There are about a million different sites and sources describing what a ketogenic (or keto) diet is and how it works. I won’t go into all that here. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. But what I will do is briefly summarise what keto is and how to get started — or more accurately how I got started.
What is keto?
Simply put your body has two ways of generating energy: from sugars, found in carbohydrates and from fat, which produces ketones. This diet is all about forcing your body to use fat as a fuel source and generating ketones to keep your body going. The way you do that is by eliminating all dietary carbohydrates from your food.
Normally you’ll be getting fewer than 25 grams of your dietary needs from carbohydrates, around 1 gram per pound of lean body mass from protein, and the rest from fat.
For example, an 80 Kg person with 25% body fat and a sedentary lifestyle (i.e. drives to work; spends day in a chair and not on their feet) would have a diet that looked like this in order to maintain their weight:
Total Calories (roughly): 2,000 / day of which
- 25 grams (or 100 calories) is from carbohydrates
- 132 grams (or 528 calories) is from protein
- 152 grams (or 1,372 calories) is from fat
The total calories you burn in a day is referred to as your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). You can go ahead and calculate this yourself at this site.
Why should I consider keto?
There are a lot of reasons to get started by probably the largest population of people on keto are doing it to lose weight — in some cases a lot of weight. Other people do it for medical reasons, others because they simply want to get rid of sugar in their diet. And finally there are those people that do it because they started off as on a weight loss programme but really liked the way they felt when in a state of ketosis. Many people describe a sense of focus and clear headed energy, a better ability to sleep at night and wake up in the morning, an absence of hunger pangs throughout the day, and a general lightness in their body that simply wasn’t there with the carbs.
How do I get started with keto?
I would definitely recommend doing a few things before getting started both from a health point of view and also to track your progress. You’ll find that keto is a pretty quantative diet, meaning you need to measure and track things so that you don’t go off course. Getting those initial measurements will definitely help you along the way.
Check with your doctor
or at least let them know you will be doing a ketogenic diet. Because of the increased fat consumption, certain individuals may have pre-existing conditions that would prohibit them from going on a ketogenic diet. Also, if you’re on certain medications, are pregnant, are breastfeeding, or suffer from gall bladder or certain liver diseases, you will definitely need to speak to a doctor and this diet may not be for you. There are some more details here but definitely check in with your doctor first.
Take some measurements
You’ll want to record your starting points so that you can see all the progress you’re making. I suggest at the very least recording: Age, Height, Weight, Body Fat Percentage, TDEE (as mentioned above), BMR (this is your Basal Metabolic Rate or the amount of energy you expend just existing).
Optionally, I’d also spring for two blood test: a glucose level test and a cholesterol test. Make sure you go for the comprehensive ones as you’ll want the additional details. I suggest going for these every 6 – 12 months to keep an eye on things.
It’s pretty much a requirement of keto that you track your calories and your core nutrients of carbs, fat, and protein (also known as your macros, short for macronutrients). I suggest using an app and website call MyFitnessPal, which has free and premium versions. There’s just a lot of measurement going on and you won’t be able to wing it — at least not at first. You’ll really need to get used to tracking all your meals and snacks. At first and after a lifetime of carbs you’re going to be shocked how quickly you get to your 25g daily limit.
You’ll want to get a bathroom scale if you don’t have one. There are plenty of non-scale victories to be had but measuring and tracking weight (either for gain or for loss) will be essential.