This on-trend way to eat has soared in popularity in recent years with its rep of helping people to lose weight thanks to its high-fat and low-carb methods.
Keto diet for beginners
The ketogenic diet, or keto diet for short, is a high-fat and low-carb plan that aims to turn your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.
Ketosis is where your body burns fat, rather than carbohydrates for fuel. The body usually opts to burn glucose, a sugar found in carbohydrates, for fuel, but if there’s no carbohydrates, the body’s next option is fat.
Changing to a keto diet, means the fat that you consume, or that is stored, is burnt. This is why the keto diet has become a favourite with those looking to lose excess pounds.
It’s worth noting that the body takes a few days to switch from choosing to burn glucose, to fat, so results aren’t instant.
Keto diet foods
A keto diet is made up of around 70% fats, 25% protein and 5% carbs.
To kickstart ketosis, 20g, and no more than 50g, of carbs should be eaten per day. Minimise potatoes, pasta, bread and rice. Carbohydrates are also in alcohol, sweets and fizzy drinks in the form of glucose and sugars. Fruits, especially the sweeter ones, contain carbs; a small banana has around 20g of carbs.
A normal keto meal plan is packed with high fat foods like avocados, meat, fish, eggs, cheeses, oils, butter, nuts and seeds and can be suitable for vegetarians.
Veggies aren’t off the menu; cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, courgette, lettuce, cucumber, asparagus and kale are all keto dieters go-tos thanks to their low carb content. Cook your veggies in butter and drizzle salads with oil to increase the fat content. Peppers, green beans, broccoli and sprouts also are a fave, but do have a higher carb content.
Benefits of keto diet
Studies have also shown that a keto diet can help to reduce blood pressure4 in those that are overweight.
The keto diet can also help control your appetite and cravings5. You may also feel fuller for longer – win!
Vegetarian keto diet
The main source of fat in a standard keto diet is from meat and oily fish, however vegetarians can do the keto diet by substituting with increased dairy products, eggs and meat substitutes.
Tofu, tempeh and seitan are also still on the vegetarian and vegan keto menus.
If you’re thinking of trying the keto diet, but unsure of what a typical day’s meals could look like, here’s some inspiration to get you started with options to add meat if you aren’t a veggie.
Cheese and mushroom, 3-egg omelette cooked in butter. Option: Add fried bacon.
Salad bowl with avocado, grilled halloumi, grilled courgette, spinach, lettuce, cucumber with sour cream. Option: Add seasoned chicken grilled in coconut oil or butter.
Salmon fried in coconut oil served with asparagus and broccoli topped with melted butter. Option: Add grated cheddar cheese.
Raspberries or blueberries with whipped double cream, topped with chopped pecans.
Keto diet snacks
Roasted nuts or Boost protein balls
Keto diet side effects
Keto flu is the most common side-effect people experience when adapting to the ketogenic diet. Symptoms like fatigue and fogginess are common in the first few days as your body gets used to eating little-to-no carbohydrates6. To tackle keto flu, make sure you drink plenty of water and get plenty of sleep.
Can you exercise on the keto diet?
Yes, you are able to exercise while following the keto diet. However, if you’ve just made the transition to keto, you may find that your body may struggle to complete certain activities.
When taking part in high intensity exercises like circuits and sprinting, your body looks for something to burn quickly, which is usually carbohydrates. And, seeing as the keto diet limits the amount of carbs, you may find high intensity workouts a little more difficult. Avoid HIIT and circuits while your body gets used to restricting carbs.
Low intensity cardio burns more fat to fuel your body. Try swimming, jogging and cycling. If cardio isn’t your thing, strength training is also an option – try fewer reps with lighter weights to see how you fair.
Before you do any exercise, it’s important to ensure you’re eating enough, both calories and fat. If you already supplement your diet with sports products, check the carbohydrate content on the labels. There are also specific keto diet friendly supplements that you could also try to fuel your next workout.
Not sure if the ketogenic diet is for you? Discover which diet is for you here
Last updated: 4 March 2020