You feel like you’ve tried it all. You’ve eaten less and worked out more. You’ve switched to a low fat diet or just watched your calories like a hawk. But no matter what you’ve tried, you just can’t seem to shake the weight and get the body you want.
You’re not alone. 49% of Americans want to lose weight. And while there isn’t a diet will work for everyone, there is one that seems to be gaining traction. The ketogenic diet has been helping people lose stubborn weight for decades and as we learn more about how it works, it becomes clear why it’s so effective for so many people.
Whether you’ve been eating a ketogenic diet for years for its other benefits or are just starting out on your journey, we’ll be providing some real facts and plenty of advice to help you lose weight with a ketogenic diet. Your transformation starts now.
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
Let’s start with some basics about the ketogenic diet. It was originally created as a treatment for children with epilepsy. But as more was learned and studied, it became clear that the diet could be used for a plethora of reasons. The ketogenic diet can:
- Help control blood sugar levels
- Improve brain function and mental clarity
- Reverse or slow down certain health conditions
- Help you lose weight the right and healthy way
The ketogenic diet isn’t really a diet at all. Instead, it’s a natural metabolic state that makes it easy for your body to burn through excess fat. When you’re in ketosis, the end result of a ketogenic diet, your body switches to burning fat for fuel instead of using glucose. The results can be life changing.
How Can the Ketogenic Diet Be Used?
There are different variations of the ketogenic diet. The one you choose will determine your potential results. One quick note- no matter which one you eventually choose, start with a standard ketogenic diet for the first few weeks. This will give you the best indication of how your body reacts to ketosis.
Standard ketogenic diet
The standard ketogenic diet is ideal for most. If you find that most of your day is spent sitting in front of the television or a computer monitor, and your diet consists of high-carb foods, this is the best keto option for you. You’ll be focused on minimizing carbs, eating moderate amounts of protein, and eating a large amount of healthy fats.
Targeted ketogenic diet
If you find that a standard keto diet leaves you feeling lethargic and unmotivated, you may want to make the transition to a targeted keto diet. Your daily intake will remain similar but before workouts or bouts of physical activity, you’ll eat just a tiny bit of carbs for a boost of energy.
Cyclical ketogenic diet
This is an advanced keto diet that’s not for everyone. It’s ideal for body builders, marathon runners, or anyone with a strong focus on physical activity. You’ll eat a standard keto diet most of the time, but typically once per week you’ll carb up. This resupplies glycogen stores, but you’ll need to have a deep understanding of ketosis to find the right amount of carbohydrates that benefit your body instead of slowing it down.
Using the Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss – Q&A Section
Ready to give keto a try? We’ve put together some of the most common questions and answers regarding the diet. Take your time learning about what’s expected of you and what you can expect from ketosis. When you feel ready, start your keto journey.
Remember, we’re always here if you have any questions that aren’t included below.
How long will it take for me to get into ketosis and how do I do it?
Ketosis is your target when eating a ketogenic diet. Everyone is different, but most will fall into ketosis between 48 hours and one week after starting a ketogenic diet. If you’re in a hurry, here are a few things you can do to speed up your entrance to ketosis.
- First and foremost, restrict your carbohydrates. We find that most people who struggle reaching ketosis are still sneaking in a few carbs here and there, thinking a bite of pasta or a few crackers won’t make any difference. We can assure you that every gram of carbs over your daily macros is slowing down your body’s entrance to ketosis. While we recommend finding the exact number of carbohydrate grams for you, we recommend you never go over 20 grams.
- Don’t be scared of fat. Many that start out on keto believe there is no way eating so much fat can be healthy. The term fat has a bad reputation. Fat isn’t always deep fried and covered in sprinkles. There are plenty of healthy options you can build into your diet, like coconut butter, avocado, cream cheese, and dairy.
- Don’t forget about water. You’re essentially cleansing system when you’re on a keto diet. Help the process along by drinking about a gallon of water a day. This will also help keep you full and prevent snacking.
What can I eat on a ketogenic diet?
We’ll cover more specifics in another question but essentially, a keto diet is all about eating certain percentages or grams of fat, protein, and carbohydrates each day. But what classifies as these macronutrients isn’t always easy. Here are the basics.
- Leafy greens (spinach, kale)
- Fruit (avocado and berries in moderation)
- Meat (fish, poultry, high-fat beef)
- Vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers)
- Dairy (cream cheese, butter, hard cheeses)
- Grains (corn, rice, wheat)
- Fruit (bananas, oranges, pineapple)
- Starches (potatoes, yams)
- Sugar (honey, maple syrup)
Should I take supplements?
If you’re struggling to adjust to a ketogenic diet, supplements could help bridge the gap between what your body needs and what your diet is providing. Speak to your medical practitioner before taking anything. In most cases, any of the following could be suggested.
- Magnesium supplement
- Vitamin b complex
- Potassium supplement
- Vitamin d supplement
- Multivitamins (for women and men)
Another common supplement keto followers take is exogenous ketones. The name, when broken down, simply means ketones that are made outside of the body. Exogeneous ketones can be taken to get your body back on track after a slip of carb intake, whether intentional or accidental, or used for bonus energy before a workout.
Some also use exogeneous ketones for a boost in mental clarity. If you feel like you’re just not yourself on a given day, exogenous ketones could be the supplement you need to get back to your normal self.
How do I track my carbs and calories?
We’re so glad you asked! We’re all about macros. A standard keto diet will involve:
- 5% carbohydrates
- 20% protein
- 75% fat
But this might not work for everyone and changing your percentages just a tiny bit can have a huge effect on your results. This is why we always suggest you determine your macros, or essentially how much of each macronutrient you should be consuming based on your sex, age, current weight, physical activity levels, and other personal attributes that will provide you with a custom answer.
We recommend checking out our macros guide where you’ll learn exactly how to figure out your numbers. Once you have them, tracking them is about finding a process that works for you. Whether you can keep track in your head throughout the day, need to write everything down, or take advantage of an app, just make sure you remain as accurate as possible. This will get you into ketosis faster and into a deeper and more effective stage.
How is this different from other diets I’ve tried?
If you’re worried the keto diet is just another empty promise, we have news for you. The keto diet is not another low carb diet that’s going to leave you hungry and frustrated.
There’s actually a huge difference between keto and low carb, despite the similarities.
When you’re eating a low-carb diet, whether it be Atkins or something similar, you’re either eating barely any carbs or avoiding them all together. But when you’re eating keto, you’re still making room for carbs in your diet. You’re just eating smarter carbs and not going overboard.
Low carb diets can take many forms while ketosis is more structured. You’ll know if you’re following a keto diet correctly or not by whether or not you’re in ketosis. Low carb diets can make you feel unmotivated. For example, you could have:
- Low energy
- Extreme hunger
- Weight gain
Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? But with keto, you’ll actually have excess energy, be more focused, remain fuller for longer, and lose weight. That’s why keto can’t be compared to a low carb or similar diet.
What can I expect?
Entering ketosis can be rough for some. Here are a few things (both positive and negative) you can expect during the first few weeks.
You may find it harder to simply get through the day. You may have difficulty paying attention during that work meeting and you might crash on the couch earlier than usual. This is expected as your body makes the transition.
This doesn’t happen to everyone but for some, digestive issues can stop them in their tracks. Whether you’re dealing with constipation or diarrhea, keto could be to blame. If you’re having diarrhea, this is most likely due to keto acting as a diuretic. As your body transitions, you should notice an improvement. But if you don’t, add more fiber to your diet.
You may have difficulty sleeping at first on a keto diet. This is normal as you drop carbs for your diet. Like our other negative symptoms, this should improve with time. But if you need some relief, just remind yourself that many report sleeping better than ever after just a few short weeks on keto.
This is probably the first good benefit you’ll experience. Weight should start to come off quickly, even though it’s most likely just water weight (don’t worry – losing fat is next). But enjoy your weight loss while you wait for other benefits of ketosis to kick in, like mental clarity and a boost in energy.
I don’t feel well at all after starting my keto diet. Is this normal?
This is one negative we can’t hide from you. As your body is entering ketosis, you could develop what’s known as the keto flu. It’s common and not dangerous but it’s difficult to ignore. You might be fatigued, experience headaches, feel nauseous, or deal with body cramps. Essentially, you’ll feel as if you’re coming down with the flu.
The keto flu happens for a couple reasons. First, keto is a diuretic. You’ll lose electrolytes through your urine so make sure you drink as much water as you can each day. You can also drink a few sports drinks to replenish your electrolytes.
Entering ketosis is also a transition. As your body makes the switch from fueling with carbs to fat, the brain may not be supplied with the same amount of energy its used to. This can lead to grogginess, headaches, and an overall fog. If the keto flu is unbearable for you, slightly increase your carb intake and slowly reduce it over the course of several days to limit the side effects.
When will I start losing weight? How much should I lose right away?
Everyone is different and so is their response to keto. The first question to ask in order to get the answer to this question is how much excess weight you have to lose. If you’re extremely overweight, you can expect the weight to start coming off almost immediately and at a high velocity. The more you lose though, the slower the remaining will come off. This is not only expected but preferred and normal.
The opposite can also be true. If you don’t have much to lose or struggle with any hormonal or metabolic issues, you might notice slower weight loss. Again, this is normal.
On average though, the first week of keto provides exciting results. Some can lose up to ten pounds! Keep in mind that this is mostly water weight at this stage, but this is usually all people need to remain motivated with their new diet, especially if they’re feeling the effects of keto flu.
Over the next few weeks, weight loss slows but you’ll be losing strictly fat at this point. Nutritionists recommend losing about one to two pounds a week, which is a great goal for keto as well.
Should I fast?
You don’t have to, but it can help speed up your entrance to ketosis. Fasting can also help you eliminate excess carbs in your system after a cheat day or mistake. If you do plan on fasting, intermittent fasting is usually recommended for keto. This means you only eat within a certain timeframe. But there are a few different ways to do this.
- Eat within a daily window. This is a common method in which you only eat in an 8-hour window each day, giving your body 16 hours to fast.
- Fat fast. With this type of fasting, you’ll eat strictly fat for all meals and snacks (like fat bombs) this is a great way to blast past weight loss plateaus.
- Temporary fasting. If skipping meals while fasting seems intimidating, go with this method. Simply skip breakfast during the weekdays or go without lunch. It’s hard at first but a great introduction to fasting.
When you fast, your body will plow through glucose faster. When you’re fasting, make sure you’re strictly limiting carbohydrates so the fast is effective and gets you into ketosis quickly.
I’ve stopped losing weight. Is this normal? What can I do?
This is normal and expected. It happens to just about everyone, no matter the diet. If you need some help, here are a few suggestions to get you over the weight loss hump.
- Temporarily remove dairy
- Eat more fat
- Cut your carb intake more
- Evaluate your diet and look for hidden carbs
- Work out more
Sometimes, your body just needs some time to adjust and you’ll notice the weight loss again soon. Be patient and don’t switch back to your old diet out of frustration.
How do I know if I’m in ketosis?
Testing for ketones is the only way to guarantee your body is in ketosis. There are four ways to do this. You can test your blood, your breath, your urine, or simply monitor your body for signs that you’re in ketosis. We have an entire guide on this but here are symptoms you can look out for:
- Less appetite
- Increased focus and energy
- Dry mouth
- Weight loss
- Keto flu
Do I have to work out? What types of exercise should I do?
You should always exercise. The question is whether or not certain types of exercise are affected by keto and vice versa.
The good news is that if you primarily focus on cardio, like running or biking, your performance shouldn’t be negatively affected by keto (in fact, you should have more energy) and at the same time, cardio won’t slow down your keto journey.
But if you lift weights, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions. Carbohydrates help with muscle recovery and performance in weight lifting. This is when you may want to refer back to our types of ketogenic diets and consider something more advanced than a standard ketogenic diet to ensure your workout sessions are as effective as they should be.
There you have it! Are you ready to dive into keto? Remember, even though it’s considered a lifestyle, keto is still a diet so go over your plans with your doctor. This is especially true if you have certain medical conditions, including diabetes.
But with proper planning, observation, and maintenance, your body can enter ketosis and start experiencing its benefits, including weight loss! Using the ketogenic diet for weight loss is a smart move and could finally get you back into those skinny jeans you’ve been holding on to.