5 Keto Diet Basics: The Beginner’s Guide to the Keto Diet

What are the 5 keto diet basics and what else will we cover?

Any time you’re either looking into starting, or starting, a new diet it can be a bit overwhelming. Every diet has its own set of rules, guidelines, precautions, and tips. There seems to be an abundance of information online and the last thing you want to do is get frustrated before day 1. We’re going to do our best to help ease the transition for you by providing condensing a ton of information into 5 simple keto diet basics.

This article will cover:

  • A quick overview of the keto diet
  • The benefits of following the keto diet
  • keto diet basics
  • Things to keep in mind before following a keto diet
  • Final thoughts on the keto diet and next steps

The keto basics we’ll cover are:

  1. There are multiple variations of a ketogenic diet
  2. It’s all about what you eat, not how much you eat
  3. You can track your ketone levels to see when you’re in ketosis
  4. Cheat days can be valuable
  5. Be prepared for some unpleasant side effects (especially at first)

The benefits of following a keto diet

Let’s start with the fun stuff. If you’re interested in following the keto diet (or any other diet for that matter), it’s important to know exactly why you’re starting in the first place. People decide to follow a keto-friendly diet for a number of reasons, and when the road gets tough keeping the benefits in mind is key in overcoming those obstacles and sticking with your diet.

Most people decide to follow a keto diet because of the weight loss benefits. It is a diet, after-all. What many people don’t realize is that there are a multitude of other benefits tied to following a ketogenic diet. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but since we’re covering keto diet basics this list is a great place to start.

Keto diet benefits

Before we dive into the keto benefits below it’s important to note that as with any other diet, not all of these benefits will be experienced by everyone, and studies around the longterm effects of following a ketogenic diet are limited. It’s crucial that you work with your doctor to keep an eye on any changes you experience while moving to a keto diet.

Weight loss and reduction in appetite. Weight loss is the primary reason many people are interested in a keto-friendly diet, but what many people don’t realize is that over time following a keto diet can actually help reduce your appetite. This benefit typically isn’t experienced until after the first few weeks and for some people it can take a bit longer. More on that later.

Increased energy and improved mental function. One of the most overlooked benefits of following a keto diet is that many keto advocates claim to experience boosts of energy in conjunction with improved cognitive function. These benefits are experienced by both athletes and non-athletes alike.

Improved prevention of serious medical conditions including seizures, diabetes, and cancer. It’s likely that the second most popular reason for someone to start living a keto-friendly lifestyle are the preventative benefits that many people have experienced. It’s important to note that studies around the effects of a ketogenic diet have been limited and mostly confined to testing with animals.

As time goes on and more data comes in we’re excited to learn more about how a ketogenic diet can help combat these serious issues.

5 Keto Diet Basics

Keto Diet Basic #1: There are multiple variations of a ketogenic diet

By design, the keto diet is pretty restrictive. Fortunately, there are different variations that can be selected based on what fits best with your lifestyle. The options are:

  • Classic Keto
  • Modified Keto
  • MCT
  • Modified Atkins
  • Low Glycemic Index
  • Intermittent Fasting

You can find a description of each of these options here.

Keto Diet Basic #2: It’s all about what you eat, not how much you eat

Even though following a keto diet is restrictive in terms of what macronutrient split you stick with (macronutrients, or “macros” are carbs, fats, and protein), following a ketogenic diet does not require you to pay as much attention to how much you eat. Of course the less calories you eat the more likely you are to shed weight, but unlike many other diets someone following a keto-friendly diet is more concerned with the macro split of the food they eat and less concerned with how many calories they’re eating.

When you’re first getting started you’ll likely need to do some sort of tracking just to make sure you’re staying compliant depending on what macronutrient split you’re following. As time goes on and you feel more comfortable with what works/doesn’t work with your keto plan you’ll feel the need to track your foods less and less.

Keto Diet Basic #3: You can track your ketone levels to see when you’re in ketosis

The whole goal of someone following a keto-friendly diet is to enter, and stay in, a state of ketosis. To put it simply, ketosis is the state that your body enters where instead of burning glucose for fuel it burns fat.

There are some ketosis symptoms that your body will show to signal that you’re in this state of fat burning, but the easiest way to be sure is to test your ketone levels. Ketone tests can be conducted on your own in a few different ways:

Keto Diet Basic #4: Cheat days can be valuable

As with any diet, having cheat days or days where you are a bit more lenient with what you eat can be valuable. The benefits of these “treat” days are both physical and psychological.

Physically it always helps to somewhat reset your system. If your body is essentially starved of carbs, reintroducing carbs for a short period of time can be a great way to reset your likely shocked system. It’s also good to regularly re-introduce carbs for a short period of time so that if you ever decide not to continue pursing a keto lifestyle your body is likely to have an easier time adjusting to such a big shift in diet.

From a psychological standpoint having a day to look forward to and not have to worry about being so strict with your diet can really give you a boost and make it easier to continue being compliant with your diet plan. The big warning is that you don’t let your cheat day or meal turn into multiple days. Cheat days are a double edged sword – if used properly they can have huge benefits but if you aren’t in control it’s easy to let things get out of hand.

The best thing to do if you’re considering incorporating a cheat day is to make sure you’re prepped, planned, and ready to get back on track after your cheat day is over. The first couple of days afterward are critical in making sure you get back on the keto horse.

Keto Diet Basic #5: Be prepared for some unpleasant side effects (especially at first)

Along with the benefits we’ve discussed there are also typically a few mostly unpleasant side effects that most new keto dieters seem to encounter. These side effects can include bad breath, trouble sleeping, and fatigue. Fortunately most of these side effects are only temporary and after your body gets adjusted they seem to go away.

You can find out more about these ketosis symptoms along with tips on how to deal with them here.

Things to keep in mind

Many people swear by the benefits of following a keto diet and even though there are some unpleasant side effects they feel that it’s still completely worth it. With that being said, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • It’s difficult for many people to stick with. Any diet that focuses on cutting out certain groups of foods, especially ones that we like to eat, is going to be tough. If you’re too focused on quick wins and early results it’s going to be difficult to stick to the keto diet long term. We’re definitely not saying you can’t do it, it’s just important that you know that this piece alone causes a lot of keto dieters to stumble.
  • There isn’t much research around the long-term effects of following a keto diet. More and more research is conducted every month, but up until this point most research has been limited in terms of how a keto diet impacts people over time. This is a big reason why it’s so important to work closely with your doctor to make sure your body continues to respond positively to the changes that come along with following a keto-friendly diet.
  • You’ll want to check with your doctor before starting. Some experts have warned that those with liver or kidney conditions should avoid a ketogenic diet. Don’t make any drastic changes to your diet without first consulting your doctor.

Ready to start following a keto diet?

If you’ve done your research and spoken to your doctor, pick your keto plan and do yourself a favor by checking out some of our favorite keto-friendly meal replacement shakes. These shakes can help aid your weight loss and are a great way to keep your sweet tooth at bay while still staying compliant.