This post is a super-condensed quick start guide for the keto diet. I believe wholeheartedly that following a keto diet is the fastest and most-effective way to lose weight and balance blood sugar without feeling hungry or deprived.
Calculate your macros.
When starting the keto diet, you want to make sure that you hit your fat and protein goals while you keep carbohydrates low. To do so, I recommend that you enter your stats into the Keto Calculator by Ankerl or by Craig at ruled.me. This will give you completely customized numbers of macro goals to hit each day.
The Keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat and moderate-protein diet. As a percentage, this comes out: 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbohydrates.
Keeping your macros in line will maximize fat loss and spare muscle, making you a lean, fat-burning machine!
To simplify this process, keep your carbohydrates at 20 grams or less.
Choose the correct foods.
When following a keto diet, you want to keep your carbohydrates as low as possible. For this, the best foods for the keto diet are:
- Fatty cuts of meat
- Full-fat, low-lactose dairy
- Saturated and Mono-unsaturated fats
- Nuts and seeds
- Low-starch vegetables that grow above ground
- Low-sugar fruits
- Water, unsweetened coffee and tea
For a complete list, check out my Ketogenic Diet Food List.
Sweeteners and Sugar Alcohols
Sugar alcohols and sweeteners are a controversial topic in the keto community. You can still lose weight regardless of whether or not you choose to eat sweeteners, but when it comes down to sweetener vs. no sweetener, here are my views:
When you include the sweeteners, you may experience:
- Increased cravings for sugar and carbohydrates
- Digestive upset (especially the sweetener, malitol.)
When you do not include sweeteners, you will likely notice the opposite effects.
Like I said, these side-effects aren't the same for everyone. Some people still lose weight like crazy while they drink diet coke and make keto-friendly treats.
Remember, you can change at any point if you want to test with sweeteners vs. without. Personally, I do best without sweeteners as they still cause me sugar cravings.
Find what works for you!
Track your food (at least in the beginning).
There are many different websites and apps that you can use to track your food intake. The most popular ones seem to be MyFitnessPal, Lose It!, and CRON-O-Meter. Personally, I find MyFitnessPal to be most user-friendly, but I love CRON-O-Meter because you can also track micronutrients very easily.
Drink water and manage electrolytes.
This is one of the most crucial steps for the keto diet. Drink lots of water! When your body begins to produce ketones, excess will be rapidly excreted through the kidneys and could very easily dehydrate you. To prevent dehydration, also be sure to get enough electrolytes from your food or supplements. The general recommendation is to ingest at least:
- 3,000 - 5,000 mg (3g - 5g) of sodium/day
- 1,000 mg of potassium
- 300mg of magnesium to prevent muscle cramps (try citrate as it is easier on the stomach).
Failure to properly manage electrolytes could result in the keto flu (or low carb flu). Symptoms include headaches, diarrhea, and fatigue.
What to expect?
I'm going to flat out say it -- the first few days to a week might be pretty rough. Like I stated previously, many people experience the keto flu due to electrolyte imbalances. After the first week, you should start to notice increased energy, mental clarity and possibly even feelings of euphoria! Each person is different and can experience different benefits. For me, when I switch to a keto diet my acid reflux goes away and my joints are pain-free.
It's not uncommon for someone to lose anywhere from 1-10lbs in the first week alone. This is mostly water weight from your glycogen stores, but you might even notice changes in your body that quick. This has always been very encouraging for me! Expect to effortlessly lose between 1-2lbs/week on average in the weeks after.