A ketogenic diet for beginners

A keto or ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet, which turns the body into a fat-burning machine. It has many proven benefits for weight loss, health and performance, as millions of people have experienced already.1  

Here you’ll learn how to eat a keto diet based on real foods. You’ll find visual guides, recipes, meal plans and a simple 2-week get started program, all you need to succeed on keto.


Get even more, custom meal plans, ask the experts and low-carb TV, with a free trial.

 


 
 

1. Introduction: What is keto?


47,158 viewsMake it simple to understand keto and do it right, using our new video course above.

The entire course with all parts is available here. Alternatively, just keep reading below.

 

What “keto” means

Ketosis

The “keto” in a ketogenic diet comes from the fact that it makes the body produce small fuel molecules called “ketones”.2 This is an alternative fuel for the body, used when blood sugar (glucose) is in short supply.

Ketones are produced if you eat very few carbs (that are quickly broken down into blood sugar) and only moderate amounts of protein (excess protein can also be converted to blood sugar).

Ketones are produced in the liver, from fat. They are then used as fuel throughout the body, including the brain. The brain is a hungry organ that consumes lots of energy every day, and it can’t run on fat directly. It can only run on glucose… or ketones.3

On a ketogenic diet, your entire body switches its fuel supply to run almost entirely on fat. Insulin levels become very low, and fat burning increases dramatically. It becomes easy 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, keeping you alert and focused.

When the body produces ketones, it’s said to be in ketosis. The fastest way to get there is by fasting – not eating anything – but nobody can fast forever.

A keto diet, on the other hand, can be eaten indefinitely and also results in ketosis. It has many of the benefits of fasting – including weight loss – without having to fast.

Learn more about ketosis

 

ChecklistWho should NOT do a ketogenic diet?

A keto diet is normally very safe, but there are three groups that often require special consideration:

  • Do you take medication for diabetes, e.g. insulin? More
  • Do you take medication for high blood pressure? More
  • Do you breastfeed? More

Are you a doctor or do you need your doctor to help you with medications on keto? Have a look at our low carb for doctors guide.

 
 
 
 

2. What to eat on a keto diet

Here are typical foods to enjoy on a ketogenic diet. The numbers are net carbs per 100 grams.4 To remain in ketosis, lower is generally better:

Keto diet foods: Natural fats (butter, olive oil); Meat; Fish and seafood; Eggs; Cheese; Vegetables that grow above ground
 

The most important thing for reaching ketosis is to avoid eating too many carbs. You’ll probably need to keep carb intake under 50 grams per day of net carbs, ideally below 20 grams. The fewer carbs, the more effective.

Counting carbs can be helpful at first. But if you stick to our recommended foods and recipes you can stay keto even without counting.

Detailed list of what to eat on keto

 

Try to avoid

Here’s what you should avoid on keto – foods containing a lot of sugar and starch. This includes starchy foods like bread, pasta, rice and potatoes. These foods are very high in carbs.

Foods to avoid on a keto diet: bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, fruit, beer, soda, juice, candy

 
The numbers are grams of net carbs per 100 grams, unless otherwise noted.5

This means that on keto you’ll basically need to avoid sugary foods completely, as well as starchy foods like bread, pasta, rice and potatoes. Just follow our keto diet advice.

Furthermore, the food should primarily be high in fat, and only moderately high in protein (as excess protein can be converted to blood sugar in the body). A rough guideline is about 5% energy from carbohydrates (the fewer carbs, the more effective), 15-25% from protein, and around 75% from fat.6

More specific advice on what to eat – and what not to eat
 
 

What to drink

Low-carb drinks

So what do you drink on a keto diet? Water is the perfect drink, and coffee or tea are fine too. Ideally, use no sweeteners, especially not sugar. A small amount of milk or cream in your coffee or tea is OK (but beware of caffe latte!). The occasional glass of wine is fine too.

For more, have a look at our full guides to keto drinks and keto alcohol.

 

Visual keto guides

For more on specific topics – like what fruits or nuts to eat on a ketogenic diet – check out our popular visual guides:

 

Recipes

We have over 300 fantastic keto recipes. Below are a few popular examples:

 

 

Diet plans

Here are two weeks worth of recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner on a keto diet:

14-day keto diet plan

Get 70+ prepared weekly keto meal plans, complete with all recipes, shopping lists and more, with our premium meal planner tool (free trial). Our prepared meal plans include vegetarian and dairy-free weeks, quick and easy weeks, etc.

Our meal planner includes the ability to change meals to any of our hundreds or recipes, skip meals, or even construct your own keto meal plans from scratch, using our recipes, and share them.

 

How low carb is keto?

The fewer carbs you eat, the more effective it is for weight loss, appetite suppression and type 2 diabetes reversal, etc. A keto diet is a very strict low-carb diet, containing less than 20 grams of net carbs per day, and thus it is highly effective.

Here are three possible examples of how low-carb meals can look, based on how many carbs you aim to eat in a day. Note that only the left plate is reliably ketogenic:

 
We recommend starting out by following the dietary advice as strictly as you can. When you’re happy with your weight and health, you could carefully try eating a few more carbs (if you want to). Learn more

 

Get started

For everything you need to get started – meal plans, shopping lists, daily tips and troubleshooting – just sign up for our free 2-week keto low-carb challenge.

 

Folder

Here’s our folder with basic keto advice. Feel free to print it out, put it on your fridge, or give it to your curious friends:

Low-carb-for-beginners_folder_1803-2

 

countries3

Keto advice in 40 languages

Here you’ll find keto diet advice in 40 languages. First of all the entire Diet Doctor site is available in Spanish and Swedish as well. Press the note symbol for all other languages:7

 


 

3. Why eat keto – the benefits

The benefits of a keto diet are similar to those of other low-carb diets, but it’s more powerful than liberal low-carb diets. Think of keto as a super-charged low-carb diet, maximizing the benefits.

 

Keto and weight lossLose weight

Turning your body into a fat-burning machine has obvious benefits for weight loss. Fat burning is vastly increased, while insulin – the fat-storing hormone – levels drop greatly. This creates ideal circumstances in which fat loss can occur, without hunger.

More than 20 high-quality scientific studies8 show that, compared to other diets, low-carb and keto diets result in more effective weight loss.

Keto and appetite controlAppetite control

On keto you’ll gain a new control over your appetite. When your body burns fat 24-7, it has constant access to weeks or months of stored energy, dramatically reducing feelings of hunger. It’s a very common experience, and studies prove it.9

This makes it easy to eat less and lose excess weight – just don’t eat until you’re hungry. This makes intermittent fasting easy, super-charging efforts to reverse type 2 diabetes and speeding up weight loss. Plus, you’ll save tons of time and money by not having to snack all the time. Many people only feel the need to eat twice a day (often skipping breakfast), and some just once a day.

Not having to fight feelings of hunger can also potentially help with problems like sugar or food addiction, and possibly some eating disorders, like bulimia, as well. At least feeling satisfied can be part of the solution. Food can stop being an enemy and become your friend – or simply fuel, whatever you prefer.

Keto and constant energy and brain performanceConstant energy and mental performance

Ketosis results in a steady flow of fuel (ketones) to the brain, and you avoid big blood sugar swings. This often results in the experience of improved focus and concentration. Any brain fog will be long gone!

A lot of people use keto diets specifically for increased mental performance. Also, many people experience an increase in energy when in ketosis.

On keto, the brain doesn’t need carbs. It’s fueled 24-7 by ketones, a perfect brain fuel for focus and energy.

Low carb and diabetes reversalControl blood sugar and reverse type 2 diabetes

A keto diet controls blood sugar levels, and is excellent for reversing type 2 diabetes. This has been proven in studies.10 It makes perfect sense since keto lowers blood-sugar levels and reduces the negative impact of high insulin levels.

As a keto diet may even reverse existing type 2 diabetes, it’s likely to be even more effective at preventing it, or reversing pre-diabetes.

150+ success stories

How to reverse type 2 diabetes – the quick start guide

Low carb and diabetes reversalImproved health markers

There are many studies showing that low-carb diets improve important health markers, including the cholesterol profile (HDL, triglycerides), blood sugar levels, insulin levels and blood pressure.11

These commonly improved markers are connected to something called “metabolic syndrome”, and improvements in weight, waist circumference, diabetes type 2 reversal etc.

My health markers after 10 years on a keto diet

happystomach-800-roundedA calmer stomach

Keto can result in a calmer stomach, less (or no) gas, less cramps and pains, etc.

For quite a few people this is the top benefit, and it usually only takes a day or two to experience it. Learn more

Low carb and weight lossIncreased physical endurance

Keto diets can vastly increase your physical endurance by giving you constant access to all the energy of your fat stores.

The body’s supply of stored carbohydrates (glycogen) only lasts for a couple of hours of intense exercise, or less. But your fat stores carry enough energy to easily last for weeks or even months.

How to maximize endurance on a keto diet

Keto and epilepsyEpilepsy

The keto diet is a proven and effective medical therapy for epilepsy that has been used since the 1920s. Traditionally it was used primarily for children, but recently adults have benefited from it as well.

Using a ketogenic diet in epilepsy can allow people to take less or no anti-epileptic drugs, while still remaining seizure-free. This reduces drug side effects and thus increases mental performance. More

 

More possible benefits

The benefits above are the most common ones. But there are others that are potentially even more surprising and – at least for some people – life changing. Did you know that low carb often normalizes blood pressure, results in less acne, controls migraine, might help with certain mental health issues and helps with a lot more?

Follow the links below for more knowledge, stories and science:

Other potential benefits

There’s even science-based speculation that a keto diet could increase longevity and help treat or reduce the risk of cancer.12 It’s also being used as an experimental treatment for some people with Parkinson’s disease13.

 

Success stories

We’re always happy to receive stories from people who’ve used a keto diet to revolutionize their health. We’ve been sent thousands of such stories, and we publish some of the most amazing ones – over 600 so far – for anyone to read.

Here are a few of them:

  • Keto and intermittent fasting: "I am completely blown away by the changes"
  • Reversing type 2 diabetes in only 2.5 months with keto and fasting
  • How Melissa lost 100 pounds with a keto diet, and kept it off for 15 years
  • Minus 125 pounds and no more binge eating on a keto diet

Categories

 

Top success story videos

  • My success story with Jim Caldwell
  • My success story with Dr. Nathan Wiens

More

 


 

4. How to get into ketosis

 

20 grams of carbs in two waysThere are many things that increase your level of ketosis. Here they are, from most to least important:

  1. Restrict carbohydrates to 20 digestible grams per day or less – a strict low-carb diet. Fiber does not have to be restricted, it might even be beneficial.14  
    How much is 20 grams of carbs? Use our visual guide to find out. Or simply use our keto recipes and meal plans, they are designed to keep you under 20 grams with no counting required.
     
    Note that quite often, just restricting carbs to very low levels results in ketosis. So this may be all you need to do. But the rest of the list below will help make sure that you’re successful.
  2. Restrict protein to moderate levels. On a keto diet you should eat the protein you need, but not much more. This is because excess protein is converted to glucose in the body, reducing ketosis.
     
    If possible, stay at or below 1 gram of protein per day, per kg of body weight – about 70 grams of protein per day if you weigh 70 kilos (154 pounds).15  
    The most common mistake that stops people from getting into ketosis is too much protein. Our keto recipes are designed with the right amount of protein.
  3. Eat enough fat to feel satisfied.16 This is the big difference between a keto diet and starvation, that also results in ketosis. A keto diet is sustainable, whereas starvation is not.
     
    When starving you’re likely to feel tired and hungry and give up, but a keto diet is sustainable and can make you feel great. So eat enough to feel satisfied, and if you’re hungry all the time, you should probably add more fat to your meals (like more butter, more olive oil, etc.). Our keto recipes have the needed fat included.
  4. Avoid snacking when not hungry. Eating more often than you need, just eating for fun and because there’s food around, reduces ketosis and slows down weight loss.
 Though using keto snacks will minimize the damage, and is fine when you’re hungry.
  5. If necessary, add intermittent fasting. For example, skip breakfast and only eat during 8 hours of the day, fasting for 16 hours (i.e. 16:8 fasting) . This is very effective at boosting ketone levels, as well as accelerating weight loss and type 2 diabetes reversal. It’s also usually easy to do on keto.
  6. Add exercise – adding any kind of physical activity while on low carb can increase ketone levels moderately. It can also help speed up weight loss and diabetes type 2 reversal slightly. Exercise is not necessary to get into ketosis, but it may be helpful.
  7. Sleep enough – for most people at least seven hours per night on average – and keep stress under control. Sleep deprivation and stress hormones raise blood sugar levels, slowing ketosis and weight loss a bit. Plus they make much it harder to stick to your chosen diet, and resist temptations. So while handling sleep and stress will not get you into ketosis on it’s own, it’s still worth thinking about.
Bottom line: To get into ketosis, restrict carbs to very low levels, preferably below 20 net carbs per day. This is by far the most important thing for ketosis to occur.

Should you need to increase the effect, implement more steps from the list above, starting from the top.

 

No products required

Note what’s not on the list above: you likely do not need fancy expensive supplements, like MCT oil or ketone supplements. These supplements will in all likelihood not help you lose weight or reverse disease, there’s no evidence for that.

KetoSupplements

Ketone supplements for example, do not lower insulin or blood sugar, and they do not increase fat burning. Thus they hardly help with weight loss or type 2 diabetes reversal.

So people saying that – despite the lack of scientific support – likely have a financial reason to say it. Some of these products are sold under something like a multi-level marketing arrangement, so sales people are entirely paid based on commission.17 Thus they’ll likely tell you that their product is fantastic and has changed their lives and makes you lose weight etc., just like any other miracle supplement in the world. But that’s hardly true. Take all such stories with a grain of salt.

All these ketone supplements might do is possibly improve mental and physical performance for a short time. They do raise blood levels of ketones, an effect that can last for one up to a few hours.

So… I’m not saying don’t buy these supplements, perhaps you do want to try them for yourself, see how they make you feel. But you don’t need them to be successful on keto. And they are probably, for most people, a waste of money.

 
 

5. How to know you’re in ketosis

How do you know if you’re in ketosis? It’s possible to measure it by testing urine, blood or breath samples. But there are also telltale symptoms, that require no testing:

Symptoms of ketosis: dry mouth, thirst, frequent urination

  • Dry mouth and increased thirst. Unless you drink enough and get enough electrolytes, like salt, you may feel a dry mouth. Try a cup of bouillon or two daily, plus as much water as you need. You may also feel a metallic taste in your mouth.
  • Increased urination. A ketone body, acetoacetate, may end up in the urine. This makes it possible to test for ketosis using urine strips. It also – at least when starting out – can result in having to go to the bathroom more often. This is the main cause of the increased thirst (above).
  • Keto breath. This is due to a ketone body called acetone escaping via our breath.18 It can make a person’s breath smell “fruity”, or similar to nail polish remover. This smell can sometimes also be felt from sweat, when working out. It’s often temporary. Learn more

 
Other, less specific but more positive signs include:

  • Reduced hunger. Many people experience a marked reduction in hunger.19 This may be caused by an increased ability of the body to be fueled by its fat stores. Many people feel great when they eat just once or twice a day, automatically ending up doing a form of intermittent fasting. This saves both time and money, while also speeding up weight loss.
  • Increased energy. After a few days of feeling tired (the “keto flu“) many people experience a clear increase in energy levels. This can also be experienced as clear thinking, a lack of “brain fog” or even a sense of euphoria.

 
 

Measuring ketosis

ketone meters
There are three ways to measure for ketones, which all come with pros and cons:


 

1. Urine stripsketostix

Urine strips are the simplest and cheapest way to measure ketosis. It is the first option for most beginners.

Dip the strip in your urine, and 15 seconds later the color change will show you the presence of ketones.20 If you get a high reading (a dark purple color), you’ll know that you’re in ketosis.

Pro: Ketone strips are available in regular pharmacies or via Amazon, and they’re very cheap. A strongly positive test reliably proves that you’re in ketosis.

Con: Results can vary depending on how much fluid you drink.21 The strips don’t show a precise ketone level. Finally, and most importantly, as you become increasingly keto-adapted and your body reabsorbs ketones from the urine, urine strips may become unreliable, even if you’re in ketosis.22 Thus, the test may sometimes stop working – always showing a negative result – when you’ve been in ketosis for several weeks.

Order urine strips at Amazon


 

2. Breath-ketone analyzers

ketonixBreath-ketone analyzers are a simple way to measure ketones23 in your breath. At $169 and up they are more expensive than urine strips. But they are cheaper than blood-ketone meters in the long run, as they are reusable any number of times.

These analyzers do not give you a precise ketone level when used on their own, but provide a color code for the general level.24 You can also hook it up to a computer or mobile phone (newer models) and get an exact ketone number via the app. Research shows that the device gives a decent correlation with blood ketones in most situations.

Pro: Reusable, simple test.

Con: Does not always correlate well with blood ketones. Not always accurate, and can in some situations show entirely misleading values.25 More expensive than urine strips, and higher cost upfront than a blood meter.

Order Ketonix

Video: Using breath-ketone analyzers


 

3. Blood-ketone metersBlood ketone meters: Precision extra and Keto-Mojo

Blood-ketone meters show an exact and current level of ketones in your blood.26 They are the gold standard and the most exact way to measure your ketosis level. The major disadvantage, however, is that they are quite expensive, formerly at least $2 per test.27

Now a new startup, called Keto-Mojo, is offering blood ketone testing for as little as $1 per test. Early reviews are positive, and if you’re concerned about the price of testing, we recommend using the Keto-Mojo meter.

GOOD: Exact, reliable.

BAD: Still expensive (at least $1 per test). Requires pricking your finger for a drop of blood.

Order the Keto-Mojo meter

Order the blood-ketone meter Precision Xtra with everything included, at Amazon


 

How to reach optimal ketosis

Getting into ketosis is not a black or white thing. It’s not like you’re either in ketosis, or out of ketosis. Instead, you can be in different degrees of ketosis, as this chart demonstrates.28 The numbers below refer to values when testing blood ketone levels.

 
The Ketone Zone

  • Below 0.5 mmol/l is not considered “ketosis”, although a value of, say, 0.2 demonstrates that you’re getting close. At this level, you’re still far away from maximum fat-burning.
  • Between 0.5 – 1.5 mmol/l is light nutritional ketosis. You’ll be getting a good effect on your weight, but perhaps not optimal.
  • Around 1.5 – 3 mmol/l is called optimal ketosis and is recommended for maximum mental and physical performance gains. It also maximizes fat burning, which can increase weight loss.
  • Over 3 mmol/l is higher than necessary. It will achieve neither better nor worse results than being at the 1.5–3 level. Higher numbers can also sometimes mean that you’re not getting enough food (“starvation ketosis”). For type 1 diabetics, it can be caused by a severe lack of insulin that requires urgent attention.29
  • Over 8–10 mmol/l: It’s normally impossible to get to this level just by eating a keto diet. It means that something is wrong. The most common cause by far is type 1 diabetes, with severe lack of insulin.30 Symptoms include feeling very sick with nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and confusion. The possible end result, ketoacidosis, may be fatal and requires immediate medical care. Learn more

 

Optimal ketosis experimentStories about achieving long-term ketosis

Here are the three reports from a 2-month experiment in reaching optimal ketosis:

  1. Experiment: Optimal ketosis for weight loss and increased performance
  2. Four weeks of strict LCHF and ketone monitoring
  3. Final report: Two months of strict LCHF and ketone monitoring

Do I have to reach optimal ketosis to experience the benefits?

In short, no. Many of the benefits, such as weight loss, are experienced at lower levels of ketosis (above 0.5).

However, you might need to reach higher levels of ketosis for high-level physical performance. There’s also a time element involved, it takes weeks or even a few months for the body to adapt completely.31

Learn keto from the experts

  • Low-carb living
  • Keto-Adaptation and Performance

More

 

 

 
 

6. Keto guides

Keto can be really simple, but it helps to learn some basic new skills. How do you prepare easy and enjoyable meals, like keto breakfasts? Have you shunned fat for years and don’t know how to get more in your diet? How do you eat out and still stay keto?

These tips and guides will help you get new skills and answer all the common keto questions.

Keto breakfastBreakfast

How should you start your keto day? If you love bacon and eggs dig in! If you don’t, some great keto breakfasts have no eggs at all.

Have you been told that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”? Ignore that! If you are not hungry when you wake up, feel free to skip breakfast or just have a cup of coffee. Reduced hunger is common on keto, so don’t worry about skipping any meal.

If you are hungry when you wake up but are short on time, many keto breakfasts are tasty, filling and fast. All keto breakfasts

meals-800-roundedMeals

Hmmm, what to eat for lunch or dinner? Daily meal planning can be as simple as meat, fish or chicken mains with a salad, or vegetable side – with melted butter, cheese, or a yummy full-fat sauce. We have hundreds of choices for delicious keto meals

cheap-800-rounded-1Keto on a budget

Many people believe that keto is expensive, and it can be. After all, good quality food is often more costly than cheaper and unhealthier options. But there are many ways to make keto cheap, and in this guide you’ll learn all about it

Eating more fat on ketoHow to eat more fat

For decades we have been told, wrongly, to fear fat. Now we know fat is satiating, healthy and makes food taste great.

Do you need tips and tricks for how to add fat back into your food? And just how much fat do you need each day? Tip: if you are constantly feeling hungry on a keto diet, eat more fat.

Here’s how to add fat back

bread-800-roundedBread

Bread is one of the most common things that people may miss on a keto diet. But fear not, there are plenty of good bread options that are very low in carbs, and that can be eaten even on a keto diet. Learn more

dining-out-800-rounded-ffDining out

How do you eat keto at buffets, at a friend’s house or at fast­-food restaurants? Avoid the starchy foods (like bread or pasta) and ask for additional natural fat, like butter or olive oil, if you need it. Learn more

keto cheatingKeto cheating

To cheat or not to cheat? This guide will help you decide, and if you do decide to cheat, it will help you do it smarter

cheap-800-rounded-1Avoiding special products

Another common mistake on a keto diet is being fooled by the creative marketing of special “low-carb” products. Remember: An effective keto diet for weight loss should be based on real food.

Low-carb products like chocolate, candy, pasta and bread often use all kinds of deceptive marketing, while being just junk food – including carbs – in disguise. Learn more

 

More guides

Do you want more keto guides? We have more keto guides!

 
 

 

7. Potential side effects of ketosis

When you suddenly switch your body’s metabolism from burning carbs (glucose) to fat and ketones you may have some side effects as your body gets used to its new fuel.

Symptoms can include headache, tiredness, muscle fatigue, cramping and heart palpitations. These symptoms are mild and short-lived for most people. Many feel fantastic right away, and if not, there are ways to minimize or cure any side effects.

Another option to reduce potential side effects is to gradually decrease your consumption of carbs over a few weeks. But with a slower start you’ll likely not see as dramatic results or feel the positive benefits as strongly.

Therefore we recommend you stop sugar and starches all at once. You will likely lose a number of pounds within days. While some of the initial rapid weight loss is water weight (reduced swelling), it’s still a highly motivating and inspiring way to start your keto journey.

Keep reading for more about common side effects and how to handle them.

 

cheap-800-rounded-1Keto flu

Almost everyone who starts a keto diet will experience some symptoms of the “keto flu“. This is what you may feel, more or less, a couple of days into a keto diet:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Light nausea
  • Difficulty focusing (“brain fog”)
  • Lack of motivation
  • Irritability

These initial symptoms – should you experience them – usually disappear within a week, as your body adapts to increased fat burning.

The cause of the keto flu is that carb-rich foods can result in water retention (swelling) in the body. When you start a low-carb diet much of this excess fluid is lost. You may notice increased urination, and with that some extra salt is lost too.

This can result in dehydration and a lack of salt, before your body adapts. That’s the reason behind most of the symptoms of the keto flu.

You can reduce or even eliminate these symptoms by making sure you get enough water and salt. One simple way to do this is to drink a cup of bouillon or broth, 1-2 times per day.

More about keto flu and how to minimize it

Do you need electrolyte supplementation on a keto diet?

More common keto side effects

Apart from the keto flu, there are five more relatively common side effects. They can also be avoided to a large extent, by making sure you get enough water and salt.

Beyond that, there are more specific treatments for all of these issues:

Less common keto side effects

These side effects only affect a small minority of people on a keto diet, and there are ways to handle them:

Keto myths

Most side effects of keto are minor and temporary. But there are a lot of myths, that scare people. Like the idea that your brain will cease functioning unless you eat lots of carbs. It’s a myth, based on a lack of understanding of the way the body works in ketosis (switching the fuel supply of the brain to ketones. Learn more

Another common mistake is mixing up normal ketosis – resulting from a keto diet – with the dangerous medical emergency ketoacidosis. They are two very different things. Ketoacidosis does not happen just from eating a keto diet.32

There are several more common keto myths. Will keto kill your kidneys or destroy your bones? Will it stop your thyroid from working? Read all about them on our low-carb and keto myths page


 

8. Keto Q&A, troubleshooting and resources

Keto questions and answersThere are many common questions about keto, and we do our best to answer them all. Feel free to check out our full keto FAQ, or choose one of the questions below:

 

How much weight will I lose on keto?

Results vary widely. Most people lose 2-4 pounds (1-2 kg) during the first week. This is partially water weight. After this it’s common to lose about 1 pound (0.5 kg) of excess fat weight per week. However, some lose much faster (often younger men), some a bit slower (often women over 40).

You can speed up the process or break a weight loss plateau by following our top tips.

When you approach your normal body weight, the weight loss will slow. As long as you eat when you’re hungry you’ll eventually stabilize your weight even if you stay on a keto diet.

 

How do I track my carb intake?

If you use our keto recipes and keto meal plans you’ll stay under 20 net grams of carbs per day, with no need to count.

Using our keto foods guidelines and visual guides will make it simple to estimate roughly how many carbs you eat in a day.

If you want to count carbs exactly, the most popular way is with apps like MyFitnessPal or Chronometer.

 

What happens after I reach my health and weight goals on keto?

Once you reach your goals you can either keep eating keto (to maintain the effect), or you can try adding a bit more carbs. In the latter case the effect of the keto diet will be slightly weaker, and you may or may not regain some weight.

If you completely revert to your old habits, you’ll slowly return to the weight and health situation you had before. It’s like exercising – if you stop doing it, you’ll slowly lose the benefits. As you may expect, keto, like exercise, only works when you do it.

 

Further questions and answers

 

Resources to learn more

Get free video courses, keto recipes and news updates like over 300,000 people:

 

Top keto presentations

  • Improve chronic pain with a keto diet
  • How to formulate a low-carb keto diet

More

Keto interviews

  • The latest science behind a keto diet
  • All things keto with Keto Connect

More

Keto and LCHF basics

Here are a few of our hundreds of keto TV videos, these ones are focussed on keto basics:

  • Keto for beginners: Introduction
  • Keto for beginners: In ketosis?

More

Low-carb eventsUpcoming keto events

Do you want to meet other low-carb and keto fans and experts? Here’s an updated list of upcoming low-carb and keto events around the world

Websites

For more low-carb and keto sites, check out our recommended sites.

Books

The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Performance by Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek.

Podcasts

Excellent two-part podcast where the top ketogenic diet researcher Dominic D’Agostino is interviewed by Tim Ferriss: part 1 / part 2 (D’Agostino is also active on Twitter).

More

Ketogenic diet food list – what to eat
14-day keto diet plan

 

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  1. Scientific studies now prove that compared to other diets, low carb or keto is more effective.

    Here are two of the top studies showing more weight loss and improvements in health markers on low carb or keto:

    Similar results have been found in meta-analyses of all studies, for example this recent analysis:

    PLOS ONE 2015: Dietary Intervention for Overweight and Obese Adults: Comparison of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets. A Meta-Analysis

    Here are many more studies on the topic:

    The science of low carb

    Hundreds of success stories that people have sent us: low-carb success stories

    It’s safe to say that millions have experienced the potential benefits, as strict low-carb diets have been popular all over the world for decades, if not more.

  2. There are three different ketones, or “ketone bodies” used as fuel by the body. They are:

    1. Acetone
    2. Acetoacetate
    3. Beta-hydroxybutyrate

    Ketones

    Learn far more than you’ll ever need about ketones here:

    Dr. Peter Attia: Ketosis – advantaged or misunderstood state? (Part I)

  3. The brain consumes about 20% of the body’s required energy every day, despite only representing 2% of the body’s mass.

    A good bonus for weight loss, if you can get your hungry brain to burn fat for you, 24-7.

    Another note: ketosis is why the old idea that “the brain needs carbohydrates” is simply wrong.

  4. Net carbs per 100 grams, i.e. what percentage of that food that is made up of digestible carbs.

    100 grams = 3.5 ounces.

    Net carbs (or “digestible carbs”) are total carbs minus fiber. Fiber is OK to eat since it doesn’t affect blood sugar levels.

  5. Net carbs per 100 grams, i.e. what percentage of that food that is made up of digestible carbs.

    100 grams = 3.5 ounces.

    Net carbs (or “digestible carbs”) are total carbs minus fiber. Fiber is OK to eat on keto, since it doesn’t affect blood sugar levels.

  6. Younger, fit people who exercise a lot may be able to tolerate a bit more protein than this, and still stay in ketosis.

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    Do you have another translation or a significant improvement of one of the earlier ones? E-mail us (more info).

  8. Randomized controlled trials, the gold standard of scientific research on diet and health.

    For example Shai 2008 or Bazzano 2014.

    Full list of studies with the most important findings explained

  9. Obesity reviews 2014: Do ketogenic diets really suppress appetite? A systematic review and meta-analysis

    Obesity 2007: The effects of a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet and a low-fat diet on mood, hunger, and other self-reported symptoms.

  10. The superiority of a low-carb diet has for example been shown in these 3 studies: Daly 2005, Westman 2008 and Tay 2014.

    Full list of low-carb studies

  11. This has been shown in many studies. Here are two examples:

    Learn more

  12. Here are a couple of pilot studies where a ketogenic diet was used in cancer patients. The conclusions are that an insulin-inhibiting diet is safe and feasible in selected patients with advanced cancer.

    In brain cancer in particular the ketogenic diet looks like a promising addition to other treatments:

    NOTE: This is only an experimental additional treatment of selected cancers, with highly limited evidence. Many conventional cancer treatments (surgery, chemo etc.) are highly effective and they often offer excellent chances of a cure when used in early stages of the disease. To turn down such treatment would be a mistake that could easily be fatal.

  13. A small pilot study of five people with Parkinson’s disease showed clear improvement of symptoms on a ketogenic diet. There was no control group, so a placebo effect can’t be ruled out.
    Vanitallie, TB et al. Treatment of Parkinson disease with diet-induced hyperketonemia: a feasibility study. Neurology, 2005.

  14. Fiber is digested by bacteria in the colon, and some of it is transformed into a fat called medium-chain triglycerides. This fat can be absorbed by the body and is very effective at turning into ketones. Thus eating more fiber (but still very low carb) could result in higher ketone levels in the blood.

  15. It might be beneficial to lower protein intake even more, especially when overweight, and then aim for 1 gram of protein per kg of desired weight.

  16. Here are two guides that may be helpful to you:

    Top 10 ways to eat more fat

    Keto fats and sauces – the best and the worst

  17. For example, the company Prüvit sells drinkable ketones, called KETO//OS with a multi-level marketing structure.
     

    Pruvitnow.com

  18. This can sometimes be measured as early as during the first day on a ketogenic diet:

    AJCN: Breath acetone is a reliable indicator of ketosis in adults consuming ketogenic meals. (2002)

  19. This has been clearly demonstrated in several scientific studies:

    Obesity Reviews: Do ketogenic diets really suppress appetite? A systematic review and meta-analysis (2014)

  20. The strips measure for the ketone type acetoacetate. The presence of this in your urine indicates that you’re been in ketosis during the hours before testing.

  21. By drinking more water, you dilute the concentration of ketones in the urine and thus a lower level of ketones will be detected on the strips.

  22. This happens when the body becomes more adapted to using ketones, meaning that they increasingly stay in the blood to be used as energy instead of being lost through the urine.

    After 3 weeks the kidneys have been found to excrete ketones at one third the rate than after just 4 days despite having the same blood ketone levels:

    Diabetes 1985: Ketone Body Production and Disposal in Diabetic Ketosis: A Comparison with Fasting Ketosis

  23. Breath analyzers measure the ketone acetone.

  24. For example, the Ketonix meter reflects the following levels of acetone:

    • Blue – negative
    • Green – mild ketosis
    • Yellow – moderate ketosis
    • Red – deep ketosis

  25. For example, if you recently ate a lot of carbs e.g. a pizza, this can result in misleading high values on the Ketonix.

  26. Blood-ketone meters measure the ketone beta-hydroxybyturate (BHB).

  27. A meter with 10 ketone-test strips and 30 needles included, used to cost about $110 and then an additional $2 per test after that.

  28. The chart is from the excellent book The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Performance by Professor Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek. Highly recommended.

    perf

  29. Take insulin, eat carbs (if your blood glucose isn’t already high), and contact medical services immediately.

  30. Other possibilities include doing a strict keto diet while breastfeeding or on a class of diabetes medications called SGLT-2 inhibitors (e.g. Farxiga, Jardiance, Invokana).

  31. For more on this, here’s an interesting article from two of the top keto researchers in the world, Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek:

    Virta Health: Keto-Adaptation – Some Clues to Its Complexity

  32. By far the most common cause is having type 1 diabetes and taking too little insulin.

    In rare cases ketoacidosis may also happen on a keto diet, but normally only when combined with other predisposing factors:

    • Breastfeeding on a keto diet (don’t do a strict keto diet when breastfeeding)
    • Medication with SGLT-2 inhibitors for type 2 diabetes

    Learn more

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203 Comments

  1. kenneth
    I hear that the Keto diet is good for diabetic numbers as long as you maintain a very limited carb intake. But in the long run it creates insulin resistance *even though your numbers look good) and as such an overall increase in disease or disorders that can lead to serious health issues and death. I find that my body now is volatile in that if I eat, let's say, a banana, my glucose skyrockets because I have insulin resistance from a keto diet. They say if eating veggies and a plant-based diet that the numbers will still normalize and whenever I eat that banana, my glucose will not skyrocket as before. What do you say? Because these are two camps telling two stories. This is my life. Which is correct?
  2. Sampath kumar Medavarapu
    Today i started liqvid fasting, with 100 gr pure butter,
  3. 1 comment removed
  4. Emily
    Thanks for the info, it is very helpful. I started my ketogenic diet a month ago and found out that it had so many benefits like it helps lose your appetite(eat less) which leads to weight loss, helps lower blood pressure and betters cholesterol. Here is the linkhttps://tinyurl.com/y7ayv3jx if you anyone wants to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle.
  5. 1 comment removed
  6. Louis J. Thomas
    Dr. Eenfeldt is a very dynamic motivational speaker who is a great mentor for those of us seeking optimal health through a ketogenic wellness lifestyle. I was inspired to follow this way of eating after watching his many videos on YouTube and reading several articles such as this one.

    The main benefit to me as a formerly morbidly obese man with an addiction to carbohydrates, especially sugary processed foods and refined starches, is that I was finally able to stick to a sustainable food plan without being hungry all day or craving sweets and junk foods. I also did not have to rely on exercise in the beginning to lose a significant amount of weight, as I was not physically able to do much walking or formal gym training. As I continued losing weight and gaining more energy and stamina, I started looking forward to exercise and the many health benefits it offers beyond weight loss.

    Most importantly, my ketogenic eating plan has helped me to bring all my blood work results into a normal range - - - no more inflammation, hypertension, pre-diabetes or high cholesterol.

    We are all uniquely different and must find the way of eating that is best for our own medical issues, age and gender, genetics, and socio-economic situation. I'm thrilled that I am a much healthier individual now for having found the miracle I waited for all my life! Thank you, Dr. Eenfeldt!

  7. Sophie
    Hi all,

    So I’m starting Keto tomorrow and got my meal plan from dietdoctor but am also using an app to keep me in check but when I have put all the food it it’s saying I’m 49g over my protein allowance of 79g, the app is saying to aim for:
    1670kcal ( I want to loose weight!)
    141g fat
    20g carb
    79g protein
    I’m eating
    Two eggs, butter, smoked salmon

    Tuna, mayo, Dijon mustard, lemon wedge, spinach, cherry tomatoes, two eggs.

    Chicken thighs, butter, leak, brócoli

    My question is will the extra protein consumption matter as long as I’m under 20g of carb? And if so what can I cut back on?
    Help I have about three stone to loose and really need this to work :pray:t3:

  8. 2 comments removed
  9. Cyndi
    Is Keto safe for someone with decompensated liver (autoimmune PBC with Cirrhosis) with 20% function.
  10. Sonya
    help! i have only had a keto breakfast and already cant stand the taste of fat. does anyone actually help us and answer these messages?
  11. Troy
    Hi there, how come after I exercise at say close to my max heart rate for say 20mins does my keytone mmol go down, say from 1.8 before and 1.1 after?
  12. 6 comments removed
  13. Stephanie
    Hi
    We have loved all the recipes!
    Eating keto is easy with you guys here to help.
    But inwas wondering how we know the nutrition values of each meal for macro counts.

    Thank you

  14. Anthony
    Here we go another American who want to tell you how to eat. Lol. Americans eat the worse food in the world, the vast majority of Americans is fat and sick and the food they eat is quite disgusting, but here we go with another lecture on how to eat. People in other countries dont even diet and they are 100 more healthy. Take Italy, there they eat so much bread and pasta and boom they got the best healthy diet in the world, im not making this up, check the statistic about the Mediterranean diet, especially in Italy: number one more healthy diet in the world. And Italians could not care any less about proteins, fats, carbohydrates and all those technical terms invented by the Americans nutritionists. The worse thing that has happened to Americans are indeed the nutritionists: danger stay away from them.
  15. 1 comment removed
  16. Ioana
    I think that this is a great article for a keto beginner, but what about supplementing with electrolytes? Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, calcium, and chloride. I often get muscle cramps, get dizzy and have powerful headaches if my electrolyte levels are low. Here's a drink I am usually making that helps me cure my electrolyte imbalance https://www.lowcarbspark.com/homemade-keto-electrolyte-drink/
  17. 2 comments removed
  18. Alison
    I started the Keto diet one week ago. The scales went down for 3 days in a row and then 3 days after that they stayed exactly at the same place. I was in ketosis by day 6 (light purple) then day 7 I was dark purple. However, my weight on the scales went up by nearly 2lbs. How come? I have also been loosely doing IMF 16:8. I am a 53-year-old woman and possibly starting my menopause so this may have something to do with it. Also, I have read that I can eat yoghurt with some strawberries which I have been doing for the last few days as I really miss fresh fruit and yoghurt. Could this be causing a problem?
  19. jordan
    if this safe if your nursing?
  20. Pierre Meyer
    Been Keto for nearly four years. Life on cheese, butter, cream, meat and veg. Lost 60lbs without even trying. Arthritis, psoriasis and dandruff went away. But I am reading about lps on a high fat diet? What is the deal? Are the high fat diet studies also high in wheat/zonulin effect?
  21. 1 comment removed
  22. Sheila
    Can small amounts (1-2 Tablespoons) of MCT oil cause severe abdominal pain, nausea and horrible diarrhea?
  23. 4 comments removed
  24. Louise
    How can you tell when you are burning stored fat and not fat that you have eaten that day? If you are losing weight?
  25. Aswin
    I am a vegetarian. How do you do a keto diet for vegetarians? (no eggs, no fish, no meat)
  26. 2 comments removed
  27. Joan N
    As I approach 50, the pounds keep piling on. I'm trying to do the diet, but it's hard as I don't like many veggies, I don't eat nuts, hate ANY seafood, and only like a few cheeses. Any help on a menu plan would be highly appreciated!
  28. 1 comment removed
  29. Danielle P.
    I have loved the recipes. Loved the eating style. I was never hungry, but in three weeks I gained 4 pounds and that terrified me. I have gone up and down all my life and 7 years ago lost 70 lbs on the Dukan diet. Not easy, but it worked. When I read about Keto I was in heaven....the results were terryfing. I probably ate too much ?? I am longing to go back, but scared. HELP. I have written to you before.No answer. I guess you only want success stories.
    Reply: #241
  30. Peter Biörck Team Diet Doctor
    Hi Danielle!

    Here are our best tips for weight-loss:

    https://www.dietdoctor.com/how-to-lose-weight

    I have loved the recipes. Loved the eating style. I was never hungry, but in three weeks I gained 4 pounds and that terrified me. I have gone up and down all my life and 7 years ago lost 70 lbs on the Dukan diet. Not easy, but it worked. When I read about Keto I was in heaven....the results were terryfing. I probably ate too much ?? I am longing to go back, but scared. HELP. I have written to you before.No answer. I guess you only want success stories.

  31. 1 comment removed
  32. Leonie
    Well I am in a proper quandry and super disappointed....I started on the low carb diet late last year and lost weight and finally thought I had found what was missing in my weight loss endeavours. BUT...over the last couple of months, the weight has crept back on (about 3kgs).....because of my success earlier on, I started to get adventurous and added more fats to my diet...cooking in butter, adding homemade mayonnaise to meals, making the occasional keto dessert.....and I mean like twice only.....I was snacking on cheese and nuts only.....and I was fearful of adding more fat to my diet. I strayed a little yes, but never ate potatoes, grains, pasta or bread...so thought that overall I was ok.....I had a blood test last week and my bad cholestrol was up - 4.7!!! I was really so disappointed in that....it can only be the added fats that caused this surely....I have lost my way, it looks like....I only eat the low carb veges, no below ground veges at all! I love the way I feel on the Keto way of eating. I only eat breakfast max 3 times per week and do intermittent fasting the other days.....I don't eat any fruit....I am approaching 50....and I exercise 5-6 times a week. Where have I gone wrong?? I do not like black coffee, so have up to 2 almond milk mixed with soy milk coffees a day and drink black tea and water the rest of the time. I would really appreciate a response to this PLEASE !!!
    Reply: #244
  33. Peter Biörck Team Diet Doctor
    Hi Leonie!

    Here you can read more about Keto and cholesterol:
    https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/side-effects#cholesterol

    Reply: #245
  34. Leonie
    Thank you!! If I have put on weight, is the introduction of more fat that could be causing it, or if the carb in take increases (not deliberately), then the fat intake has an adverse effect on weight....trying to work out where I have gone wrong....I have to admit, I do not count calories or weigh carbs....just stick to small plates to avoid excesses. At no time, have I eaten high carb foods which is why I am confused what is causing the weight change....please help because I love the way I feel on the low carb way of eating...and I was getting such good results
    Reply: #246
  35. Peter Biörck Team Diet Doctor
    Hi Leonie!

    I recommend that you read our best tips:
    https://www.dietdoctor.com/how-to-lose-weight

    Personally I would say ... try to eat only twice a day, keto of course, ( lunch and dinner) and try to avoid eating "snacks" in between ...

    Thank you!! If I have put on weight, is the introduction of more fat that could be causing it, or if the carb in take increases (not deliberately), then the fat intake has an adverse effect on weight....trying to work out where I have gone wrong....I have to admit, I do not count calories or weigh carbs....just stick to small plates to avoid excesses. At no time, have I eaten high carb foods which is why I am confused what is causing the weight change....please help because I love the way I feel on the low carb way of eating...and I was getting such good results

  36. Imelda
    Good day. I am a lady from Namibia (Africa) suffering from epilepsy. Since medical treatments are not helping much apart from leaving me with crazy side effects, I want to try out the Ketogenic diet to see if it will improve or lead to complete cure. What I want to know is, is the diet life long commitment or just temporarily until having the needed results. How long after one has seen the improvement or cure of health condition, should you still be on the ketogenic diet.
  37. 2 comments removed
  38. Dan
    After stumbling on the start of the 2 week trial I will start again. Saturday will be Monday start. I still try to stay in fasting and don't eat until after 11 AM and stop eating around 5 PM. I have been able to stay Keto but not follow the guidelines set in the start up challenge. Should I be doing anything different when fasting other then making regular serving size but treating the leftovers as my wives meal and skipping the leftover dinner meal.
    Breakfast is my noon meal and I cook the recommended evening meal.
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