A typical keto diet is comprised of 80 percent fat, 15 percent protein, and a mere 5 percent of calories from carbohydrates. If you consume 2,000 calories a day, that means just 100 of them are coming from carbs—including healthy carbs like fruits and vegetables. When you eat this way, it triggers ketosis, which means your body has burned through all its carbs and needs to begin burning fat for energy.
Yes, you'll lose weight but only because you're consuming fewer calories. There's no real magic to the keto diet. The weight-loss equation remains the same: You lose weight when you consume fewer calories than you use each day. You're not burning more fat than other diets, or at a faster rate. On the keto diet, you eat high-fat meals with protein, which keeps you feeling full for longer and cuts down on your overall eating throughout the day.
Advocates for the diet recommend that it be seriously considered after two medications have failed, as the chance of other drugs succeeding is only 10%. The diet can be considered earlier for some epilepsy and genetic syndromes where it has shown particular usefulness. These include Dravet syndrome, infantile spasms, myoclonic-astatic epilepsy, and tuberous sclerosis complex.
“As a full-spectrum family physician since 2004, luckily I stumbled on the wonderful low-carb community two years ago after my amazing wife was forced to make dietary changes after surgery. I’ve never looked back! After transforming my own health, with help from resources like Diet Doctor, Jimmy Moore, and Dr. Jason Fung, I’ve committed to bettering the lives of my patients with intensive dietary management through LCHF and intermittent fasting. Empowering patients to make these lifestyle changes has truly brought back the joy of medicine for me. I am so thankful to all who have inspired me along the way.”
The importance of dietary CHO is so well ingrained that the concept is taken for granted. In fact, basic macronutrient guidelines are predicated upon the idea that the central nervous system (CNS) requires a minimum of ~130 grams (~520 kcal) per day to function properly (i.e., to maintain optimal cognitive function). As a result, the minimum recommended daily intake of CHO reflects this idea (7). Similarly, most contemporary texts on sports nutrition emphasize the outsized role of CHO in optimizing both athletic performance and recovery (9). Frequently referred to as the “master fuel,” recommendations range from 3 – 12 grams per kilogram of bodyweight, per day. As an example, the recommended daily intake for a 180-lb athlete would be 246 – 982 grams, with a caloric equivalent of 984 – 3,928 calories. In marked contrast, the KD would recommend a maximum of just 50 grams (~ 200 calories) per day for the same individual.
Carbohydrate: Most of what determines how ketogenic a diet is will depend on how much carbohydrate is eaten, as well the individual's metabolism and activity level. A diet of less than 50 or 60 grams of net (effective) carbohydrate per day is generally ketogenic. Some sources say to consume no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day, while others cite up to 50 grams, and many recommend no more than 5 percent of calories from carbs. However, athletes and people with healthy metabolisms may be able to eat 100 or more grams of net carbohydrate in a day and maintain a desired level of ketosis. At the same time, an older sedentary person with Type 2 diabetes may have to eat less than 30 net grams to achieve the same level.
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.
On a ketogenic diet, your entire body switches its fuel supply to run mostly on fat, burning fat 24-7. When insulin levels become very low, fat burning can increase dramatically. It becomes easier 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. This may help keep you alert and focused.
A lot of veggies are carb-heavy—they can’t fit into an ultra-low-carb diet. These include potatoes of course, but also yams, corn, peas, and carrots. The best options for keto dieters include asparagus, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, leafy greens, and zucchini. “What’s tough for many people to grasp when starting out on a ketogenic diet is that you can’t really eat a lot of [certain] vegetables,” Mancinelli says. “When you’re keeping carbs super low, you have to limit vegetables—which goes counter to everything you know about how to eat healthy and lose weight.”
I get many questions about intermittent fasting, the health benefits, the weight loss benefits, and the like. People normally use intermittent fasting for both the energy and mental clarity it can offer. But it’s not just good for that. It can offer breakthroughs of plateaus and even benefits in nutrient uptake in exercise. We go more in depth to intermittent fasting in Week 3 and 4, so keep your eyes peeled!