Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard about the Keto diet. With celebs from Kim and Kourtney Kardashian to Gwyneth Paltrow publicly declaring their love for the eating plan, the popularity of Keto has skyrocketed.
So what is the Keto diet, anyway? Short for ketogenic, it’s a low carb, moderate protein, and high-fat diet that purports to put the body into a metabolic state known as ketosis. Ketosis is when the liver produces ketones, which then become the body’s main source of energy instead of glucose from carbs. Though it may seem like the latest fad diet, Keto has actually been around since it was first developed in the 1920s as an epilepsy treatment and is still used as treatment today, but its weight loss benefits are still hotly debated.
Similar to its cousin the Atkins diet, Keto requires only small portions of fruit and vegetables but plenty of protein and good fats. Part of the diet’s popularity is its emphasis on foods like steak, bacon, and avocado that taste great and leave you feeling full. So, while you’ll have to say goodbye to bread and pasta, the diet isn’t about full deprivation.
Here’s what you need to know before you get started. And for more diet and weight loss tips, subscribe to the new Eat This, Not That! magazine now! For a limited time, you can save 50 percent off the cover price—click here!
Say Goodbye to Carbs & Sugar
A core component of the keto diet is nixing grains, sugar (even natural ones like maple and agave), fruit (except avocado and berries, in moderation), starchy vegetables, and legumes.
What You Can Eat
But what the diet lacks in carbs and sugar, it makes up for in delicious fats and proteins. Foods that are ok include meat, fish, eggs, veggies like leafy greens, broccoli and cauliflower (hello cauliflower “rice”!), cheese, butter, avocado, nuts, sweeteners like stevia, and even saturated fats (so it’s a-ok to toss your kale salad with a fatty dressing).
Do the Math
Though you can just dive in, to truly follow the diet you’ll need to calculate your “macros,” short for macronutrients. This will help you determine the amount of fat, carbs, and protein to consume in order to lose weight on the diet depending on your age, height, weight, activity level, etc. There are many keto macro calculators on the Internet to help. To really keep up with the diet, it’s advised to track what you eat throughout the day, at least while starting out.
Measure Your Ketones
When you first start out you may want to measure your ketones to make sure you’re on your way to achieving ketosis. Urine strips and blood sugar monitors are two possible methods.
The Pounds May Fly Off…At First
If you adhere to the diet, you’ll likely lose a lot of weight fast. Some folks see up to 20 pounds of weight loss in the first week. While it can be super motivating to continue, note that it’s actually a drop in water weight and you won’t continue to lose pounds at that rate.
Stick With It
After that initial shedding period, the weight loss may slow significantly. But that’s ok. As your body gets used to the diet you’ll likely lose weight over time—which is actually healthier and more sustainable than losing a lot of weight overnight.
If you’re thinking about going Keto, you have to commit. Since it’s all about getting your body into a state of ketosis, going on and off it—even just for one “cheat” slice of pizza—can confuse your body and cause you to gain weight. Diehard fans talk about it more as a lifestyle than a diet.
Since Keto requires that you cut a lot of fruits and vegetables, there’s a good chance you will need to take vitamins to supplement your diet to stay healthy. If you need a primer on what each pill does, take a look at these 20 Best Supplements For Every Health Issue.
The Cravings Will Ease
Whenever you cut carbs or sugar from your diet, you are likely to go through a short period of craving them more than ever. If you stick with it, however, Keto diet advocates say that the cravings quell and after a while, you won’t be drooling every time you see a hamburger bun.
Since you lose a lot of water weight on Keto, especially at first, it’s crucial to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. Drink more than you are used to as you are changing the way your body is functioning. Increase your salt intake as well to help retain water and prevent dehydration (a common side effect of the diet).
There is a fairly long list of known side effects of the Keto diet. While adherents say they are a sign that the diet is working, they can also be unpleasant. Common side effects (especially at first) include increased urination, dehydration, constipation, dry mouth, bad breath, cramps, brain fog, headaches, lethargy, and even “the Keto flu” – which is, as it sounds, is when you experience flu-like symptoms as your body adjusts.
Don’t Forget Exercise
As with any diet program, adjusting what you eat is not the only change. It’s important to maintain at least a moderate exercise routine to see the best results on Keto. Give yourself a little buffer time to get used to the diet as you may see an initial drop in energy, but then resume or start exercise as normal.
Consult a Doctor
If you have pre-existing health issues—from kidney stones to a history of disordered eating—you should consult a doctor before starting the diet as it is not advised for everyone. There are questions you could ask, for example, about how appropriate it is for people with diabetes or high cholesterol. It’s best to get guidance from an expert when making any drastic dietary changes. There are also another 15 Signs You Should See a Nutritionist.