The ketogenic diet is a fairly simple approach to eating healthy foods that are low carb, high fat, and moderate protein. The lack of carbs forces your body to burn fat rather than glucose to produce energy. The result is ketone production, increased energy, and improved mental clarity, along with a myriad of other health benefits.
How do I get started?
The best way to get started on keto is to do what you’re doing right now, asking the right questions and doing your research. niKETO exists as a resource to help people who want to change their life using the keto diet. We breakdown every part of the keto lifestyle and answer all of the most important questions a new ketoer could have. Our mailing list and social media accounts – twitter, Facebook, and Instagram - are all designed around helping you get started and they are set up to answer any question you may have that’s not covered by the site.
Once you have the knowledge and you know what you need to do, it’s time to jump in. Go to the store, buy the keto foods you’ll need to support your new low-carb life and come see us here at niKETO if you need any recipe ideas or if you want to humble brag about your keto progress.
What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients are basically the main categories your daily calories fall into. There are 3 main macronutrients that keto is concerned with tracking:
FAT: Eat healthy fats and make them about 75% of your daily calories
PROTEIN: Used to grow and repair body tissue, this is a vital macro that must be limited to 20% on keto to avoid gluconeogenesis
CARBOHYDRATES: The only one of the big three macros that you can absolutely live without. Keto limits carbs to 5% of your daily calories so as to prevent glucose production.
What should my macros look like and which ones are important to meet?
Macros are the three main macronutrients we get from our food: Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates. So when we say macro numbers, we mean what percentage of your daily calories should come from each of these three groups. The breakdown looks like this:
75% of daily calories should come from healthy fats.
20% of daily calories should come from protein.
5% of your daily calories should come from healthy carbs.
It’s important to meet all of these requirements as each macro plays a very specific role in keto.
A high percentage of fat ensures your liver will create ketones as your body’s new fuel, replacing the glucose that’s been causing weight gain and other issues.
Protein is important for muscle and tissue repair, but too much protein can result in gluconeogenesis which takes excess protein and turns it into the glucose we are trying to avoid on keto.
Carbs are severely restricted on keto, but you are allowed 20g per day. Those 20g should come from healthy, leafy greens and vitamin rich sources.
Use our calculator to get your personalized macro numbers.
How long does it take to get into ketosis?
It can take anywhere from 1 day to 2 weeks to reach a ketogenic state. It depends entirely on you and your physiology. Age, activity level, gender, and height & weight all play a role in your ability to reach ketosis.
The time it takes to achieve ketosis is spent burning off your body’s glucose stores, getting rid of all those saved up carbs. You can help speed the process along by exercising and forcing your body to burn the glucose for fuel at a quicker rate, and you can also speed things up by fasting or trying intermittent fasting.
The important thing is to not give up and to let the process happen. Even if it takes two weeks, be patient.
How can I tell when I'm in ketosis?
There are a few ways to tell when you’ve reached ketosis.
You can pay attention to your body. A metallic taste in your mouth, acetone breath, fruity smelling urine, and a drastic change in energy are all signs that you’ve hit nutritional ketosis and your journey has begun (all of these markers do go away).
For those who want a little more proof these are 3 different kinds of tests you can buy:
Ketostix – These strips are chemically-treated on the end and when they come in contact with urine containing a high level of ketones, will change color, letting you know you are in ketosis. But be warned, these strips are only good in the beginning of your keto journey to let you know you’re in. As you get deeper into keto, your body becomes more efficient with its ketones and fewer are left to deposit into your urine. Using a keto strip late into your keto journey will likely report a false negative.
Breath Meters – These little cigar-sized meters measure the amount of acetone in your breath. Because acetone is a ketone that’s made in direct correlation with the ketone we use for energy (BHB) it can be deduced that a high acetone reading means a high BHB level, which means entry into ketosis.
Blood Ketone Meters – These are the most accurate as they measure the actual amount of ketones in your blood and return an easy to understand number that can be compared to a chart to determine your level of ketosis. The only down side to these is cost and having to prick your finger every time you want to measure.
What does it mean to be fat-adapted?
Fat adaptation typically occurs 30 days into keto and means your body has become used to the process of turning your diet’s fatty acids into ketones for fuel and it has become so efficient at it that fewer ketones are needed strictly for energy and the fatty acids can be used to repair nerves, the brain’s synaptic function, arterial repair, and more.
Fat adaptation is the main goal of eating and living keto. Reaching keto is the first step in fat-adaptation, but it takes your body about a month to catch up to the idea of using this new fuel. Once your body figures out that ketones are the better fuel source, the major keto benefits start:
Improved mental sharpness
Clear, glowing skin
A better, more even tempered mood
Huge amounts of energy
The ability to exercise longer and harder on fewer calories
These benefits are a great indicator that you’ve hit the pinnacle of keto, which is fat adaptation. You can also use a ketone blood meter to see if your body is producing ketones in the 1.5 to 3.0 range. If your blood ketone readings fall into that spectrum, your body is fat adapted and cranking out the ketones as efficiently as possible.
What happens to my body on keto?
The nice thing about keto is that you decide what ultimately happens to your body. Keto is highly adaptable and can be used for weight loss, mass gain, or healthy maintenance.
In the short period between achieving keto and becoming fat adapted, your body can experience some carb withdrawals and other symptoms. Strong cravings for sugar may persist for the first month of keto. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a plan in place to attack the sweet tooth by making or picking up keto approved desserts, (like our niKETO fat bombs).
You may also experience a mental haze, lack of energy, and the dreaded keto flu. All of these are withdrawal symptoms that come with breaking sugar’s hold on you.
All three of these can be countered before you experience them. The main culprit in these scenarios is a lack of electrolytes. Keto is a diuretic that expels massive amounts of fluids that take your minerals with them. Eating more potassium, magnesium, and sodium will replenish your electrolytes and keep you from feeling the symptom of the keto flu.
Just remember that these little drawbacks are only temporary, but the benefits can last a lifetime.
Will drinking ketones help me get into ketosis faster?
Possibly. For some people it works to get their keto progress kick started. For others, exogenous ketones don’t do anything. Again, it depends on you.
If you want to take a supplement that will help, try MCT oil. Medium chain triglycerides are the best fatty acids for creating ketones quickly. They metabolize the fastest and create the longest lasting ketone bodies for more energy. You can find MCTs in oils like coconut oil or you can take a daily dose all in one shot with the MCT Boost supplement.
Will I lose weight faster if I incorporate intermittent fasting?
Most likely. I.F. as it’s called, isn’t a diet but a schedule by which you eat. Incorporating it into keto is simple and effective. Eat your normal keto foods, but restrict their consumption to an eating window of eight hours at the start. A typical beginner’s I.F. schedule sees you eat your first meal at noon and has you stop eating for the day by 8p.m. The remaining 16 hours are spent fasting, burning calories, and using up any extra glucose.
I.F. works for weight loss and has tremendous benefits when it comes to extending your life and repairing your body.
Can vegans have success on keto?
Yes, absolutely. It seems counter intuitive to think that a diet requiring 75% of your daily calories come from fat could show any kind of success for vegans, but the truth is, there are plenty of non-animal based fats in the vegan world: Avocados, nuts, nut butters, seeds, and oils all contain good, healthy fats that can help vegans reach their fat goals on a daily basis without having to rely on animal-based fats.
What is the keto flu and what can I do to relieve symptoms?
The keto flu is a set of symptoms brought on by a depletion of electrolytes, the vitamins and minerals that help your brain communicate with your muscles and organs.
Keto is a diuretic. You will urinate far more often while on keto, and in doing so, you’ll be getting rid of a lot of electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals that dissolve easily in water and help conduct electrical signals through the body using its 80% fluid make up.
When you urinate out too much of your electrical signaling minerals, your brain has a tough time controlling your bodily functions and your body responds with a false flu. Aches, woozy feelings, exhaustion are all brought on by a lack of Potassium, magnesium, and simple salt.
Eat nuts, leafy greens, and add a dash of table salt to your meals to stay ahead of the electrolytes being released from your body.
Also, make sure you drink lots of water to replace the large amounts your body is losing. Staying hydrated is a key factor in keeping the keto flu at bay.
If you find yourself feeling the keto flu effects, or if you’re having trouble getting enough electrolytes, try our Electrolyte Supplement designed to hit hard and fast against the flu.
Taking an electrolyte supplement from the start is a good way to ensure that the keto flu never has a chance to slow your keto progress or enthusiasm.
How do I deal with constipation on this diet?
Constipation is a real possibility on keto, but it’s easy to cure. Here are the best ways to keep things moving.
Hydrate. Drinking water will naturally soften things up.
Have a keto dessert sweetened with erythritol. This sugar alcohol has a slight laxative effect that can be used to start things up again.
Oil. Incorporate more, healthy oil into your daily calorie count. Coconut oil and other MCT oils will help alleviate constipation and promote ketone production.
Probiotics and fermented foods can help with gut health and keep things moving along.
If necessary, an over the counter laxative is acceptable as they don’t interfere with keto.
Why is my weight loss stalling on keto and how can I break a weight loss plateau?
A weight-loss stall is a halt in your fat loss that occurs for more than three weeks. If you fail to see the scale go down for that long it may be time to consider a plateau breaker.
Plateaus happen when your body becomes used to your diet and becomes incredibly efficient at metabolizing and using your energy. Your body is always looking for a way to break even, using the same amount of calories for energy as you’re eating. In that sense, you need to shake things up and trick your body to get it back to its fat-burning ways.
First, make sure your fat-loss pause is actually a plateau and not an accidental fall out of keto. This happens from time to time, and getting back into keto after a tiny slip-up is much faster and easier than achieving ketosis the first time. Reevaluate what you’re eating, take a close look at anything new you’ve introduced into your daily calorie count, and make sure there are no sneaky carbs sabotaging your progress.
Once you have determined that you’re still in keto, it’s time to switch things up.
Option one is to drink more water and up the fat intake. Taking an MCT supplement can kick start a stagnant fat loss by promoting a higher ketone production, speeding up your metabolism.
Intermittent fasting is a fast and effective way to shock your system into ramping the fat burn back up. If you aren’t already doing I.F., try it by setting an eating window of no more than eight hours a day. If you already practice I.F., you can shorten your eating window to six hours and see if that is enough to reignite your fat burn engines.
If you aren’t already exercising while on keto, now’s the very best time to start. The extra movement and calorie burn will kick your system into a fat-burning high gear. If you already exercise, try switching up your routine. If you train for strength, add more cardio. If you do tons of cardio, try strength training with some weights.
Another strategy that works for some people is upping your daily calorie intake for a few days then suddenly dropping back down to normal. This is often times enough to throw your body’s stasis off and get the fat burn going again.
If all else fails, some long time ketoers have broken plateaus by intentionally dropping out of keto for a few days to a week, then getting back in. Carbing-up for only a few days won’t stop your fat adaptation, but it will force your body to drastically switch up the methods it’s become too used to.
The most important thing is to be patient. Don’t let a plateau drag you away from keto.
Can I do keto if I'm on a tight budget?
Yes. Just be conscientious about the foods you choose. A lot of ketoers recommend grass-fed meats, dairy, and butter, but the truth is, you don’t have to have more expensive, grass-fed meats.
Here at niKETO, we have pages dedicated to shopping for keto, the best ways and places to shop for keto, and how to spot the best deals for keto foods. Eggs, bacon, butter, and fatty meats are all keto staples that have lower prices by weight than their carby counterparts.
Some ketoers have found that eating keto and being more choosey about their food and shopping habits has ended up saving them money and prevented food waste. Keto is budget friendly, especially when you consider you’ll no longer be eating lunches out and buying fast food all the time.
What is the difference between low-carb and keto?
The difference between keto and a low-carb diet is the set of parameters and the ultimate goal. Low-carb is defined as eating fewer than 50 carbs per day. That’s about it. Keto suggests fewer than 20g of carbs per day, but keto also requires a diet that’s top-heavy in healthy fats. The main thrust of keto is to switch your body’s fuel source from a sugar-glucose base to a ketone base.
It’s very possible to eat low-carb and never switch away from a glucose energy source. Eating a low-carb diet high in protein means your body is still driven by glucose, that glucose just comes from the process of gluconeogenesis that’s created glucose from protein instead of carbs.
Creating ketones with a diet rich in high-quality fats and changing your body’s energy source away from the glucose that creates havoc with your insulin, is the main goal of keto.
Can I eat fruit on keto?
As long as you’re careful and keep track of your carbs, you can have some fruit. Berries are your best friend on keto. A half cup of strawberries is about 5 carbs and usually enough to hit the spot.
Unfortunately, melon, stone fruits like peaches, and almost anything canned is going to be a hard no. Their sugar price tag is too high and will almost certainly kick you out of keto. Check out our guide to keto fruits to get a full list.
What exactly are sugar alcohols and how do I factor them into my carb count?
Sugar alcohols are sweeteners that are derived from sugar but do not carry a high glycemic load. That means they don’t count as carbs as they don’t have an impact on your insulin levels. These sugar alcohols can be used as sweeteners in keto recipes or as a sugar substitute without kicking you out of keto. Erythritol and xylitol are the most popular keto sugar alcohols. But beware, not all sugar alcohols are created equal; maltitol is technically a sugar alcohol, but it will spike your insulin and it carries a high carb count. Some keto-friendly companies produce “sugar-free” keto products that use maltitol without realizing it’s almost as bad as sugar and will kick you out of keto.
Sugar alcohols also tend to have a sweetness quotient that can be hundreds of times sweeter than table sugar, so use them sparingly. Check out our write up of sugar substitutes to get a better understanding of all the sugar substitute options keto allows.
What are the different types of keto diets?
SKD: Standard Keto Diet. This is the most common form of keto and the version of keto we write and research the most about here on niKETO. All other versions of keto are based on SKD. It restricts carbs to 20g per day and has a macro break down that includes 75% healthy fats, 20% protein, and only 5% carbs. Use our calculator to get your numbers.
TKD: Targeted Keto Diet. Targeted keto takes the standard keto approach and introduces quick-use carbs right before a heavy training session. Athletic ketoers may decide they need a glucose boost during all-out effort exercise, and a carby sports drink or hard candy right before a work out can give them the glucose they need for extra effort. The intensity of the exercise is enough to burn the excess glucose off by the end of the workout, leaving you in a ketogenic, fat-adapted state.
CKD: Cyclical Keto Diet. Cyclical is based on the same macro set as standard and ramps up the targeted keto approach by introducing carb refeeds for the first two days of the week, followed by five days of heavy training and dedicated keto eating. Cyclical allows two days of unrestricted carbs in order to replenish glycogen stores in the muscles that can be used during long, intense training sessions. The exercise sessions need to be intense and draining in order to deplete the glucose and glycogen stores by the end of the cycle so that ketosis can be achieved before the next refeed.
HPKD: High Protein Keto Diet. This version of keto is used exclusively by athletes who want to pack on muscle and shed fat at the same time. For HPKD a higher protein amount is eaten in order to feed growing muscles. If the muscle training is done correctly, the higher protein amounts will be metabolized for muscle growth rather than gluconeogenesis which can sabotage ketosis.
RKD: Restricted Keto Diet. RKD is also known as therapeutic keto and is used to help with medical conditions. Ketosis has many health benefits and was actually founded in response to pediatric epilepsy. When using keto for treatments like epilepsy, carbohydrates are further restricted down to about 10-12g grams per day and the fat macro percentage can be as high as 90%. Be sure you speak with a medical professional before embarking on the restricted version of keto.
What is the difference between keto and paleo?
The major difference between keto and paleo is carbs. Paleo restricts grains, and starches just like keto does but not for the purposes of eliminating glucose.
Keto’s focus is on shutting of the carbs in order to switch your body’s energy source away from glucose and to the more efficient ketone fuel source.
Paleo advocates meat and oils and nuts, similar to keto, but paleo doesn’t restrict the amount of veggies you can have and doesn’t concern itself with macro ratios. The idea behind paleo is to focus on the calorie restriction to burn fat.
Keto’s focus is to balance you from the inside out by leveling your insulin levels through ketone-based energy instead of glucose, and to burn excess fat by making fat your main fuel source.
I reached my goal weight on keto, now what?
Keep going. Keto studies have shown that a fat-based diet has tremendous effects on preventing Alzheimer’s, autophagy, cell recycling, continued brain function improvements, elimination of type 2 diabetes risks, and much more. Staying on keto simply means the continuation of keto’s life-bettering benefits.
All you need to do when you reach your keto goal is to redo your macros with a focus on maintaining your healthy weight and adjust your daily calories accordingly.
What are the dangers of the keto diet?
There have been some reported cases and studies of keto creating kidney stones. There is debate on both sides of this, and there is evidence on both sides of the argument. It’s hard to say for sure. Erring on the side of caution, if you have a history of kidney stones, or a family history of them, make sure you speak to your doctor before giving keto a try.
If you are a type 1 diabetic, a keto diet not properly followed can lead to ketoacidosis which can be deadly. Ketoacidosis is not a keto danger for anyone who doesn’t have type 1 diabetes.
All of the other supposed keto dangers are myths being perpetuated by those who have a vested interest in the diet and healthcare industry.
See our keto myth’s debunked section for a list of myths and why they’re false.
Are there any side effects that come from the keto diet?
Aside from weight loss, better skin, more energy, better mood and brain function?
There can be negative consequences if the keto diet isn’t done correctly:
Cramps: Some people experience muscle cramps on keto. This is due in large part to the diuretic effect keto has on the body. Drinking more water and eating a little extra salt will sort this right out.
Keto Flu: The keto flu is a collection of symptoms similar to the flu that results from a loss of electrolytes: potassium, magnesium, and sodium. Eating more nuts, leafy greens, and salt while drinking more water will fix the keto flu.
Constipation: A new diet heavy in animal fats and proteins can be a shock to the system and back up the works. Drinking more water, eating more healthy oils, and introducing fermented foods and probiotics can help.
Heart Palpitations: If your heart beats faster or flutters from time to time, it’s normal and will adjust. If the palpitations are constant, speak to your doctor right away.
Exhaustion, reduced physical performance: This is a byproduct of your radical new way of eating. Your body is adjusting and soon enough you will get used to the new diet and the exact opposite will be the result. Keto is known for its energy boosting and performance enhancing benefits.
What foods should I avoid on keto?
Obviously, you want to avoid sugary or carby foods.
The less obvious foods you need to stay away from on keto are transfats and unhealthy oils.
Keto is all about fat, and all forms of fat are okay except for franken-fats, the transfats. These are oils and fats used for deep-frying or to congeal certain foods. They are not natural and will soon be illegal, but until then, you need to avoid them. Check labels for transfats and then look in the ingredients list for anything with the word hydrogenated, this is code for transfat.
What is gluconeogenesis?
Gluco = Glucose
Neo = Greek for ‘New’
Genesis = Creation
Gluconeogenesis = New glucose creation
Gluconeogenesis is the creation of glucose from an overabundance of protein when there aren’t enough dietary carbs to make glucose.
Because keto’s primary function is to severely limit carbs so as to keep the liver from creating glucose for energy, the keto diet is very conscious about how much protein you’re allowed since too much will trigger glucose production from excess protein.
By keeping your protein consumption to 20% of your daily calories, you’re giving your body what it needs to repair and grow tissue but leaving nothing to spare for possible synthesis into glucose. This ensures your body will switch over to a ketone-based energy source without interruption.
Is it normal to have to pee this much when on keto?
Keto is a diuretic and will evacuate a lot of your body’s held fluid very quickly. This water dump in the very beginning is usually responsible for the first noticeable weight drop of 5-10 pound and it called the whoosh effect. No actual fat has been lost yet.
This extreme water release needs to be answered with an equally extreme water consumption. Drink lots of water and remain hydrated when you start keto in order to avoid the keto flu and other dehydration issues.
What are electrolyes and why are they important on keto?
Electrolytes are vitamins and minerals that dissolve easily in water and are very good at helping to conduct electrical signals through said water.
The big three electrolytes are potassium, magnesium, and sodium.
Your brain is a giant computer that controls your body through electrical impulses. The more fluid your body has with dissolved electrolytes to help the signal get through quickly, the faster you can react and the better you can function.
On keto, you urinate more frequently and it takes electrolytes with it. If you don’t replace the potassium, magnesium, and salt as fast as your body is getting rid of it, it’s a recipe for the keto flu.
Drink lots of water on keto and make sure you eat foods that contain electrolytes or take an electrolyte supplement.
Is keto a starvation diet?
Starvation is classified as a state in which your body is forced to respond to an extended period of very low energy intake levels.
Your body’s response to a lack of calories that creates this low energy intake level is to tap into the body’s stores of fat and muscle for sustenance.
Keto isn’t keeping your body from getting new energy, it’s switching it over to a ketone-based energy source as opposed to the glucose source it’s currently using. This allows your body to tap into the stored body fat you don’t want while still providing new energy and nutrition.
This is where the confusion comes in. Keto used body fat for energy, but where starvation uses body fat exclusively due to a lack of new calories, keto uses new calorie consumption made up of mostly fat to tell your body to use stored body fat to fill in the caloric gaps by using the fat you don’t want stored any longer.
It's not starvation if you are putting new calories in.