Ketogenic diet (often called just “keto”) is a nutritional approach that aims to induce ketosis by restricting the amount of carbohydrates to a minimum. Ketosis is a natural state that occurs once the body starts burning fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates.
The usual ketogenic range for most people is 20-30g net carbs a day, although highly active people can go up to 50g and stay in ketosis. Depending on your individual hormonal levels and the amount of physical activity you do, switching into ketosis can take several days to several weeks.
The modern version of the diet was developed to help alleviate symptoms of certain medical conditions such as epilepsy*. Keto principles were also used in some weight-loss diets (for example, Atkins Induction is ketogenic).
Modified versions of Keto, such as Cyclical Keto Diet (CKD) and Targeted Keto Diet (TKD) are popular amongst bodybuilders, power-lifters and other athletes who need to lose fat without also burning away lean muscle mass.
Ketogenic diets have several advantages over more moderate low-carb diets. In addition to faster weight loss, these include higher energy levels, absence of hunger and minimised sugar cravings.
In a nutshell
In the standard version of Keto, you would cut the amounts of carbohydrates to a minimum (20-30g a day), while also consuming moderate amounts of protein and high amounts of fat. You would consume the same ratios of these nutrients throughout the full duration of your diet, until you reach your goal weight. There are several calculators available that help you figure out the exact amounts of calories and carbs/fat/protein.
Cyclical Keto Diet (CKD)
Cyclical Keto Diet follows the standard principles overall, but also includes carb-up phase where you would consume large amounts of carbs to refill your muscles’ glycogen stores. Typically, the carb-up occurs once a week (for example, on a Sunday), but this can vary depending on your training schedule and performance.
Targeted Keto Diet (TKD)
Targeted Keto Diet is based on the idea of consuming carbs just before and after your workout, so that they would get depleted immediately. This tends to be the preferred option for athletes who do intense exercising and need to keep up their performance levels even throughout fat loss stage.
Keto Diet Pros
- Ketogenic diet has a long proven track record within weight loss, athletic and medical fields.
- For athletes, keto provides a way of losing weight without compromising performance.
- Being in ketosis curbs hunger and sugar cravings, and often improves energy levels.
Keto Diet Cons
- Getting into ketosis requires a lot of discipline, and you might experience tiredness and carb cravings until ketosis actually kicks in. This can take up to several weeks in some individuals (although 3-7 days is more typical).
- Some food groups such as grains and fruit will be off limits, so some people might find the diet too boring.
As certain vitamin-rich foods such as fruit and grains are restricted during Keto, you might consider taking a vitamin supplement.
Check out Nutri-Align low-carb diet multivitamin supplement, which contains 19 extra-strong vitamins and minerals, as well as L-Carnitine and green tea extract.
The supplement can support transition to ketosis, as its ingredients contribute to reduction of tiredness and fatigue, normal energy-yielding metabolism and maintenance of blood glucose levels.
“Ketogenic” is a generic term used to describe the nutritional approach, so there is no single author who “owns” it. I recommend the following resources:
Lyle McDonald is a well-known authority on low-carbohydrate and ketogenic dieting. His website Body Recomposition has a lot of free information and is a must-read for weight lifters, body-builders and other athletes who are thinking of going on Keto. Lyle also wrote several in-depth books on this subject.
Keto community on Reddit is huge, with a wealth of resources and recipes. Read their FAQ section to get started.
* This article is aimed at people who are interested in keto diets in order to lose weight. If you have a health condition such as diabetes or epilepsy, or if you are under medical supervision for any other reason, you should be following specialist medical advice to plan your diet, so please contact your GP or another health professional for guidance.