Keto 101: All you need to know

Last updated on December 22, 2021.

What is keto diet | Types of keto diet | What to eat | A sample menu | Mechanism of weight management | Who is it for | Side effects | Precautions

What is the keto diet?

The ketogenic (keto) diet first began to be researched in the 1970s and was created by Peter Huttenlocher. There have been several variations but the key element remains a high fat, moderate protein, and low carb ratio.

The keto diet is a type of a low-carb, high fat diet typically to lose weight over a relatively short period of time. The term “keto” comes from ketones (also known as ketone bodies) which we produce when we burn fat for energy instead of glucose, i.e. sugars and starches from carbohydrates. By reducing carbs, our body enters into a metabolic state called ketosis.

Types of keto diet

According to Diabetes UK, there are different variations of keto diet. They share similarities of being low in carbohydrates and high in fats.

Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)
This diet consists of high fat (70-75%), moderate protein (20%) and very little carbs (5-10%).

Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) Ketogenic Diet
This diet follows a similar ratio of the macronutrients in the SKD,  but focuses particularly on the use of medium chain triglycerides, such as coconut oil to provide the fat content in the diet.

Calorie-restricted ketogenic diet
This diet is similar to the SKD, but with a set amount of calories intake per day.

Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)
This type of keto diet is particularly suitable for people who engage in sports activities regularly. This diet involves five consecutive days of ketogenic diet, followed by two days of carb backloading, in which higher levels of carbs are consumed to replenish the loss in glycogen stored in muscle during exercises.

Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)
This diet is a compromised version of SKD, but with a moderately increased consumption of carbohydrates around workout sessions. It is suggested that the body is in high demand for energy during exercise, and thus can utilize simple carbohydrates effectively.

High Protein Ketogenic Diet
This diet consists of high fat (60%), high protein (35%) and very low carbs (5%). This type of keto diet is particularly useful for people who are trying to lose weight.

What to eat in a keto diet?

When being on the keto diet, it is important to maintain a high fat, moderate protein and very low carb ratio. In terms of fats, try to opt for healthy sources of fats as much as possible, to reap weight loss benefits but also for your heart health and blood health. 

To implement the keto diet, you first need to reduce your daily carbohydrate consumption. Some typical carbs include sugar, soda, pastries, and white bread.

Remember to keep track of what you are eating to ensure you consume enough amounts of fats and have a sustained energy supply throughout the day.

Here is a list of foods you can incorporate when being on keto:

  • Fish and seafood
    High in protein and rich in omega-3 fats, also high in B vitamins
  • Meat and poultry
    Great source of protein, but keep a note of the amount of animal fat consumption in relation to higher ‘bad’ HDL cholesterol
  • Low carb vegetables
    Nutritionally dense, great for digestion and cleansing the body, and helps regulate cholesterol levels in the body
  • Avocado
    High in healthy fatty acids, a high-fat fruit that brings filling effect
  • Cheese
    Zero carbohydrates, rich in protein and calcium
  • Nuts, seeds and healthy oils
    Healthy sources of good fats, nuts add fiber and protein to the diet; specific oils with strong benefits include coconut oil
  • Unsweetened coffee and tea
    Help to speed up metabolism, giving stimulation to the brain, without sending the brain into a sugar rush. You may have heard of incorporating butter and/or coconut oil into coffee to increase the fat intake, it is commonly known as “bulletproof coffee”.

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The following is a 1-day sample menu of keto diet based on an average intake of 2000 calories per day:

Breakfast
1 glass of “bulletproof coffee”
1 portion of veggie omelette with ham and egg

Lunch
1 portion of assorted fried vegetables
1 piece of fried pork chop
1 portion of steamed egg
1 bowl of carrot and pork rib soup

Dinner
1 portion of fried cauliflower
1 portion of stir-fried lamb with water spinach
1 piece of fried tuna

Mechanism of weight management

With less carbs, your body will have less sugars to digest to generate energy. Glucose stored in your liver as glycogen will be broken down and your level of insulin will decline, beginning the transition into ketosis state. The amount of carbohydrate an individual needs to consume each day depends on physical activity as well as weight and height ratios. A common figure is no more than 20g of carbohydrates per day, but some also have achieved ketosis with double this amount of carbohydrates a day.

Once your body is in ketogenic phase, other than the result of fat-loss, you can also benefit from a feeling of prolonged energy, Having a high fat diet will likely keep you fuller for longer, and the process of energy breakdown will become more steady rather than with energy spikes, meaning better efficiency in your daily routines.

Though it is not a necessary part of the diet, some people pair the process with intermittent fasting i.e. decide to only eat during an 8-hour period during the day, e.g. noon to 8pm or from 9am until 6pm. This is supposed to enhance the state of ketosis, to maximize results.

Who is the keto diet for?

Patients with epilepsy
The keto diet was originally created to treat patients with epilepsy, as an alternative to fasting which had been noted to produce positive results. Studies showed that when patients went on a high fat low carb diet, the regularity of their seizures seemed to be reduced.

Patients with type 2 diabetes
The diet seems to also be available to those with type 2 diabetes. It is common for people with type 2 diabetes to be overweight and need to manage their weight for better health, and the diet involves a higher reliance on breaking down fat for energy, with less reliance on the production of insulin to manage blood sugar levels.

Obesity and Weight management
In recent years, this method has increasingly been used for weight management, focusing on the effect of fat loss.

Side effects

Once you begin to enter into ketosis, you may come into a handful of signs:

Pungent urine and breath
You may notice that you are urinating more often and your breath may smell differently, this is all due to ketones being produced and released in urine and breath, slightly altering the bodily processes.

Keto flu
According to Harvard Health Publishing, ‘keto flu’ is a set of symptoms some experience when first switching to the high fat-low carb diet, including headache, fatigue, nausea, constipation and insomnia

Weak and fatigue
You may also experience withdrawal-like symptoms as the body and the brain are becoming accustomed to the sudden change of energy supply. It is important to stay hydrated throughout this process and take some rest if you feel sluggish and tired. Once your body adapts to being in ketosis, these symptoms will fade away.

Thirst
When being on the keto diet, it can be easy for an imbalance of electrolytes to occur, so again, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the whole process, and add electrolyte supplements in your diet.

Precautions with the keto diet

Before implementing any new diet, it is advisable to consult first with your practitioner, especially if you have a physical condition that you need to pay attention to. 

Subsequently, besides the case of having a condition you may need to monitor with a professional, the keto diet seems to be good for everyone to utilize.

FAQs

Is keto diet suitable for everyone?

The keto diet seems to be suitable for everyone, particularly diabetic patients and people who aim to lose weight. If you have special medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney diseases, pregnancy/breastfeeding, you may wish to consult the doctor before implementing the keto diet.

How to test if your body has entered a ketosis state?

There are ketone test strips that can be purchased from any local pharmacy, to test if you are in ketosis. These tests should be used on urine samples, and the indicator strips can be compared to a color chart to identify if you are already in ketosis; for the body to be in ketosis, the strip will be deep purple, and the process will usually take around 3-4 days.

What do you eat in a keto diet?

A standard ketogenic diet consists of high fat (70-75%), moderate protein (20%) and very little carbs (5-10%). It is suggested to opt for healthy sources of fat, such as plant-based oils from nuts and seeds. Other foods to be incorporated in a keto diet including, fish and seafood, meat and poultry, low carb vegetables, avocado, cheese, unsweetened coffee and tea.

 

This article was independently written by Healthy Matters and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.