So you’ve heard about keto. Perhaps you’ve been perusing before and after weight loss pictures and noticed a trend that all the best ones were on the keto diet. Maybe you just started the diet, but you’re a little lost.
No worries! You’re here, and that’s great. Below, I’ll tell you some of the most important keto basics for beginners that you need to know when you start out. By the end of this article, you’ll practically be an expert. After all, it never hurts to be well-informed.
1. Keto is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet.
This may fly in the face of everything you know about the modern diet, but here’s something you need to know: Dietary fat is good for you! In fact, it’s an important part of a healthy diet. Scientists wrote in the BMJ Open Heart journal that all the clinical trials back in the ’70s that told us fat was bad, were wrong. (1)
If you’ve ever tracked your diet, you probably found that you eat more carbs than anything else. But, when you go keto, that’s going to drastically change. Instead, you’re going for high fat calories, moderate protein calories, and low carb calories.
Beginners may want to start with 75% of their daily calories from fat. If you want something more extreme, go with 90% calories from fat. Either way, keep net carbs at or below 25 grams a day.
2. We’re talking about net carbs, not total carbs.
The keto diet is all about low carbs, but what does that mean?
When you look at American nutrition labels, you see “Total Carbohydrates.” This isn’t the number you want to go for, though. Below that, you’ll see the grams of fiber, if there are any. Net carbs are the total amount of carbs minus the fiber.
Let’s say you eat a cup of broccoli during dinner. That cup of broccoli has 6 grams total carbs, but about 2.5 grams of fiber. That means you’re eating 3.5 net carbs, and that’s the number you’ll consider when it comes to your 25 net carbs per day.
3. Ketosis is the result of the diet–and it’s awesome.
Usually, a diet is named after the kinds of food you’re eating. Instead, the keto diet is named after what happens to your body once you start following it. When you follow the keto diet well, like listed above, your body goes into ketosis.
When you have a high-fat, low-carb diet, your body converts from using carbs for fuel to fat molecules for fuel. That’s ketosis. Ketosis can reduce your risk of diabetes and obesity, which is great! It’s also been known to help children with epilepsy.
Because ketosis can happen in other diets, like paleo and Atkins, many diets can be “keto” diets. You can learn more about how ketosis relates to other diets from our article, Ketosis vs. Paleo vs. Atkins: Why Keto Rules.
4. You might encounter “keto flu” in the beginning.
Oh, the dreaded keto flu. Although this doesn’t happen to everyone who goes keto, sometimes people experience some annoying symptoms in the first few days or weeks. These symptoms include nausea, dizziness and lack of energy–just like traditional flu symptoms.
This happens because your body is adapting to the new diet, getting energy from fat rather than carbs. (http://www.gnolls.org/1984/the-science-behind-the-low-carb-flu-and-how-to-regain-your-metabolic-flexibility/) Luckily, those symptoms will eventually go away once your body gets fully adapted to ketosis.
Are you experiencing keto flu? It can help to make sure you’re getting enough electrolytes. Drink some chicken broth or a Powderade Zero daily to get the much needed nutrients from sodium, potassium and magnesium.
5. Despite the name, it’s a lifestyle, and not necessarily a diet.
Most people looking into the keto diet are doing so in order to lose weight. Good for you guys! Ketosis can definitely help you lose weight. But here’s the thing: overweight people aren’t the only ones who use the keto diet. There are plenty of lean people who have gone keto. Why? Because the diet has many benefits besides helping you lose weight–like a decrease in the risk of diabetes and an increase in overall energy.
So, while it’s called the “keto diet,” know that you can stay on this diet well after you reach your goal weight. Plenty of people, after finding success with ketosis, decide to stay that way for life. You may end up one of them!