A ketogenic diet can help you lose weight and benefit from a long list of health perks, but it may require you to make a substantial change in your eating habits. Get the basics of a ketogenic diet and learn how to get past a few of the pitfalls of a keto diet plan.

What Is a Ketogenic Diet?

A ketogenic diet is defined by its very low carbohydrate intake and its high fat intake. Unlike some other low-carb diets, you won’t replace your carbs with protein on a keto diet. Instead, you’ll replace it mostly with fat. This produces some interesting effects as your body goes into ketosis, a metabolic state, due to the severely decreased carb intake.

When your body is in ketosis, it releases ketones into the bloodstream rather than blood sugar. Your cells will begin to rely on ketones as energy sources, and with minimal blood sugar to draw from, your body will begin burning stored fat efficiently.

While many people adopt a keto diet to lose weight, fat burning and weight loss aren’t the only perks that a keto diet can offer. Like other low-carb diets, a keto diet can lower your blood sugar, boost your metabolism, and balance out your energy levels, which can have positive long-term effects. Adopting a ketogenic diet can also improve type 2 diabetes symptoms and reduce the effects of several other serious conditions. A ketogenic diet has been proven to decrease seizures in children and may also alleviate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, autism, Parkinson’s, and even Alzheimer’s.

How to Follow a Ketogenic Lifestyle

Before you commit to a ketogenic lifestyle, you’ll need to consider your ultimate goal. After all, there isn’t a single keto diet plan. Rather, there are a few different versions of keto, one of which could work for you.

  • Standard Ketogenic Diet: The gold standard for the keto lifestyle, the standard ketogenic plan usually breaks your diet into 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein, and 5 percent carbs.
  • Targeted Ketogenic Diet: This version of the ketogenic diet is great for those with high-level fitness goals, as it allows you to add more carbs before and after workouts.
  • Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: This version is also great for athletes, as it requires you to stick to a high-fat diet most days of the week but allows you to add in one or two higher carb days.

No matter which keto diet you choose, you’ll find that it emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods. Some of the most common keto-friendly foods include:

  • Meat: Skip the lean meats and go for fatty options instead, such as beef, ham, bacon, and sausage.
  • Fish: Look for fatty fish, such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel.
  • Dairy: Everything from butter to cream to cheese is on the table. You can also enjoy full-fat yogurt, which is great for snacks.
  • Eggs: These are rich in omega-3s, which make them great picks.
  • Oils: Healthy oils, from olive to coconut, are important sources of calories.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Most types of nuts and seeds, from walnuts to pumpkin seeds, are excellent sources of fat and protein.
  • Vegetables: Stick to veggies with the lowest carb count, such as avocados, leafy greens, peppers, and tomatoes.

What to Avoid When Maintaining Ketosis

While many people consider ketogenic diets to be relatively easy to sustain, there are several foods you should avoid to keep your body in ketosis. Whether you’re just starting your ketogenic journey or you’ve been doing it for months, you’ll want to avoid a few key foods:

  • Grains: You’ll essentially need to go gluten-free when you’re in ketosis. Avoid wheat, barley, rice, and everything made from these starches, such as pasta and bread.
  • Beans: All types of beans tend to be high in starch, so you’ll need to avoid lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes.
  • Fruit: While you can eat small amounts of berries occasionally, fruit is generally off-limits for ketogenic dieters.
  • High-Carb Vegetables: Although the veggies listed above work well for a keto diet, you shouldn’t eat potatoes, carrots, or other root vegetables.
  • Sugar: Along with candy, soda, and sweets, you’ll need to avoid everything with added sugar. This includes everything from ketchup to premade salad dressing.
  • Alcohol: Most alcoholic beverages, including beer and wine, are off the table because of their high carb content.

What to Remember When Doing a Ketogenic Diet Plan

Although all diet plans take time, patience, and commitment, a ketogenic diet can be particularly challenging. Remember, you’re trying to get your body to enter an entirely different metabolic state, which could take a few days to a week. Staying in ketosis can also be remarkably difficult, and you may want to consider intermittent fasting for up to 12 hours a day to reach and maintain this state.

You may find it necessary to test whether your body is ketosis during the first week or so or at various other points after adopting a ketogenic diet plan. You can do this by testing your ketone levels with a urine stick or a blood glucose meter. While urine sticks are easier and cheaper, they can be less accurate. In contrast, a blood glucose meter can be more expensive and tougher to use but offers impressively accurate results.

You might also develop what’s known as the “keto flu.” Even though you might notice symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and sniffles, this isn’t the flu. Instead, it’s your body reacting to the lower levels of sodium and electrolytes you’re ingesting. Naturally, when you adopt a ketogenic diet, you’ll eliminate a lot of processed foods and sodium from your diet. Although a lower sodium intake is actually healthier for most people, your body may need an adjustment period. To get over the flu-like symptoms, try adding more salt or broth to your daily diet.

A ketogenic diet can seem less restrictive than low-carb diets, due to the higher fat and protein intake. Yet it’s incredibly hard not to exceed your carb counts, especially when you’re starting out. For best results, you should track your daily food consumption and make sure you’re getting the right balance of nutrients. It’s easiest to do this with a keto diet plan app. You’ll track your daily calorie consumption and nutrient intake, and you’ll also get meal ideas so you’re never confused about what to eat on a ketogenic diet.

On a ketogenic diet plan, you have the potential to lose weight, burn fat, moderate your blood sugar, and boost your metabolism. When you approach it from a long-term perspective and track your progress carefully, you can look forward to health benefits for years to come.

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