Have you ever noticed how people have the curious ability to take something simple and make it horrendously complicated?
Nowhere is this propensity more pronounced than when it comes to the area of weight loss. There have been more books written about losing body fat than any other subject – and yet, here we are, drowning in a sea of obesity.
Talk about information overload!
For the majority of people, the mass of confusing and contradictory advice leads to frustration and immobilization.
Over recent years, a shining light has re-emerged amid the plethora of fat loss scams, celeb diet fads and kooky weight loss breakthroughs.
It is the ketogenic diet.
Yet, inevitably, the keto diet has quickly been swamped in a mass of information and complication that leaves people scratching their heads – and then giving up.
The aim of this article is to strip away the fat, both literally and metaphorically, to provide you with the actionable essentials of living the keto way. Each part of this article will focus on a key area of keto implementation, culminating in a simple keto diet cheat sheet that you can print out and stick on your fridge as a roadmap to success.
The final part is where the rubber hits the road with your 1-week keto meal plan, complete with original sumptuous recipes.
So, let’s go keto!
Table of Contents
Part 1: Keto Clarity
The word ketosis (pronounced key-toes-sis) is a metabolic state that occurs when you follow a very low carb, high fat and moderate protein diet. It causes your body to switch over from using glucose (from the carbs) as its primary fuel source to using ketones, which are produced when the body burns fat.
Ketones are used as an alternative source of fuel when glucose is not available. In the process, your body changes from being a sugar burner to being a fat burner.
When you are 'in ketosis' your body is using fat as its main source of energy. Getting into the state of ketosis takes different amounts of time for different people. A lot depends on their current lifestyle and dietary habits.
People who generally follow a clean diet can flip into ketosis in a few days, whereas people who have been used to eating a lot of processed sugar foods may take weeks to get there.
Being in ketosis is a perfectly normal metabolic state. It is, in fact, the body’s preferred fuel source. As an example of the superiority of ketones over glucose s a fuel source, consider the Inuit people of northern Alaska...
He quickly learned that, after a period of adaptation, consuming an Inuit diet with plenty of animal fat would sustain him, even during hours of strenuous walking. This was one of the first understandings of keto-adaptation. Today, the process of switching from a sugar burning to a fat-burning state is known as the Schwatka Imperative.
Ketone bodies are actually the preferred energy source of the heart and can be used as efficiently as glucose by the brain. There is now a growing body of research supporting the beneficial effects of being in ketosis on aging, inflammation, metabolism, cognition and athletic performance.
Yet, those health benefits are not the main reason that most people want to get into ketosis. They do it to lose body fat.
Ketosis is a fantastic way to lose fat. In fact, the production of ketones is actually a by-product of fat burning. The energy you produce in ketosis comes from both the fat that is stored on your body and the fat that you consume in your diet. Compare this to a high-carb diet where the food you eat gets stored as fat!
What Keto Can Do for You
- Naturally control hunger
- Effortless weight control
- Mental clarity
- Better sleep
- Normalized metabolic function
- Stabilized blood sugar
- Restored insulin sensitivity
- Lower inflammation levels
- Lowered blood pressure
- Endless energy
- Increased sex drive
- Improved immune system
- Better exercise recovery
Part 2: Keto Cheat Sheet Beginners Essentials
Having clearly established the ‘why’ of keto, it's time to move into the ‘how’. In this part, we’ll provide you with the 3 essential steps that allow you to fully customize your ketogenic to ensure that it meets your unique requirements.
Follow this game plan and you’ll be able to effortlessly ease your way into keto in less than a week.
Step One: Calculate Your Daily Caloric Requirement
The keto diet is based on macronutrient ratios. However, to be able to apply those ratios, we need what our daily caloric goal is.
There are a number of formulations for working out your daily caloric requirement. Among the most accurate is the Mifflin-St Jeor formula. Use the following calorie calculator to work out your daily caloric requirement.
Heightmeters (e.g. 1.76 meters = 176 cm)
Specify the amount of daily net carbs you'd like to consume. Typically, 20-30 grams is recommended to start with.
Maintenance level is the level at which your weight remains stable.
|Your BMR is:||1536||kcal|
|Calories to consume:||2027||kcal|
|Your fat intake should be:||184||grams|
Sorry, cannot offer any weight loss suggestions. Please use the Custom section for weight loss macro targets.
Your body fat is too low. You should have a minimum of 3% body fat (essential fat you cannot lose). It is not advisable for you to lose any more weight.
Based on the amount of net carbs you specified, it would impossible to lose any weight. Please, reduce the amount of net carbs and try again.
Below is a range of calorie deficits to help you lose weight. For best results, it is recommended that you opt for a moderate calorie deficit of 10-20%.
Small calorie deficit (11%)
|Calories to consume:||1804||kcal|
|Your fat intake should be:||159||grams|
Moderate calorie deficit (22%)
|Calories to consume:||1581||kcal|
|Your fat intake should be:||134||grams|
Large calorie deficit (33%)
|Calories to consume:||1358||kcal|
|Your fat intake should be:||109||grams|
Below is a range of calorie surpluses to help you bulk up and gain muscle size. Keep in mind that you will need to add physical activity (weight training) in order to increase your muscle mass. For best results, it is recommended that you opt for a moderate calorie surplus of 10-20%.
Calorie surplus (10%)
|Calories to consume:||2231||kcal|
|Your fat intake should be:||206||grams|
Calorie surplus (15%)
|Calories to consume:||2332||kcal|
|Your fat intake should be:||218||grams|
Calorie surplus (20%)
|Calories to consume:||2434||kcal|
|Your fat intake should be:||229||grams|
Enter the calorie intake adjustment. For a calorie deficit (weight loss) enter a negative value (e.g. -10) while for a calorie surplus (weight gain) enter a positive value (e.g. 15). It is recommended that you opt for a moderate calorie deficit or surplus.
Custom adjustment (0%)
|Your BMR is:||1536||kcal|
|Calories to consume:||2028||kcal|
|Your fat intake should be:||184||grams|
Now, record your daily caloric total on the printable Cheat Sheet at the end of this article.
Now that you are armed with your total daily caloric requirement, you're now able to plug in your macronutrient numbers to find out how many fats carbs and proteins you need to be eating each day.
On the standard Ketogenic diet, you will be consuming 75% fats, 20% protein and 5% carbs.
Let’s plug these numbers into our two examples to see what we end up with.
We’ll start with our 30-year old guy who is consuming 1,815 calories per day...
Our 30-year old lady who is consuming 1,815 calories per day’s numbers look like this...
Work out your own numbers here...
Now we can drill down deeper to work out how many grams of each macro your need to be eating.
- There are 9 grams of FAT per calorie.
- There are 4 grams of PROTEIN per calorie.
- There are 4 grams of CARBOHYDRATE per calorie.
Going back to our example guy, his macro grams look like this...
Here is what it is like for our 30-year old woman:
Now work out your Macro numbers then fill them in on the Cheat Sheet at the end of the article.
You now know what your macro goals are. While you don’t have to count calories on the keto diet, you will want to get your head around what your macro targets look like in terms of real food and portion sizes.
Using a quality app like myfitnesspal over the first couple of weeks of your keto experience will help you to gauge your long-term portion control.
Step Two: The Pantry Make-Over
Your next step is to expunge your home of carb-laden foods. Start with grain foods – they are the ones that will cause the quickest blood sugar surge. Then clear out the packaged freezer meals, pasta, rice, sugary drinks, candy and cereals.
This is where you have to get ruthless. If you're serious about your weight loss journey, you need to honestly and thoroughly complete this step. It doesn’t matter how strong your willpower is – of you keep carb foods in your home, you will find a way to get them into your body. And when you do that, you will be pulling yourself out of ketosis.
From now on, processed carbohydrate foods DO NOT APPLY to you.
Once you have cleared the carbs out of your home, it will be time to start replacing them with better, healthier keto-friendly foods. In our printable keto cheat sheet at the end of this article, you will find a handy replacement guide that you can carry with you to the grocery store.
Step Three: Meal Prep
Starting out on a new way of eating can be a daunting prospect. One way that we’ve found to make it a whole lot easier to negotiate your way first that first week is to have a set meal plan to follow. That way you don’t have to think about what is coming up to your next meal – it has all been carefully laid out for you. At the end of this article, we provide you with just such a plan.
The next step to success over that first week is to actually prepare your meals in advance. Meal prep is a great idea for everyone, but it’s especially advantageous when you’re starting down a new nutritional path. It means you don’t have to think about how to prepare your next meal – you simply grab it out of the freezer.
If you plan to start your keto eating pattern on a Monday, spend a couple of hours on Sunday preparing your meals. Making enough for two or three portions to provide multiple meals throughout the week. Then place each meal in a sealed container and store it in the fridge ready to pull out and heat up when you need it.
Part 3: Grocery Replacements Keto Cheat Sheet
Use this simple guide to make replacements for your favorite foods. Also, check out our keto food list for a complete guide to keto diet food.
Part 4: Mistakes to Avoid Keto Cheat Sheet
Many people think that they’re following a keto diet, yet are adding in foods that are tripping them up. The biggest challenge is not in eating enough fats, but in reducing carb and protein intake sufficiently to get into and maintain ketosis.
The problem with eating too much protein is that your body has the ability to convert amino acids into glucose in a process known as gluconeogenesis. Yet, eating too much protein is just one of 5 newbie keto diet mistakes that prevent people from achieving the state of ketosis.
1. Too Much Protein
In order to produce ketones, you need to follow a diet that is high in fat but moderate in protein. When you eat too much protein, your body will convert the excess into glucose. This will happen if you are making foods like chicken, turkey and low-fat beef and pork the mainstays of your meals.
In order to curb your protein intake, opt for the fattest cuts of meat. Eat chicken with the skin on and consciously try to cut back on your protein intake. As a guide, you need to keep your protein intake less than 0.9 grams per pound of body weight. So, if you’re a 130-pound woman, you will want to keep your daily protein intake to less than 117 grams.
2. Relying on Urine Ketone Sticks
Your goal on keto is to get into a state of ketosis.
So, how do you know if you have chained that goal?
You use keto testing strips.
Keto testing strips are an effective way to tell if you’re in ketosis at the beginning of your keto journey. However, after about a month of being in ketosis, the kidneys will adapt to and excrete fewer ketones after about a month of being in ketosis. After that, you will only see a trace amount of ketones in the urine.
Yet, most people continue relying on keto strips to let them know if they are staying in ketosis. This is a mistake – once you are fully keto-adapted, keto strips will not give you an accurate depiction of how you are doing at burning fat for fuel.
As a result, keto strips can kill your enthusiasm just at the point when your body is really starting to ramp up for fat-loss. Once you have made the switch to a fat-burning energy system, your body will rely on a specific ketone - beta-hydroxybutyrate – as its min fuel source.
But keto strips don’t measure for beta-hydroxybutyrate. During the change-over process, the body relies on ketone acetoacetate, which is the ketone body that is measured in urine.
Then, as ketones become your primary source of fuel, acetoacetate gets converted to beta-hydroxybutyrate. The result is that your kept strips will no longer turn to the magic purple and you will stress that you are doing something wrong!
The bottom line here is to stop using keto strips after the first month. Just stick to the game plan – very low carb, moderate protein and high fat – and you WILL remain in keto.
3. Not Eating Enough Fat
When something has been ingrained into you your whole life, it can be extremely difficult to get past it. That is definitely the case when it comes to eating fat. Contrary to what you’ve been taught, dietary fat will not clog your arteries or make you fat.
The truth is that eating more fat is one of the best ways to stave off hunger and cravings, especially for carbohydrates, when you are going low carb. To make a success of the keto diet we all need to get over our fear of fat.
Don’t feel guilty about chowing down on the fat that surrounds your steak. Plow into that delicious skin that’s covering your roast chicken. And eat more butter, coconut oil, sour cream, full-fat cheese, avocados, full-fat Greek Yogurt and whipped cream.
There is no limit on these foods!
4. Over Eating
Let’s consider the first basic principle of nutrition . . .
In order to lose body fat, you need to burn more calories than you consume each day.
In order to gain muscle weight, you need to consume more calories than you burn each day.
This principle is known as the Law of Energy Balance.
Now, this law may seem like common sense. Yet, this is the reason that so many people are unable to reach their fat loss goals, even on the keto diet. They are sticking to their high fat, moderate carb and low-fat macronutrient plan but the fat loss just isn’t happening.
They are ignoring the Law of Energy Balance. Simply put, they are eating too much. You see, even if you are eating the foods if your balance exceeds your output, your body has no choice but to put on weight.
Calorie control is the missing ingredient.
A lot of so-called healthy eating experts promote the idea of eating, five, six or even seven times per day. You should not be doing that on the keto diet.
When you begin producing ketones and burning body fat for energy, it is quite easy to feel full and satisfied eating just a couple of meals per day. Once your body becomes keto-adapted, you will stop feeling hungry because your body has a readily accessible store of energy in the form of stored body fat.
If you eat beyond the body’s requirements, you will use more of the fat from food than the fat from your body for energy. You will also be taking in more carbs and proteins, with the possibility that they may throw you out of ketosis.
To overcome this keto newbie mistake, you have got to get out of the programmed eating trap (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and really start listening to your body.
That means only eating when you are hungry.
A related issue has to do with plate size. We have been conditioned to finish off what’s on our plate. The problem is that the size of the average dinner plate has gotten one-third bigger in the last thirty years. It’s no surprise that the rate of obesity has skyrocketed during that same time period.
The solution is to use smaller dishes and smaller utensils. It may sound a little goofy, but, if you have children, use their bowls, forks, spoons and cups. If you eat with smaller utensils, you will eat between 25 and 40% less food – that’s a whole lot of calories.
If you are eating something out of a packet, tip it out and place it on a napkin. That way you won’t feel as if you have to finish the packet off.
5. Not Stabilizing Blood Sugar
Most people can relate to controlling their blood sugar with diabetes. Yet, keeping tabs on your blood sugar count is the best way to assess how you're going hormonally on the keto diet. It is way more effective than using keto sticks long-term.
You can pick up a blood glucose meter at any pharmacy or order one online here.
If you are sticking to the keto regimen of low carbs, moderate proteins and high fats, you will show a fasting blood sugar count of between 70 and 80 grams. As your blood sugar level goes down, your ketone production will increase.
So, what’s the most important thing you need to cut out to bring down your blood sugar levels?
Ironically, it’s not sugar. Grains are the worst offenders in triggering blood sugar. That is why you MUST completely eliminate grains from your life. Those low-carb types of bread simply won’t cut it. To bring down your blood sugar levels you have got to go cold turkey!
Part 5: 7-Day Keto Diet Kickstart Plan
Finally, we're going to provide you with a roadmap for your first week on keto. The meal plan provided here is has a wide range of recipes to choose from. It's part of our 19-day meal plan and is a great way to get started on the ketogenic diet especially if your main goal is losing weight.
We recommend that you spend a couple of hours reading over the full meal plan guide and recipes so that you can plan out what you'll be eating.
- Breakfast - Cacao Chia Pudding
- Snack - Baked Zucchini Fries
- Lunch - Low-Carb Lettuce Wraps
- Snack - Keto Snowball Cookies
- Dinner - BEST Keto Meatloaf Recipe
- Breakfast - Leek and Bacon Omelette
- Snack - Low Carb Frosty Frappuccino
- Lunch - Feta Stuffed Mushrooms
- Snack - Peanut Butter Cookies
- Dinner - Chicken Meatballs with Zoodles
- Breakfast - Best Pumpkin Pancakes
- Snack - Raspberry and Vanilla Smoothie
- Lunch - Creamy Pumpkin Soup
- Snack - Cheesecake Fat Bombs
- Dinner - Low Carb Pad Thai
- Breakfast - Keto Egg Muffins
- Snack - Low Carb Strawberry Smoothie
- Lunch - Greek Frittata
- Snack - Keto Coconut Cookies
- Dinner - Best Caprese Chicken and Oven Roasted Green Beans
- Breakfast - Easy Keto Chaffle Recipe
- Snack - Blueberry Keto Breakfast Smoothie
- Lunch - Easy Deviled Egg Salad
- Snack - Peanut Butter Mousse
- Dinner - One-Pan Balsamic Chicken and Maple Bacon Wrapped Carrots
- Breakfast - Mini Crust Less Quiches
- Snack - Best Green Smoothie Recipe
- Lunch - Keto Cauliflower Pizza
- Snack - Baked Zucchini Fries
- Dinner - Low Carb Eggplant Casserole
- Breakfast - Healthy Pumpkin Breakfast Bars
- Snack - Healthy Baked Zucchini Balls
- Lunch - Keto Sausage Foil Packets
- Snack - Keto Peanut Butter Cookies
- Dinner - Beef Stroganoff with Mushrooms & Sour Cream