Whether you’re looking to shed pounds, increase your mental focus, or enjoy one of the many other benefits of the keto diet, most people have the same initial question: “How do I get started?” In this guide I’ll go over how to start the keto diet in just a couple easy steps. I’ll also discuss some pitfalls that you should watch out for and what benefits you’ll see immediately versus those that come with time. Hopefully you’ll see by the end of this article that keto is easy, achievable, and you can start any time!
The awesome power of the ketogenic diet.
The benefits of keto cannot be overstated. I have used it myself to shed over 50 pounds with relative ease, no calorie counting, and no exercise.
Here are just a few of the ways that keto can improve your life:
- Effortless weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Increased mental focus
- Improved blood sugar
And many more! So how easy is it to get started? It’s SO EASY. And you can get started RIGHT NOW. Just follow a few basic, straightforward rules and you’ll be on your way to ketosis in no time.
Just 3 simple rules to follow.
So how do you start the keto diet? There is one core, fundamental rule:
RULE #1: Consume fewer than 20 net carbs per day.
Really, it’s that simple. Stick to that one rule alone and you’re pretty well on your way to a successful keto diet. By consuming fewer than 20 net carbs per day, your body switches from burning carbs for fuel to burning fat for fuel – this is a fundamental aspect of ketosis. The benefits of fat burning are two-fold: 1) if your body adapts to burning fat for fuel, it will more easily burn your natural fat reserves leading to weight loss and 2) unlike carbs, protein and fat burn slowly, meaning that you’ll have more constant energy, fewer ups and downs, and increased satiety throughout the day.
RULE #2: Consume an adequate amount of protein.
Protein is an essential nutrient and you should still be sure to get enough of it when on the keto diet. The key here is to not overdo it with protein – only consume as much as your body needs and not an excessive amount. Any extra protein that the body doesn’t utilize can be converted into glucose, which makes it more difficult to achieve ketosis.
So how much protein do you need? A simple recommendation is to eat about 1g of protein per pound of lean body mass every day. Going below that number is fine, but try not to exceed 1g/lb/day or you might have trouble achieving ketosis.
RULE #3: Consume enough fat to be satisfied.
One of the greatest perks of the keto diet is that it’s NOT a starvation diet! In fact, long-term ketosis can lead to an astonishing reduction in appetite that makes it almost effortless to limit caloric intake (something I can definitively say from personal experience!). Keto is a low-carb high-fat (LCHF) diet, which means that you can eat almost as much fat as you want. So use fat to make up the remainder of your calories for the day, and eat until you are satisfied.
So let’s review the 3 basic rules of the ketogenic diet:
- Consume fewer than 20 net carbs per day.
- Eat an adequate amount of protein (not too much!)
- Eat enough fat to feel satisfied.
And that’s how to start the keto diet in a nutshell! But let’s dig a little deeper: I put an important emphasis on net carbs because it’s not something that most people think about when they’re eating. So what do I mean by net carbs?
Not all carbs are created equal: net carbs in a nutshell.
Let’s talk about carbohydrates. Obviously “counting carbs” is the cornerstone of the keto diet – but what exactly is a carbohydrate?
There are two important categories of carbs in the keto diet wold: starchy/sugary carbs and fiber-rich carbs – and your body processes them very differently. Refined sugars and starches are quickly taken up by the body and converted to energy, which sharply raises blood sugar levels. Fiber, on the other hand, moves slowly through the digestive system and often cannot be metabolized, meaning that it won’t spike your blood sugar or be turned into glucose. So as these definitions suggest, it is key to stay away from starchy/sugary carbs on the keto diet, but fiber is usually a-ok.
So what are net carbs? The simplest formula is this:
Total carbohydrates – dietary fiber = net carbs.
An avocado is a good example of a food that might seem carb-rich, but is actually great for a keto diet (and delicious!). 1 whole avocado contains 24g of total carbohydrates, including 20g of fiber. So that means: 24g – 20g = 4g net carbs. So even though an avocado has 24g total carbohydrates, it has only 4g net carbs.
Just use that simple formula to calculate net carbohydrates in your food and you’re all set. After a short time you’ll likely become familiar with which foods are “keto-friendly” (low net carbs).
Next, let’s talk about the most common potential pitfall for your first few days trying the ketogenic diet.
How to anticipate and avoid the “keto flu”.
If you’ve done any research into the keto diet you might have heard the term “keto flu” thrown around at some point. This is a set of flu-like symptoms that occur in some people during the first few days of switching to a low-carb diet. Typically, this happens because your body is dramatically changing its metabolism from carb-burning to fat-burning – and that can be a stressful time. The keto flu doesn’t happen to everyone, but if you do experience symptoms don’t be discouraged! It should only last for a few days. Here are some tips to help avoid the keto flu or at least ease the symptoms:
- Stay hydrated! Drink lots of water to ward off dehydration.
- Replace electrolytes. Eat foods rich in sodium, potassium, and magnesium to replenish your body’s electrolytes.
- Sleep. The best medicine.
- Check your “macros”. Make sure you’re not eating too much protein, and eat enough healthy fat to stay satiated.
Short-term improvements lead to long-term enhancements!
If you stick to these simple steps you should be all set to start out your ketogenic diet journey! In the first 1-2 weeks of keto you can expect to see quick weight loss that begins to level out, but don’t be discouraged! Most people shed lots of water weight during the induction of ketosis, but more weight loss is still to come.
After a few weeks, your body will become used to using fat as fuel and you should start to see gradual weight loss, even though you’re eating to satiety! This is my favorite part of the keto diet – eating plenty of delicious food and still losing weight.
After a while longer, you’ll hopefully start to experience the incredible hunger-suppressing effects of the keto diet. Many people agree that their appetite simply goes away after a long enough time on the keto diet. Because of this, many people begin consuming less food overall or incorporating short fasts which can give overall weight loss a boost!
Get started NOW – it’s so easy.
Now you know how to start the keto diet and you have the basic tools you just need to get going! Just follow the 3 simple rules listed above, be mindful of the types of carbohydrates that you eat, and stay hydrated – and you’ll be all set! The best part is you don’t need to do too much preparation or worrying or planning – just cut your carbs and get started today!
Best of luck to you on your new diet journey! If you have any questions or comments please leave a comment and/or check out our other articles all about keto!
P.S. Once you’ve started the keto diet, check out how to know if you are in ketosis!