The Ketogenic diet (commonly known as keto) was the first technique I learned that actually helped me lose weight. It changed my life a few years ago, and, if you try it, it will change yours too.
The diet was originally invented to help people with epilepsy have fewer seizures, but it turns out it’s actually a great way to eat for your overall health.
Sure, it’s a diet, but it’s by no means a complicated one that’s difficult to follow.
If you’re used to dieting in calories, get used to tracking grams of macronutrients intake instead. (You can think about calories later if you find that your weight loss efforts are slow.)
How It Works
Keto is extremely simple. Eat mostly fats, some proteins, and almost no carbohydrates.
Some people will give you exact ratios like 60% fat, 35% protein, 5% carbs, but I’ve found that the diet works fairly well as long you keep your net carbohydrates (total carbs – fiber – sugar alcohols) under 20-40g per day. Ideally, you’d keep them at zero, but some foods contain trace amounts of carbohydrates. That’s fine. Just keep your net carbs as low as possible for the best results.
If you eat more protein than fat, you’ll still see results, albeit a bit slower. This is because excess protein can be converted into carbohydrate energy. However, based on personal experience, it doesn’t matter much.
That’s all there is to it.
Why It Works
Remember: we’re looking at food in terms of macronutrients rather than calories. The presence of different stored macronutrients affects how the body expends energy.
You want to keep your body in ketosis (the fat utilization mode) for fat loss purposes. The ketogenic diet does exactly that. Having no stored carbohydrates forces the body into ketosis, which allows you to use your stored fat as energy with great efficiency.
Keto’s a diet, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll enjoy this list of foods you can eat:
- Fish (except some shellfish)
- Low-carb vegetables (if you want them; you don’t actually need them)
- Low-carb nuts (in moderation)
- Low-carb fruit (in very small amounts)
- Butter, ghee, heavy cream, and animal fats
- Coconut oil/cream, palm oil, palm kernel oil, and cocoa butter
- Water, black coffee, tea
- Diet soft drinks
- Ultra-light beer, dry cider, dry wine, dry spirits
Yes, mainstream advice claims that many of these foods are bad for your health, but they’re not. They’ve been around for ages, and people have been eating them as long as people have been around.
I only mentioned a few vegetable oils on this list. Other vegetable oils (like olive, canola, soybean, etc) are also allowed on keto since they’re fats, but I’m personally skeptical of their effects on our health. If you have no problem with them, feel free to eat them.
Unfortunately, in most western countries, keto is a restrictive diet at first, but with some practice, it will become effortless.
Here’s a mostly comprehensive list of foods you can’t eat on keto. (In general, if a food contains a significant amount of carbs, it’s not keto-safe. Search Google if you’re unsure whether a food is keto or not.)
Wheat, rice, rye, barley, quinoa, corn, oats, etc are all disallowed on keto. This includes cereals, pastas, breads, and any foods that are breaded.
Avoiding grains is difficult at first. If you haven’t though about it before, you’ll soon discover that most of what we eat in the Western world is wheat. Everything is either a sandwich or contains breading. The reason? Grains are cost practically nothing and are a great filler.
Sorry guys. This one’s tough if you’re addicted to sugar. Candy, chocolates, drinks containing sugar, ice cream, pastries, etc are all disallowed.
The good news is it takes a shorter time than you think to kick your sugar addiction; it takes less than two weeks of perfect consistency to eliminate cravings.
The positive health effects of fruit are massively overblown. Sure, they’re full of micronutrients, but you’re already covered by other foods allowed on keto.
You can eat a few lower carb fruits such as berries if you really want to, but other fruits, especially high sugar fruits like bananas and pineapple, are completely off limits. Consult Google for carb counts in different fruits.
Milk contains lactose and galactose, two complex sugars that get broken down into glucose, so even though milk doesn’t taste sweet, it’s still a carb.
Unsweetened almond, cashew, and coconut milks are good, keto-safe alternatives.
Tubers and Starchy Vegetables
This includes potatoes, corn, carrot, sweet potatoes, etc.
Unfortunately, this eliminates many common snack foods like french fries and tortilla chips, but there are plenty of great, keto-safe snacks out there.
Beans, chickpeas, lentils, and the like are off-limits.
Peanuts and sugar-free peanut butter are fine in moderation, but the carbs add up quickly, so be mindful.
Maltodextrin is a sneaky carbohydrate used mainly as a food filler or bulking agent. It’s found in a surprisingly large amount of foods: processed meats, sugar-free syrups, and even in powdered “calorie-free” sweeteners. It doesn’t taste sweet at all, but it’s still a carb, so consult nutrition labels to see if a food contains a significant amount.
Some Sugar Alcohols
“Sugar-free” candies and foods may contain the “sugar alcohols” maltitol or sorbitol. These are not as low-carb as manufacturers want you to believe; significant fractions of these substances are usable as carbohydrate energy. In addition, they cause intestinal distress when eaten in large amounts.
If you see “sugar alcohols” in a food, pick ones containing only erythritol since it’s incredibly low carb and doesn’t cause digestive problems.
Inulin/Chicory Root Fiber
Inulin is a fiber added to foods for its sweet taste. Even though it’s listed as dietary fiber, the body can use some of it as carbohydrate energy. It’s okay to eat in small amounts, but avoid large quantities. Like maltitol, it can also cause intestinal distress.
So, how much can you eat on keto? If you haven’t noticed by now, my methodology is to keep everything as simple-stupid as possible, so just eat until you’re full. That’s it. If you start to plateau (experience a long period with little to no weight loss), cut back a few calories from fat and keep going.
If you only remember two things from this post, let them be this:
- Eat as few net carbohydrates as possible.
- Do that consistently.
The ketogenic diet works by keeping your body in ketosis, the fat burning mode. Eating significant amounts of carbohydrates will kick you back into glycolysis, the carb burning mode, which will halt your fat loss process.
Following keto consistently will help you eliminate your carbohydrate cravings. This is important because it will allow your dieting efforts to become effortless.
Don’t half-ass the ketogenic diet. Either stick with it, or don’t do it. If you mix high amounts of carbs and fats, you’ll gain fat.
Some people experience a brief period of flu-like sickness when the body is switching from glycolysis to ketosis. It’s an annoying, but harmless form of carb withdraw.
It may not happen to you at all or it may last a few days. If you experience it, hydrate, rest, and stay consistent. The long-term outcome is worth it.
Keto works incredibly well. I lost the most weight following this technique. It changed my appearance, boosted my energy levels, and improved my quality of life.
I won’t say that it’s the easiest thing to follow at first, but remember, the reward is priceless.
Once your body gets into the flow, it becomes easy.
One final note: the more fat that you have to lose, the faster you’ll lose it. You’ll also get into the flow of the diet more quickly. It definitely helps with motivation.
If the ketogenic diet sounds too restrictive for you, consider the paleolithic diet.
If you want to accelerate your results with keto, combine it with some form of fasting.