What Is a Ketogenic Diet Plan?
The low-carb approach to healthy dieting has gained a lot of traction in the past century. Popular foundations include the Atkins, Paleolithic, Ketogenic, and Whole30 diets. Here, we will focus on the Ketogenic diet as it’s one of the more effective diets to implement and sustain long-term in today’s society when compared to the others.
So…What’s the Purpose of a Ketogenic Diet?
Firstly, let’s define the goal metabolic state that we intend to achieve with a ketogenic (keto) diet plan:
Ketosis is a metabolic state your body enters when it hasn’t consumed enough carbs for over a period of several weeks. As a result, it begins to recognize that it’ll need to choose a new primary source of energy. That new primary source of energy becomes fats!
How? Let me explain…
When your body recognizes the lack of carbs and enters into a state of ketosis, it triggers a signal in the liver to convert your fats into ketones. Ketones are a type of acid created by the liver and sent into the bloodstream. Technically, when you’re in a state of ketosis you’re expending ketones, which, in essence, means you’re burning fat for energy!
Considering you have no serious health conditions and eat a fairly balanced diet on a consistent basis, you wouldn’t normally produce ketones or use them. However, when you do, this is nothing to be alarmed about as you’ve probably entered states of ketosis unknowingly sometime during your lifetime.
The goal of a keto diet is to make a conscious effort to induce ketosis.
Why Induce Ketosis?
Based on what we’ve discussed, what do you think would be an outcome of implementing a keto diet?
You guessed it…fat loss!
Because ketosis puts the body in position to primarily burn fat for energy, it’s been a successful method of fat loss when paired with consistent exercise, water consumption, and rest.
This isn’t very effective for building lean muscle, however. Because of the severe lack of carbs, your body won’t be in an anabolic state most of the time due to the lack of insulin. This is necessary for prime muscle growth. On the flip side, since there will be a shortage of insulin for an extended period of time (however long you follow your keto diet plan), your insulin sensitivity levels will improve. This means your body will respond better for muscle growth immediately after cycling off of a keto diet as it’ll be in a more anabolic state!
If you want a baseline guide on how to eat to build lean muscle, check out my guide here!
What Is a Ketogenic Diet Plan?
Let’s get into the meat and potatoes (or lack thereof!) of the discussion: What is a ketogenic diet plan?
Keto diet plans almost eliminate carbohydrates from your diet, generously increase the amount of fats consumed, and provide a medium amount of protein.
Yes, protein is moderated as well. You may be wondering why both protein and carbs are moderated when carbs are the main restricted focus.
The body’s preferred source of energy is carbohydrates. After carbs, its next preferred source of energy is fats. It prefers to save protein for recovery and metabolic processes e.g. for building muscle.
In a state of low carbs and moderate fat where protein is in excess, however, your body will use protein for energy via a process called gluconeogenesis. This is a no-go when we’re trying to enter a state of ketosis. The goal is to get the body to use fat, and only fat, as its energy source. If you consume too much protein, it will instead choose to store the fat and use the excess protein for fuel rendering the ketosis state ineffective!
Let’s go ahead and put some numbers to the theory.
Protein, Fat, and Carb Intake
Calculate your protein, first and foremost. Because we don’t want to consume excess protein, we’ll calculate using the standard 1g per pound of body weight. Let’s say our given weight is 200 lb.:
Weight: 200 lb.
200 lb. x 1 g = 200 g of protein per day = 800 calories from protein per day (4 calories per 1g of protein)
Now that you’ve got the number of calories from protein calculated, you can calculate the number of calories you’ll need from fat by taking a difference. Calculate the approximate number of calories you need to maintain your body weight by using a factor between 14 and 16. We’ll use a factor of 15.5, assuming this 200-lb. person is moderately active:
200 lb. x 15.5 = 3,100 calories to maintain weight
To calculate your daily caloric intake from fat, take the difference of the daily maintenance caloric intake and the daily amount of calories from protein:
3,100 – 800 = 2,300 calories from fat = ~256g of fat
You may not want to maintain your weight, though. Most will want to lose weight when partaking in a ketogenic diet. In that case, simply take a factor between 0.7 to 0.8 to your daily maintenance caloric intake and recalculate your fat value from there!
As for carbohydrates, assume you’ll completely eliminate them from your diet and aim to avoid them. Incidentally, you will consume some carbs throughout the day. Just keep an eye on them and try not to exceed 30 – 40g of carbs per day!
The Right Sources of Fat
It seems counterintuitive to consume large amounts of fat when the main goal of keto diets is to help lose fat. Remember: Your body will be in a state where it prefers to burn fat as its primary source of fuel instead of carbohydrates. Since you’re going to be severely restricting your carb intake and not increasing your protein intake, your body has no choice but to energize itself from the fat you consume.
This DOES NOT mean we can binge on pastries and pizza!
As you’ll read here, there are three types of fats that we can consume: saturated fats, unsaturated fats, and trans fats. We want to avoid trans fats altogether and restrict our intake of saturated fats, if not avoid them altogether as well. When choosing what foods to consume, you will notice that most foods high in saturated fats are high in carbs as well!
Unsaturated fats are the only fats we should actively aim to consume throughout the day. Sources include nuts like walnuts, pecans, and almonds, olive oil, salmon, and peanut butter to name a few!
Crafting Your Keto Diet
Action Item: In this section, we’re going to craft a ketogenic diet plan using some ideal foods. I highly recommend the app MyFitnessPal as a nutritional diary for tracking macronutrient intake!
To make things easier, let’s put a preliminary list of foods together that we will probably consume on a regular basis due to their nutrient content:
- Beef (Ground Chuck – 80% Lean/20% Fat, Ribeye, Porterhouse)
- Chicken (Legs/Thighs)
- Fatty Fish (Salmon, Mackerel, Sardines)
- Nuts (Walnuts, Almonds, Cashews, Peanuts, Macadamia)
- Salted Seeds (Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Chia Seeds)
- Nut Butters (Peanut Butter, Cashew Butter, Almond Butter)
- Whole Milk
- Olive Oil
- Whole-Fat Cheese
- Cream Cheese
- Sour Cream
- Heavy Cream
- Leafy, Green Vegetables (Romaine Lettuce, Spinach, Kale, Bell Peppers)
A sample meal plan could look something like this:
- Whole Milk
- Chicken Thigh
- Olive Oil
- Sour Cream
- Sour Cream
Of course, use the lists to craft recipes, move things around, and perform research for other foods that’ll fit into your plan! When shopping for groceries, always check out the nutrient content and keep your macronutrient goals in mind.
So, what is a ketogenic diet plan? It’s almost no carbs, moderate amounts of protein, and high fat. Once you’ve got that down pat, the main thing to remember is consistency!
You’ll notice that consistency is a theme around here. Discipline is important in all aspects of our lives when setting long-term goals. Good health isn’t something we can achieve in the snap of a finger. It takes not only a change in lifestyle but the maintenance of that lifestyle.
Ketogenic diets are difficult to get used to in the beginning. Your body may not enter into a state of ketosis for several weeks on end. So, without the carbs your body’s become accustomed to over the years, you may feel fatigued, sluggish, and weaker in the beginning.
This is completely normal!
Tip: Sodium can help alleviate the symptoms of impending ketosis. Try a cup of chicken broth here and there!
The key is to keep your long-term goal in mind and not stray off the course of your keto diet plan. Keep those macros in check on a daily basis, consume the water you need, and get ample rest when training!