Going Keto: The Last Guide To The Ketogenic Diet You’ll Ever Need
You may have already heard of the ketogenic diet. Though known primarily as a tool for weight-loss, the scope and efficacy of this diet reach far beyond that.
As the most popular diet in America in 2018, the word “Keto,” which is short for the ketogenic diet, is all over magazines, protein bars, being used by celebrities, and promoted by nutritionists, functional medicine practitioners, and personal trainers.
However, this diet came seemingly out of nowhere, and even a health conscious individual like myself had never heard of it before 2016. Now it is all the rage.
For those of you who don’t know, the ketogenic diet goes against the grain (literally) by having you restrict your consumption of carbohydrates to almost nothing, and replace most of your calories with dietary fats, and some protein.
What does that do?
Well, some of the researched benefits of the ketogenic diet include, but are not limited to:
Setting aside the scientific research, this is my personal diet of choice, and I’ve experienced many benefits not only for health but also for fitness.
The Ketogenic Diet has muscle-sparing effects, we’ll get into the nitty-gritty later, but basically that just means that keto helps you build muscle.
In my first 4 days on keto, I lost 6 lbs of water weight and body fat, and then jumped up to 10lbs above my starting weight with a weight training program (a net gain of 15lbs of muscle.) This was without gaining fat, and the muscle gains coincided with remaining lean.
I also focus better, able to work longer hours and with better efficiency. This may be an effect of ketosis, but it’s also possibly the result of improved sleep quality.
When I am on keto, I notice that I am able to fall asleep quickly and earlier, as well as get up feeling rested and ready to go, as opposed to slow mornings and late nights I typically experienced before the diet.
Everyone’s biology is different, and it’s possible that yours may favor another eating style. However, for most people who experience issues with keto, it’s not an issue of biology but of knowledge.
Not all keto diets are created equal, and some ways of performing keto are better than others.
My goal in this guide is to show you not just how to do keto, but how to do it well. Some of the ways we do this are by using high-quality whole foods, understanding things like Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratios, and knowing which benefits you are aiming for on keto.
First we’ll discuss what the ketogenic diet is and why it is good for you. Then we’ll get into the basics of doing keto, including tools you’ll need, and the importance of measuring (as well as how to do so affordably.) Lastly we’ll follow up with guidelines for how to go beyond and do the keto diet well.
Basically, I want to give you the last guide you’ll need to get started on the ketogenic diet.
What Is Keto & Where Did It Come From
As we mentioned in the intro, the ketogenic diet involves getting most of your calories from dietary fat rather than from carbohydrates.
Specifically, the ketogenic diet involves eating these calorie ratios:
70–85% From Fats
10–25% From Protein
5% Or Less From Carbohydrates
Though these ratios can vary a bit from person to person, you know you are doing the ketogenic diet when your body enters into a unique metabolic state called ketosis.
During periods of low-carb consumption, including fasting, the body creates a substance known as “ketones” as a biproduct of burning fats.
These ketones can be used by the body in most of our tissues as an alternative to glucose. When we burn ketones for fuel, and this is called ketosis.
Ketosis is the whole point of doing the ketogenic diet, and getting into this state has some powerful benefits. To understand just how powerful, lets start with the origin of the ketogenic diet.
Keto came about in the early 1900s as a solution for epilepsy. Fasting had been observed as early as 500bc to prevent seizures by the famous “father of medicine” Hippocrates.
Well, epileptic seizures suck, and you cannot fast forever because you will starve. So, researchers began experimenting with diets to “mimic” fasting (ketosis occurs during fasting as your body burns it’s stored body fat for fuel, and this may be the cause for many of the benefits of fasting.)
In particular, the ketogenic diet came about from the work of researchers at the Mayo clinic, and the results for treating epilepsy were great. The diet was as effective as fasting, and allowed patients to eat!
The effectiveness for treating epilepsy has led to focus on the benefits of ketosis for other neurological disorders, and it appears that ketones have powerful benefits for brain health.
Difficult brain disorders are being studied in conjunction with ketosis as a treatment, including Altzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and even Autism, Multiple Schlerosis, and Migraines.
Yet despite these findings and the existence of such a diet for almost 100 years, keto would all but disappear from the map. Here’s why:
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines and The Promotion of Grains
Keto and other high-fat diets would begin to disappear as the mindset towards nutrition shifted. Beginning in the late 40s, and crystalizing with the U.S. dietary guidelines set in the 1970s, the American mindset toward nutrition would shift towards promoting grains and carbohydrates, while demonizing consumption of fats.
These guidelines form the classic “food pyramid” you all known about. We all remember the bottom, biggest section of the food pyramid. It suggested we eat high amounts of cereals, breads, and grains. Carbs were the health messiah of a balanced breakfast, lunch and dinner.
These guidelines were based on the idea that dietary cholesterol “clogged” arteries and led to heart disease. You all know the drill, eat your cheerios to lower your cholesterol, right?
The reality appears to be more complicated. For example, a major proponent of these high-carb, low-fat diets was President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He switched to a high-carb diet after his first heart-attack, and became vocal to the American public about the importance of avoiding dietary fat.
What many people don’t realize is that Eisenhower’s blood cholesterol became much worse after adopting a high-carb diet, and he went on to suffer from a stroke, several more heart attacks, and eventually die at the age of 78 from heart failure.
When it comes to actual data, the change in dietary guidelines has correlated with declining health in Americans. As high-carb became the new norm, obesity and diabetes increased, and in a meta-analyis of 18 countries, changes to high-carb were associated with increased mortality rates and negative blood lipid changes (blood cholesterol.)
Furthermore, the Atkins’ diet, which is a version of a ketogenic diet, outperformed a diet based on the 1970’s US dietary guidelines with regard to several heart-disease risk factors.
I’m telling you this because I know that all of you have been taught your entire life that fat is unhealthy and carbohydrates are the basis of a healthy diet. I’m only 24 and they were teaching this when I was in school, and are probably still teaching it.
I’m not trying to say that all carbs are bad, or that all fats are good. Much of the issue with the high-carb guidelines is that it allowed processed grain products such as cereals and boxed dry goods to be promoted as healthy.
Furthermore, you can definitely be unhealthy on a ketogenic diet, which is why we’ll focus on eating quality, whole foods and other tips in later sections.
I just want to show you that fats are not in-and-of-themselves unhealthy. Heck, fats are the building blocks for our hormones!
I just think that we jumped the gun on demonizing fats, and there have been some consequences. That said, by switching to a ketogenic diet and getting away from a high-carb diet, you can get some major benefits and really boost the quality of your life.
With that in mind, lets jump right into how to do the ketogenic diet.
How To Do The Ketogenic Diet
So, now that you know the background of Keto, how do we do it?
Fortunately the ketogenic diet is pretty easy to do once you understand the basics. I mean, at the end of the day you just have to hit your ratios and you’re doing keto.
Before we get into the How of keto, it’s good to understand the why. After all, there are specific reasons to do keto beyond just hearing it’s healthy.
Following are the most powerful benefits I’ve found and are many-of-which why I do keto.
The Benefits of Keto:
1). Weight-loss, Longevity, Improving Metabolism, & Improving Insulin Sensitivity
Weight loss is probably the number one reason why people try the ketogenic diet, and for good reason. The weight loss results on this diet are profound, and this is due to unique qualities of the ketogenic diet for improving insulin sensitivity (insulin resistance is the risk factor for Diabetes, which is associated strongly with obesity.)
Even if you don’t have weight to lose, the benefits of optimizing your insulin sensitivity are difficult to over-state, and the same reasons keto is effective for weight-loss also lend themselves to longevity and better metabolic health.
The ketogenic diet is unique compared to other weight loss diets in that it preserves your metabolism as you lose weight. Here’s what I mean.
As you lose weight, you usually don’t need to burn as many calories. You are literally carrying less weight, so your body burns less calories.
However, on keto, something very interesting happens. It appears that as you lose weight on the ketogenic diet, your metabolism will stay relatively the same. In a study of 20 men on a keto diet, metabolic rate stayed the same despite some of the men losing as much as 45lbs.
This means that not only are you losing the weight, but your metabolism is giving you extra help by staying high. If that isn’t exciting enough for you, maybe gym gains are more your tune.
I did not do Keto for weight-loss, as my personal metabolism seems to keep body fat off no matter what I do. However, my fasting blood sugar has always been a little high (between 90 and 100.) Since starting keto, it now sits lower around the 80s based on my last blood test.
2). Gaining Muscle
Ketosis is muscle-sparing, which means in layman’s terms that it promotes muscle growth when combined with exercise. The presence of ketones has effects on several systems that help with gaining muscle, particularly by improving your body’s efficiency at using the amino acid Leucine.
This is an effect I absolutely do take advantage of, and is a major reason I started keto.
I gained 10lbs of muscle on my typical weight on a ketogenic diet (right after losing 6 lbs of water weight, meaning a net gain of 15lbs of muscle,) in a weeks’ time. Furthermore, I made these gains despite my training protocol being mainly focused on mobility, and only containing about 2 hours of strength work per week.
How did this happen? Well, the presence of ketones in the body helps to prevent Luecine oxidation, meaning that one of the most powerful and efficient amino acids for muscle building (leucine) is being used more effectively while in ketosis.
Sometimes gym-goers worry they are losing muscle when they start keto because they lose water weight and it makes you look smaller. What is actually happening is that you are using up your muscle glycogen, and your body stores 3–7g of water per gram of glycogen.
When your body dumps glycogen as it switches to burning fat, it also dumps the water weight and that makes you look a fair bit smaller. Heck, I lost over 5lbs in 1 day after starting keto, and I barely have any body fat as is.
It’s important to understand that not only are you retaining your muscle, but are in fact in a state that heavily promotes gaining muscle.
In a study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine, athletes on a ketogenic diet had an average increase in muscle mass of 9.5lbs, while their counterparts eating a traditional diet gained 2.2lbs doing the same weight-training program.
3). Mental Acuity & 4). Sleep Optimization
This may be the most fun benefit of the ketogenic diet for me personally, though not one I expected going in. When the body uses ketones for fuel, many people experience mental acuity comperable to using nootropics (smart-drugs.)
Furthermore, many people, myself included, notice much improved sleep patterns on a ketogenic diet. This may be related to ketones, and it may be related to hormone optimization. Either way, this is an awesome freaking benefit.
Sleep is one of the most important things to optimize for both health and performance. I could go on all day, but to put it in perspective quickly I’ll just say this: Your body has an entire system dedicated to cleaning your brain.
You literally wash your brain with cerebrospinal fluid every day to clear out cellular junk using a system known as the glymphatic system.
Guess what buttercup, this essential system only activates while you sleep. If that’s not a reason to protect your sleep quality then I don’t know what is.
Fortunately, the ketogenic diet improves sleep quality for many people. I personally became able to go to bed earlier and fall asleep more quickly immediately upon beginning keto, and I wake up feeling well-rested and alert rather than sluggish and dreary.
This is more of an anecdotal experience, and I don’t have research studies for you regarding keto as a focus booster.
However, considering the powerful effects treating mental illnesses we mentioned earlier in the guide, it’s no surprise to me that many, myself included, just feel better mental clarity on this diet.
5). Cancer, Diabetes, & Disease
I am not a doctor and I do not offer medical advice. Nor do I have a dedicated section for this benefit, for that exact reason. However, the ketogenic diet is being studied heavily as a legitimate medical treatment for Diabetes, many forms of cancer, and may be able to benefit a host of chronic diseases.
There are many theories behind why this is the case. Regarding cancer, many forms of cancer rely on glucose for fuel but cannot use ketones. Therefore the ketogenic diet can starve these cancers without starving the patient.
However, a small number of cancers thrive on fat and keto could accelerate them. This is why you should always consult with a doctor and do the due diligence to understand it yourself.
For diabetes, the ketogenic diet helps improve insulin sensitivity. Resistance to the insulin hormone is the reason people develop diabetes. Well, its actually the overconsumption of sugar which leads to insulin resistance and then the disease, but I digress. Again, work with a doctor, however you may be able to reverse a pre-diabetic state using ketosis and there is much research being done on this.
Finally, many chronic disease have a common link: mitochondrial dysfunction. The mitochondria are organelles in our cells which create energy. They are foundational biology, and improving mitochondrial function means improving your health.
The ketogenic diet appears to benefit the mitochondria in some way, promoting the creation of new mitochondria and the apoptosis (cell death) of dysfunctional cells, as seen in research on mitochondrial myopathy.
For my part, I had a chronic condition known as HPA-axis disregulation, which may have some relation to mitochondrial dysfunction. I started keto when I was already mostly out of that scenario, but it still helped me greatly when it came to energy and focus. Perhaps if I had started earlier I could have healed faster.
Anyway, now that we’ve covered some of the reasons to do keto, it’s time for the guide.
Measure Your Macros
There is a popular dieting method in the fitness industry known as measuring your macros. This method involves measuring the ratios of protein, fat, and carbohydrates you eat per day, rather than just counting calories.
In fitness, especially for the purposes of bodybuilding, different macro-ratios are required for different fitness pursuits, such as building muscle, and then cutting fat.
For our purposes, we are going to count our macros to make sure we are eating enough fat and restricting carbs in order to get into ketosis.
The Ketogenic Diet Macro Ratios:
70–85% Calories From Fats
10–25% Calories From Protein
5% Or Less Calories From Carbohydrates
You could wing it and just try to eat more fats, but many people don’t know just by looking how much fat, protein, and carbohydrate they are consuming on any given day.
Furthermore, measuring your food will give you a permanent nutrition sense that will last you a lifetime.
I want you to measure your keto macros precisely for one month. This way, you will know you are doing the right thing to get into ketosis. I suggest that you measure your ketones as well, which I will discuss in the next section, but if you know you are hitting the macros then chances are you are getting into ketosis.
After a month, you can wing it. You should be ably to tell if you are eating enough fats or not, and if you have doubts, just start measuring again for a week to get back on it.
To measure my macros, I use two things:
1). $11 Digital Food Scale from Amazon
2). $3 My Macros Plus App
And that’s it! Simply measure the weight of your food on the scale, and plug it in the app. My Macros is my preferred food tracking app because it automatically calculates your macros and shows them to you in the form of a pie chart.
Now you don’t have to do the math yourself.
When I started keto, I was actually surprised to find out that I had been naturally doing a low-carb diet for months, but sabotaging it with unhealthy carbs at night to satisfy cravings.
Honestly, if I’d known I was so close to keto, I never would have waited so long to start doing it properly.
This is another MAJOR benefit of measuring your food: you learn not to graze and eat impulsively.
Having to put what you eat on a food scale before putting it in your mouth disconnects you from impulsive eating by having you pause and contemplate.
Once you are in the habit of measuring your food, I think you’ll find that you eat much healthier simply because of the slightly calculated nature of this eating style.
As someone who has ADD and loves food, measuring was and is the single most helpful tool I’ve found for eating well and keeping disciplined. You might be able to willpower your way through it but I’m gonna keep logging my food.
It’s also a great way to “reset” if you start to slip. Instead of beating yourself up and having some kind of deep, metaphysical, internal dialogue about your identity with regard to food, just start measuring your macros again and voila: you’re back to eating healthy.
Measure Your Ketones
Part of what makes a ketogenic diet so easy to do is that you can literally measure whether you are in ketosis or not.
Now, if you’re measuring your macros, then you probably will get into ketosis with no problems, but I’d like to humbly request that all of you measure your ketones during at least the first week of the diet.
This is because I want you to have the power that comes with certainty. You can up your fat intake, feel better, measure your macros, and be 99.9% sure you’re doing the ketogenic diet right, but you’ll never be 100% certain.
Then you catch a cold, have a cheat day and eat some candy, etc. and suddenly there’s an opportunity for doubt to come in. After all, you’ve never actually measured your ketones. Who’s to say you’ve been doing this thing right in the first place? Maybe you should just move on and call it a day.
I know it’s a bit melodramatic to give up when there’s so little chance, but doubt can be a powerful thing, and why not be certain? As they say, knowledge is power, and the more you know about the details the more power you can exude over the diet.
So, with all that said, there are 3 ways that you can measure your ketones.
1). Urine Ketone Strips
Urine strips are the most affordable way to measure your ketones. These strips, as you may have guessed, measure ketones in your urine. To use them is pretty easy, you just pee in a cup and then dip the strip in briefly.
This method works because when people get into ketosis for the first times, their body isn’t completely efficient at using the ketones produced by burning fat. This results in the excess being released in your breath and your urine.
However, this also means that urine ketone strips are only effective in the very beginning of the ketogenic diet. As you continue on the diet, your body will learn to use ketones and urine strips will no longer detect anything, even when you may be deep into ketosis.
With that said, I’ve only ever used urine ketone strips. I used them in the beginning of the diet to confirm that I was, in fact, getting into ketosis, and I haven’t used them since.
This is what I recommend for most people, as they are inexpensive and you can confirm that you are in ketosis. From there, you just need to hit your macros and you should be fine.
For urine keto strips I used the keto 22 brand, bought on Amazon.
These are fine for most people with simply learning how to get into ketosis, but if you want to get more precise with it, there are two more methods.
2). Blood Ketone Levels
This is the gold standard for measuring your ketones: measuring blood levels. Once you are used to ketosis, there will no longer be ketones in your urine but there will be in your blood.
Furthermore, some find that using blood ketone monitoring allows them to explore how they feel at deeper levels of ketosis.
For example, you might be in ketosis, but only have .5–1.5mmol/L of ketones in your blood.
Optimal ketosis, which is considered the best level for weight-loss, is 1.5–3.0mmol/L , and many people notice that they get specific benefits at deeper levels of ketosis for things like mental function.
For this reason, it can be preferable to use blood ketone measurements so that you can measure your ketones accurately, even deep into ketosis.
The most affordable, yet effective, method for measuring blood ketones is to use a finger-prick monitor with ketone strips. The best brand I’m aware of KETO-MOJO, available on Amazon.
There are many affordable monitors out there, but the ketone strips they use are often expensive. KETO-MOJO has the most affordable ketone strips I’ve come across.
The second option you could invest in would be a continuous blood ketone monitor. These are expensive, but they give you the unique advantage of being able to monitor your blood ketones 24/7, allowing you to judge reactions to specific meals.
These monitors also often allow glucose monitoring as well, which can be used for other biohacking purposes. Blood glucose spikes after certain foods can indicate a sensitivity, for example.
The best continuous blood ketone monitor I know of is the Dexcom G6 CDM. I believe it sits at around $400 for a unit, but for the deeply health conscious, it can be a worthwhile investment.
Now, maybe you want more accuracy than the urine ketone strips, but don’t want to deal with investing $400 in a fancy device or constantly prick your finger tips to read your ketones. Thankfully, there is a third ketone measurement method that has the best of both worlds.
3). Breath Monitors
Breath ketone monitors check your ketone levels by measuring the acetone levels in your lungs. These acetone levels can be used to predict your blood ketone levels with close accuracy.
You never have to buy more testing strips like blood ketone monitors, and it is far more accurate than urine ketone analysis.
At the end of the day, breath monitors are the happy medium between the accuracy of blood monitors and the affordability of urine testing.
The best breath monitor I know of is the Keyto, which is approximately $100 and offers financing as low as $10 a month.
Choosing A Measurement Device:
As I’ve said, I personally only ever used the urine ketone strips (which no longer work for me) and have continued ketosis simply by sticking to my macros.
I regularly experiment with other diets, am generally healthy, and am already well-adapted to low carbohydrate diets.
I recommend choosing your measurement method based on the importance and/or stubbornness of the things you are trying to achieve by doing the ketogenic diet.
For example, if you are significantly over-weight, and are also switching from a high-carb diet that you have been on for years, then I’d suggest getting a blood monitor or a breath monitor.
I recommend this because you will want to be closely aware of your exact level of ketosis, so that you can gauge how effective the diet is working at any given time.
If you are holding on to your weight, you might not be deep enough into ketosis. If you are holding onto your weight but you are in deep ketosis, then you may be eating too many daily total calories. etc.
If you have a medical condition, then I want you to work with a Doctor and not use this guide alone. However, this would be the scenario where you should definitely at least invest in a breath monitor, and look into the Dexcom G6 Continous ketone monitor.
Even if you are not tackling stubborn problems, the more accurately you can measure your ketones, the more power and control you will have over the diet and its positive benefits for you.
Many of the people I know that buy the expensive continuous blood ketone monitors are not people with health problems, but are biohackers and radical self-experimentors.
On the flip side, I’ve known people to get amazing results with weight-loss and all they needed were the urine strips to confirm they were in ketosis in the earliest weeks of the diet.
Consider how you operate and what would benefit you the most, and pick the option that will give you the most bang for your buck that you can also do RIGHT NOW.
If you think that the blood ketone monitor is your best bet, but you won’t be able to buy one until next month, then get the urine strips now and get started.
In the paraphrased words of successful people everywhere, it’s better to execute a good plan now than a great plan too late.
How To Do The Ketogenic Diet Well
Great, now you know how to do the ketogenic diet. Yeah, I’m not kidding, all you need to do is learn how to measure your macros, eat the right amounts to get into ketosis, confirm you are in ketosis with a measurement device, and voila: You have successfully performed the ketogenic diet.
Now to learn how to do the ketogenic diet well.
Despite the many benefits I’ve mentioned, you can do a ketogenic diet in a way that is unhealthy and causes more problems. This is because the ketogenic diet, as it is defined, does not account for food quality.
Basically, it is possible to do a ketogenic diet that gets you into ketosis and is technically correct, but still unhealthy.
One of the most popular diets in the fitness industry is called If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM.) IIFYM is also one of the most deservedly criticized.
This eating style posits that as long as you eat the right macronutrient ratios for your goals, then it doesn’t matter what types of foods you eat.
In the short run, this tends to work because athletes are burning so many calories and have such high metabolisms, that they can eat cake and processed foods and still perform.
For a little while.
Then people start getting join pain, GI problems, skin rashes and issues, and start to feel moody. If you’ve ever known one of these hard-charging athletes, they’ll usually chalk it up to just pushing their body, right before they run to the bathroom for the 7th time as their body tries to convince them to stop the whey protein shakes.
Well, this is where many people run into problems with the ketogenic diet as well.
With any diet, it is better to prioritize the quality of the things you eat, rather than strict adherence to the calorie guidelines. For diets like keto that do not dictate specific foods, this is especially important.
Thankfully, eating high quality is also fairly simple. In general picking the right food involves sticking to 3 basic guidelines:
1). Eat Real Food: Eat things you can grow in a garden, or find wandering on a farm.
2). Not Too Much: Eat fewer calories than your daily energy needs generally, and eat a surplus once a week
3). Mainly Fats From Vegetables: Eat lean cuts of meat, and get your fat calories primarily from vegetables rather than from meat or dairy.
Eat Real Food
Ok, so one of the best ways to eat healthy food on any diet is to eat “real” food. What do I mean by this?
I mean eat food that you can grow in a garden or you can get directly from an animal.
We’re avoiding processed food, such as most bread, most dairy, all boxed foods that have preservatives, pesticides, and also refined and added sugar.
A good way to think about this is that if it comes pre-made and in a box, you should be able to recognize most of the ingredients. If you see weird things that sound like they came from a science lab, then you’d probably best to avoid it.
On the ketogenic diet, eating real foods means that much of your diet can consist of:
MeatEggsSeafoodGreen, Leafy Vegetables (Eat lots of these. They are very low carb and may not even need to be recorded. They will cover your nutrient needs.)Healthy vegetable oils such as extra virgin olive oil and coconut oilSome nuts & nut butters for snacks (particularly macadamia and Brazil nuts.)
The main thing here is that you are avoiding processed foods of any kind.
The big 4 foods to avoid are:
1). Processed “junk” vegetable oils. These are common in many pre-packaged foods and in restaurant cooking. Basically, these junk fats are the waste products of many forms of food processing, and are recycled as a form of preservative. They spike our Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios and cause health problems. You can avoid these by getting fresh food and cooking as much as possible.
Keep an eye out for partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or fully hydrogenated vegetable oil and other such names on an ingredient list. These are unstable and oxidized oils used for preservation, and they cause inflammation in the body.
2). Refined Sugar or Added Sugar of Any Kind. This is hopefully a bit self-explanatory, especially for a ketogenic diet, but added sugar is bad juju. This stuff spikes your blood sugar, will keep you out of ketosis, and is a major factor in the rising prevalence of diabetes.
Avoid it as much as possible, even when you are not doing keto. On keto, this stuff simply is not an option, as it will keep you out of ketosis, but off keto, cutting sugar such as candy, soda, and other sweet treats is a major way to eat a more healthy diet.
If you have cravings, stick with Stevia. Stevia is an artificial sweetener, and while it may cause gut health issues in some people (the jury is still out on that) it is keto friendly.
3.) Pesticides & Chemical Presevatives. These are another one that pretty much bans most pre-made packaged foods. Take a look at the ingredient list. If you see long, chemical sounding names like sodium benzoate or food colors such as yellow #3, etc.
You can’t grow yellow #3 in your back yard, so don’t eat food that has it. As is the theme with all of this, the best way to avoid this is to cook most of your food and use whole ingredients.
4). Dairy & Wheat. So, this one may seem a little strange given our recommendation that you eat things you can grow or get from a garden. However this still has to do with processing. Wheat is a no go simply because on a keto diet, grains and grain-based-carbs will almost always be too much carbs and will kick you out of ketosis.
However, the main reason I say avoid wheat is that increasing evidence suggests that people have sensitivity to the protein gluten found in wheat. This protein appears to cause inflammation in a large number of the population.
This may have something to do with genetic modification of wheat in the U.S. as many people seem to tolerate European “ancient” wheat just fine.
Regardless, I suggest avoiding wheat products for everyone. If you have a cheat day, get some ancient grain products. Another great option is sour dough. The process of creating sour dough removes the gluten protein. I still suggest being carefully.
As far as dairy goes, the A1 casein protein in U.S. dairy is very similar to gluten and many people are sensitive to it. Furthermore, dairy you find in your store is usually processed and has added preservatives, sugar, etc.
When consuming dairy, try goat dairy or A2 casein dairy. The exception is Grass fed butter, or ghee, which do not contain lactose sugar and are much more tolerable.
Not Too Much
Okay, so this guideline is pretty basic. Generally speaking, you should consume less calories than you burn, especially if you are trying to lose weight.
This is known as a calorie deficit. In animal studies, calorie deficits result in extension of lifespan in monkeys and rodents, and in humans it reducing the markers of aging related disease.
Basically, regardless of what you eat, reducing your calories seems to be a smart move for your health.
However, if you reduce your calories by too much for too long, it can cause your metabolism to slow down. This is a common reason why on other weight-loss diets, people will suddenly gain all their weight back.
To avoid this, remember this: Maintaining a caloric deficit for more than 2 weeks straight can slow down your metabolism.
To optimize your experience on the ketogenic diet and avoid slowing your metabolism, I suggest implementing a weekly “refeed” day where you either increase your caloric intake greatly or eat carbs while not restricting your diet.
Now, to be clear, I am not suggesting a “cheat day,” where you eat reeses and pie. Our last rule about real food still applies, but there is still a lot you can eat on refeed day that you otherwise wouldn’t.
This is when you can include that gluten-free sour dough or some sweet potato and other goodies.
Furthermore, though I suggest being strict with your adherence to “real” foods, the mental aspect of indulging can be beneficial at times.
If you love chocolate, or have a particular sweet or dessert you just love, this is the day to have it as a “reward.” Just make sure to think of it as a reward, and not as a crutch or a sin.
Within that guideline, you’d be surprised just how many amazing desserts you can make and still eat healthy and even keto. I don’t personally experiment too much, but the internet is rife with coconut-based ketogenic ice creams, chocolate treats, etc.
Personally, I do my refeed days on Saturdays. This allows me to leverage my refeed as a way to more easily fulfill social obligations, since I don’t have to worry about what I eat if I decide to go out to restaurants or bars that night.
You can be a little fast-and-loose with this. One of the coolest aspects of ketosis is that the more you do it, the easier it is to do.
Basically, as you do the ketogenic diet in the long-run, your body will get into ketosis faster and faster, even if you are breaking it up with carbohydrate refeeds.
It’s really quite cool, and it’s not at all uncommon for people to do what is called a “cyclical” ketogenic diet, where they do keto most of the time, but then cycle out into a more moderate but still low carb diet for a time.
Calculating Your Calorie Needs
To calculate your daily calorie needs, use a TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) calculator online. Once you have a calorie estimate, simply eat less calories than your TDEE on most days.
For me, my TDEE is roughly 2500 calories on days of light exercise, so I eat 2200 calories most of the time.
Then, every Saturday I don’t record my calories, however from some curiosity days, I’ll usually eat closer to 3500 or 4000 calories, and eat carbs I normally refrain from such as Paleo pancakes or sweet breads.
Gym-Rat Bonus: Athletes! You can implement refeed days more often than once a week, especially if you do a lot of high intensity training. Some kinds of training, like crossfit, require some amount of muscle glycogen to burn for fuel.
Because of this, as you do keto, you can actually get efficient at using carbs for glycogen while mainly burning fat.
Ben Greenfield, a health and fitness expert who competes in Spartan race and Iron Man Triathlon, eats up to 200g of carbs every night, yet he is back in ketosis by the following morning.
The basic rule of thumb is to take advantage of your body’s natural fasting cycle.
If you train a lot, and feel you need more energy, start eating carbohydrates at night. This will kick you out of ketosis, but if you are efficient at it and training hard, you will likely be back in ketosis by the following morning.
Use your measurement system to confirm if you decide to try this, but I’ll eat carbs at night before big workout days, and so far I haven’t noticed any loss of the benefits of doing keto most of the time.
Mainly Fats From Vegetables
Inside our bodies, the dietary fat we consume dictates the ratios of different kinds of fatty acid ratios in our tissues. Of particular importance is our ratio of Omega-6 fatty acid to Omega-3 fatty acids.
In healthy individuals, our body’s average ratio should be something between 4:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3 and 1:1.
However, thanks for the most part to hydrogenated vegetable oils (mentioned earlier as one of the big 4 foods to avoid the heck out of) and overconsumption of dairy, many people have a ratio of 20:1 Omega-6 to Omega-3 or more.
These wacked out ratios contribute to inflammation and high consumption of dietary Omega-6 is relevant to Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Diabetes, Arthritis, Altzheimer’s, and much more.
On the ketogenic diet, these Omega-6 fats can become a particular problem for the uninformed.
You see, many people’s diet already consists of too-high amounts of Omega-6 fats. Then they start a ketogenic diet, which calls for consumption of 75% or more calories from fat, and they just increase the fats they’ve already been eating.
What tends to occur is that people feel the benefits of keto in the beginning, due to the potent anti-inflammatory effects of being in ketosis, but then after about 90 days they hit a wall.
One of the most common feelings that occur from way too high Omega-6 fats is joint issues, and people who hit this wall often describe “grinding” feelings in their bones as well as joint pain.
It doesn’t need to be this way though, you just need to prioritize Omega-3 fat intake over Omega-6 intake, and the best way to do this is to optimize your diet.
First and foremost, try to stick with lean cuts of meat, and get your fat content from vegetables. Many meat sources of fat have poor Omega ratios, due to the animal consuming an un-natural diet. Just like we can have poor Omega ratios in our bodies due to our diet, grain-fed animals tend to reflect the same.
However, grass-fed, grass-finished animal products are very expensive, so instead of going that route for your animal fat, stick with lean meat that has low fat content, and then use vegetables to get your daily keto needs.
Many of these fats still have higher Omega-6 than Omega-3, but have very low amounts of either in total. If you want to see what specific foods to use, you can find all that in The Keto Grocery List later in this guide.
Before we get there though, a key tool in fighting poor Omega ratios is to get a high quality DHA/EPA supplement, and use it daily. Basically, this means a fish oil supplement.
Now, this can be tricky, as many fish oils on the market are low quality or become oxidized by the time they hit the market. The only brand of fish oil I use is Living Fuel Super Essentials Omega.
You can upgrade further by using an Algal Oil, which is from algae. What’s so special about that? Well, algal oil contains much more DHA, which is 97% of the omega-3 in the brain. Using a supplement with more DHA not only helps your omega ratio but also promotes better mental function.
Personally, I use the Living Fuel Omega supplement as a general Omega-3 supplement, and then I use bursts of a combination supplement called Keto Balance by Pura Thrive.
This supplement contains a mix of algal oil, mct oil, and callogen protein all wrapped up in the form of a liposome, which is advanced nutrition technology that vastly improves efficiency and absorption.
I think of keto balance as a performance supplement, rather than a dietary supplement. When you first begin keto, however, this product is particularly useful for something called the keto flu.
Beating The Keto-Flu
The Keto Flu is a phenomena by which people experience flu-like symptoms when they first begin a ketogenic diet, and it is a major reason why many people quit.
Partially this is due to lack of knowledge of the flu: If you start a diet and feel sick, you’ll stop, but if you know this usually only lasts a week or two and happens to many people, well that’s a different story.
With that said, you can take actions to avoid the keto flu completely.
Most likely, this “flu” occurs due to several metabolic processes your body tries to stick to while switching to keto. Basically, your biology gets stubborn.
When you go keto, one of the first things that happens is that your body uses up most of its stored glycogen (which is sugar stored in the muscles.)
When it runs out of glycogen, it has to switch to use fats for fuel, but if your body is not used to this, it can leave you feeling low energy and spent due to lack of fuel.
Furthermore, during this process of using your glycogen, your body is dumping water weight and electrolytes in your urine. The depletion of electrolytes, especially sodium, is a major culprit behind the flu.
So, to avoid the flu, there are 3 supplements we can take to mitigate this period of the diet.
1). MCT Oil: MCT oil is fat derived from coconut that is rapidly absorbed and converted into energy. This is a common ingredient in keto supplements and is part of the famous “bulletproof coffee” recipe promoted by original biohacker Dave Asprey.
For our purposes, MCT oil helps the body start burning fat for fuel more quickly, and gives you some energy as a replacement for the glycogen you are depleting.
This stuff can hit kinda hard if you aren’t used to it, and it’s no coincidence that the use of too much is lovingly named “disaster pants,” so the proper use of MCT oil is to start with a teaspoon a day, and work up to a max of 2 tablespoons per day, over the course of 2 weeks or more.
The most powerful MCT oil on the market is Caprylic Acid, also known as Brain Octane (a reference to it’s chemical structure.) This stuff is more expensive but you don’t need to use nearly as much, and it really works.
Most people like to supplement MCT oil by blending it into their morning coffee or tea. If you don’t drink such a beverage, simply put it on a salad or other meal as a garnish, or take it like a shot.
I recommend taking it in the morning in a drink or as a shot during the first two weeks of keto, so as to provide immediate ketones in the beginning of the day and give you energy.
2). Sodium, Potassium, & Magnesium: Okay, so you’re going to lose electrolytes while your glycogen stores deplete. Because of this, it’s a good idea to supplement them back in.
Mainly you’ll be losing sodium, so add 1/8 to 1/4 tsp of himalayan pink salt, spread throughout the day in your water. You should also double or triple your water intake during these first days and weeks, especially if you don’t typically drink very much.
Next, get a magnesium supplement in the form of magnesium malate or magnesium glycinate (these are the most bioavailable forms.)
Magnesium is a bit of a miracle mineral, and this supplement alone single handedly stopped panic attacks I started having after overloading my adrenal system from too much crossfit.
It’s involved with 300 enzymatic processes and possibly over 700, from heart function to your brain. Many people who experience mood issues on keto (and in general) resolve them simply by supplementing magnesium.
I think everyone should take a magnesium supplement, but especially on keto. Thankfully, magnesium is cheap. For a great quality magnesium that combines both the aforementioned types, try this one by Vital Nutrients.
Potassium depletes in conjunction with your body losing sodium. However, supplementing potassium can be tricky and should be accompanied by blood tests. Fortunately theres an awesome, keto friendly food that is high in the mineral: Avocados.
If you are particularly concerned with your potassium, you can work with a doctor and supplement, but I say just eat more avocados during your first two weeks of keto. Cramping that is unresolved by magnesium or sodium supplementation may indicate you have low potassium.
3). High Dose DHA Omega-3 Supplement, or the Keto Balance Supplement: I try not to make any of these suggestions sound too specific, but this is the exception. Using a high dose DHA Omega-3 supplement during the keto flu is how I staved off any negative mental effects.
Heck, in truth, I was able to focus better and longer during my first two weeks of keto than any time before the diet, despite feeling physically fatigued.
This is because I protected my brain and provided fuel using the Keto Balance supplement I mentioned earlier in the section before this. Keto Balance combines MCT oil and algal oil and delivers them in a lyposomal format, meaning it is very efficient and very powerful.
The product is a bit expensive for consistent use, but in my opinion, special circumstances are what it is made for. I breezed through the keto flu and if there’s one thing I can thank for it, its this.
If you do not use Keto Balance, definitely make sure to use a high quality Omega-3 supplement, and preferably one high in DHA such as Algal oil.
I want to add that I am not affiliated with any of the companies or products I reference in this guide. This is purely the stuff of my own research, experience, and personal use.
The Keto Grocery List
Now that you have a foundation of understanding, you should know where to go on your own to do Keto. Instead of walking into the jungle and learning what to eat by trial and error, here is my personal list of top Keto grocery items.
Probably the hardest thing about keto is figuring out how to add enough fats to your meals. With that in mind, these first 4 items are dedicated to the purpose of making your meals into healthy fat-bombs. By far, these are the most essential part of a keto-friendly cupboard.
Fats for cooking, garnish, and adding to meals.
1). Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Extra Virgin Olive oil (EVOO) technically contains more Omega-6 than Omega-3, but it has very little of either. Most of the oil is instead made up of antioxidants and a fat called Oleic Acid.
The combined effect of these two components makes EVOO one of the healthiest oils on the planet for cardiovascular health.
There is quite a bit of fraud in the olive oil market (oils being labeled as pure but actually cut with unhealthy canola oil) so I suggest sticking with reputable brands. I use Braggs Extra Virgin Olive Oil personally.
To make your EVOO last longer, I do not recommend using it for cooking. Instead, I put a couple tablespoons on almost all of my meals as a garnish. For cooking, I use:
2). Unrefined Coconut Oil: This stuff is great and is my go-to cooking oil due to it’s high smoke-point (you can cook with it at higher temperatures without damaging the oil.)
Furthermore, it appears to benefit weight loss and benefit ratios of HDL cholesterol, which is used to make hormones in the body. It can be used for a host of other things. Heck, I used to use it as a “hair-gel” back in my modeling days. I’m not kidding.
Now, depending on your genetics, saturated fats (fats that are solid at room temperature) like coconut oil may cause inflammation. This is dependent on your APOE gene.
Because of this, I recommend using coconut oil primarily for cooking, but sparingly as a dietary component. Still, it is more affordable for cooking, and you can get a large amount of high quality unrefined coconut oil from Costco by getting the Kirkland brand.
3). Avocados. Avocados contain a ton of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, and also a great amount of antioxidants and minerals. With more potassium per gram than Bananas, these are a powerful way to make sure you are getting enough electrolytes AND upping your Omega-3 intake. They are also versatile, great as both a stand-alone and ready-to-eat snack, or as a garnish on a meal.
Learn to make a good guacamole and you’ll have one of the most coveted potluck essentials known to man, either for your own hosting purposes or as the well-desired contribution of a guest.
4). Avocado Mayonnaise (Primal Kitchen Brand): Ok, this guy is an absolute game-changer.
The big trouble with doing keto right is often figuring out how to add enough fat to meals, and it can sometimes feel like you’re just drowning everything in olive oil (even when it doesn’t seem appropriate taste-wise.)
Not just any mayonnaise, but avocado mayonnaise. Even if you are not much of a fan of mayo, I still suggest you try this stuff, as it tastes amazing and is more like a soft butter.
I put this stuff on everything, and it happens to go well with darn near everything. Chicken breast? Avocado mayonnaise. Pork chops? Avocado mayonnaise. Heck, I’ll even throw it in with a vegetable stir fry towards the end. It adds this slightly tangy, avocado taste to food in a great way.
I recommend the brand Primal Kitchen for quality purposes. It can be a little expensive at some stores, but Costco recently began carrying it for close to half the price found normally (it costs the same but comes in a jar that is almost double the standard size.)
If you like the stuff, this may be the single most key item on my grocery list for making keto easy.
Snacks & On-The-Go Keto
If getting enough fat into your meals is the first difficult part of keto, snacking is people’s next challenge.
After all, many of us find ourselves consistently on the go, and cooking isn’t always an option. Even if you prepare your meals ahead of time, having easy snacks is important, and frankly, just plain convenient.
These foods are the best I’ve found for keto snacking:
1). Macadamia Nuts: Ok, nuts in general are made of fat. However, if you just pound almonds, you may run into gut health issues. Most nuts contain quite a few compounds that are difficult for the human body to process, particularly in the skins of the nuts.
Macadamia nuts, however, are pretty much pure fatty goodness. With no real “skin.” They also have the best ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats (as well as being low in both overall) which makes them ideal for keto.
Other nuts are good snacks too, but be careful not to eat too many as they often contain higher amounts of the inflammatory Omega-6 fats we are trying to be cognisant of.
If you like other nuts, render them more digestible by sprouting and dehydrating them. To do this, soak them in water overnight and then dry them at low heat (between 100 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit) in a food dehydrator or an open oven for 4 to 6 hours.
This process liberates the tricky enzymes in the nut without destroying the fats like roasting nuts would.
2). Sardines: We’ve mentioned the importance of Omega-3 fats a few times now. Well, fish and seafood are high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Unfortunately the state of our oceans has rendered many common fish species toxic with heavy metal, and heavy metal toxicity is not necessarily worth getting the Omega-3s.
You can get fish protein and fats without this issue by sticking with small, oily fish species such as sardines. They are also fairly well priced, depending on the brand, and a can of sardines will cost similar to many protein bars, but with way better health benefits.
I personally prefer the Wild Planet brand for quality reasons, but sardines are generally pretty clean fish. Wild planet is usually $3 a can, but some brands are closer to $2, especially if you go to a bulk-buying store like Costco or Sam’s Club.
It is not unusual for me to have 2 or 3 cans of sardines in my bag when I leave home.
Keto bonus tip: get sardines canned in Olive oil, not water, and drink the oil after you finish the fish. If you don’t feel like being that hardcore, no worries. There is still an awesome amount of healthy fat in the fish alone.
3). Epic Bars: Epic bars are protein bars by a company based here in Texas. I have no affiliation at the time of this writing, but these are my favorite keto-friendly “bar” and they are freakin’ delicious.
Epic was created by a couple who were Vegans but came back to eating meat for health reasons. Motivated to be humane and also provide great quality food, they founded epic, which is humanely operated and high quality.
Their bars are literally “meat” bars. Think jerky, in a sense. I particularly enjoy their bison and boar bars, but the venison and both versions of the beef bar are freaking awesome too. You can find em’ at whole foods and even some CVS and gas stations.
I get mine from Thrive Market but you can also get them on Amazon.
Tools & Supplements
This section is mainly just to organize the things I’ve already recommended throughout the guide, however I have also included a couple good tools for boosting your keto experience, as well as a couple unmentioned but helpful supplements.
1). MCT oil: Mentioned earlier, MCT oils converts to ketones very quickly and is a great keto supplement. It is especially useful for the keto flu and for boosting energy.
2). Magnesium, and other electrolytes: Magnesium is a miracle mineral and I personally believe everyone should supplement with it. On keto, it is especially helpful to prevent electrolyte loss in the beginning of the diet.
I use Vital Nutrients Magnesium Glycinate/Malate for its bioavailability and calming effect.
Other than magnesium, increasing your sodium using a quality salt is very helpful on keto. Himalayan pink salt is my preferred choice.
3). Omega-3 as Fish Oil or Algal Oil: The main thing here is quality. On a ketogenic diet, taking a high dose of a good fish oil is a great idea, especially in the beginning of the diet.
You can megadose a quality fish oil like Living Fuel Super Essentials Omega or find a quality algal oil.
4). Keto Balance by Pura Thrive: A blend of mct oil and algal oil in the form of liposomal delivery, I use this product as a brain boosting supplement for crunch time projects, and I used it to more-or-less bypass any mental effects of the keto flu.
5). Essential Amino Acids (not BCAAs): Essential amino acids are a supplement that contains ALL the essential amino acids for our body, rather than just branch chain amino acids.
These are great for boosting your muscle gains while on keto, or staving off hunger.
I personally use the Kion brand, which is owned, made, and formulated by my favorite health expert Ben Greenfield. You can get his amino acids at his website https://getkion.com/shop/body/kion-aminos/ or on Amazon.
I take the daily recommended dose when combining keto with an exercise program. When not exercising, I will take them every few days. I’ve noticed better recovery and muscle gain, as well as more stable energy.
6). Coffee: I don’t personally drink coffee, as it began giving me heart palpitations while I was dealing with health problems. However, coffee is great for ketosis, and it seems to boost one’s ability to enter ketosis.
Many coffee grinds may be exposed to mold toxins, so when I do occasionally have a cup, I use either the Bulletproof brand or the Kion brand. These are diligently tested for mold toxins and are the healthiest coffee I’m aware of.
7). Monkfruit Sweetener: So, you like coffee but don’t drink it black? No problem, there is a wonderful keto friendly sweetener out there for ya. Monkfruit is a sweetener that does not spike blood sugar.
Many people like to use Stevia, but there is some debate as to whether stevia causes gut health issues.
However monkfruit appears to be well tolerated and may even help improve metabolic function.
8). Thrive Market: Thrive market is an online grocer that is dedicated to healthy, sustainable food available everywhere. Imagine whole foods had a baby with Costco and went online. They high quality pantry foods at discount prices.
This is a great place to grab things like monkfruit, keto coffee creamer, epic bars, and other such goodies.
Like costco, it costs $60 for a year long membership, however you can use it for the first month free to decide if it’s worth it for you.
Personally, I’ve found thrive to be a lifesaver, and due to their incredible quality standards, you almost don’t need to check if the products are from a good source.
9). The Four Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss: This one is a book about, you guessed it, cooking. While not everything is perfectly keto friendly, Tim promotes his own diet known as “Slow Carb.”
Most of the foods in his book will be fine on a ketogenic diet, and they will all be fine on your “refeed” day.
I recommend this not because it is a keto cookbook, however, but instead because it is the single most powerful book for getting comfortable cooking great meals with minimal effort that I have ever read.
From day one you’ll known how to make fancy dishes like Boko Russo without breaking the bank, and this thing could be the thing that makes your keto experience into the best dining you’ve ever experienced, and by your own hand!
That’s it guys! Thanks for sticking with me through this guide. I know it’s a bit long, but you should now have the foundation you need to start doing the ketogenic diet, bolstered by some special biohacker’s guidelines to ensure success.
In review, the ketogenic diet offers a host of benefits which seem related to a unique metabolic state called ketosis.
In ketosis, your body uses ketones as fuel instead of glucose for many bodily functions, and this results in lower inflammation, improved metabolic function and healing, improved ability to gain muscle, and cognitive benefits.
Doing keto is as simple as getting some measuring devices and making sure to eat 70–80% calories from fats, 10–25% calories from protein, and 5% or less calories from carbohydrates.
However, to avoid running into problems on a ketogenic diet, it’s best to prioritize food quality and remember these 3 rules:
1). Eat Real Food
2). Not Too Much
3). Mainly Fats From Vegetables
Combine these with some supplements like magnesium and sodium, a good fish oil, and MCT oil, and you should be able to do the ketogenic diet long term as well as weather common reactions such as the keto flu.
Implement some weekly re-feed days to restore glycogen and preserve your metabolism, and combine with a weight training program and you are golden!
You now have a healthy and sustainable eating style that will help you stay healthy, lose weight, and gain muscle, all while eating great meals.
Personally, I feel the best I’ve felt in my whole life on keto. I don’t crave sugar or carbs, and I don’t feel inflamed all the time. I’ve also noticed fast recovery from workouts, and improved sleep.
My favorite benefit of Keto is that I find it much easier to focus throughout a whole day, something I’ve struggled with due to ADD for most of my life.
If you enjoyed this guide, please leave a comment or let me know about your keto experience. I love talking to my readers, and the way I see it, you guys make it possible for me to do this. Thank you again and good luck on your health & fitness journey!