Beginner’s Guide to Keto Diet Plans

Could keto be the key to accelerate your goals?

Photograph of various ketogenic diet foods

The Keto Diet has become one of the most popular ways of eating in fitness. People all over the world are using it to lose weight and control their body fat, as well as improve performance. Learn everything you need to know in this beginner’s guide to Keto Diet Plans.

 

Article preview:

  1. What is a Ketogenic Diet?
  2. Types of Ketogenic Diet
  3. Is a Ketogenic Diet for you?
  4. Health benefits
  5. Keto Diet Meal Plan Guide
  6. Keto friendly food to eat
  7. Food to avoid
  8. 7-Day Sample menu for a week
  9. Keto shopping list
  10. Supplementation
  11. FAQs
  12. Final word

 

What is a Ketogenic Diet?

The ketogenic diet, often known as ‘keto’, is all about forcing your body to use fat for fuel.

Whereas most of us get our energy from carbohydrates, advocates of keto don’t. Instead, they restrict their sugar intake so their body must use fat to survive. The science behind it is pretty cool.

Your body’s preferred source of fuel is carbohydrates. So, whenever there’s carbs around to be broken down into glucose, your body will use them. But…

When you restrict carb intake to drop blood sugar levels, tiny molecules called ketones are produced. For this to happen it’s also important to moderate protein, which can also be broken down into sugars.

To make up for the lack of carbs in your system the liver makes ketones from fat. Once created, these ketones can supply your body, especially the brain, with useable energy. A ketogenic diet is a specific way of eating that allows this process to happen.

People who choose to follow a standard keto diet use fat for fuel every day. Understandably, this makes losing weight through fat burning much more efficient. Utilizing fat for energy by altering diet in this way is known as ‘ketosis’ [1].

Related article: Good Fats for Muscle Building: Eating Fat to Make Fast Gains

Man with thumbs up standing behind ketogenic diet foods

Types of Ketogenic Diet

Most people that follow a ketogenic diet focus on the standard version. This is usually the simplest to keep track of and keeps dieters in 24/7 ketosis.

Yet, other variations do exist. Popular types of keto dieting include:

  • Standard Ketogenic Diet: High-fat, low-carb, and moderate protein. This variation usually comprises of 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs [2].
  • Targeted Ketogenic Diet: Adding carbs in and around exercise
  • Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: Included higher carb re-feeds. These could be two days at the weekend in relation to keto weekdays.
  • High-Protein Ketogenic Diet: Rather than moderating protein, it’s usually increased to around 35%. A common ratio is 35% protein, 60% fat, and 5% carbohydrates.

For the basis of this article we’ll be talking about the standard keto diet. This is the most extensively studied style of eating for ketosis, while other variations are said to be better suited to sports people. Either way, the principle remains the same, which means the following information still applies to them.

Is a Ketogenic Diet for you?

There are many reasons people decide to adopt a ketogenic diet. However, it has to be said that the two standout choices are to lose weight and regulate blood sugar.

Keto can support quick weight loss in a number of ways. Firstly, by targeting fat for fuel, your body is more likely to turn to unwanted body fat too. It becomes efficient at not relying on carbs, therefore making it better suited to blitz through body fat by reducing fat-storing hormones [3].

Secondly, with fewer carbs in your system, you’re holding less water weight. Beginners new to keto should notice a fair few pounds dropped in the first few days alone.

A few folk also claim going keto can improve sport performance. While it may be true for some sports, one recent study suggests it might not work for all [4]. Endurance and ultra-endurance athletes might want to consider it for example. Weightlifters and high-intensity guys – not so much.

So, is a ketogenic diet for you? If your goal is to lose weight, help regulate blood sugar, or excel at endurance sports, then it’s a definite maybe.

Who Should Not Use a Ketogenic Diet

Based on current evidence you should not use a ketogenic diet if:

  • Are on medication for diabetes or blood pressure
  • You’re currently breastfeeding

Disclaimer: SpotMeBro do not advise you undertake a ketogenic diet without discussing your plans with a trained medical professional. Sometimes certain medications must be altered to align with the keto lifestyle.

Illustration showing various ketogenic diet side effects

Health Benefits

Weight loss and performance aside, going keto is suggested to be good for you. Not only can you drop excess bodyfat, but some studies show you can do everything from reduce heart disease risk to boost brain function. Let’s look at some proposed health benefits…

 

Weight Loss

Studies show that the ketogenic diet may help people lose weight effectively [5]. By losing fat weight men can experience a bunch of other health benefits including higher testosterone and lower risk of mortality from diseases [6].

Also, some scientists suggest that going keto can work for suppressing hunger [7]. Understandably, this can really increase your chance of weight loss by keeping cravings at bay. It might also make intermittent fasting much easier, which could also accelerate fat loss [8].

 

Managing Blood Sugar and Type 2 Diabetes

By reducing overall carb intake, a ketogenic diet is a great tool for managing blood sugar. People who suffer from type two diabetes might find the diet reduces their medication needs [9].

There have even been multiple studies that say keto could reverse type two diabetes [10] [11].

Boosted Cognitive Performance

According to some research, keto could be the key to better cognitive performance.

Studies show it may hold potentially life changing benefits for those with cognitive disorders. According to researchers, a ketogenic diet can help combat epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s [12] [13].

Another thing to consider is that while in ketosis your brain can use ketones as fuel. It just so happens that these small energy molecules are super effective at energizing it too. One clinical review from 2011 states that ketones are even better at the job than glucose [13].

Ketones allow your brain to experience a steady stream of fuel without changes in blood sugar.  In short – you’re less likely to suffer from carb crashes.  This can help stave away common cognitive blips like brain fog and an inability to concentrate.

Ketogenic meal

Keto Diet Meal Plan Guide

Want to learn how to transform your eating habits to the keto way? Just keep reading.

First, we’ll look at the foods to eat, before learning which ones to avoid. Then it’ll be time to hit the kitchen to taste a seven-day sample menu.

Don’t worry, we’ve got your shopping list covered too. In this section we’ll give you all the essential ketogenic groceries.

Keto-friendly food to eat

For food to be keto friendly it should be low in sugars. After all, you’ll only break into dietary ketosis once your body knows there’s limited carbs around.

To follow a standard ketogenic diet, you should shoot for 20 grams each day. This amount will keep glucose low enough to maintain a fat fueling burn.

Here are a bunch of the best options to throw in your meals:

  • Meat – Red meat, chicken, turkey, pork etc.
  • Fatty/oily fish – Trout, mackerel, salmon, tuna etc.
  • Eggs – Whole pasture raised eggs are rich in omega-3
  • Nuts and seeds – Walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds etc.
  • Avocados – Whole is best, but smashed is also acceptable
  • Healthy oils – Extra virgin olive oil, MCT oil, coconut oil, avocado oil etc.
  • Cheese – Full fat versions, avoid processed kinds
  • Butter – Whole grass-fed is optimal, with the same being said for cream
  • Low-carbohydrate vegetables – Peppers, onions, tomatoes, green vegetables etc. (mainly those grown above ground)
  • Dark chocolate – Go for the variety with 70% cocoa content or over
  • Herbs and condiments – Natural kinds like salt, pepper, basil, coriander etc.
  • Coffee and tea – Caffeine can increase metabolism, improve performance, and benefit mood [15]. So, don’t feel like you must miss out on your joe, bro. Keep carbs low by ditching the spoonful of sugar or frothy milk.

Photograph of various carbohydrates banned on the ketogenic diet

Food to avoid

Just as important as knowing what food to eat is understanding which ones you shouldn’t. It should go without saying that sugars are on the top of this list, but you’d be surprised how many can creep in. Check out this list of ‘avoid’ options:

  • Blatant sugary food – Candy, cakes, table sugar, kid’s cereal, ice cream, chocolate etc.
  • Sugar filled drinks – Soda, juice, really milky coffees, many beers etc.
  • Grains and rice – Oats, bread, pasta, and rice are all carb heavy choices, especially once refined
  • Fruit – Banana, apples, pineapple, mango, pear, etc. are all filled with fructose. A handful of berries every now and again is a better option
  • Beans – While they’re high in protein, these are also rich in carbohydrates
  • Alcoholic beverages – Check the carb of your favorite bottle before drinking – red wine is okay in moderation
  • Some shell fish – Clams, mussels, octopus, oysters, and squid.
  • Unnatural sauces – A lot of condiments and sauces such as ketchup and BBQ are crammed with sugar. Always check the carb content before splashing out on your food.
  • Margarine – No nutritional benefits
  • Artificial trans fats – Linked to poor health markers

If in doubt, use the power of the internet to find an ingredients carb content. Macro maintenance apps like MyFitnessPal are also useful for tracking.

 

 7-Day Sample menu for a week

This is what a whole week of eating keto might look like…

Monday

  • Breakfast – Eggs and bacon cooked in full-fat butter w/ asparagus
  • Lunch – Coconut oil fried chicken breast, sliced avocado, sautéed mushroom and spinach w/ scattered pine nuts
  • Dinner – Seared tuna steak cooked in extra virgin olive oil w/ chili and garlic, sautéed broccoli and sprouts, grilled tomato dressed with basil

Tuesday

  • Breakfast – Bulletproof coffee
  • Lunch – Grass-fed beef patty, sliced tomato, fried bacon and goats’ cheese, served in iceberg lettuce leaf
  • Dinner – Low-carb chicken Garam masala (made with ghee, coconut cream, Garam masala powder, and chopped parsley)

Wednesday

  • Breakfast – Mushroom and bell pepper omelet pan fried in olive oil, topped w/ habanero hot sauce, salt, and black pepper
  • Lunch – Bacon, avocado, and feta cheese salad sat on a bed of greens w/ ample serving of avocado oil and walnuts
  • Dinner – Pan fried pork chops marinated in pesto served w/ chive infused mayonnaise

Thursday

  • Breakfast – Coconut flour cinnamon pancakes topped w/ full fat grass-fed butter
  • Lunch – Sautéed kale and broccoli salad topped w/ hard boiled egg, scallions and wholegrain mustard
  • Dinner – Egg wraps w/ avocado and shrimp cooked in creamy mayonnaise and chili sauce. Add a squeeze of lime for a little extra zing

Friday

  • Breakfast – Bacon and cauliflower breakfast hash w/ pasture raised whole eggs
  • Lunch – Cauliflower soup w/ pan fried pancetta
  • Dinner – Zucchini noodles w/ mined turkey, tomatoes, mushroom and parmesan sauce

 

Saturday

  • Breakfast – Loaded cauliflower-based breakfast pizza
  • Lunch – Salmon salad w/ tomato and cranberries
  • Dinner – Low-carb beef stir fry w/ chili and garlic hot sauce

Sunday

  • Breakfast – Bacon guacamole cups
  • Lunch – Chicken Caesar salad w/ parmesan cheese
  • Dinner – Steak fajita roll-ups

Healthy Keto Snacks

  • Plain Greek yogurt and cottage cheese
  • Dark chocolate (85%+)
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Berries
  • Olives
  • Cheese
  • Fatty meat and fish
  • One or two hard boiled eggs
  • Beef jerky

healthy foods shown

Keto Shopping list

No meal plan is complete without a shopping list. Keep a look out for these keto essentials when you hit the store:

Protein

  • Beef, lamb, pork, bacon, organ meats, game, and veal
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Fatty fish and white fish crab
  • Lobster, oysters, scallops, shrimp (sparingly)
  • Whole pasture raised eggs that are rich in omega-3

Related article: Protein Guide: Eating for Your Goals

Fresh produce

  • Green veg – broccoli, spinach, kale, lettuce, watercress
  • Other veg – asparagus, bok choy, eggplant, mushrooms, celery, radishes, tomatoes, and zucchini
  • Avocado, nuts, and seeds
  • Berries – blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
  • Herbs

Dairy

  • Butter, ghee, full-fat heavy cream, soft cheese, hard cheese, and full-fat whole milk

Other items

  • Drinks – Tea, coffee, sugar-free soda, cold-brew coffee, iced tea
  • Bouillon cubes and broth
  • Animal fat – Duck fat, lard, and schmaltz etc.
  • Pork rinds
  • Parmesan crisps
  • Oil – MCT, coconut, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, and nut oil
  • Mayonnaise and mustard
  • Hot sauce and vinegar
  • Dark chocolate
  • Beef jerky

Illustration representing ketogenic supplements

Supplementation

A lot of keto fans carry out the diet to optimize their performance. Their interest goes far beyond fat loss and into the realm of bettering their entire body.

However, a ketogenic diet can be quite restrictive, meaning it’s more likely to miss-out micronutrients. A great way to combat this is to delve into the world of supplements.

On top of this, some supplements might help symptoms of the keto flu. For those curious this is a period, usually only a few days, where dieters feel sick while adjusting to ketosis. Keto flu can make people feel nauseous, low on energy, run down, irritable and have intense sugar cravings. Hence why it’s named after the common ‘flu’.

These are the best go-to supplements for ketogenic dieters…

  • MCT OilMedium-chain triglycerides are the table sugar of the fat world. Once consumed they’re fast-tracked to the liver where they’re converted into energy inducing ketones. Supplementing with MCT oil can help dieters ramp up their fat intake quickly.
  • Magnesium – This mineral plays an integral part in health by boosting energy, bolstering the immune system and managing blood sugar [16]. Also, ensuring you’re hitting your RDA can help with the muscle cramps and sleeping difficulty associated with keto flu [17] [18].
  • Vitamin D – Although not exclusive to keto followers, many of us face vitamin D deficiencies due to our modern lifestyle that sees us hidden from the sun. One study indicates that almost 50% of us might be suffering from it, which makes supplementing a smart move. This is especially true for people in ketosis who may be exposed to limited amounts of calcium [19] [20].
  • Exogenous ketones – These can help keto dieters reach ketosis faster. Some scientists believe they could also suppress appetite, making weight loss an easier process [21].

 

Keto Diet FAQs

How do I track carb intake?

We recommend good old pen and paper if you don’t have a smart phone. However, if you’ve got access to this awesome technology, download a macro tracking app. This will make it super easy to check in on your daily carbohydrates.

 

Won’t I eat too much fat?

Not if you’re tracking your calories and weight. If you notice a little fat gain pull the macros back a little. It’s possible to over-eat anything, so it’s all about knowing how to moderate them. If in doubt work out your maintenance calories and set up your fats, carbs, and proteins to match.

 

How long will it take before I’m in ketosis?

Entering into a ketogenic state could take anywhere between two to seven days. Unfortunately, you might have to put up with keto flu while transitioning. When this occurs stay hydrated, relax, keep away from intense exercise, get your sleep, and ensure you’re eating enough.

Man holding nuts as keto snack

The Final Word

The ketogenic diet has become a popular way for people to eat in recent years. Rather than find energy through carbohydrates, keto advocates turn to fats from their food as fuel.

Once carbohydrates become low enough the body goes into ketosis. This is a stage where it will draw energy from ketones, derived from fat, rather than glycogen originated from sugars. Understandably, entering ketosis is seen as an ideal way to target body fat stores.

According to scientific studies, the keto diet may promote certain health benefits. Some of these such as helping to manage Type 2 Diabetes and enhancing cognitive function are quite impressive. Going keto is sometimes used to combat epilepsy too.

If you’re thinking of trying the ketogenic lifestyle, it’s recommended you speak to your doctor. While it’s fine for most people it’s always best to get checked out first. Your doctor will be able to check your current state of health before advising if keto is safe for you.

References

  1. Miller VJ, Villamena FA, Volek JS. Nutritional Ketosis and Mitohormesis: Potential Implications for Mitochondrial Function and Human Health.J Nutr Metab. 2018;2018:5157645. Published 2018 Feb 11. doi:10.1155/2018/5157645
  2. Freeman J, Kossoff E, Hartman A. The Ketogenic Diet: One Decade Later.Pediatrics. 2007;119(3):535-543. doi:10.1542/peds.2006-2447
  3. Hernandez T, Sutherland J, Wolfe P et al. Lack of suppression of circulating free fatty acids and hypercholesterolemia during weight loss on a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet.Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91(3):578-585. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27909
  4. Burke LM. Re-Examining High-Fat Diets for Sports Performance: Did We Call the ‘Nail in the Coffin’ Too Soon?.Sports Med. 2015;45 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S33-49.
  5. Shai I, et al. Weight Loss with a Low-Carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or Low-Fat Diet.New England Journal of Medicine. 2008;359(20):2169-2172. doi:10.1056/nejmc081747
  6. Mokdad AH, Ford ES, Bowman BA, et al. Prevalence of Obesity, Diabetes, and Obesity-Related Health Risk Factors, 2001. 2003;289(1):76–79. doi:10.1001/jama.289.1.76
  7. Sumithran P, Prendergast L, Delbridge E et al. Ketosis and appetite-mediating nutrients and hormones after weight loss.Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013;67(7):759-764. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.90
  8. Harris L, Hamilton S, Azevedo L et al. Intermittent fasting interventions for treatment of overweight and obesity in adults.JBI Database System Rev Implement Rep. 2018;16(2):507-547. doi:10.11124/jbisrir-2016-003248
  9. Meng Y, Bai H, Wang S, Li Z, Wang Q, Chen L. Efficacy of low carbohydrate diet for type 2 diabetes mellitus management: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2017;131:124-131. doi:10.1016/j.diabres.2017.07.006
  10. Sainsbury E, Kizirian N, Partridge S, Gill T, Colagiuri S, Gibson A. Effect of dietary carbohydrate restriction on glycemic control in adults with diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis.Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2018;139:239-252. doi:10.1016/j.diabres.2018.02.026
  11. Snorgaard O, Poulsen G, Andersen H, Astrup A. Systematic review and meta-analysis of dietary carbohydrate restriction in patients with type 2 diabetes.BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care. 2017;5(1):e000354. doi:10.1136/bmjdrc-2016-000354
  12. Hallböök T, Ji S, Maudsley S, Martin B. The effects of the ketogenic diet on behavior and cognition.Epilepsy Res. 2011;100(3):304-9.
  13. Krikorian R, Shidler M, Dangelo K, Couch S, Benoit S, Clegg D. Dietary ketosis enhances memory in mild cognitive impairment.Neurobiol Aging. 2012;33(2):425.e19-425.e27. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2010.10.006
  14. White H, Venkatesh B. Clinical review: Ketones and brain injuryCritical Care. 2011;15(2):219. doi:10.1186/cc10020
  15. Ruxton C. The impact of caffeine on mood, cognitive function, performance and hydration: a review of benefits and risks.Nutr Bull. 2008;33(1):15-25. doi:10.1111/j.1467-3010.2007.00665.x
  16. Gröber U, Schmidt J, Kisters K. Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy.Nutrients. 2015;7(9):8199-226. Published 2015 Sep 23. doi:10.3390/nu7095388
  17. Gröber U, Schmidt J, Kisters K. Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy.Nutrients. 2015;7(9):8199-226. Published 2015 Sep 23. doi:10.3390/nu7095388
  18. Boyle NB, Lawton C, Dye L. The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress-A Systematic Review.Nutrients. 2017;9(5):429. Published 2017 Apr 26. doi:10.3390/nu9050429
  19. Nair R, Maseeh A. Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin.J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012;3(2):118-26.
  20. Rogovik AL, Goldman RD. Ketogenic diet for treatment of epilepsy.Can Fam Physician. 2010;56(6):540-2.
  21. Cox P, Kirk T, Ashmore T et al. Nutritional Ketosis Alters Fuel Preference and Thereby Endurance Performance in Athletes.Cell Metab. 2016;24(2):256-268. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2016.07.010

 

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3 Comments

Leave a Reply
  1. Thank you for this post. I learned several benefits from keto diet, most especially on “staving away common cognitive blips like brain fog and an inability to concentrate.” This statement resonated with me as I remember that ketogenic diet also acts as a mood stabilizer that results to positive energy that changes in brain profile.

    Good job on this Chad! Great read!

    • Hey Sofia,

      Great to hear you were able to take some knowledge bites away from this. Thank you for your kind words too!

      Good luck on your fitness journey,

      Chad

      • Thank you, Chad! It’s amazing, and I hope that you share more about the keto diet. Wishing you all the best!

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