Contrary to popular belief, the keto diet is one of the most straightforward nutritional regimens. Cutting carbs may sound complicated to those who haven’t follow the keto lifestyle before, but once you get your feet wet, eating carb-less foods becomes like second nature.
But why are so many people jumping on the keto bandwagon as of late?
As scientific and clinical research continues to evolve, findings suggest that the keto diet may have a multitude of benefits, including1:
Chances are you already know that the keto diet is basically a “no-carb” diet, although it’s almost impossible to truly eat no carbohydrates every day (nor would that be healthy). While the thought of never eating carbs may seem daunting to some, there are actually different variations of the keto diet that incorporate carbohydrates intermittently.
This article will get you up to speed on the three main types of keto diet and how to decide which is best for your lifestyle and goals.
At its core, the keto diet is a very-low-carbohydrate diet that emphasizes a greater intake of healthy fats and quality protein sources, along with small amounts of “indirect” carbs from vegetables and certain fruits.
You might be thinking, “Don’t we need carbohydrates to survive?”
In reality, fat and protein are the body’s true essential nutrients. Carbohydrates are technically not essential nutrients in the human diet because the body can create glucose on its own by using other substrates, such as amino acids, lactate, and glycerol.
What makes the keto diet different from any other low-carb diet is that the ultimate goal is to keep carb intake low enough so that you produce a greater amount of ketones and enter ketosis (thus the name “ketogenic diet”).
By significantly reducing carbohydrate consumption, your body resorts to burning more fat for energy since glucose isn’t readily available. In so doing, the liver starts to produce a greater amount of organic molecules known as ketones as a byproduct of fat metabolism. (These ketones are normally made in small amounts on a “normal” diet, but not nearly enough to achieve ketosis.)
In general, it’s recommended to limit carb intake to 30 grams or less per day on the keto diet. However, you may be able to eat a little more than that while staying in ketosis, especially if you’re active. Some trial and error will be necessary from the get-go to determine how many carbs you can “get away with eating” every day while maintaining ketosis.
Naturally, this means you’ll be eating much more fat and protein to meet your daily calorie needs. Most people on keto aim for anywhere between 60-80% of their total daily calories to come from healthy fat sources, such as coconut, grass-fed butter, avocado, nuts/seeds, and others; the rest comes from quality protein sources, like eggs, chicken, beef, fish, etc.
What makes the keto diet particularly promising is that it gives many people increased mental and physical energy throughout the day, while also making it easier to control calorie intake since fat and protein tend to be highly satiating. Hence, many people use the ketogenic diet to help lose weight (and keep it off).
On that note, you don’t have to follow a strictly “no-carb” diet just to get the benefits of keto. Read on to learn more about the three types of keto diet and what makes them each distinct.
If you’re new to the keto diet, it’s ideal to follow the standard ketogenic diet (SKD) for at least 2-3 weeks to see how your body responds after becoming “fat-adapted”. Once you’ve been in ketosis for a few weeks, you can try different variations of the keto diet to see which works best for you.
If you’re trying to lose weight and/or you live a fairly sedentary lifestyle, then the standard keto diet is a good place to start. This is essentially the “true” keto diet in that you won’t be eating many carbs at all, usually 30 grams or less per day.
The targeted keto diet allows for small carb-containing meals either before or after you workout. This is a good keto diet variation to follow if you find that your physical performance is hindered on the standard keto diet. For most people, adding 30-40 grams of carbs to their pre-workout or post-workout meal should suffice. It’s also important to cut back on fat intake just a tad when to compensate for the added carbs.
On days you don’t exercise, follow the SKD.
Sometimes referred to as the cycle keto diet, this is a more progressive keto diet variation that incorporates cyclical carbohydrate refeeds. For example, you might follow the traditional/standard keto diet Monday-Friday and then eat a higher-carb diet on the weekends. However, it’s best to try the targeted keto diet before advancing to the cyclical keto diet.
There is no best diet for everyone, not even the keto diet. Whether you’re an inveterate carbophobe or a newcomer to the keto lifestyle, trying new dietary approaches is the only way to learn more about what works for you and what doesn’t. Should you choose to follow the keto diet, don’t be afraid to experiment with each keto diet variation and see how they make you feel. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain, so what are you waiting for? Make it happen!
Article By: Elliot Reimers
Elliot received his B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota and is currently working on his M.S.in Pharmacology & Toxicology at Michigan State University. He has been a freelance science writer for over six years, with an emphasis in nutritional biochemistry, exercise physiology, and pharmacology. As such, he is thoroughly passionate about helping others comprehend scientific research and understand the biochemical mechanisms that underpin human health, performance, and longevity; he hopes that such knowledge will help people make smarter decisions about what they put in their body. In his free time, you can most likely find him hoisting barbells, hiking the mountains of Colorado, or working on his supplement science website - www.supplementuniversity.com.
Have you recently started the keto diet and noticed that you feel almost as if you've got the flu? Headaches, lethargy, irritability, nausea, mental fogginess, muscle aches, the list goes on. While this can be a concerning experience out of the gate, the “keto flu” is really just a sign that your body is heading in the right direction.
MCTs is the acronym for a unique subclass of saturated dietary fats that contain 6, 8, 10, or 12 carbons in their fatty acid chemical structure. Most of the saturated fat found in a typical Western diet is in the form of long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) which are packaged into micelles in the small intestine and absorbed through the lymphatic system.