A Comprehensive Guide to the Keto Diet for Beginners

by Michael Gonzales | August 29, 2023

A Comprehensive Guide to the Keto Diet for Beginners

The keto diet has become a lifestyle choice for those seeking weight loss and health benefits. Being rich in healthy fats while being low in carbs, the keto diet is now one of the most popular diets ever. But, as with any dietary change, it can have advantages as well as drawbacks.

Furthermore, there are various types of ketogenic diets to choose from: Targeted Keto Diet (TKD), Cyclical Keto Diet (CKD), High Protein Keto Diet, Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD) and Vegan Keto Diet which also vary in their methods and goals.

Understanding the fundamentals of the Keto diet for beginners - its mechanisms, nutrient intake, as well as potential risks and benefits, is essential prior to making a decision. This comprehensive guide will provide answers to all those questions as well as helpful tips, meal plans and shopping lists.

Short Summary

  • The Keto Diet is a low-carb, high-fat eating regimen to induce ketosis and facilitate weight loss.
  • Various types of ketogenic diets exist to suit individual needs, with resources available to help beginners.
  • The diet may have potential health benefits, but also drawbacks such as nutrient deficiencies and long-term health risks.

What Is The Keto Diet?

What Is The Keto Diet
The keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that seeks to instruct the body to burn fat for fuel. The objective of the keto diet is to enter a metabolic state known as ketosis, wherein the body burns fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. The keto diet works by significantly diminishing carbohydrate consumption and substituting it with fat, inducing the body to enter into ketosis.

The fundamentals of the keto diet involve significantly decreasing carbohydrate intake, consuming moderate levels of protein, and eating high amounts of fat. Foods to include in the diet are meat, fish, eggs, dairy, oils, nuts, and low-carb vegetables. Foods to avoid are sugar, grains, fruits, and high-carb vegetables.

The keto diet has been demonstrated to be efficacious for weight reduction and ameliorating type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome. Additionally, it may also enhance cardiovascular health, cognitive function, and specific types of cancer.

When following the keto diet, one may be at risk of developing nutrient deficiencies, kidney stones, and constipation. Generally, the keto diet suggests an intake of no more than 50 grams of carbs per day, although some individuals may opt for a more strict approach of 20 grams.

How Was the Keto Diet Developed?

How Was the Keto Diet Developed?
The keto diet was initially developed to assist individuals with seizure disorders, specifically by providing a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. This diet was brought to light in the 1920s and is based on the idea that reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing fat intake can help individuals with certain neurological disorders. Ketosis, which is the metabolic state in which the body uses fat as its primary source of energy, is induced by following this diet. The keto diet is built upon the Atkins diet, which is a low-carbohydrate diet, and the cyclical ketogenic diet, which encourages periods of higher- and lower-carbohydrate intake.

Today, the keto diet is used primarily for weight loss and has been modified to include several types of diets, including the standard keto diet, the cyclical ketogenic diet, the targeted ketogenic diet, and the vegan keto diet. Each of these diets has specific guidelines that must be followed to achieve the desired results, such as weight loss. The Keto Academy offers detailed shopping lists and months of meal plans for the keto diet, making it easier for beginners to get started with the diet.

Types of Ketogenic Diets

Types of Ketogenic Diets
The variety of ketogenic diets is attributed to individual nutritional goals and preferences. Generally, these diets involve a macronutrient breakdown of high fat, low carbohydrate, and moderate to high protein. The most widely studied and recommended version of the ketogenic diet is the Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD), which consists of 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. Other variations include the High Protein Ketogenic Diet, Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD), Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD), and Vegan Ketogenic Diet.

The SKD is the most widely researched and recommended version of the ketogenic diet. The High Protein Ketogenicity. Diet emphasizes protein intake over fat intake and consists of 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) involves alternating periods of high-carbohydrate intake (typically 1-2 days) with periods of very low-carbohydrate intake, and is typically utilized to enhance athletic performance or facilitate breaking through weight loss plateaus. The Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD) involves the consumption of a limited amount of carbohydrates (typically 20-50 grams) prior to or following physical activity to enhance athletic performance. Lastly, the Vegan Ketogenic Diet eliminates all animal products and requires careful planning and supplementation.

Cyclic Keto Diet

A cyclic keto diet involves alternating periods of high-carb intake with periods of strict keto eating, which differs from a standard keto diet that involves a consistent low-carb, high-fat intake. The advantages of a cyclic keto diet include the ability to gain muscle and adhere to the diet, while potential drawbacks include the need for mindful planning and monitoring of carbohydrate intake as well as the potential for weight gain if the high-carb days are not paired with adequate physical activity.

Training on keto can be a great way to build muscle. This comprehensive guide to bodybuilding on a ketogenic diet can provide further information about this topic. Additionally, seeking the advice of a registered dietitian or certified personal trainer can provide tailored guidance. For those aiming to gain mass, it is suggested to consume 1.0-1.2g of protein per lean pound of body mass, and on a high-carb day, it is suggested to obtain carbohydrates from whole grains, starchy vegetables, and fruits.

Targeted Keto Diet

The Targeted Keto Diet (TKD) is a variation of the standard keto diet that involves supplementing carbohydrate intake around one's workout to optimize exercise performance. It typically involves a macronutrient breakdown of 10% carbohydrates, 60% fat, and 30% protein. To adhere to the TKD, it is recommended to consume 25 to 50 grams of carbohydrates prior to intense physical activity, sourced from easily digestible options such as fruit or honey.

The advantages of the TKD include enhanced exercise performance, prevention of muscle breakdown, and reduced recovery time. Additionally, eating carbs before a workout can help minimize feelings of fatigue and sharpen mental clarity.

Vegan Keto Diet

The vegan keto diet is a nutritionally balanced, high-fat, low-carb diet that does not include any animal products. It is indeed possible for vegetarians or vegans to adhere to a keto diet, however it can be quite challenging, as many keto dieters typically rely heavily on animal products. Many vegan keto dieters rely on high protein sources for their nutrition. Examples of such foods include tofu, tempeh, nuts and nut butters, and beans and legumes.

Adhering to a vegan keto diet requires thorough preparation and careful planning. It is essential to consult a registered dietitian to ensure balanced nutrition and to monitor potential micronutrient deficiencies. Additionally, it is important to ensure adequate water intake and to get adequate sleep in order to adhere to a successful vegan ketogenic diet.

Foods To Eat On The Keto Diet

Foods To Eat On The Keto Diet
Healthy fats, lean proteins, non-starchy vegetables, snacks, keto-friendly packaged foods, fat bombs, and pasta alternatives are all recommended for a keto diet. It is important to base a keto diet on whole, single-ingredient foods in order to achieve the desired health benefits. Meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, healthy oils, avocados, and low carb vegetables are all great choices to eat on a keto diet. Dark green and leafy vegetables should be your optimal selection to ensure that you meet your daily nutritional requirements.

When it comes to meals, it is recommended to include a variety of leafy greens, non-starchy vegetables, and salads. Including a variety of nutritious snacks can be beneficial. Options include pieces of meat, cheese, olives, boiled eggs, nuts, raw veggies, and dark chocolate. Olive oil is a great way to provide flavor and caloric intake on a keto diet. Bulletproof coffee, which is composed of coffee, grass-fed butter, and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil, is also a common way to start your morning. Furthermore, Explore Cuisine's organic black bean spaghetti is a suitable pasta alternative for those who wish to enjoy a delicious meal.

A comprehensive listing of vegetables suitable for a ketogenic diet can be found in the ketogenic diet guide.

Foods To Avoid On The Keto Diet

Foods To Avoid On The Keto Diet
The keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that works to induce a state of ketosis. To ensure that the body is able to enter this state, it is recommended to abstain from consuming certain foods that are high in carbohydrates. This includes pasta, grains, starchy vegetables, legumes, sweets, and certain types of alcohol.

In order to achieve the desired results of a ketogenic diet, it is important to understand the difference between net carbs and total carbs. Net carbs are total carbohydrates minus the fiber content, and should be the focus of your carbohydrate intake. Foods like olive oil, keto meals, and leafy greens are all low in carbohydrates and should be the staples of your diet. By avoiding these high-carbohydrate foods, you can ensure that you are able to reach your ketogenic goals while supporting your overall health.

Sample Week-Long Meal Plan

Sample Week-Long Meal Plan
The sample week-long meal plan for the keto diet is designed to help individuals adjust to the ketogenic diet and reap its health benefits. It includes a selection of meals that are low in carbs and rich in healthy fats and proteins. Eating a variety of foods from each food group, such as lean meats, fish, eggs, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, will ensure that you get all the necessary nutrients on a keto diet.

Additionally, it is important to rotate vegetables and meats over the long term to provide your body with a variety of different nutrients and promote healthful outcomes. To get started, you can find 101 healthy low carb recipes and a keto shopping list in Section 4.

Side Effects Of A Keto Diet

Side Effects Of A Keto Diet
It has been noted that the keto diet may induce side effects, such as the "keto flu," lightheadedness, nausea, mental fog, cramps, headaches, and diarrhea. When following a ketogenic diet, the body produces ketones, which can result in a fruity, acetone-like odor on the breath, commonly referred to as "keto breath."

The "keto flu" is a term used to describe a range of symptoms associated with the initial transition period into a ketogenic diet. Common symptoms include nausea, headache, exhaustion, and overall unease. Other more common side effects include constipation, muscle cramps, and difficulty sleeping.

It is also noted that a keto diet may cause kidney stones and elevations in LDL-cholesterol and LDL-particle number, which are considered less common yet more serious side effects.

Weight Loss Benefits

Weight Loss Benefits
The keto diet is an effective way to facilitate weight loss due to its ability to reduce insulin levels, transforming the body into a fat-burning machine. Studies have shown that, in comparison to other diets, low-carb and ketogenic diets are more likely to result in greater weight loss, even in the long run. Ketosis has several advantages for weight loss, such as increased energy levels, and potential therapeutic medical applications.

To ensure successful weight loss on the keto diet, it is important to consume foods that you enjoy without feeling hungry or counting calories. Hunger is usually not an issue on the keto diet as it helps people naturally eat less due to feeling more satiated. It is important to note that reverting back to old habits after reaching the desired weight may cause the weight to return.

The initial weight loss within the first week is usually around 2 to 4 pounds. That could be 1 to 2 kilograms approximately. Some may even lose more. After the initial couple of weeks, the rate of weight loss tends to slow down. Additionally, calorie counting is not necessary while on the keto diet.

Other Health Benefits

Other Health Benefits
Studies have indicated that the ketogenic diet may be beneficial in terms of body weight reduction, diastolic blood pressure reduction, and increases in LDL and HDL compared to a low-fat diet. Additionally, a ketogenic or low carb diet may have a positive impact on individuals with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance, potentially lowering blood sugar and reversing the condition.

However, the keto diet may lead to an increase in plaque buildup in the arteries, which can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke, as well as alterations in medications, such as those for diabetes, which may require dosage adjustments. Furthermore, consuming an excessive amount of saturated fats rather than healthy unsaturated fats may increase cholesterol levels. To maintain heart health, it is recommended to obtain fat from unsaturated sources such as olive, avocado, and canola oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives.

Unfortunately, there are no other scientifically proven health benefits of the keto diet, and individuals should take caution when considering the diet as a long-term lifestyle plan.

Pros & Cons Of The Keto Diet

The keto diet has gained popularity in recent years due to its weight loss benefits and potential health advantages. The ketogenic or “keto” diet consists of a very low-carb, high-fat eating plan, which triggers the body to enter a metabolic state known as ketosis. This diet has been linked to rapid weight loss, increased satisfaction after meals, and a potential decrease in abdominal fat.

However, there are potential drawbacks to the keto diet as well. A low-carb, ketogenic diet may lead to nutrient deficiencies, constipation, and "keto flu" symptoms. Additionally, long-term health risks may include kidney stones, osteoporosis, and liver disease.

It is important to note that a low-carb, high-fat diet is distinct from a low-fat diet; research has demonstrated the benefits of a low-carb, ketogenic diet in comparison to a low-fat diet.

For those interested in learning more about the keto diet, readers can refer to the website's frequently asked keto questions page for further information about common keto questions.

Getting Started

It is recommended to clear out the kitchen pantry and restock with appropriate staples before beginning the keto diet. The items that should be stocked depend on the individual’s goals and preferences, so it is recommended to consult keto resources when starting the diet. To facilitate success and provide meal planning and culinary inspiration, consider subscribing to a complimentary newsletter offering useful tools. Following relevant social channels may also provide additional tips and meal ideas.

Keto diets are characterized by high fat content. Protein intake is kept moderate, while carbohydrates are restricted to a minimum. When stocking up on pantry staples, focus on high-fat foods such as fatty fish, meat, full-fat dairy, avocados, nuts, and seeds. Also, be sure to stock up on low-carb vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, and leafy greens. Avoid foods high in carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes, and bread, as well as low-fat foods like salad dressings and other condiments.

Achieving Ketosis

Achieving Ketosis
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the body utilizes fat as an energy source instead of carbohydrates and is essential for weight loss. To reach ketosis, it is necessary to abstain from consuming foods that are high in carbohydrates and instead consume foods that are high in fat and low in carbohydrates. A sample meal plan can be beneficial for attaining ketosis by providing guidance on what to consume and the amount to consume.

Blood, urine and breath tests are commonly used to assess ketosis. These tests measure the amount of ketones produced by the body. It typically takes 2 to 4 days to enter ketosis by consuming 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates daily. It is important to be aware of ingredients as some foods contain concealed carbohydrates and sugars that can disrupt or interfere with ketosis.

Being mindful of ingredients involves reading nutrition labels, opting for whole foods over processed ones, and avoiding processed foods.

Physical Performance

Physical Performance
Fats are the primary energy source for the body on a keto diet. In the short term, a decrease in strength and endurance may be experienced. However, a study on trained cyclists who followed a ketogenic diet for four weeks found that no compromise in aerobic endurance was observed, and their muscle mass remained unchanged from the outset. The findings of a similar study conducted on eight professional gymnasts were also consistent with the study on trained cyclists, indicating that their physical performance was not adversely affected.

Once the body has adapted to burning fat as its main energy source, it's known as being keto-adapted. When this happens, it can effectively use fat reserves as fuel. To enhance physical performance while on the keto diet, consumption of carbohydrates prior to exercise or alternating carbohydrate intake may help to optimize physical performance. For exercises that require an explosive action, the consumption of 25-50g of carbohydrates approximately 30 minutes prior to training can improve performance.

Dangers of The Keto Diet

Dangers of The Keto Diet
Ketoacidosis is a rare but serious condition that can occur in individuals with type 1 diabetes, and is caused by abnormally high levels of ketones in the body. It is important to note that this is distinct from ketosis, the metabolic state induced by the ketogenic diet, which is generally safe for healthy individuals.

When considering the ketogenic diet, it is important to distinguish between a keto diet and a high fat, high carb diet. While a keto diet involves a high fat and low carb intake to induce ketosis, a high fat and high carb diet can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance, and other health issues, and can prevent the body from entering a state of ketosis. Thus, a keto diet should not be confused with a high fat, high carb diet.

What Happens To Your Body

What Happens To Your Body
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the body uses fat and ketones instead of glucose as its primary energy source. The ketogenic diet is a great choice for bringing your body into a state of ketosis. It is a highly effective, efficient way to do so. When carbohydrate intake is severely restricted, the body resorts to breaking down fat for energy instead of glucose, resulting in the production of ketones as a byproduct.

The body's transition into ketosis can result in the "Keto Flu" and the excretion of electrolytes. Additionally, the body will naturally utilize the remaining glucose and synthesize a new supply of enzymes when entering a ketogenic state. The body must generate a new set of enzymes to cope with the decrease of glucose and increase of fat during the keto diet. This depletion of glycogen in the muscles can lead to a lack of energy and general fatigue during the keto diet.

It is common to experience headaches, mental fogginess, dizziness, and irritability in the initial week of the keto diet. To manage these symptoms, it is advised to stay hydrated, increase salt intake, and consume foods that are high in magnesium and potassium.

Keto Flu

Keto Flu
The keto flu is a temporary grogginess that some individuals may experience during the initial week of the keto diet. This is attributed to the body's adaptation to ketosis, which has a diuretic effect and leads to the excretion of electrolytes. The indications of the Keto Flu can comprise of fatigue, headache, nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, mental fog, cramps, and bad breath.

To reduce the symptoms of the Keto Flu, it is advisable to gradually transition to the diet, supplement with minerals, increase water consumption, replenish electrolytes, and add salt to meals. Sodium assists with water retention and electrolyte replenishment, which can prevent or alleviate the Keto Flu. If the symptoms are more severe, it is recommended to double check electrolyte intake and adjust accordingly. To begin with, a low carb diet could be adopted for the initial few weeks, which will enable the body to become accustomed to burning fat. Additionally, a ketogenic diet can lead to changes in the water and mineral balance of the body, so it is suggested to include extra salt in meals or to take mineral supplements to counterbalance this. Increasing water intake and replenishing electrolytes should help reduce the severity of the symptoms. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance are the primary culprits.

For an individual commencing a ketogenic diet, it is recommended to consume 20-30g of net carbs daily. It is recommended to consume less than 15g of net carbs daily in order to reach ketosis within one week. Generally, it takes an average person who is beginning a ketogenic diet and consuming 20-30g of net carbs per day approximately 4-5 days to fully adapt. Attention to dietary intake and adherence to macro ratios is the recommended approach to monitor ketosis. Urine or blood strips are suitable for this purpose.

Common Side Effects

Common Side Effects
It is common to experience a variety of side effects when starting a ketogenic diet, such as bad breath, constipation, muscle cramps, and increased urination. While these side effects are generally temporary, they can be addressed with dietary and lifestyle measures. For instance, increasing water intake, incorporating fiber from non-starchy vegetables into one's diet, taking psyllium husk powder, or taking a probiotic may help to address constipation. Those experiencing indigestion should limit their fat intake and gradually increase it over a two-week period.

In addition to the more common side effects, there are some lesser-known potential side effects associated with the keto diet. It is possible to experience hydration and micronutrient-related issues, as well as heart palpitations. Heart palpitations refer to an irregular heartbeat, which is characterized by an increased heart rate and force of contraction. Ensuring adequate hydration and sodium is typically sufficient to alleviate heart palpitations.

Other side effects may include diarrhea and “keto breath”. If digestion issues and diarrhea persist, increasing fiber intake or taking a probiotic may be beneficial.


The keto diet is a popular and highly effective way to take charge of your body and health, but requires careful adherence to remain successful. The low-carb, high-fat diet is versatile and can be tailored to fit individual preferences as well as physical activity levels, enabling it to be a lifestyle change for many trying to achieve their health goals.

The ketogenic diet has various benefits, such as weight loss, increased energy and better sleep, but should also be monitored by healthcare professionals and registered dietitians to ensure nutrient-dense meals, optimal performance and overall wellbeing.

Before starting on the journey of a ketogenic diet, individuals should become familiar with proper nutritional needs, meal planning, and safe eating techniques to avoid any long-term implications and ensure continued progress towards their goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do you eat on a keto diet?

A keto diet emphasizes eating healthy fats, proteins, and plenty of non-starchy vegetables while cutting back on processed foods, grains, sugars, and starchy carbs.

This balanced way of eating can help lead to better health and healthier eating habits in the long run.

What are the top 10 keto foods?

Going on a keto diet? Get started with these top 10 foods that are perfect for the ketogenic diet. Salmon, cheese, avocado, eggs, chicken, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts & seeds, plain Greek yogurt and spinach are all nutritious and delicious options when following the keto plan.

What are the golden rules of keto?

The golden rules of keto are to keep your daily carb intake under 50 grams, maintain adequate protein and healthy fat intake, eat plenty of vegetables, and plan ahead.
By following these simple guidelines, you can easily enjoy the benefits of a ketogenic lifestyle.

What does being on a keto diet mean?

Being on a keto diet means limiting carbohydrate intake so the body produces ketones, which are molecules that act as an alternative energy source for cells.

Foods that are usually consumed while on the ketogenic diet include high-fat items like butter, cheese, and eggs, as well as meat, nuts, oils, seafood, and seeds.

What are the basic rules for keto?

The main rule for the ketogenic diet is to limit your daily carb intake to 20 to 50 grams. Additionally, ensure that you eat adequate amounts of proteins and healthy fats, such as fish, olive oil, avocado, grass-fed meats and eggs, and choose nutrient-dense, low-carb fruits and vegetables.

Also, keep hydrated with plenty of water to support metabolism and flush out toxins. Lastly, consult your doctor before beginning any new diet plan.


Michael Gonzales

Michael has a diverse set of skills and passions, with a full-time career as an airline pilot and a dedicated focus on health and fitness consulting. He understands the importance of balancing a busy lifestyle with maintaining a healthy mind and body, and is committed to helping others achieve the same success. Michael's expertise in health and fitness is not just limited to physical training, but also extends to nutrition, stress management, and overall wellbeing. He takes a holistic approach to health and fitness, helping clients to achieve their goals in a sustainable and fulfilling way. With a strong desire to inspire and motivate others, Michael is always ready to share his time and knowledge with those who seek his guidance. Whether in the air or on the ground, Michael is dedicated to helping others live their best lives.

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