Once you know what you will be eating on keto, you will probably be wondering how much of you should eat for each meal. Since meal size depends on the individual and his/her goals, we recommend using a calorie tracking app and our carb tracking guide to help you figure out the macronutrient content of your meals. As you track your macros, you will be able to figure out what adjusts you need to make to your diet to reach your goals.
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Jade, congratulations for your keto approach! I’ve had lots of sugar cravings & binging and keto was my solution for “cooling down” and getting back on track. I am also very careful with animal fat and I tend to get the fats from other sources – at least until further notice. I have also made a list of super-foods as I like to call them, vegetables high in micronutrients and low in carbs and also others high in fiber. I actually managed to search these foods in the USDA database and rank them from top to bottom, depending on the micronutrient. This way I know how to get the richest foods that are less calorie dense. I could say I’ve had some revelations along the way.
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A huge concern with the keto diet is the maintenance and potential loss of muscle mass. Many people will just think: hey, dummy, then just eat more protein. However, some research has shown that even if your protein intake remains constant, a low carb diet may promote muscle loss. A study from the Netherlands confirmed these findings. In the study, participants were given three diets (high carb, moderate carb, low carb) and moderate protein. The study found that those following a low carb diet experienced increased muscle breakdown. This is because when we eat carbohydrates, we produce insulin which promotes muscle growth. This is why athletes depend on carbohydrates (along with protein) to fuel their performance. When we eat carbs, the insulin release “unlocks” our muscles to let the protein in so it can do its job at building our muscles. So, when we skip the carbs all together, muscle glycogen stores get depleted, we lose out on those muscle building opportunities. Forget about high intensity training. A depleted glycogen store also means our workouts will suffer because we just don’t have enough oil left in the tank. This was a again suggested in the recent review looking at many ketogenic studies. The studies found that there was greater lean body mass loss in the ketogenic groups compared to the other diets being studied.
When can you have a cheat day on keto
The keto diet is high in fat, moderate protein, and low in carbs. You will avoid foods that are high in carbs, including some fruits and vegetables, most vegetable oils (like canola and corn oil) sugar, and grains, to name a few. Instead of going over all the foods to avoid, it is easier to print the keto grocery list pdf at the bottom of this post and stick to those keto foods for simplicity.
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While I admittedly struggled after going off the diet (they have some high protein, low carb,good tasting premade foods that I no longer had access to) with what to eat, I at least had better knowledges of HOW to eat and have been able to maintain my weight loss since. For the first time ever, I realized that I couldn’t eat the “food pyramid” suggested amount of carbs if I wanted to maintain a healthy weight. I even began running because I was thin enough to do so. What people who have never been fat before don’t understand is how much being fat holds us back from trying new things. If only there was a way to get people to quickly and easily lose the weight so they could be successful at dieting and discover such things (tongue in cheek).
I have never tried a keto diet (don’t like the idea myself) but I am what you could call moderately (or “liberal”) low carb. Around 125g max net per day, which as you likely know is half the RDA of 250g. I get most of the rest of my energy from protein and some for fat. The RDA of protein, around 50g, is only just enough to sustain muscle of a sedentary or low movement individual – and this is proven by the fact that a lot of people who hit the gym eat easily 2-3x the RDA of protein.
Been doing keto since Dec. 26, 2018. I started for weight loss but got a few bonuses so far. Haven’t had a hotflash since starting, sleep so much better, brain fog gone and more energy! I’m perimenopause. I researched a lot before starting…realized the SAD way of eating is horrible. Carbs and sugar are not necessary. Dr. Phinny and Dr. Volek have the science behind this on YouTube (videos). Quite eye opening.
So one study looked at the long-term effects of a keto diet in obese patients and after 24 weeks, patients lost weight, reduced their total cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides and increased their HDL. Another study conducted on 132 obese patients found that the low carb (keto) group lost more weight than the low fat group while improving biomarkers like decreased triglycerides, improved insulin sensitivity, and decreased fasting glucose. This all was confirmed in a 2013 meta-analysis, 13 RCTs (1,569 participants) found that patients assigned to a very low carbohydrate diet resulted in greater weight loss compared to those assigned to a low-fat diet.
First of all, don't weigh yourself more than once a week. There are natural fluctuations related to water retention and hormonal balance. If you are a woman, you will notice these fluctuations more often. If you see no movement on the scales or even if your weight goes up, it doesn't mean you are not losing fat. If you exercise, you may even see a little increase in weight, as muscles are heavier than fat. The important thing here is to concentrate on losing body fat. Don’t rely just on scales, use body tape, calipers, belts or clothes to see any changes.
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On a ketogenic diet, your entire body switches its fuel supply to run mostly on fat, burning fat 24-7. When insulin levels become very low, fat burning can increase dramatically. It becomes easier to access your fat stores to burn them off. This is great if you’re trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits, such as less hunger and a steady supply of energy. This may help keep you alert and focused.
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Traditionally, in the sports nutrition field, we talk about the importance of timing carbohydrate and fluid intake on improving sports performance. For some time now, research has been looking at the role of very low carbohydrate diets on sports performance. Trailblazers in keto and sports performance research like Dr. Stephen Phinney have been conducting studies in this area since the 80s. In one of his studies, the glycogen stores of cyclists on a keto diet were not completely depleted and lipid oxidation was increased. Researchers concluded that the body was able to adapt to the lack of carbohydrates and preserve what was needed to use the fat as fuel. However, based on the VO2 max breath test, since the body was attempting to preserve the carbohydrate during the exercise, it appears that the intensity of the exercise was limited. In a more recent study, off-road cyclists following a keto diet experienced small improvements, but still not significant enough to make strong conclusions.
This whole post must have taken so much effort and I think it’s incredible that you do this. The issue with these diets is that people hear about it, think it sounds good and do it. No questions! We are so lucky to have dietitians like you actually laying out all the research, the good, the bad, and everything in between about these diets, so THANK YOU!
I have to thank you for presenting a more rational view of keto than I have seen presented by other dietitians. However I am a Type 1 diabetic, and ahem, also a registered dietitian and since finding keto a year ago would not have any reservation in guiding a pt, especially a diabetic, to eat keto. I find the diet far less restrictive than a vegetarian or vegan diet, and food cravings have completely been eliminated. I’m far more satiated when I eat and I have no problem adhering to this way of eating. The fact that dietitians advise eating 45-60 g CHO per meal to a diabetic (someone who essentially has a carb intolerance) is absolutely ludicrous to me. As a T1D I’m off the blood sugar roller coaster, no longer have dangerous lows and have achieved an A1c of 5.1, which means no long-term complications. I think the main fear in the mainstream media comes from that F word–fat. With the dawn of the low-fat era in the 1960s, sugar and carb consumption skyrocketed, fat consumption plummeted and what happened as a result? Yes, that’s right, rates of overweight and obesity skyrocketed. Insulin is the body’s primary fat storage hormone and carb consumption triggers insulin. The reason a keto diet works for weight loss (more than just water weight from loss of glycogen stores) is because insulin levels stay low, which allows for the mobilization of fat.
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“These diets are so unsustainable and in the long term, just not worth it!” Most definitely in your opinion. I did a LOT of research on Keto before I started it in 2009. I lost 130lbs. It’s not a diet, it’s changing the way you think about food and fuel for your body. And once you do that you understand food freedom. I eat mostly Keto but if I want a beer and a piece of Watermelon I will let myself have one. True it’s not for everyone, not everyone has the willpower to control what they put in their mouth. We tend to reward ourselves with food instead of using it what its for, nourishment and fuel. It’s why our country is dying of obesity. Awesome that a size 10 women can put what she wants in her mouth everyday, exercise, and it not affect her weight but guess what, you are becoming the minority.
High-carb diet – like SAD – is outright harmful and statistically it is proven, since the overall health of North American population deteriorates steadily since the 70s. Low-carb, high-fat diet is definitely less harmful; in my opinion it could be beneficial for the vast majority of humans. Whether one can plough through the addiction of sweets, that is totally different story.
Eliminating several food groups and the potential for unpleasant symptoms may make compliance difficult. An emphasis on foods high in saturated fat also counters recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Heart Association and may have adverse effects on blood LDL cholesterol. However, it is possible to modify the diet to emphasize foods low in saturated fat such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish.
Fats are an important staple of any keto diet. But it’s the quality of your dietary fat that matters.Saturated fats like coconut oil and grass-fed butter are excellent options for cooking. Oils like extra virgin oil are best reserved for unheated uses, like homemade salad dressings. Nuts and seeds make great snacks, or your can sprinkle them on salads and other veggie dishes. Just watch your nut intake. While they’re high in many healthy fats, some of them also contain a lot of carbs.
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I also want to add that I absolutely agree with your verdict! As a type 1 diabetic who has experienced the sickening feeling of ketones’ presence, and known about the dangers of ketoacidosis since childhood, the concept of this diet for weight loss has always rubbed me the wrong way and struck me as a bit off (although I know ketosis is a different thing and is alright for the body, its extreme form is ketoacidosis, after all). I also have seen the diet, used for weight loss, cause dramatic results that then rebounded afterwards. I understand it is an incredible revelation in treating some epileptic individuals, and I see how it makes sense and can be helpful for type 2 diabetics or pre-diabetics. But as for a weight-management diet, like with everything else in life, I think we should strive balance. And enjoying summer peaches!
Noakes’s war on sugar goes back a generation, to when his father developed type-2 diabetes. Type-2 is a disease in which the body gradually loses its ability to regulate blood sugar through the production of the hormone insulin. It’s linked to genetics, but also to diet—particularly sugar and refined carbs—as well as obesity and inactivity. Diabetes experts estimate that the disease speeds up the aging process by roughly a third, damaging the body from the inside out. Too much blood sugar slowly destroys blood vessels, with results ranging from mild—early wrinkling of skin—to catastrophic: heart disease, blindness, stroke, amputations due to poor circulation, and even Alzheimer’s disease (more on that later).
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A ketogenic diet may be an option for some people who have had difficulty losing weight with other methods. The exact ratio of fat, carbohydrate, and protein that is needed to achieve health benefits will vary among individuals due to their genetic makeup and body composition. Therefore, if one chooses to start a ketogenic diet, it is recommended to consult with one’s physician and a dietitian to closely monitor any biochemical changes after starting the regimen, and to create a meal plan that is tailored to one’s existing health conditions and to prevent nutritional deficiencies or other health complications. A dietitian may also provide guidance on reintroducing carbohydrates once weight loss is achieved.
Hi Danielle, it’s all about learning to read labels and the nutrition label before purchasing something! I also double heck the ingredients before I buy packaged products. I also have an ongoing list of approved veggies that I keep in my phone so that I know what I can buy and the variety I can buy so I don’t get in a food funk! Definitely let me know how I can help further! Like posting a label guide? Complete veggie list? Let me know!
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Celebrity endorsements is the WORST reason to start a diet. And yes, it is a diet. Why? Because it’s not long term sustainable. Anyone can lose weight; ask an overweight person. They’ve lost weight hundreds of times. Keeping it off is a whole other ballgame and depriving yourself of carbs can lead to kidney damage. Educate yourself on the dangers of high protein diets that were largely debunked in the 70’s. Get with the program, girl!
Disagree. I’ve been eating like this for ten months. I still enjoy carbs on the rare occasion but stick to a ketogenic diet most of the time. Ive lost 94lbs. I understand people lose weight in other ways but for me this worked. I eat 10x as many green vegetables as I ever have (at least 2 meals a day). My blood pressure dropped drastically in the first month. My cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar all normalized within the first 90 days. I don’t see any reason not to continue. I find this way of eating empowering and not restrictive. Before you call something a fad, because you obviously don’t fully understand this, you ought to read something from people other than the people you agree with. This is the problem I have with dieticians and most doctors. You don’t think for yourselves. You follow whatever the accepted guidelines are and spout them off without ever asking if they are right. It’s easier to stand with the crowd. I get that. But do not use your expertise as a means to criticize real progress. I would think as an expert your would be a proponent of what works! Have you ever been morbidly obese? Do you know what it is like to think your going to die from a heart attack at a young age? Do you know what it’s like to know your going to get type 2 if you can’t overcome your weight? Eating this way got me out of all of that and gave me my life back. Come down from the Ivory tower… Just maybe a little less judgement, a little more open minded
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After increasing water intake and replacing electrolytes, it should relieve most all symptoms of Keto Flu. For an average person that is starting a ketogenic diet, eating 20-30g of net carbs a day, the entire adaptation process will take about 4-5 days. My advice is to cut your carbs to fewer than 15g to ensure that you are well on your way into ketosis within one week. If you are experiencing any more keto flu symptoms, double check your electrolyte intake and adjust.
My submission is, that a healthy body – liver, pancreas, kidneys – know how to maintain the right balance and produce or dispose of fuel, either glycogen or ketones as needed. I disagree that glucose is the favorite fuel, it is only the easy fast fuel for the body, which has one great advantage – PERFORMANCE! Both muscle and brain, fast performance is fueled by carbs. But, for ENDURANCE, it is ketones which are the best fuel, and moreover, burning ketones leaves less waste to be disposed off. I think that for athletes, the challenge is how to find the right performance-endurance balance.
I have enough carbs in a day for all my needs. Just eating proteins alone raise the insuline level, enough for muscles preservation. And I top it with vegetables. I have more than enough. I just to be clear, I don’t think the human body is dumb enough to burn a lot of muscles when you have 100 pounds of stored fat. Why the body don’t store proteins, if it prefers that? Modern nutrition take our body – and us – for fools!
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Thanks for the great article! As a fellow dietitian I think its challenging to stay on top of the fads and weight loss trends. The way I see it is that there are two types of ketogenic diets – lifestyle (for weight loss) and therapeutic for some of the medical conditions you mentioned above. Bottom line, the ketogenic diet is not a “natural” diet and there are serious associated side effects. I believe that people following the diet need to be supported by a team of medical professionals to ensure adequate monitoring.
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I say thank you, Abby, for the time you spent on your research of the KETO diet. I have been wondering what all that fat intake of the KETO diet would do to your liver. It can’t be healthy! But hey, it’s a matter of preference I guess. I prefer to be healthy. Okay, I’m not obese, I’m 5’1″ with 38 lbs. According to what I’ve read online and what my health insurance says, I need to lose about 15 lbs. I’m 60 years old — so, nah– probably not happening. I may be old, but active (walking 5 miles each day, doing one workout video on Grokker daily, gardening, hiking, kayaking). I want to lose enough weight to feel better (less arthritic) when I roll my butt out of bed in the morning, but I don’t want to deprive myself from the fun of eating. I don’t do fast or fat foods. I love cooking and eating healthy (like greens and everything veggie and beans and healthy grains like quinoa, freekeh, farro, black rice) and I like my beer of and on. I can do without sweets, but I do crave cheese. Take the “likes” away, and I get grouchy. I was trying to go with a low carb diet years ago, but the brain farts that came with it where just too pronounced. My body needs carbs! As long as they’re healthy carbs, I’ll be ok. I stay away from white bread and packaged, processed foods. I cook mostly low sodium and going out to eat is a special occasion. But I do count calories overall. I started logging my food intake on http://www.cronometer.com and that has helped a lot. I can create my own recipes, incorporate them into other recipes, and it gives me an overview of all the nutrients I consumed – both for the whole day or by each food item. I can tell how many calories or sodium is in each of my recipes. When I first started logging stuff on their website, I ran across the setting for “KETO diet”, but after I saw that it required to only eat 100 mg of carbs, I clicked off that one really fast. You get more than that from 1 glass of Porter! I love dark beer and good food. Real food, not pre-packaged powders or bla-tasting boxed food. I want fresh garlic, sumac, harissa. I want spice and texture. And low fat in most foods. If I want fat, I eat real cheese like goat cheddar. But that’s a treat. As long as I stick to my rule of eating at least 500 cal less than I burn, I’m ok with losing weight slowly. I want to be healthy first. So yeah, it’s a matter of preference. And patience. 🙂 To those of you who love Keto, cause it’s fast and it works for you, by all means: stay on it! It’s your body. My body runs better with a balanced diet. And that’s my 5 cents worth. 🙂
I recently went to a walk in lab and found that I have high cholesterol and I am pre-diabetic. However, I am well on my way to healing my body with nutrition and supplements. I was able to reverse all my pre-diabetic symptoms in a few days (brain fog, blurry vision, thirst, frequent urination) and I have amazing energy and mental clarity now. I’m losing weight without hunger or counting calories. I eat low carb produce, poultry, fish, nuts and dairy. I believe that the key to avoid diabetes is to drastically reduce or eliminate grains, sugar and any type of processed food or cured meat from your diet. For cholesterol, I take plant sterols/stanols before meals and tumeric & black pepper, fish and flax oil. I believe that everyone who eats meat should take plant sterols (Try Minute Maid Heart Smart OJ!). It is the ultimate preventative, because it is not usually not possible to reduce your cholesterol enough with diet and exercise alone.