The goal of the ketogenic diet is to put your body into ketosis — a state where your body burns fat instead of carbs for fuel. The diet consists of mostly fat (75% of your daily calories, in fact), with moderate consumption of protein (20%) and very few carbs (<5%). Without access to glucose from carbs, your body doesn’t have all the highs and lows that lead to hunger pangs, energy crashes, and cravings. The liver instead must convert fatty acids from your diet into ketones for the body and brain to use as fuel. This keeps blood sugar levels stable. Your body also sheds excess weight — fast. But that doesn’t mean it’s unhealthy or unsustainable — provided you do it the right way.
To maintain ketosis (where you burn fat rather than sugar for energy), you need to keep your carb intake to around 20 to 50 grams daily. Some of my patients have to go to the lower end to get those results. That doesn't mean you can't incorporate some carbs: You can fit plenty of green vegetables and low-sugar fruits like berries and avocado into even a 20-gram carb allotment.
Hi Gigi, Low carb and keto is about the balance of macronutrients eaten (fat, protein and carbs), not specifically meat or lack thereof. Most people on keto do eat meat, though some people do vegetarian keto. Fat is actually necessary for many body processes. There is no issue for the kidneys with a high fat diet, but if you eat too much protein that isn’t great for the kidneys. It’s a common misconception that keto is high protein (it isn’t). Keto is great for diabetics as it naturally helps stabilize insulin. All of this being said, please know I’m not a doctor and you should consult your doctor on any medical questions or before starting any diet. If you have more questions that aren’t medical questions, I recommend our low carb & keto support group here.
The ESS is based on questions referring to eight such situations, some known to be very soporific and others less so. The questionnaire is self-administered, and the item scores provide a new method for measuring sleep propensity in eight different real-life situations. Subjects are asked to rate on a scale of 0–3 how likely they would be to doze off or fall asleep in the eight situations, based on their usual, current lifestyle. A distinction is made between dozing off and simply feeling tired. If a subject has not been in some of the situations recently, he or she is asked, nonetheless, to estimate how each might affect him or her .
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine is used primarily to treat difficult-to-control (refractory) epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. Normally, the carbohydrates contained in food are converted into glucose, which is then transported around the body and is particularly important in fueling brain function. However, if little carbohydrate remains in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. The ketone bodies pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source. An elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood, a state known as ketosis, leads to a reduction in the frequency of epileptic seizures. Around half of children and young people with epilepsy who have tried some form of this diet saw the number of seizures drop by at least half, and the effect persists even after discontinuing the diet. Some evidence indicates that adults with epilepsy may benefit from the diet, and that a less strict regimen, such as a modified Atkins diet, is similarly effective. Potential side effects may include constipation, high cholesterol, growth slowing, acidosis, and kidney stones.
7. Raygan, F., Bahmani, F., Kouchaki, E., Aghadavod, E., Sharifi, S., Akbari, E., . . . Asemi, Z. (2016). Comparative effects of carbohydrate versus fat restriction on metabolic profiles, biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in overweight patients with Type 2 diabetic and coronary heart disease: A randomized clinical trial. PMID: 28607566
The kidneys play an important role in metabolizing protein, and it’s possible that eating too much of the nutrient can have a negative impact on kidney function. While ketogenic diets are supposed to be much higher in fat than they are in protein, many keto eaters make the mistake of loading up on lots of meat, Mancinelli says. The result? You could end up eating way more protein than you actually need.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) just put out a position paper on treating diabetes. It’s focus on treatment and prevention, especially for the increasing incidents of diabetes 2 among youth, demonstrates the willful ignorance of institutions that create medical standards for the medical profession. What is ignored is the potential for treating obesity and diabetes 2 with the high-fat low-carb ketogenic diet, which has proven effective for all the factors leading to diabetes and diabetes 2 itself, even improving the overall health of those afflicted with diabetes 1, the less frequent form of diabetes that requires insulin injections.
“Basic human physiology supports the use of a low-carb diet for the management of diabetes and related metabolic conditions, both in daily life and in my practice of hospital medicine, where glycemic control is vitally important. I use Diet Doctor as a resource to stay up-to-date with other low-carb professionals, and I confidently refer my patients to this trusted resource for its wealth of information relevant to their metabolic health.”
One of the absolute worst things conventional medicine does is treat type 2 diabetics with insulin. This only exacerbates the problem. The key to treating and reversing type 2 diabetes is to cut down on net carbs, replacing them with high amounts of healthy fats and moderate amounts of protein. Dr. Tim Noakes has researched reversal of type 2 diabetes in South Africans, coming to the same conclusion.
Plagued by pimples? You may start to notice a difference in your skin on the keto diet, especially if you were a former sugar addict. Consuming lots of empty carbs is linked to worse acne—in part because these foods trigger inflammation and signal the release of hormones that up the production of pore-clogging oils, according to a review published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Some findings suggest that curbing your carb intake could help solve these problems, improving your skin as a result.
“I am an anesthesiologist who managed to lose weight and reverse my pre-diabetes a few years back. I now advocate the low-carb diet and lifestyle to all patients, colleagues and friends. Diet Doctor is a comprehensive one-stop resource which I highly recommend. Almost every patient I anesthetize has metabolic issues, and the situation is difficult as the diet in India is primarily carbohydrate based. I have successfully helped friends and patients reverse their type 2 diabetes.”
A keto diet works for almost anyone since you can be vegan or vegetarian and still achieve ketogenesis. As a rule of thumb, focus on foods that are naturally high in fat and avoid highly processed foods that are labeled with trans-fats as much as possible. Eat fruits that are low on the glycemic index but are still rich in fiber and, eat other foods like avocados (also for the fat) and berries. Additionally, eat lots of green, yellow and red vegetables.
“As a family physician, I have been treating patients with low-carb and keto diets since 2013. I have seen these diets consistently produce remarkable results for numerous medical conditions, especially type 1 and 2 diabetes, obesity, fatty liver, IBS, PCOS, GERD, asthma, hypertension, migraines, coronary artery disease, and dyslipidemia. I can’t count the times that my patients are able to get off multiple medications after implementing a low-carb diet; the most common remark I hear is that they just overall feel better! I recommend my patients to Diet Doctor daily.”
Some negative side effects of a long-term ketogenic diet have been suggested, including increased risk of kidney stones and osteoporosis, and increased blood levels of uric acid (a risk factor for gout). Possible nutrient deficiencies may arise if a variety of recommended foods on the ketogenic diet are not included. It is important to not solely focus on eating high-fat foods, but to include a daily variety of the allowed meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds to ensure adequate intakes of fiber, B vitamins, and minerals (iron, magnesium, zinc)—nutrients typically found in foods like whole grains that are restricted from the diet. Because whole food groups are excluded, assistance from a registered dietitian may be beneficial in creating a ketogenic diet that minimizes nutrient deficiencies.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: Randomized cross-over trial with placebo. The study had no. 2 dietary treatment (DT), conducted in two arms: (1) VLCKD1 in which 50% of protein intake is replaced with synthetic amino acids; (2) VLCKD2 with placebo. The VLCKDs (<800 kcal day-1) were different in term of protein content and quality each arm lasted three weeks (wks). Between the two arms a 3-wks washout period was performed to avoid additive effects on DT to follow. At the baseline, at start and end of each arm, all the subjects were evaluated for their health and nutritional status, by anthropometric analysis, body composition (Dual X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA), Bioimpedentiometry, biochemical evaluation, and Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor γ (PPAR) γ expression by transcriptomic analysis.
Fats: When it comes to types of fat to consume, anything goes. It’s recommended that you consume a mixture of saturated and monounsaturated fats. Things like coconut oil, which contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) help keep ketone levels high. So long as you’re keeping your carbs in check, if you want to go as far as swigging bacon grease to get your fat in, you won’t be the first.
Throughout the study, the patients completed a maximum of 10 visits with the research team (every 15 ± 2 days), of which 4 were for a complete physical, anthropometric, and biochemical assessment; the remaining visits were to manage adherence and evaluation of potential side effects. These 4 visits were made according to the evolution of each patient through the steps of ketosis as follows: visit C-1 (baseline), normal level of ketone bodies; visit C-2, maximum ketosis; visit C-3, reduction of ketotic approach because of partial reintroduction of normal nutrition; visit C-4, no ketosis (Supplemental Fig. 1). The total ketosis state lasted for 60 to 90 days only. In all of the visits, patients received dietary instructions, individual supportive counsel, and encouragement to exercise on a regular basis using a formal exercise program. Additionally, a program of telephone reinforcement calls was instituted, and a phone number was provided to all participants to address any concerns.
When ketone bodies accumulate in the blood, this is called ketosis. Healthy individuals naturally experience mild ketosis during periods of fasting (e.g., sleeping overnight) and very strenuous exercise. Proponents of the ketogenic diet state that if the diet is carefully followed, blood levels of ketones should not reach a harmful level (known as “ketoacidosis”) as the brain will use ketones for fuel, and healthy individuals will typically produce enough insulin to prevent excessive ketones from forming.  How soon ketosis happens and the number of ketone bodies that accumulate in the blood is variable from person to person and depends on factors such as body fat percentage and resting metabolic rate. 
Twenty calories a day times the 365 days in a year comes to a little more than seven thousand calories stored as fat every year—two pounds of excess fat. If it were true that our adiposity is determined by calories-in/calories-out, then this is one implication: you only need to overeat, on average, by twenty calories a day to gain fifty extra pounds of fat in twenty years. You need only to rein yourself in by this amount—undereat by twenty calories a day—to undo it. Twenty calories is less than a single bite of a McDonald’s hamburger or a croissant. It’s less than two ounces of Coke or Pepsi or the typical beer. Less than three potato chips. Maybe three small bites of an apple. In short, not very much at all. Twenty calories is less than 1 percent of the daily caloric intake that the U.S. National Academy of Sciences has recommended for a middle-aged woman whose idea of regular physical activity is cooking and sewing; it’s less than half a percent of the daily quota of calories recommended for an equally sedentary middle-aged man. That it’s such an insignificant amount is what makes it so telling about the calories-in/calories-out idea.
Research into the effectiveness of low-carbohydrate, high fat (LCHF) diets for preventing weight gain and diabetes has produced conflicting results, with some suggestion that diet suitability is not generalizable, but specific to individuals. Overall, for prevention, there is no good evidence that LCHF diets offer a superior diet choice to a more conventional healthy diet, as recommended by many health authorities, in which carbohydrate typically accounts for more than 40% of calories consumed.
On the ketogenic diet, with carbs low, our bodies need to use glycerol from fatty acids in order to produce glucose (but under normal circumstances it doesn't use the fatty acids themselves). Producing glucose from glycerol is fairly inefficient, meaning our bodies have to break down a lot of fat to get a little glucose. Anytime our bodies do something inefficient it uses more calories than doing it the efficient way.
Helps to control type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders: If you have diabetes, you may be turning to the ketogenic diet as a way to control your insulin and glucose levels. Early research shows that the ketogenic diet can help you significantly improve insulin sensitivity levels (11). One study even shows that some diabetes patients were able to stop taking their diabetes medication altogether while on the keto diet (12)!
“The argument is that after decades of abusing your body with carbohydrates and thus creating insulin resistance, your body is not going to magically heal itself from a measly 30 days on a low-carb eating plan,” she explains. “If you need things to celebrate while you wait for the scale to start ticking down, look toward your other accomplishments—body composition, pictures, and measurements after three months.”
But what does the science say? Results are mixed. In one Spanish study of 20 obese adults, participants were put on a low-calorie keto diet and lost an average of 40 pounds over four months. Another small experiment had a similar outcome. In a six-month Experimental & Clinical Cardiology study of 83 obese adults, those on the keto diet lost an average of 33 pounds, while lowering their bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and increasing their good (HDL) cholesterol.
For those looking for something just a little closer to real sugar, you can use Xylitol. It cooks and tastes very similar to sugar, but it has a slight glycemic impact (13 vs. 100 for sugar). It is great, but please keep in mind that it is very toxic to animals and it will raise insulin levels slightly. These are the two most cited reasons for not using Xylitol.
Make things yourself. While it’s extremely convenient to buy most things pre-made or pre-cooked, it always adds to the price per pound on items. Try prepping veggies ahead of time instead of buying pre-cut ones. Try making your stew meat from a chuck roast. Or, simply try to make your mayo and salad dressings at home. The simplest of things can work to cut down on your overall grocery shopping.
You should then transition to a normalized set of macros. While keto dieting can be good for short term fat loss, it’s important that it not brainwash you into thinking that certain foods or macros are “bad”. Eating a balanced diet with an understanding of your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is the healthiest way to eat and the most sustainable way to lose weight long term.
I was a Corpsman (not a corpse-man as some recent somewhat fanatical president would say), and I can tell you many stories of Marines and Sailors who maintained restrictive diets (aka picky eaters). Most obvious was lack of sustaining energy (hypoglycemia) at mile 15 (with 80lbs of gear including a 6.5lb rifle and 200 rnds of ammo, etc.) and depletion of essential vitamins, electrolyte imbalance. They were always the first to collapse and have to hear me scold “see I told you so.” An IV of D5W usually does the trick (D is for dextrose, OMG!)