In this faq, keto is explained for beginners. The goal of this keto faq is to answer some basic questions for beginners. This is not a comprehensive guide but don’t worry; we’ll direct you to some really great resources to get all of the information you need!
Keto Diet Overview
In 1862, William Banting, at age 60-plus, was finally able to shed up to 150 pounds by following a very low carb diet. What we term “keto” today looks a little different from Banting’s plan. Wildly popular in the UK, some adopters to this day use the term “Banting” to describe the diet. Read more of William Banting’s story here.
It was discovered in the 1920’s that the ketogenic diet was helpful in controlling epileptic seizures, particularly in the case of children. In fact, “over half of children who go on the diet have at least a 50% reduction in the number of their seizures,” according to the Epilepsy Foundation.
More recent studies have shown that the keto diet can also benefit epileptic adults. This Science Daily article explains why the keto diet helps reduce epileptic episodes. It states, in part, that the diet “alters genes…in the brain, which in turn helps stabilize the function of neurons exposed to the challenges of epileptic seizures”.
Most people are familiar with Dr. Robert Atkins’ diet revolution. The diet was developed during the 1960’s and Atkins' first diet revolution book was published in 1972. But the diet didn’t become hugely popular until around 2002-2003.
The Induction phase of the diet limits daily carbohydrates to 20 grams, emphasizing meat, cheese, fats and low-carb vegetables. Basically keto, before we called it keto.
A lot of people think the induction phase IS the Atkins diet when, in fact, Phase I only last for two weeks (although you may choose to extend the time).
To a degree, Dr. Atkins and the Atkins diet have been misunderstood, ripped-off and maybe even maligned. The 1992 book (Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution) alone has over 500 pages. I know several people who have “done” Atkins, but who have never actually read any of his books.
Unbeknownst to most, the original Atkins books cover metabolic resistance, exercise, supplements, diabetes, heart health and much more.
In the ongoing weight loss phase of Atkins, carbohydrates are reintroduced in a very specific order, first, to help dieters experience ongoing weight loss. Then the amounts of carbs are gradually increased to determine your critical carbohydrate level for maintenance (CCLM). As the name implies, as you get close to your weight loss goals, you move to the maintenance phase. It was never intended for the dieter to remain in the induction phase (keto) permanently.
The body normally burns glucose for energy. When there is not enough glucose present, the body begins to use stored fat to produce a chemical called ketones.
The ketones are then released and you are said to be in a state of ketosis. You are burning your own fat, rather than glucose, for fuel.
Many followers have used the ketogenic diet to fix blood glucose issues and (especially in conjunction with intermittent fasting), reverse type 2 diabetes.
Contrary to popular opinion, none of these diets advocate high protein. Keto and LCHF (low carb, high fat) both call for moderate protein consumption.
We are only covering diets here that are low in carbs and similar to keto (no Paleo, Primal, Whole 30, etc.).
The above are general guidelines. If you have certain medical conditions or are on medications, you (and your doctors) will probably have to experiment to figure out your best starting point.
Getting Started With Keto
Keto Diet Considerations
The ketogenic diet can most likely reverse your condition, but you must be carefully monitored by your physician, especially if you are already on medication. Otherwise, there is the risk of dangerously low blood sugar.
You must be careful not to build up too many ketones IF you have diabetes; this can be life-threatening. Again, careful monitoring is necessary.
Generally, pregnant or breastfeeding women are advised against very restrictive diets, which may include keto.
The diet may be contraindicated if you have certain other medical conditions, as well.
As with anything, do your research. See a doctor for baseline screenings before starting a ketogenic diet and make sure to follow up with monitoring of your cholesterol, liver function, etc.
Most physicians are not trained in nutrition. Again, this is where your own research is invaluable.
- be more metabolically resistant than others
- have an underlying condition (usually hormonal), like thyroid issues
- be losing inches rather than pounds
- be consuming too many calories, although this is rarely the problem
- be consuming too many carbohydrates
- be cheating too often
Consider a full hormonal workup to determine if you have a condition, like hypothyroidism, that is keeping you from losing. Hormone replacement therapies and some medications can also interfere with weight loss.
An overgrowth of this yeast can cause a multitude of problems. One tried and true remedy is to severely limit carbs. If you’re doing keto, you’ve already got this part covered. Prebiotics and probiotics can take you the rest of the way. Consume fermented, low carbs foods daily, foods like sauerkraut, keto kombucha and kimchi. Start with small amounts to avoid starting an uncomfortable digestive system war.
I have found that I can only lose with extended intermittent fasting (basically alternate day fasting of 36 hours of more, at least three days a week). Bummer. But, it won’t last forever and I truly expect to become insulin sensitive in time.
Regular exercise, particularly walking and lifting heavy weights one or two times per week, has been known to aid in increasing insulin sensitivity.
Supplements and the Fat Fast
The suggestions below come directly from the original Atkins diet plan. Even if you have some of the above issues, these two strategies may work for you.
The supplements L-carnitine, Co-enzyme10 Q (CoQ10), and chromium can be very useful in breaking through a plateau period.
There are fat fast programs all over the internet that seem pretty far removed from what Dr. Atkins originally prescribed. But the basic premise is the same: to consume foods that contain high levels of fat – at least 80% – while consuming only 1,000 to 1,200 calories for 2-5 days.
We’re talking cream cheese, heavy cream, coconut oil, mayonnaise, macadamia nuts, fat bombs – high fat, low protein and essentially no carbs.
Do not attempt a fat fast unless you are experiencing a weight loss plateau.
If your reason for adopting a keto diet in the first place was fat loss, the following rules should apply across the board. Note that you will regain a bit (3-5 lbs.) of water weight.
If you were dealing with other issues, for example blood glucose, make sure to get tested to make sure those issues have been resolved before changing your diet.
Pretty much any option for transitioning from keto will suggest a gradual increase the number of carbohydrates consumed per day.
The Art of Keto provides some interesting ideas for switching from keto to various other diets (paleo, weight watchers, vegetarian).
Likewise, PaleoLeap offers four strategies for maintenance after your goals are met: adding calories, building muscle, intermittent fasting and switching to a paleo diet.
Believe or not, the Atkins diet is not just the Induction Phase where you can eat all of the meat, cream, cheese and eggs you want. Induction was never meant to be permanent.
Atkins actually outlines a pre-maintenance plan (see links below) to undertake when you are within 5 to 10 pounds from your goal. This phase ushers you into the Atkins Lifetime Maintenance phase.
Whatever the reason you decided to go keto, you do not want to return to your old way of eating. Take it slowly and make sure that any changes are introduced gradually.
Atkins Pre-Maintenance, Part 1
Atkins Pre-Maintenance, Part 2