, and fat is the one you increase or decrease (push the lever up or down) to gain or lose weight, respectively. So if your goal is weight loss, eat enough fat to be satisfied, but there’s no need to “get your fats in” once you’re satisfied.
Leftovers will be another thing we will take into consideration. Not only is it easier on you, but why put yourself through the hassle to cook the same food more than once? Breakfast is something I normally do leftover style, where I don’t have to worry about it in the morning and I certainly don’t have to stress about it. Grab some food out the fridge, pre-made for me, and head out the door. It doesn’t get much easier than that, does it?
Lastly, if you're active, you might need to make some adjustments to take that into account. "For the first one to two weeks, temporarily reducing your exercise load can be helpful as your body adjusts to being in ketosis," he says. "Additionally, for those who have an intense workout schedule, carb cycling may be a good option." Carb cycling essentially means you'll increase your carb intake on the days you're doing exercise, ideally just two to three days per week. "While low-carb days may be around 20 to 30 grams of net carbs daily, high-carb days can range all the way up to 100 grams, although it can vary based on your size and activity level," says Dr. Axe. (Related: 8 Things You Need to Know About Exercising on the Keto Diet.)
Why higher fat and moderate protein? Fats have little to no effect on blood sugar and insulin levels. Protein does affect both blood sugar and insulin. If you eat too much protein for your ideal body weight or lean muscle mass (usually more than 1.5-2.0 grams/kg lean body mass), it can spark gluconeogenesis and raise blood sugar. Protein will also spike blood insulin levels temporarily, which can interfere with ketone body production. However, it is important to note that this is an individually driven parameter, as detailed in this excellent post from the Optimizing Nutrition blog.
The easiest macro to calculate in the ketogenic diet is fat. Once you've got your carbs and protein set, simply fill the rest of your daily calorie needs with fat sources. If you find yourself wanting to gain a bit of weight, add approximately 500 calories, or 55 grams. If you want to lose weight, cut down on your fat intake by 200-500 calories, or 22-55 grams.
Note: Are you a vegetarian or vegan and want to go on a ketogenic diet? It’s still possible! Just keep in mind that the dietary restrictions can sometimes be a little bit intense. Make sure to plan ahead and prepare to aid your success. To help out, we’ve published articles (with 7 day meal plans included) for both the vegetarian ketogenic diet and the vegan ketogenic diet.