There is a lot of information out there on the ketogenic diet, and sometimes that abundance of information can be confusing! Do you need to count macros? What are macros anyway?!? How many carbs can I eat on the Keto Diet? What is keto flu? How do you get enough electrolytes in your Keto Diet to avoid cramps and other keto flu symptoms? How much water should you drink? Is diet soda ok on keto? What foods are keto approved? Will I gain the weight back after keto? Is the Keto Diet safe?
Prior to the advent of exogenous insulin for the treatment of diabetes mellitus in the 1920's, the mainstay of therapy was dietary modification. Diet recommendations in that era were aimed at controlling glycemia (actually, glycosuria) and were dramatically different from current low-fat, high-carbohydrate dietary recommendations for patients with diabetes [1,2]. For example, the Dr. Elliot Joslin Diabetic Diet in 1923 consisted of "meats, poultry, game, fish, clear soups, gelatin, eggs, butter, olive oil, coffee, tea" and contained approximately 5% of energy from carbohydrates, 20% from protein, and 75% from fat . A similar diet was advocated by Dr. Frederick Allen of the same era .
Others consider the keto diet a short-term solution for weight loss. Tyler Drew, a 34-year-old real estate broker from Los Angeles, first read about the diet on Reddit and used it to lose 45 pounds in six months before returning to a traditional diet. While on the keto diet, Drew’s cholesterol levels improved, even though a typical day of eating involved bacon at both breakfast and dinner.
Overweight individuals with metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes are likely to see improvements in the clinical markers of disease risk with a well-formulated very-low-carbohydrate diet. Glucose control improves due to less glucose introduction and improved insulin sensitivity. In addition to reducing weight, especially truncal obesity and insulin resistance, low-carb diets also may help improve blood pressure, blood glucose regulation, triglycerides, and HDL cholesterol levels. However, LDL cholesterol may increase on this diet.
Bonnie J. Brehm, Randy J. Seeley, Stephen R. Daniels, and David A. D’Alessio, “A Randomized Trial Comparing a Very Low Carbohydrate Diet and a Calorie-Restricted Low Fat Diet on Body Weight and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Healthy Women,” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism: Vol 88, No 4; January 14, 2009. http://press.endocrine.org/doi/full/10.1210/jc.2002-021480.
Purnell JQ, Hokanson JE, Marcovina SM, Steffes MW, Cleary PA, Brunzell JD. Effect of excessive weight gain with intensive therapy of type 1 diabetes on lipid levels and blood pressure: results from the DCCT. Diabetes Control and Complications Trial. JAMA. 1998;280:140–146. doi: 10.1001/jama.280.2.140. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]
Calculate your “macronutrients.” Macronutrients are nutrients which your body needs in large quantities, and they provide energy in the form of calories. Calculating your macronutrient intake will let you see the current levels of your fat consumption. With this information, you can decide how to reduce your carb and protein consumption, and increase your fat consumption.
If any of your numbers are significantly different from what is listed, there may be deeper underlying health issues to be addressed. These are things that can be great to work on with a functional medicine or nutrition practitioner to find the root of your issues. You can get a comprehensive idea of your cholesterol and inflammation levels with our Complete Thyroid Report.
In general, you want to eat the minimum amount of protein to preserve lean body mass and not overtax your kidneys. If you eat too much protein, the excess converts to glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. You don’t want that to occur in ketosis. Instead, eat anti-inflammatory protein—at the minimum amount to preserve or build lean body mass. My favorite sources are wild-caught fish, grass-fed and -finished beef and wild meats (elk, bison, etc.), pasture-raised poultry, nuts, and seeds. Make sure fish has more selenium (which helps protect the brain) than mercury, to mitigate heavy metal toxicity. Good sources that have a safe selenium/mercury ratio include: tuna, opah, wahoo, spearfish, swordfish.
If you’re a newbie planning your weekly keto diet menu, make the meals as easy as possible. A keto breakfast, for example, can take advantage of many classic breakfast foods, including eggs, bacon, sausage, and ham. Eggs are real winners in the keto world. They’re extremely versatile, easy to cook, and have just half a gram of carbs but 6 g of protein and 5 g of fat.
“As a nephrologist, I have seen many patients with end-stage kidney failure resulting from diabetes and obesity. I decided to switch my career towards wellness, integrative medicine and obesity management. I now provide guidance for ketogenic and low-carb diets along with fasting to all patients in my clinic and via telehealth consultations. It is very rewarding to see their health improve and their medications reduced or eliminated. I refer all my patients to Diet Doctor on the first visit and I teach them also to use the recipes on the site. Thank you for providing an unbiased educational platform!”
“I recommend LCHF nutrition to all my patients to shift their metabolism to a more beneficial state. This nutrition is often enough to reverse diseases like obesity, diabetes and fatty liver disease, improving the health and quality of life of my patients. In my experience, other medical interventions also become much more efficacious. I recommend the Diet Doctor website, due to its panel of experts, to all my patients to make their transition easier.”
In many developing countries, the ketogenic diet is expensive because dairy fats and meat are more expensive than grain, fruit and vegetables. The modified Atkins diet has been proposed as a lower-cost alternative for those countries; the slightly more expensive food bill can be offset by a reduction in pharmaceutical costs if the diet is successful. The modified Atkins diet is less complex to explain and prepare and requires less support from a dietitian.
The retention and need for a diuretic in the past may have been from excessive carb/wheat/dairy intake… Something you may find resolves with a ketogenic diet. Decreasing iodized salt and increasing sea salt, especially himilayian pink salt might help you to maintain sodium levels without the fluid retention effects also. For example I always buy unsalted butter and add pink salt for the flavour/sodium component. It’s made a big difference for me (a fellow massive found retainer haha)
Being constantly stressed keeps your sugar-boosting hormone cortisol jacked up, which not only elevates your blood sugar but also short-circuits fat loss. And let's be honest: When you're stressed out, you're more likely to nose-dive into keto-unfriendly foods, like comfort carbs. Find ways to dial down stress levels. I find even five minutes of shutting my eyes and taking deep, diaphragmatic breaths can give me a renewed focus and take stress down a few notches.
Dr. Jockers, thank you so much for this clear and detailed article! I began a keto-style diet around August 2019. By late November, I had fallen from 197 lbs. to under 175 lbs., dropped from 28% to 18% body fat, and anecdotally felt much better in all aspects of my health. All of this occurred exclusively due to diet, I believe– I had almost no exercise routine to speak of, and my desk-based job is pretty sedentary. My family practice doc was surprised and happy with the results as well when I met with him in January… until my blood work came back showing total cholesterol at 257, triglycerides at 236, LDL-C at 162, and HDL at 50.
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. 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
“After struggling with weight my entire life, I was pointed in the direction of a low-carb diet by a group of other physicians — and it changed my life. As a family physician, it became clear to me how many of my patients could benefit from this lifestyle in so many ways. I spent time training with other doctors who had been practicing nutritional medicine with their patients for years, and learned how best to help my own patients. This is my passion, and being able to help change patients lives in this way is incredibly rewarding.”
Adequate food records were available for analysis in a proportion of participants at each of the 4 timepoints (Table (Table2).2). Participants completed food records at a mean of 2.5 and a median of 3 timepoints. In general, comparing baseline to subsequent timepoints, mean carbohydrate intake decreased substantially and energy intake decreased moderately while protein and fat intake remained fairly constant.
“I started a low-carb, high-fat diet for myself in an attempt to treat my own health problems. Since then, I have seen significant health benefits not only in myself but also in many of my patients using a LCHF/ketogenic approach. Diet Doctor gives a simple but very effective evidence-based resource that I confidently recommend to all my patients. And the recipes are great!”
An extreme form of low-carbohydrate diet – the ketogenic diet – is established as a medical diet for treating epilepsy. Through celebrity endorsement it has become a popular weight-loss fad diet, but there is no evidence of any distinctive benefit for this purpose, and it had a number of side effects. The British Dietetic Association named it one of the "top 5 worst celeb diets to avoid in 2018".
In the first week, many people report headaches, mental fogginess, dizziness, and aggravation. Most of the time, this is the result of your electrolytes being flushed out, as ketosis has a diuretic effect. Make sure you drink plenty of water and keep your sodium intake up.6One of the fathers of keto, Dr. Phinney, shows that electrolyte levels (especially sodium) can become unbalanced with low carb intake.