Ketogenic Diet: A detailed guide for beginners

The ketogenic diet is a low-carb high-fat diet which, in addition to the long-lasting reduction of fats, also brings other advantages such as better overall health.

The ketogenic diet can also help people fight diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.

This article contains everything you need to know about this form of diet, from the scientific basics to a practical diet plan, and what you should keep in mind if you want to eat ketogenically.

What is the ketogenic diet?

What is exactly the ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic or keto diet is a low or no-carb diet in which the carbohydrates are replaced by high-quality fats. In the process, the body switches to a metabolic state called ketosis.

Once that happens, your body develops an incredibly effective way to produce energy from fats. In the liver, the fatty acids are converted into so-called ketones, which ultimately allows the energy to enter the brain [6, 7].

Ketogenic diets can reduce your body’s blood sugar and insulin levels, triggering multilayered positive effects on your health in combination with the ketones mentioned .

Different types of ketogenic diet

  • Standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This variant means a very small amount of carbohydrates, a medium amount of proteins and a large amount of fats. Your diet usually consists of 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbohydrates.
  • Cyclic ketogenic diet (CKD): With Cyclic ketogenic diet, you switch cyclically between low-carb and high-carb periods. An example is 5 days of low-carb followed by 2 days of high-carb.
  • Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): Targeted ketogenic dietvariant allows you to take carbohydrates before and after intense workouts. Outside of these times, the normal low or no-carb information applies.
  • Protein-rich ketogenic diet (PKD): This variant is very similar to SKD — but contains more protein. The ratio is 60% fats, 35% protein and 5% carbohydrates.C
  • Of these four variants, only the SKD and the PKD have been intensively studied so far. CKD or TKD variants are more complex and they are primarily used by bodybuilders and extreme or competitive athletes.

The information in this article relates mainly to the standard ketogenic diet (SKD), but can usually be transferred to the other variants.

Benefits of Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet helps you lose weight

A ketogenic diet is primarily an effective way to reduce weight and minimize the risk factors for diseases resulting from obesity [.

Studies also confirm that the ketogenic diet is better suited than traditional diets that focus on reducing the amount of adipose tissue [14.15].

The ketogenic diet also weakens your hunger feeling, allowing most users to even refrain from counting and tracking calories [15]. This effect helps you to implement intermittent fasting, making it easier for you to forgo breakfast or another meal.

There are countless reasons why the ketogenic diet is superior to all other diets. One of the reasons is the increased intake of protein, which offers many benefits [14.16.17]

In terms of the health benefit of the ketogenic diet, the increased number of ketone bodies, lower blood glucose levels and improved insulin sensitivity also play a role [].

Other health benefits of ketogenic diet

Originally, the ketogenic diet was developed to treat neurological diseases such as epilepsy. Studies have then revealed a wide range of other benefits for humans over time:

  • Heart disease. The ketogenic diet can positively affect risk factors such as body fat, HDL levels, blood pressure and blood sugar [24.25]
  • Cancer. The diet, in conjunction with intermittent fasting, is currently used to combat a wide range of cancers and slow the growth of tumors [4, 26,27.28]
  • Alzheimer ‘s. The ketogenic diet can curb the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and slow the progress of the disease [5, 29.30]
  • Parkinson. A study has found that this diet was also able to significantly reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease [31]
  • Acne. Lower insulin levels combined with a reduced amount of sugar and industrially processed foods can help your body fight acne [32]

Keto Foods

Foods you should eat during the diet

To get into ketosis as quickly as possible, you should focus a large part of your diet on the following foods:

  • Eggs: Look, with the eggs coming from chickens from grazing.
  • Meat: Chicken, turkey, steak, ham, sausage and other red meat.
  • Oily fish: Optimal is salmon, tuna, mackerel and trout.
  • Cheese: All kinds of cheeses that have not been industrially processed.
  • Butter: Look out for butter from grazing cows (Kerrygold).
  • Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds or almonds.
  • Healthy oils: Mainly coconut oil, avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil.
  • Avocados: Whole avocados or fresh guacamole.
  • Spices: You should use salt, pepper and other herbs and spices.
  • Low-carb vegetables: Tomatoes, onions and most green coloured vegetables.
  • More detailed explanations for these nutritional building blocks and other ketogenic foods can be found in this article about the 15 best foods for the ketogenic diet.

Foods you should avoid

In short, you should avoid any foods that contain too many carbohydrates or too much sugar. Here is a list of foods you should not eat at all during a ketogenic diet or rarely eat in exceptions:

  • Alcohol: The amount of carbohydrates of most alcoholic beverages can throw you out of ketosis within minutes.
  • Sugary foods: Fruit juice, smoothies, cakes, ice cream, sweets, etc.
  • Unhealthy fats: Reduce your intake of mayonnaise and industrially processed oils.
  • Fruits: No fruits, except small amounts of berries (e.g. strawberries)
  • Beans or legumes: Kidneybeans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
  • Cereals or starch: Cereal based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc.
  • Tubers or root vegetables: Potatoes, carrots, etc.

Healthy ketogenic snacks

If you get hungry between meals — what can happen to you in the first few days — here are some ketogenic snacks for in between:

  • Cheese
  • A handful of nuts or seeds
  • One to two boiled eggs or fried eggs
  • Dark chocolate (> 90%)
  • Strawberries with cream
  • Celery with guacamole
  • An avocado with fried bacon
  • Fat-rich yogurt mixed with cocoa powder and nut butter
  • Cheese with olives
  • Tomatoes and mozzarella

Side effects and how to minimize them

As part of the ketogenic diet, although it is basically harmless to healthy people, there are some side effects that are also often described as keto flu.

The symptoms of keto flu include little energy, excessive hunger, worsened physical performance and isolated sleep problems. However, they only occur in the first few days after the changeover and then disappear over time.

This is because your body has been getting used to carbohydrates in recent years and is resisting not getting any more. In order to counteract these side effects, you should implement a normal low-carb diet for a week before stroking the carbohydrates almost completely out of your diet.

The ketogenic diet can also upset your fluid and mineral balance. Therefore, it can’t hurt to use a little more salt in your dishes or take appropriate minerals in the form of dietary supplements.

In terms of minerals, you can try 3,000 to 4,000 mg of sodium, 1,000 mg of potassium and 300mg of magnesium a day to minimize the side effects of keto flu.

The symptoms of keto flu are clear signs to tell if you’re in ketosis. Learn more about other ways to measure the number of ketone bodies during ketosis.

Especially at the beginning it is important to eat until you are full and not count calories. Because as part of the ketogenic diet, you lose weight without having to eat less.

Supplements for a ketogenic diet

Basically, you don’t need supplements for this diet, but here and there they can help you and your body lose weight faster or bring more power.

  • MCT Oil. Just put the MCT oil in a drink, a Bulletproof Coffee or a yogurt and you feel more powerful. This also allows you to get into ketosis faster.
  • Caffeine. Caffeine can have a positive effect on your energy, performance and breakdown of adipose tissue.
  • Whey Protein. Use half or a whole spoonful of whey protein powder to increase your daily amount of protein.
  • Creatine. Especially in conjunction with intense workouts during the ketogenic diet, creatine provides you with more energy and strength during exercise.
  • Minerals. As mentioned above, you should take salt and other minerals such as potassium or magnesium.

Who is ketogenic diet for?

In addition to all the health and energetic benefits of the ketogenic diet, it is not suitable for all people or rather, all lifestyles.

Bodybuilders or people who want to build up a lot of muscle in a short period of time will only opt for a low-carbohydrate diet in rare cases.

For anyone else who wants to eat healthier, break down fat or have more energy in everyday life through the right foods, a ketogenic diet definitely makes sense.

There are few areas of nutritional sciences that have been researched as well as the positive effects of the ketogenic diet on the breakdown of adipose tissue and the energy levels of the people who apply it.


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