The Complete Keto Diet Guide

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the ketogenic or keto diet. Is it the latest fad diet or are there real merits to it? Eat fat to burn fat? Is that even possible? We’ll address these and many other questions. Read on.

Summary of the Keto Diet

The ketogenic diet or keto diet is a low carb, high-fat diet, and shares many similarities with other low carb diets, like Atkins, South Beach, and variations on the Mediterranean diet. 

How does the keto diet work?

The biggest difference between the keto diet and other low-carb diets is the focus on fat consumption. The big idea behind the ketogenic diet is changing what your body burns for fuel. A typical diet includes carbohydrates which the body uses or burns for energy. As you drastically reduce carb intake, your body looks for another source of energy. It begins to burn stored fat for fuel. This change in how and what your body burns for fuel puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. 

Is your mind blown yet?

Basics of the Keto Diet

The ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate (5%), moderate protein (20%), higher-fat (75%)  diet that teaches your body to burn fat more effectively. It has many benefits for weight loss, health, and performance, as shown in numerous scientific studies.

What can you eat on the keto diet?

Rule of thumb for foods you can eat on the keto diet, low carb, high fat. You should base the majority of your meals around these foods:

  • Meat. Most meat is a staple on the ketogenic diet. Look for quality cuts.
    • Grass-fed red meat, like steak and ground beef
    • Pork, like ham, sausage, and bacon
    • Poultry, cage-free, organic chicken, and turkey
  • Fatty fish, including salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel
  • Eggs. Look for cage-free, pastured or omega-3 whole eggs
  • Dairy. Most dairy is great for a keto diet. You want quality, grass-fed, high fat.
    • Butter and cream, like grass-fed butter and heavy whipping cream
    • Cheese, like unprocessed cheddar, goat, cream, blue, and mozzarella
  • Nuts and seeds are great high quality fat sources. Look for almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
  • Healthy oils, like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil
  • Avocados are a keto dream, chocked full of nutrients and healthy fats. Eat whole avocados or freshly made guac
  • Low carbohydrate vegetables, like leafy green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
  • Condiments are great for seasoning, just beware of the high sugar content in things like ketchup. But salt, pepper, herbs, and spices are great

Base your keto diet on whole, single-ingredient foods. 

What can’t you eat on the keto diet?

For keto, any high carbohydrate foods should be limited.

Here’s a list of foods that need to be cut or drastically reduced on a ketogenic diet:

  • Sugar. This is the death of the keto diet. Avoid sugars and high-fructose corn syrups like the plague. Sugar will kick you out of ketosis faster than anything. Read the labels for sugar content/total carb content. Here’s some examples of sugars to look out for: 
    • Sugary drinks like, soda, some sports drinks, some energy drinks, fruit juice, and smoothies
    • Refined white and brown sugar, found in basically anything that tastes good like cookies, candies, pastries, donuts, etc
  • Grains and Starches. This includes wheat-based, white flour, refined flour products like rice, pasta, cereal, breads, bagels, donuts, cookies, etc.
  • Fruit. On keto, cut out all fruit, except small portions of berries like strawberries
  • Beans or Legumes. Cut out peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
  • Root Vegetables and Tubers, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, this includes anything made with these like french fries, hash browns, tater tots, etc.
  • Low Fat or Diet Products. Health food, considered low fat is usually high in sugar, thing like low fat mayonnaise, salad dressings, and condiments
  • Sugar-Free Diet Foods. Many sugar-free candies, syrups, puddings, sweeteners, desserts, etc have artificial sweeteners that aren’t great
  • Certain Condiments and Sauces. Including barbecue sauce, honey mustard, teriyaki sauce, ketchup, etc.
  • Processed Unhealthy Fats. Oils like vegetable, canola, and corn oils, or mayonnaise
  • Alcohol, like beer, wine, liquor, mixed drinks

What is a ketone?

When your body becomes efficient at burning fat for energy, it turns that fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain. Keto diets can cause significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increased ketones, has some health benefits for diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease.

What is ketosis?

Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body uses fat for fuel when you significantly reduce your carbohydrate consumption. This limits your body’s glucose (sugar) levels, which is the main source of energy for the cells.

How to get into ketosis?

One of the easiest and effective ways to get your body into a ketosis state is by following a ketogenic diet. Here’s how to do it:

  • Limit carbohydrate intake to 20 – 50 grams per day
  • Eat more “good fats,” like meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and healthy oils

You also need to moderate your consumption of protein, because protein can be converted into glucose if you eat a lot. Doing so can slow your body’s transition into ketosis.

How do you know if you’re in ketosis?

Cutting carbs and eating more fat. Check. Check. But how do you know if it’s working? There are a couple of different ways to test your level of ketosis. Blood, urine, and breath tests are available that measure the number of ketones in your body to determine whether you’re in ketosis.

You can also know if you’re in ketosis without testing. The following symptoms may also indicate that you’ve entered ketosis:

  • Increased thirst
  • Lower appetite
  • Decreased hunger
  • Peeing alot
  • Dry mouth 
  • “Keto breath” (or as my dad used to say, “damn boy, you’re breath could knock a buzzard off a shit wagon.”)
Does intermittent fasting help get into ketosis?

Yes, it does. Practicing intermittent fasting could also help you enter ketosis faster. There are many different ways of intermittent fasting, but the most common method involves limiting your daily eating window to around 8 hours and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. This is known as 16/8 intermittent fasting. 

For more information read the full article, What is Intermittent Fasting?

What is fat adaption?

Fat adaptation is a long-term metabolic adjustment to ketosis. It is the state in which your body burns fat for fuel instead of carbs. It’s one of the benefits of the ketogenic diet. When you are fat adapted you’ll have decreased cravings, boosted energy, and better sleep.

How much weight can you lose on keto in a month?

According to Fit2Fat2Fit author and keto diet expert Drew Manning, “For the first month on keto, if people stay at a calorie deficit and stay consistent with the diet, most people can probably lose 10 pounds or more that first month.”

Benefits of the Keto Diet

All diet plans have upsides and downsides. Read some of the benefits and drawbacks of the keto diet so that you can make an informed decision about trying it.

Ketogenic diet helps with fat loss

Keto dieting is an effective and efficient way to lose fat as well as lower risk factors for other diseases. In fact, the keto diet is so satiating that you can lose weight without counting calories or tracking your food intake.

One study found that a very low carb, a ketogenic diet was a clear benefit for short-term body weight and fat loss. People who followed the ketogenic diet lost an average of 2 pounds more than the group that followed a low-fat diet.

A study of 34 older adults found that those who followed a ketogenic diet for 8 weeks lost nearly 5x as much total body fat compared to those who followed a low-fat diet.

Other health benefits of a keto diet

Fun fact: The ketogenic diet was developed by Dr. Russell Wilder in the 1920s as a tool for treating neurological diseases, specifically epilepsy.

Numerous studies have found that a ketogenic diet may have benefits for a wide variety of health conditions, including:

Heart disease. The ketogenic diet can help lower risk factors like body fat, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar

Epilepsy. Research shows that the ketogenic diet may cause significant seizure reductions in epileptic children

Polycystic ovary syndrome (POS). A keto diet can help decrease insulin levels, which may be a key factor in polycystic ovary syndrome 

Alzheimer’s. Keto may help reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and slow its progression  

Cancer. The ketogenic diet is currently being studied as an additional cancer treatment because there is evidence that it may help slow tumor growth

Parkinson’s. One study found that the diet helped improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

Brain injuries. Some research suggests that the ketogenic diet could improve outcomes of traumatic brain injuries

Ketogenic Diet Variations

Since the ketogenic diet has been around for a while, there have been many versions to suit different needs. Here are several variations of the ketogenic diet to consider:

Standard ketogenic diet (SKD)

Low carb where 10% of your food is carbohydrates, moderate protein at 20% of your consumption and high fat with 70% of your intake is healthy fats.

Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD)

This keto variation involves periods of higher carb intake, such as 4 keto days followed by 1 high carb day.

Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD)

Targeted means you add carb intake around workouts.

High protein ketogenic diet (HPKD)

This variation is the most similar to a standard ketogenic diet but includes more protein consumption. Typically the ratio is 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbs.

Note – The standard and high protein keto diets are the only ones that have been studied extensively. Cyclical and targeted ketogenic diets are more advanced variations and are typically used by athletes.

Meal plan ideas for a keto diet

To help get you started, here’s a sample ketogenic diet meal plan for one week:

Day 1

  • Breakfast: veggie and egg muffins with tomatoes
  • Lunch: chicken salad made with olive oil, feta cheese, olives
  • Dinner: salmon with asparagus sauteed in butter

Day 2

  • Breakfast: egg, tomato, and spinach omelet with cheddar cheese
  • Lunch: almond milk, natural peanut butter, baby spinach, cocoa powder, and stevia milkshake with a side of raspberries
  • Dinner: chicken stuffed with cream cheese, and a side of grilled zucchini

Day 3

  • Breakfast: omelet with avocado, salsa, peppers, onion, and spices
  • Lunch: celery sticks with guacamole and salsa
  • Dinner: white fish cooked in coconut oil and pine nuts

Try to rotate the vegetables and meat over the long term, as each type provides different nutrients and health benefits.

Healthy keto snack ideas

Here’s a list of some healthy, keto-approved snacks:

  • Fatty meats
  • Cheeses, string cheese, individually wrapped cheddar or Laughing Cow
  • Handful of nuts or seeds
  • Olives
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Keto-friendly snack bars
  • 90% dark chocolate
  • Full-fat Greek yogurt mixed with nut butter or berries
  • Bell peppers with fresh guacamole
  • Strawberries on plain cottage cheese
  • Beef jerky
  • Fat bombs

Keto shopping list

Here are the ingredients for a keto beginner’s grocery list. I recommend doubling up on the produce and proteins for easy meals and snacking.

Produce section

  • mushrooms
  • garlic
  • green cabbage
  • green onions
  • red onion
  • white onion
  • red bell pepper
  • green bell pepper
  • spinach
  • leaf lettuce
  • romaine lettuce
  • cherry tomatoes
  • avocado
  • limes


  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cage-free, organic)
  • ground beef (grass fed)
  • ground turkey
  • pork breakfast sausage
  • bacon

Eggs and dairy

  • full fat cream cheese
  • eggs (cage-free, organic)
  • cheddar cheese
  • parmasean cheese
  • plain, whole-milk yogurt
  • bleu cheese
  • salted butter
  • heavy cream
  • unsweetened almond milk

Pantry staples

  • chicken broth
  • coconut cream
  • almond flour
  • soy sauce
  • vanilla extract
  • cocoa powder
  • monk fruit extract
  • almond butter
  • mixed nuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts

Spices and oils

  • garlic powder
  • salt
  • pepper
  • ground ginger
  • cinnamon
  • coconut oil
  • sesame oil
  • sesame seeds
  • avocado oil
  • MCT oil

Supplements for a keto diet

The keto diet doesn’t have any prescribed supplements. But there are some that can help you reach your keto diet goals. Check these out. 

MCT Oil. Add to drinks or meals, MCT oil helps increase ketone levels. 

Minerals. Sodium, magnesium, and calcium supplements can be important when starting out due to shifts in water and mineral balance 

Caffeine. Caffeine can have benefits for energy, fat loss, and performance.

Exogenous ketones. This supplement may help raise the body’s ketone levels

Creatine. Creatine provides numerous benefits for health and performance. This can help if you are combining a ketogenic diet with exercise 

Whey. Use half a scoop of whey protein in shakes or yogurt to increase your daily protein intake

Risks on the keto diet

Staying on the keto diet in the long term may have health concerns., including risks of the following:

  • Low blood proteins
  • Excess fat in the liver
  • Kidney stones
  • Micronutrient deficiencies

One major concern is for people taking medication called sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors for type 2 diabetes can increase the risk for diabetic ketoacidosis, a dangerous condition that increases blood acidity. 

Always talk to your doctor before starting any new diet or workout, especially if you have other health conditions.

Ketogenic Diet side effects and how to minimize them

A keto diet is usually safe for most healthy people. But because it’s changing how your body processes fats and carbs there may be some initial side effects while your body adapts.

What is the Keto Flu?

Keto flu symptoms can include diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting. And some may have these other less common symptoms:

  • Low energy
  • Foggy mental function
  • Increased hunger
  • Diminished fitness level
  • Sleep issues, insomnia or apnea
  • Nausea
  • Digestive discomfort

To overcome these symptoms, try a standard low carb diet, no healthy fats for a couple of weeks. This may train your body to burn fat before you eliminate carbs completely.

Keto Diet mineral imbalance?

For some people, a keto diet can change the water and mineral balance in your body, so adding salt to your meals or taking mineral supplements may help. This is a great question to talk to your doctor about.

When you first start a keto diet it’s important to eat until you’re full. The diet alone can shock your system, so just add one diet trick at a time. Hold off on calorie restrictions until you feel like your body can take it. In most cases, a keto diet causes weight loss without calorie restriction.

Keto Diet tricks

Starting a ketogenic diet can be challenging at first, But here are several tips and tricks to help make your keto experience a success.

  • Read Labels. Familiarize yourself with food labels, check the grams of fat, carbs, and fiber to determine how your favorite foods can fit into your diet.
  • Meal Planning. When you plan your meals in advance you know you’ve got keto-approved meals ready to go.can help you save extra time throughout the week.
  • Find and Try New Recipes. The internet is filled with keto-friendly recipes and meal ideas that you can use to build your own custom menu.
  • Try Meal Delivery. Some meal delivery services offer keto-friendly options for a quick and convenient way to eat keto meals at home.

Frequently asked questions about the keto diet

If you decide to try the keto diet, you may have some questions. Here are some of the most common ones. 

1. I love pizza and donuts, can I ever eat carbs again?

Yes. But it’s important to cut your carb intake at the beginning of a keto diet plan. After the first 2 or 3 months, you can introduce carbs again on special occasions. Just get back on the keto wagon immediately after.

2. Can I lose muscle on keto?

Maybe. Just like any carbs restrictive diet, there is a risk of losing some muscle. But, protein consumption and elevated ketone levels may help slow muscle loss, especially if you’re pumping iron in the gym.

3. Can I build muscle on keto?

Yes, but it may not work as well as on other higher protein diets.

4. I like to make shakes after my workout. How much protein can I eat?

Protein consumption should be moderated, high intake can spike insulin levels and drop ketone levels. The maximum amount of protein consumption should be 35% of total daily calories.

5. Why am I always tired and fatigued?

This could mean you’re not in full ketosis or utilizing ketones efficiently. Try lowering your carb intake. You can also supplement with  MCT oil or ketones to help.

6. Why does my pee smell like Fruity Pebbles?

This is due to the excretion of by-products created during ketosis.

7.  I have constant, explosive diarrhea. What can I do?

This is common and usually passes after 3 weeks. If you continue to have the squirts, eat more high-fiber veggies. 

Bottom line on the keto diet

A ketogenic diet can be great for people who are overweight, have diabetes or are pre-diabetic, or looking to improve their metabolism and overall health. So for chubby runners, it might be a way to shed some fat to help your marathon training.

Chat with your doctor about your health plan and goals to decide if a keto diet is right for you.