The ketogenic diet puts your body into a state of ketosis, which ultimately allows you to use fat for energy.
Fat burning is just one of the many benefits of ketosis that improves overall health and makes it an effective tool for weight loss.
Keto has a cult following for a good reason: it makes you feel great. Keto-ers feel more satiated throughout the day and have increased energy levels, both physical and mental, leading to:
These benefits all contribute to weight loss; however, keto is not synonymous with weight loss.
Far from being a magic tool, the ketogenic diet takes accurate and diligent tracking and adjustment to work. You need a balance of the right macros, realistic goal setting and tracking to take you closer to achieving your weight loss goals.
In this guide, well cover the following:
What is Ketosis
What are KetonesBenefits of Ketosis
The Ketogenic Diet
What is the Ketogenic DietKetogenic Foods: What to Eat and What to Avoid
Designing a Keto Plan for Weight Loss
Using a Keto Macro CalculatorExerciseIntermittent FastingDealing with Plateaus
Testing and Tracking Results
How to Test Ketone LevelsThe Glucose-Ketone IndexBody Fat Tracking/PhotosTape MeasurementsUsing the Scale
Making Adjustments to Your Keto Diet
How to Adjust to Induce KetosisReview Your Goals and Results
By the end of this guide, youll have everything you need to get started on the ketogenic diet to lose weight the right way for the long term.
The ketogenic diet promotes and maintains ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body uses fat rather than glucose from carbohydrates as its primary source of energy.
To achieve ketosis, you stop supplying your body with carbs and sugar. This depletes your stored glucose also known as glycogen and your blood sugar and insulin levels decrease. Your body starts to look for an alternate source of fuel (fat), releases it and burns it for energy.
Hence, weight loss on keto.
Because of the decrease of glucose and increase in the metabolism of fat, ketosis has a ton of benefits its unique ability to induce weight loss is just one of them. Many people use ketosis as a treatment for epilepsy, diabetes and even cancer.
When your body burns fat, it produces ketones. Without ketones, youre not in ketosis. Therefore, the ketogenic diets sole purpose is to aid and promote ketone production.
Ketones are the metabolic fuel produced when your body shifts into fat-burning mode.
Glucose and ketones are the only energy sources used by the brain. Think of ketones as the auxiliary power source of your body.
Before the advent of agriculture, when our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, they fasted regularly. When food was scarce, they didnt have a choice but to wait for an opportune time to hunt for food and cook it.
They had a very low intake of carbs and protein and thus were unintentionally running on ketones. Converting stored fat into energy is hardwired for our survival and a natural part of human existence.
Your body burns fat to use and produce ketones whenever glucose sources are low or depleted, such as:
Lipase (an enzyme responsible for fat breakdown) releases stored triglycerides (fats). These fatty acids go to your liver and your liver turns them into ketones.
There are three types of ketone bodies:
Now that you know what ketones are and how ketosis works, you probably want to know why you should consider eating a ketogenic diet the diet that promotes ketosis.
The benefits of ketones come from your body burning fat for fuel and the lowered glucose and insulin in your blood.
The benefits of ketosis include:
Aside from the therapeutic benefits of ketones, many people fall in love with keto because of the way it makes them feel both mentally and physically.
The ketogenic diet is an effective tool for weight loss because of the dramatic decrease in carb intake, forcing your body to burn fat instead of carbs for energy.
Results vary among individuals due to several factors such as insulin resistance and unique body composition. Nonetheless, keto has consistently lead to a reduction in weight and body fat percentage in a wide range of situations including but not limited to obesity, type 2 diabetes and athletic performance.
A randomized control study in 2017 examined the effects of a ketogenic diet combined with Crossfit training on body composition and performance. Results from this study concluded that subjects following a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet (LCKD) significantly decreased body weight, body fat percentage and fat mass compared to those in the control group[*].
The subjects following the ketogenic diet:
Dashti et al. performed a study in 2004 observing the long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients and found the following[*]:
Partsalaki et al. carried out a study in 2012 comparing the effects of a ketogenic diet versus a hypocaloric diet in obese children and adolescents. Results showed[*]:
Additionally, a 2008 study looking at the effects of a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet in type 2 diabetics was conducted.
Results from this study concluded that participants following the ketogenic diet had significantly greater improvements in weight loss, hemoglobin A1c, and high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol compared to the low-glycemic index diet group[*]:
Those following a ketogenic diet:
The ketogenic diet works for weight loss because its based around high fat, moderate protein and very low carb intake.
Theres a common misconception that fat is bad for you; however, this misconception fails to adequately represent healthy fats which are actually good for you.
Aside from other scientifically-proven benefits, saturated fats like medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) go directly to your liver to be used for energy.
The ketogenic diet, with its high percentage of good fats, leads to a fat-adaptive metabolic state.
Fat-adaptation occurs when your body becomes more efficient at burning fat for fuel. The longer you maintain a fat-adaptive state, the more ketones you produce.
The goal of a ketogenic diet is to maintain high amounts of ketones so you can reap all of the benefits that occur from being in ketosis.
A high fat, ketogenic diet is also protein-sparing: your body keeps burning fat and doesnt turn to protein as an energy source.
Even on keto, you still want to consume sufficient protein for the benefits: more calories burned at rest (muscle burns fat!) and decreased feelings of hunger because protein is one of the most satiating macronutrients.
That said, the ketogenic diet is not a high-protein diet. Carb and protein intake are both limited so that the body breaks down fat and uses ketones for fuel instead.
You must eat enough protein to maintain muscle mass and organ function, but thats it. If you consistently eat more protein than your body needs, or if both carb and fat intake are low, your body turns protein amino acids into glucose to be used for energy.
This is known as gluconeogenesis, which breaks down lean muscle and can raise your blood glucose and insulin levels, thus affecting ketone production. This occurs because your body has an alternate source of glucose so it halts ketone production.
A high-protein diet is not ketogenic because you wont be in ketosis. This brings us to the next point:low-carb is also not synonymous to ketogenic.
The difference between ketogenic and low-carb diets is that the ketogenic diet aims for ketosis.
Other low-carb diets may not have a large enough decrease in carb intake to shift your metabolism into producing and burning ketones for fuel.
But, certain types of keto diets do have some leeway with carb and protein intake.
Like intermittent fasting, you can customize the ketogenic diet according to your goals or needs.
There are four common types of ketogenic diets:
Ketogenic foods are high quality, whole, natural foods processed as little as possible. To avoid processed foods, many keto-ers prefer to make everything themselves, from burgers to homemade ghee).
Ketogenic foods are high in fat, moderate in protein and of course, low-carb.
The most common mistakes on a ketogenic diet include not watching the quality and composition of your food and being careless about your carb and protein intake.
To lose weight on keto you must:
Your carb and protein intake makes (or breaks) your ketogenic diet. You can tweak your macros according to what works for you, but the general macronutrient ranges are:
These can vary according to your goals, needs and body composition. Designing your ketogenic diet involves calculating your macros.
Keto has been called Atkins on steroids and is often compared to other diets like paleo and the Mediterranean diet. What are the similarities and differences between keto, Atkins, paleo and the Mediterranean diets?
Well, to start, all four diets are centered around whole food. Any of these diets can be used to achieve your desired weight and health goals but the main differences come down to the macro distributions and of course, ketosis.
The Atkins diet, formally called the Atkins Nutritional Approach, was founded by cardiologist Dr. Robert Atkins as a weight loss tool based on the idea of eating right, not less.
The similarities: Both the ketogenic and Atkins diets reduce your intake of carbs and sugar while shifting you toward eating whole, healthy foods.
If done correctly, the result is ketosis, weight loss and better mental acuity and physical energy from the steady fuel of ketones.
The difference: Atkins has four phases. The induction and balancing phases (Phase 1 and 2) resemble the ketogenic diet most closely.
In the ketogenic diet, the carb, protein and fat macros are sustained in their allotted portions to induce and maintain a state of ketosis keeping carbs low and protein moderate to avoid gluconeogenesis where your body converts excess protein into glucose.
The Pros of Atkins:
The paleo or paleolithic diet also called the caveman diet, hunter-gatherer diet or Stone Age diet is based on consuming the foods available to our ancestors in their hunter-gatherer days and the early days of agriculture,about 10,000 years ago.
With paleo, processed food is out. This means no sugar or flour-based foods since producing sugar and milling wheat wasnt invented yet back then.
Anything you could hunt, catch, pick or dig from the ground easily is in, such as meat, seafood, fruits, nuts and vegetables.
The similarities: Both the ketogenic and paleo diets are rich in non-starchy vegetables. Both also restrict sugar, grains, legumes and recommend high-quality animal proteins and fats.
As long as your gut doesnt have a problem breaking them down, keto is perfectly okay with full-fat, all natural dairy cheese, butter, ghee. Conversely, paleo avoids anything that can compromise the gut like dairy.
Compared to the very low carb restriction of the ketogenic diet, paleo does not restrict starchy vegetables and sugary fruits, making it close to impossible to get into ketosis.
The Pros of Paleo:
Physiologist Dr. Ancel Keys noticed that the Mediterranean people living in southern Europe (Greece, Italy, Crete) had much lower risks of heart disease than Americans. He recorded what they ate and the Mediterranean diet was born.
This diet consists predominantly of fish, vegetables, fruits, seeds, beans, olive oil, nuts, cheese, yogurt and grains. Poultry and eggs eaten every two days, red meat restricted to 3 ounces per week and a glass or two of wine daily.
The similarities: Like keto, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes simple, whole foods.
The differences: The Mediterranean diet is relatively low-fat, with non-ketogenic net carbs coming from grains like bread, quinoa, brown rice, starchy fruits and vegetables.
The Pros of the Mediterranean Diet:
The ketogenic diet has one purpose: to induce ketosis, burning fat instead of carbs.
The other diets have their own share of health benefits, particularly the Mediterranean diet[*], and all of them help with weight loss, though only the ketogenic diet helps you induce and maintain ketosis.
The focus of these diets is to eat healthy, whole foods that are as close to nature as possible. Even without the rigorous tracking involved on keto, you still have to watch the amount of food you are consuming on these diets in order to attain the benefits.
Keto is already considered Atkins on steroids. If youre eager to gain the benefits of being in ketosis, the paleo and Mediterranean diets can be customizable to induce a ketogenic state.
Simply replace all of the bread and starchy root vegetables with more oil, fatty meats and fish and low-carb nuts.
We feature all three of the above diets on Perfect Keto:
Using the ketogenic diet for weight loss is all about tracking and calculating:
Anything out of balance like too much protein or excessive exercise can do something as simple as slow your progress into ketosis, or something more grave like disrupt your health.
Your personal needs and goals determine a lot when using the ketogenic diet for weight loss. The most important step is calculating (and sticking to) your macros.
To calculate your macros, start with a macro calculator (Hint: we have one you can use for free).
Read more here:
How To Use The Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss