The Complete Ketogenic Diet Blueprint

Written by Alex Reid
Posted August 21, 2018 at 7:50PM

Ketogenic food

The ketogenic diet is one of the most cutting-edge nutrition protocols you can follow to achieve peak health.

It isn’t for everyone, and not everyone needs to do it to be healthy.

But for those who have had trouble dieting in the past or who don’t respond to carbohydrates well, the keto diet is an excellent choice.

It’s an extremely effective way to burn off your body fat and get that “ripped” physique.

And it’s also been shown to reverse diabetes, fight off cancer, prevent epilepsy, and protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

In fact, the ketogenic diet has proven to be so beneficial to your health that it is being studied by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Department of Defense, and even NASA as a way to boost the performance of soldiers and astronauts.

The ketogenic diet goes by many different names. You may have heard it referred to as some variation of these:

  • The keto diet
  • The low-carb diet
  • The low-carb, high-fat diet (LCHF)

But no matter what it’s called, the keto diet follows one very basic principle: Reduce carbohydrate intake to the point where your body begins to burn its stored fat for fuel.

For the purposes of this guide, we will refer to it as the keto or ketogenic diet.

Why did we write this guide?

We wanted to provide the most comprehensive resource on the web for our readers to get up to speed on the ketogenic diet.

This article covers everything, so WARNING!

It will be a long one.

But after you’re done, you will know exactly if the keto diet will fit your lifestyle...

How ketosis affects your body...

And you’ll finish with actionable steps that will help you start benefiting from the diet today.

So get ready — you’re about to discover one of the most cutting-edge ways to improve your mood, get the body you want, and reach peak performance.

What Is the Ketogenic Diet?

The keto diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, and low-carb diet.

Normally, most people get the majority of their calories from carbohydrates — rice, pasta, and starchy vegetables.

This makes your body adapt to use glucose (the scientific word for sugar) as its primary source of fuel.

This means all the fat you consume never gets burned; your body just stores it.

On the keto diet, you cut out most, or even all, of those carb calories and replace them with fat.

When you eliminate carbohydrates, your body no longer has the glucose to burn, so it burns fat instead.

But Wait! Isn’t Fat Bad for Me?

No!

For years, mainstream medical advice has advocated a low-fat, high-carb diet.

But it turns out you’ve been misled.

In fact, fat is incredibly important to your body!

The “War on Fat” has largely been a result of coordinated efforts by the sugar industry to shift the blame for heart disease onto saturated fat.

According to the New York Times:

The sugar industry paid scientists in the 1960s to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the culprit instead, newly released historical documents show.

And research at the University of California, San Francisco, found internal sugar industry documents that suggested the past five decades of nutrition research has largely been shaped by the sugar industry.

Fat Is Healthy

The bottom line is that fat is a healthy and important macronutrient.

But public perception has been warped by years of misinformation.

We cover this debate in other areas of the site, so we won’t spend too much time on it right now. 

For the purpose of this article, we’ll keep it simple:

Fat is a denser, more efficient form of energy than carbs.

And your body is adapted to burn fat more cleanly than it is adapted to burn carbs.

When you reduce your carbohydrate intake, you take away one of the main contributors to disease in the Western world.

Now, the next question is:

How Does the Ketogenic Diet Work?

The keto diet mimics starvation — except you never have to be hungry. 

Normally, the human body is driven by sugar.

When you eat carbs, they are broken down into glucose, which is transported around your body to use as immediate fuel.

Any excess glucose is stored in your liver and muscle tissue as glycogen.

Glycogen is important — it’s the “backup” energy for when your blood glucose gets depleted.

But your body can only store so much glycogen.

Once your liver and muscle cells have reached their glycogen capacity, any additional calories are stored as fat.

But when following the ketogenic diet, you cut your carb consumption dramatically.

Low carb

And when your liver is robbed of dietary carbohydrates (usually at or lower than 50g per day), your body has to use its backup energy source: fat.

But there’s one tiny problem.

Your body can’t directly use fat for energy.

So your liver has to metabolize the fat into a form of energy your cells can use.

Converting Fat into Energy Is Called “Ketosis”

Your liver takes the stored fat in your body and burns it down into molecules your cells can use for energy.

This process is known as beta-oxidation.

The molecules that are created in this process are known as ketones.

There are three different types of ketones:

  • Acetoacetate
  • Acetone
  • Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB)

Acetoacetate is the parent of molecule of acetone and BHB.

Acetone forms spontaneously from the breaking down of acetoacetate, and your body gets rid of it through waste or respiration.

It’s also the culprit behind “keto breath,” which is the sweet, smelly breath that afflicts beginners on the keto diet.

But don’t worry! After your body has adjusted to its new normal, your breath won’t smell anymore.

And to make sure you’re actually in ketosis, it’s important to monitor your acetone levels.

This can be via breath tests, urine tests, or blood meters.

The next molecule that acetoacetate breaks down into is beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB).

This is the golden ketone because it is what your muscles and brain will use for fuel in place of glucose.

BHB is excellent at crossing cellular barriers.

And as it floats around your bloodstream, your cells are able to pick it up and convert it into ATP, which is your body’s “energy molecule.”

The Keto Flu

However, this process won’t begin immediately.

It can take your body anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to get the signal that its favorite carbs won’t be coming in anymore.

During this period, many people experience “carb flu.”

Symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Grumpiness
  • Physical fatigue (going to the gym might feel like scaling Mt. Everest)
  • Increased hunger
  • Brain fog

But have no fear!

Once your body adapts, all of the symptoms will quickly evaporate. You just have to stick it out.

Types of Ketogenic Diets

There are four types of common ketogenic diets.

Each varies in its allocation of proteins, carbs, and fats.

  • Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD): This is the most common approach. Usually, it means your diet consists of 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs.

  • High-Protein Ketogenic Diet: This one is very similar to the SKD, but it includes more protein. So the breakdown would be 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbs.

  • Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD): This is basically just the SKD, but you add a small amount of quickly digestible carbs before a workout for energy.

  • Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD): Typically used by bodybuilders, CKD allows for short periods of high-carb refeeds. For example, five days of low carbs and then two days of high carbs.

For most people, unless you are an elite athlete or competitive bodybuilder, the Standard Ketogenic Diet will be the best option.

It’s the easiest to follow, and it’s the one we will be focusing on throughout this guide.

What to Eat... And What Not to Eat

Before you begin your diet, you will need to prepare.

Adequately planning will mean you are better able to stick to keto and increases the likelihood that it will work.

Foods You Can Eat:

  • Seafood: salmon, tilapia, tuna, shellfish, etc.
  • Meat: beef, lamb, bison, pork, etc.
  • Poultry: chicken, duck, etc.
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Coconut oil
  • Ghee
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, macadamias, walnuts, etc.
  • Yogurt
  • Green, leafy vegetables
  • Some berries like blueberries and blackberries (in moderation)
  • Avocadoes

Foods You CAN’T Eat

  • Grains: pasta, rice, cereal, wheat, etc.
  • Sugar: refined sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, etc.
  • Starches: potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, etc.

Again, you will be aiming to keep your carbohydrate intake lower than 50g carbs/day.

But the more typical amount is around 20–30g carbs/day.

Total Carbs vs. Net Carbs

The terms “total carbs” and “net carbs” are often thrown around in the keto community.

Basically, net carbs are total carbs minus the fiber in the food.

So, if a cup of broccoli had 6 grams of carbs but 2 grams of fiber, then the total amount of carbs would be 4 grams net carbs (6g – 2g = 4g).

Now, the question is: Should you worry about it?

Not really.

It’s honestly more headache than it’s worth.

And it will make the diet a lot more inconvenient if every time you eat a vegetable, you have to pull out the calculator.

Instead, limit yourself to around five cups of higher-carb veggies like broccoli, kale, or cauliflower per day.

And for the leafy vegetables like spinach, bok choy, cabbage, or lettuce, don’t worry about measuring.

Their carb count is so low that you would have to eat a ridiculous amount to go over 30g of carbs per day.

So give yourself a healthy serving, and don’t sweat the small stuff! Your body will appreciate the micronutrients the vegetables provide.

Now that you have the foundational knowledge that will help you succeed on keto, it’s time to get into the good stuff.

How to Kick Your Body into Ketosis

For some reason, people make it seem like it’s hard to get your body into ketosis.

But it really isn’t. Here’s how you do it:

Step #1: Cut the Carbs

OK, this is the biggest step. Throw out all the pasta in your pantry and say goodbye to bread.

You should aim to stay below 35 grams of carbs per day. You may have to do some experimenting to determine how many carbs you need before your body starts going into ketosis.

But 35g/day should do the trick for most people.

Step #2: Limit Your Protein

You should aim to keep your protein intake between 0.6 and 0.8 per pound of lean body mass every day.

Just like your body can convert fat into ketones and use them for fuel...

It can also convert protein into glycogen and use that as fuel.

This process is called gluconeogenesis, and it will hamper your ability to get into ketosis.

Step #3: Start Eating Fat... And a Lot of It

Remember, the keto diet mimics starvation, but you will never actually be starving yourself.

But to get enough calories, you will need to eat a ton of fat.

So don’t be afraid to keep eating if you’re still feeling a little hungry. The beautiful part about fat is that it keeps you satiated way longer than carbohydrates do.

Step #4: Drink Water, and Then Drink More Water

Glycogen stores water. So when you are eating a lot of carbs and fueling your muscles with glycogen, you will naturally carry around a bit of water weight.

But under ketosis, all that water will be depleted as the glycogen leaves your body.

And as you lose the water, you’ll also lose important nutrients and electrolytes that your body needs to function.

So it’s important to drink a lot of water in order to keep yourself hydrated.

Try to shoot for a gallon a day and see how that makes you feel.  

As a side benefit, drinking all that water will also make you feel less hungry.

That’s it. Getting yourself into ketosis is relatively simple.

How to Know if You’re in Ketosis

So you’ve cut your carbs down to 35g/day, and now you’re wondering, “Am I in ketosis?”

While you can test your blood ketones with expensive strips or breathalyzers, it isn’t necessary.

There are a handful of physical effects that take place on the ketogenic diet.

And by monitoring yourself for these signs, you can make sure you’ve entered ketosis without spending a bunch of money.

1. Bad Breath

Many people get “keto breath” once they reach full ketosis.

If you remember from earlier in the guide, “keto breath” is caused by the acetones, which are by-products of your liver metabolizing fat.

So, even though keto breath may put a damper on your social life, it’s actually one of the surest signs that you’ve successfully entered ketosis.

If it’s really bothering you, just brush your teeth a few times a day or chew sugar-free gum.

“Keto breath” only lasts during the initial stages of your diet, so hang tight.

Eventually, it will go away.

2. Decreased Hunger

Often people report feeling less hungry when they’re in ketosis.

The causes of this are yet unknown, but some evidence points to a change in the way your body regulates hunger hormones.

3. Dry Mouth

Because the keto diet acts as a diuretic, you will urinate more frequently.

Frequent urination, of course, leads to dehydration, which usually presents itself as dry mouth.

So if your mouth feels like cotton, rejoice! It could mean you’re in ketosis.

And then after you’re done rejoicing, go and drink some water.

4. Increased Energy

Healthy man

After you get through the keto flu, you will probably experience increased energy, as well as increased mental focus and clarity.

Researchers are still studying why improved cognition is a side effect of the keto diet.

However, initial evidence seems to indicate that keto reduces inflammation in your neurons and then floods them with a more efficient fuel in the form of fat.

This one-two combination seems to be a potent neuronal enhancer.

Again, don’t stress yourself out trying to get precise measurements of your blood or urine ketones.

Just adhere to the nutritional guidelines, keep your carbs at the recommended amount, and monitor yourself for the physical signs.

Most Common Side Effects of the Keto Diet

When you first start keto, you may experience a few not-so-pleasant side effects.

For the most part, these side effects are caused by a lack of water and minerals in your diet.

So, again, make sure you drink plenty of water and get enough micronutrients in your body every day.

The most common side effects you’ll probably experience are:

1. Cramps

New keto-ers commonly experience cramps — specifically leg cramps.

Cramps are caused by a lack of water and/or minerals in your body.

To prevent them, make sure to stay hydrated and salt your food adequately.

Salt can help your body retain important minerals, specifically magnesium, whose deficiency is the main cause of cramps.

2. Heart Palpitations

If you feel your heart beating faster and harder than normal, don’t worry. It’s actually one of the most widely reported side effects, and it typically resolves quickly on its own.  

Once again, heart palpitations are caused by a disruption in the mineral balance of your body. So make sure you’re eating plenty of salt.

And if the issue persists, you may want to consider a potassium supplement.

3. Constipation

Once again, the main cause of constipation is dehydration. So make sure you’re drinking enough water — shoot for a gallon a day at first.

And be sure to eat fibrous vegetables and foods to help your digestion, such as avocados and flaxseeds.  

Note: Flaxseeds are highly recommended. They’re extremely high in both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Each tablespoon of flaxseeds has 2.0g of carbs, 1.9g of which is fiber.

If you remember, they’re also packed with beneficial nutrients like vitamin B1, manganese, and omega 3s.

Put together, these benefits make them one of the best foods for people on the ketogenic diet.

4. Decreased Physical Performance

You’re probably going to feel a large drop in your physical performance once you start the keto diet.

This is because your body has to get used to not relying on carbs for energy.

This phase shouldn’t last long. It goes away once your body adapts to using fat as fuel.

For most people, their physical strength and endurance returns after one to two weeks.

5. Indigestion

Most people experience reduced indigestion and heartburn on the keto diet.

But a small portion of people may feel their indigestion getting worse during the initial stages.  

If this is the case for you, then you may want to stretch your transition into keto over a period of two weeks in order to give your body a chance to acclimate to the increased fat levels.  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What’s the best way to track my carbs?

We recommend MyFitnessPal. If offers a huge database of pretty much every food you’ll be eating. It also breaks down the nutritional profile of each food, so you’ll be able to monitor your macronutrient intake as well as track your vitamins and minerals.

You can sign up for it here.

Q: How long do I have to stay on keto?

As long as you want. Some people only stay on keto until they reach their weight loss goals.

Others remain on it indefinitely because it makes them feel better.

Q: I’ll lose weight, right?

Definitely. Ketosis is a diuretic, so at the very least you’ll lose water weight.

And since it’s harder to overeat on fats vs. carbs, you’ll likely find you lose about one to two pounds a week if you’re overweight.

Eventually, your weight loss will stall. When this happens, you will have to readjust your calories.

Ultimately, weight loss is a numbers game of calories in vs. calories out.

And to lose or gain weight after the initial stages, you’ll have to learn how to count your calories.

Q: I’m a vegetarian. Can I still do keto?

Sure, you could try. Is it recommended? Not really.

It’s already difficult to balance your nutrients when you’re in ketosis.

Making it even harder by adding in additional dietary restrictions is a recipe for failure.

I’m not going to say you can’t do it, but it will be hard.

Meats and seafood offer complete amino acid profiles, while most non-meat sources don’t.

So, if you’re a vegetarian, you have to put a lot more work in to make sure your getting all the nutrients you need.

Wrapping Up

You have everything you need to start your keto diet and crush it.

But before you go, here are a few tips that will make life a lot easier for you:

1. Jump into the Deep End

You will see results much faster if you keep your carb intake strict and don’t try to ease your way into it.

By jumping into the deep end, you’ll get through the unpleasant “keto flu” phase much sooner and start experiencing all the benefits of your new diet much quicker.

If you try to gradually acclimate, you’ll end up stuck in “no-man’s land,” where your body isn’t getting the carbs it’s used to, but it is getting too many of them to transition into burning fat as fuel.

This will just leave you feeling hungry and make it harder to stick to the diet.

So, commit! It’s the fastest road to success.

2. Track What You Eat

Tracking what you eat will make it easier to stay under your carb limit and ultimately make you more successful on the keto diet.

Especially with the state of modern nutrition, sugar and carbs are often hidden in most packaged foods.

In fact, now that you’re starting keto, it would be extremely helpful to swear off all packaged foods.

You should get most of your nutrition from whole foods you cook yourself.

This gives you the ultimate control over what you put into your body.

There you have it. Be sure to check out our other nutrition articles and like or share this post to help your friends achieve their nutrition goals.

To your health,

Alex Reid
President, Clear Health Now

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