A ketogenic diet forces your body to burn fat rather than carbs 🍔💥
Look at fat burners on Amazon and you’ll see tons of products that claim to be ‘keto friendly’.
But what does it mean?
In this blog post we’ll unpack keto and tell you exactly what it is, how it works, and how you could benefit.
At the very top level, keto is short for two things:
- Ketosis: a metabolic state where your body burns fat more efficiently
- Ketogenic diet: a diet designed especially to trigger ketosis
That’s right: by changing what you eat and taking the right supplements, you can shift your body into a state of ketosis.
And when this happens, it’ll prioritise burning fat for energy over carbs.
It’s not hard to see why this is potentially huge from a weight loss perspective.
After reading this guide you’ll know all about keto, along with the ingredients and supplements that could help you to reach ketosis.
Keto 101: What is the ketogenic diet?
A ketogenic diet is one specifically designed to put you in the state of ketosis.
Normally, your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose.
Glucose is absorbed into your blood and transported around your body where it’s used for many things, one of the most important of which is fuelling your brain.
In ketosis, though, your body responds to lower levels of carbohydrate by breaking down fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies.
Ketone bodies are an alternative energy source for your brain.
So by reducing your dietary carb intake, it’s possible to encourage your body to burn more fat.
It’s important to note that the ketogenic diet was originally designed to treat epilepsy, rather than as a weight loss aid.
The first use of the term ‘ketogenic diet’ was in 1921, in a paper by Dr Russell Morse Wilder <1>.
Shortly after, anticonvulsant medications became the preferred way to treat epilepsy.
However, in later decades, interest turned back to the keto diet as a way to help people for whom anticonvulsants had no effect.
Research focus returned to how the keto diet and other weight-loss diets like the Atkins could be used for therapeutic purposes <2>.
This is also when attention was turned toward keto for weight loss:
Because one of the goals of weight loss is to shed existing fat, as well as eating fewer calories overall, a ketogenic diet can potentially be a great way to trim down excess fat levels.
Keto can potentially contribute to weight loss by encouraging your body to break down fat for energy.
Your brain uses ketone bodies instead of glucose for fuel.
Does keto work?
This diet can work but it’s always a good idea to discuss your individual needs with a registered nutritionist or doctor before making changes.
Several studies have demonstrated that ketogenic diets can work for weight loss. This can feel a little counterintuitive considering a keto diet involves eating more fat and prioritising fatty foods.
One study in particular carried out a meta-analysis of research papers about keto diets. This means they round up and analyse the findings from multiple studies.
This paper found that a ketogenic diet can cause a significant reduction in hunger, and a significant amount of weight loss<3>.
While it may seem counterintuitive to lose weight by eating a diet with more fat, the state of ketosis is a proven precursor for weight loss in the right contexts.
In fact, another meta-analysis found that ketogenic diets might be even more effective for weight loss than some low-fat diets<4>!
Keto diets also have rigorous scientific backing for epilepsy, and tentative links to possibly helping to manage the symptoms of chronic pain and headaches, sleep disorders, and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases<5>.
Keto ingredients: What are the best foods to avoid in a ketogenic diet?
Because keto involves prioritising fat and reducing carbs, this section will explore foods to avoid while following a ketogenic diet.
Remember: for a classic ketogenic diet you’re aiming to reduce carbohydrates from anywhere up to half of your dietary intake (maybe more) to below 10%.
If you’re unsure about what foods contain fats and carbohydrates, or you have questions about how to structure and plan a keto diet, we recommend speaking with a doctor or qualified nutritionist.
Foods to avoid on a keto diet
Pasta. Quite possibly one of the most famous carbs, pasta is a favourite for athletes who are carb-loading before events. Given that you’re going for the complete opposite, trim pasta out of your diet.
Pasta is made mainly from flour and flour is about 70% carbs, so it’s easy to see why pasta needs to go.
Grains. If you think getting rid of a staple like pasta is tricky, then we’re sorry to report that you’ll also need to avoid rice, oats, wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat, bulgar and, yes, even freekeh.
Now, if you’re not someone who boils up grains and uses them directly in their cooking, you may be thinking “this is easy!”
Think again, though: grains are in a surprisingly high number of foods. So you’ll need to be extra vigilant with ingredient labels to make sure you’re truly avoiding grains.
Smoothies. Here’s another example of how keto can feel counterproductive: losing weight by avoiding foods that feel healthy in other contexts, and replacing them with fatty alternatives.
These fruity drinks are packed full of sugar though, meaning that they’re no good for a ketogenic diet.
Legumes. Along with grains, legumes are another diverse category that features fairly frequently in most diets.
In this list you’ll find things like kidney beans, chickpeas, all the different types of lentils, peas, and more. Cross each and every one of those off of your shopping list, as they’re not keto-friendly.
Cake. At last, something to avoid that feels intuitive. Not many diets feature significant quantities of cake, and with keto, you can’t have your cake or eat it either.
While there is fat in cake, it’s comfortably eclipsed by the number of carbs you’ll find inside. Flour-heavy and dense, you’ll have to do without for the time being.
Potatoes. Here’s another ubiquitous food you’ll have to avoid. Sometimes potatoes are overt (fries, jacket potatoes, mash, etc) while other times they’re far more sneaky (the filling in pasties, gnocchi, mozzarella cheese, and more).
On a keto diet you’ll have to give both a miss. Potato starch is used in a lot of ingredients and recipes, so give labels a careful scan to make sure you’re not eating any illicit spuds.
Alcohol. Depending on the lifestyle you lead, this will either be very hard or very easy. All alcoholic drinks are high in carbs, so you’ll need to avoid beer, wine, and spirits for the duration of your keto diet if you want to do it properly.
The plus side here is that avoiding alcohol brings a suite of other health benefits. You’ll feel more energised, you’ll sleep better, and that’s just the start.
Which foods are good for keto?
While it’s good to know which foods to avoid, you’re probably looking for some steer on the types of food to eat on a keto diet.
Here are a few suggestions –
Avocados. These tasty fruits (yes, they’re fruits!) contain just 2g of carbs per serving, and are a nice, healthy source of unsaturated fats. What’s more, they go well in a huge range of dishes, making them a very versatile addition to a keto diet.
Eggs. If we’re talking about versatility, then the humble egg deserves a mention. Legend has it that chef’s hats have 100 ruffles to signify the 100 ways you can cook an egg. If you’re planning a keto diet, the high protein to carb ratio in eggs, combined with the sheer number of dishes you can use them in, makes them a great choice.
Olive oil. This is pure fat, and contains zero carbs. What’s more, it’s tasty by itself or as the base for any number of sauces and dressing. So if you’re looking for something to contribute to ketosis while making your diet dishes more delicious, look no further.
Cheese. We never thought we’d see the day that cheese was not only allowed, but encouraged as a diet ingredient. But with keto, the high fat content of cheese makes it a prime contender.
The carb content of different types of cheese can vary quite significantly, so take a look at the nutritional information to see whether the ratio works for you.
Nuts. These popular snacks are high in fibre but low in carbs although, as with cheese, the ratio varies between different types. Whether you eat nuts as snacks in between meals or incorporate them into dishes directly, they make a great addition to a ketogenic diet.
What’s the best fat burner for keto?
The best supplement for keto is one designed to facilitate a healthy lifestyle.
While some fat burners market themselves as specifically keto-friendly, the consensus is that the best way to achieve ketosis is through your diet.
If you’re taking a weight loss supplement alongside a ketogenic diet, your focus should be ingredients that help to energise you whilst working out.
Ingredients like caffeine are perfect for this.
Caffeine will help you to feel alert and motivated while working out, giving you the energy to keep pushing harder and for longer than you would otherwise – meaning more calories burned.
Fat burners that contain proven appetite suppressants like glucomannan are effective, too, as they’ll help you to reduce your overall caloric intake.
If you’ve got questions about keto, we’ve got answers.
What are the different types of keto?
There are four widely-acknowledged ways to do the keto diet. Each has different target ratios of macronutrients to aim for.
(A macronutrient is a food type: fats, carbs, and proteins are macronutrients.)
Here’s what you’re aiming for in each of the main types of keto diet –
- Standard keto: ~10% carbs, ~75% fat, ~15% protein
- High-protein keto: ~10% carbs, ~60% fat, ~30% protein
- Targeted keto: ~15% carbs, ~65% fat, ~20% protein
- Cyclical keto: On days, 10/75/15 carb/fat/protein; off days, 50/25/25 carb/fat/protein
How do I know which type of keto is right for me?
The right keto diet for you – or whether keto is right for you at all – depends on your goals and lifestyle. We can’t advise on individual diets as we don’t know your dietary needs.
If you’ve got questions about finding the right type of keto for you, we recommend speaking with a qualified nutritionist to help identify your goals and design the right diet plan to meet them.
What is keto flu?
While researching keto you may come across the phrase ‘keto flu’.
There is no medical basis for keto flu, and it’s not a formally-recognised condition, but many people report feeling similar symptoms within the first few days of starting a keto diet.
Here’s what you might feel –
- Brain fog
- Sleep trouble
If you do encounter these symptoms they should be gone by a week after your start point. Remember that keto is quite a big change for your body, and adverse symptoms may be a sign that you’re pushing your body too hard.
We always recommend speaking with your doctor or another qualified health professional if you feel unwell when changing your diet.