Summary

  1. The keto diet is a great way to lose weight and improve your health and performance
  2. Ketones are molecules produced from fat for use by the brain and body when not enough glucose is available
  3. To get into ketosis, reduce your carbs to 50g or less a day, eat high fat and moderate protein
  4. Avoid any starchy or sugary foods (inc. bread, pasta and potatoes), and beer. Drinking a little wine or low-carb spirits is ok
  5. Drink more water, increase your salt intake and eat plenty of leafy greens to avoid “keto flu” symptoms such as headaches
  6. You can measure ketones from blood, urine or breath. 1.5–3.0mmol/L is optimal for blood, over 0.5mmol/L for urine, and 2ppm for breat

What is the keto diet?

The keto diet (or “ketogenic diet”) is a low-carb high-fat diet that changes your body into a fat-burning machine, and can help you lose weight and improve your performance and health. Millions of people use this diet regularly and swear by its benefits — including for instance weight loss and improved physical and mental performance. For some people this diet is a necessity because of their medical condition, but many others choose it as a way of life. Regardless of one’s motives, the keto diet is safe, can be fun and has long-lasting benefits.

What are the benefits of keto?

Being in ketosis makes it easier for the body to release fat for energy, which can make the keto diet very effective for losing weight. It also has other benefits, such as reduced hunger, improved blood sugar control, more stable energy levels, improved physical endurance, and better sleep and focus. The keto diet was originally used to help treat drug-resistant epilepsy, and there is even evidence to show it helps prevent the growth of cancer cells.

keto diet

Provided you’re in a caloric deficit, the keto diet will turn you into a fat-burning machine

What does “keto” mean?

Your body’s primary fuel is glucose, which it obtains from carbs and to a lesser extent protein. If your blood sugar and glycogen (stored glucose) levels are low, your body will need to use an alternative source of fuel, and that’s where ketones come into play. Ketones are small molecules produced from fat in the liver, which unlike fatty acids can be used by the brain and nervous system. We often have very small amounts of ketones circulating in our blood, but when in ketosis this level rises significantly and becomes measurable.


How can I get into ketosis?

 

Step 1: Reduce your carb intake to no more than 50 grams

50 grams of carbs is roughly equivalent to two slices of bread, two medium-sized potatoes or one large one, or one cup of dry pasta. However, you should eat less than this as many foods which are not starchy or sugary contain small amount of carbs — it all adds up! If you are exercising regularly you may be ok with 100 grams of carbs, but we recommend 50 grams as a starting point.

Step 2: Dramatically increase your fat intake

To get into optimal ketosis, most (70–80%) of your calories should come from fat. That means loading up on avocados, cheese, bacon, sausages, eggs, nuts, butter, coconut and olive oil. Because fat is very calorie-dense, be careful to eat slowly and to satiety — you can still gain weight in ketosis!

Step 3: Moderate your protein intake

Because your body can make some glucose from protein, eating too much protein may reduce your body’s production of ketones. While there are mixed views on this area (some suggest protein intake makes no difference, or at least will not knock you out of ketosis), we generally recommend staying on the side of caution. As a general rule, stay at or below 1 gram of protein per day per kg of bodyweight (0.45g/lb). So if you weigh 70kg (154lbs), that’s about 70 grams of protein a day, or 300g of raw skinless chicken breast.

Step 4: Increase your intake of water, salt and leafy green vegetables

This is because going into ketosis causes your body to lose both water (removed from the body as part of glycogen when carbohydrate stores are depleted) and electrolytes (reduced carb intake means lower insulin secretion, and insulin helps the body to retain sodium). Failing to do so can result in uncomfortable symptoms known as “keto flu”. Eating more green vegetables ensures you have enough potassium relative to sodium in your diet, as an imbalance can caused increased blood pressure.

keto diet

A classic keto meal of steak, whole eggs and red bell peppers

What should I eat?

keto diet

Are there any risks to being on keto?

Even though the keto diet has many benefits, it is not for everyone. You should generally avoid it if you have problems with your liver or kidneys, are taking medication for diabetes or high blood pressure, or are currently breastfeed. If in doubt, consult your physician first before making decisions about changing your diet.

The keto diet is also not a license to eat any kind of fatty foods you like as long as your carb intake is low — it’s important to eat the right kind of fats and give your body the nutrients it needs.

How long does it take to get into ketosis?

While it generally takes 2–3 days, some people take longer than others. The time taken will vary depending on your carb intake, how much glycogen (stored carbs) your body has, whether you are in a caloric deficit, and how high your fat intake is.

How can I check if I’m in ketosis? How much is enough?

ketosis test

You can check if you are in ketosis by measuring the ketones in your blood, urine or breath.

  1. When testing in blood, 1.5–3.0mmol/L is generally considered optimal
  2. For urine, anything between 0.5–6mmol/L is considered optimal
  3. For breath, 2ppm (parts per million) is considered optimal

Each of these measures has various pros and cons, which we’ll go into in another post.

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