Keto Diet 101: Cut Fat Fast!
Ketogenic diets (aka the keto diet) are growing in popularity throughout health and fitness subculture. The term ketogenic/ketogenesis refers to the process of the body creating ketone bodies, which serve as energy sources (along with fatty acids) when glucose availability is low.
Therefore, ketogenic diets inherently are based around fats and proteins with extremely low amounts of carbohydrates. As a result, the body is forced to utilize fats and ketone bodies for energy instead of glucose stores.
Despite ketogenic diets mainly being a focus for fitness purposes, medical doctors may implement them as treatment of certain conditions, such as epilepsy.
In this guide we will take an in-depth look at the physiology behind keto dieting, the different types/variations of keto diets there are, and finally how to setup your own keto diet.
Many readers may be wondering, “What makes a keto diet different from other low-carb diets?”
Technically speaking, most ketogenic diet advocates would argue that keto diets are only effective when the body enters a state called ketosis and starts to produce ketones for energy (hence the name “ketogenic/keto” dieting).
But to reach a state of ketosis, you must restrict carbohydrate to an extreme degree (even more
so than standard low-carb diets).
However, whether or not your body is in ketosis is not a huge deal for benefiting from a keto diet; research suggests ketone bodies are therapeutic even in small quantities.1
When carbohydrates are limited in the diet, the body derives its energy from fatty acids and ketone bodies, making this type of diet superb for losing body fat.
The variation of ketogenic diet you use will differ based on your goal and body tendencies.
It is typically advised to use standard ketogenic diet for the first few weeks to see how your body responds after adapting to ketosis. After the initial few weeks you can assess which diet to stick to in the longer-term.
Read below for a short overview of each ketogenic diet variation and the factors to consider when picking one:
Standard Ketogenic Dieting (SKD)
If you live a sedentary lifestyle and find that you don’t respond well to high-carbohydrate diets, the SKD is probably your best bet.
SKD is also ideal for individuals who don’t exercise very often/intensely and as their body’s demand for carbohydrates is much lower than more active individuals.
Targeted Ketogenic Dieting (TKD)
If you notice that being strictly on the SKD makes you lethargic and unable to train vigorously throughout the week, then it is prudent to incorporate intermittent carbohydrate feedings a la TKD.
Cyclical Ketogenic Dieting (CKD)
Cycle keto dieting is often considered a progressive form of ketogenic dieting as it takes considerable trial and error to really nail the precision of your carbohydrate refeeds.
It is wise to first and foremost give both the SKD and TKD a try before putting yourself on a CKD. If you don’t make much progress on the SKD/TKD, or you don’t perform well, then consider the CKD.
Below are the necessary steps to take to calculate your personal energy needs and macronutrient intake. This will give you the recommended macro amounts for an SKD.
If you’re going to use either the CKD or TKD then you will have to take a few extra steps to construct your diet plan.
Tip: As a rule of thumb, if you’re goal is to lose fat then you want to aim for roughly a 700-calorie deficit each day.
That being said, there is no one-size-fits-all calorie intake for fat loss, and some people will have to adjust this number higher or lower depending on their rate of fat loss.
Note: your calorie intake will fluctuate from day to day if you decide to use a CKD.
The following example shows a 4 step guide on how to calculate macronutrient needs for someone with 180lbs of lean body mass on a 2200-calorie SKD:
1. Determine calorie needs with a basal metabolic rate calculator
2. Aim to eat about 1.5g of protein per pound of lean body mass: 270g protein per day for this individual
3. Set carbohydrate intake at 0.1-0.2g/lb of lean body mass: ~20-30g per day (25g is used in the calculations below)
4. Fat intake is derived from the leftover calories to reach 2200: 2200-1180=1020 calories/9 calories per g of fat=~115g of fat per day.
Therefore, this individual’s nutrient rundown for an SKD is 180g protein/25g carbohydrate/115g fat.
Tip: It is best to divvy out all your macronutrients proportionally amongst 4 to 6 meals each day.
- Training days—Follow SKD nutrient breakdown and add in 0.25g of carbohydrate per pound of lean body mass pre-workout and post-workout (combined)
- Rest days—Follow SKD nutrient breakdown
- Once or Twice a Week—Add 1.5g of carbohydrate per pound of lean body mass to your SKD diet and cut your fat intake in half
This section is going to cover what the drawbacks of ketogenic dieting are, and also consider ways to circumvent those issues if they arise.
As with almost any diet program, there are pros and cons to be considered. That being said, the drawbacks associated with ketogenic dieting tend to be rather benign and will most likely improve as you become more adapted to the routine of eating low amounts of carbohydrates.
The most common side effects to be aware of when following a ketogenic diet include:
Electrolytes commonly become depleted when you’re on a ketogenic diet due to increased urination and low water content in the body. Carbohydrates are water-attracting molecules; thus, eating a high-carbohydrate diet tends to leave people feeling bloated. Naturally, ketogenic diets do the opposite. When you’re holding less water in the body, electrolytes drop as well.
- Remedy: Consider ingesting an electrolyte solution, such as PediaLyte, or taking supplemental minerals (specifically calcium, potassium and sodium). If you are urinating alot after while on a ketogenic diet than it is likely you are losing a lot of electrolytes and should consider a supplemental form.
Halitosis (foul-smelling breath)
Once you follow a keto diet for a few days/weeks, you will likely notice your breath smells rather foul. As your body becomes used to metabolizing fat, acetoacetic acid and BHB may cause bad breath. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent this, but you can manage it.
- Remedy: Chewing gum, mints and rinsing with mouthwash is your best bet this remains a nagging issue. Also make a habit of brushing your teeth after each meal (or as much as possible).
Possible Gastrointestinal Distress (flatulence)
Gastrointestinal (GI) distress is unfortunately a rather common issue for individuals following a ketogenic diet. It is hypothesized that a lack of dietary fiber and increased fat metabolism can throw the gut a bit out of whack. However, any discomfort that is prevalent should resolve once you acclimate to eating a ketogenic diet.
- Remedy: Over-the-counter anti-laxatives, such as Pepto Bismol, are good short-term remedies (but should not be used habitually) Moreover, antacids like Tums can help, but are again not a good idea to rely on over an extended period of time. A prudent solution is to simply supplement with a dietary fiber product, such as Metamucil or Benefiber.
A ketogenic diet can reduce blood glucose significantly, however, it’s unlikely that you will notice the usual symptoms of hypoglycemia. When your body is adapted to ketone bodies as a fuel source, your brain will use those over glucose (its usual substrate for energy).
- Remedy: Don’t worry too much about this unless you start to feel the usual symptoms of hypoglycemia. If you notice that feelings of hypoglycemia become an issue than it might be best to incorporate a periodic carbohydrate refeed into your diet plan.
Decreased Insulin Sensitivity
Most people on a ketogenic diet tend to eat a disproportionately large amount of fat (especially saturated fat). Chronic, exorbitant saturated fat intake may induce insulin resistance and other metabolic maladies. So going overboard on saturated fat intake is certainly no what we want even if on a carbohydrate-restricted eating regimen. 
- Remedy: Limit saturated fat intake to no more than 20% of your total fat intake. Make sure you’re getting in plenty of “healthy” fats as well, such as EPA and DHA (omega-3 fatty acids).It’s okay to eat some saturated fats, but just not the absurdly high amounts that you may see by larger individuals.
As you can see, the drawbacks of a ketogenic diet are somewhat limited and tend to be rather simple to workaround or solve directly.
If you find yourself extremely uncomfortable because of being on a SKD, then it is possible that you will perform better on a CKD or TKD. Remember to listen to your body and adjust as necessary.
Q: Which type of ketogenic diet variation should I start with?
A: Most people will learn how they respond best by starting with the SKD and sticking to it for at least two weeks. Once your body is utilizing ketones and fatty acids as primary fuel sources, you can assess how you feel.
Q: Should I buy KetoStix to track my ketone body levels?
A: KetoStix are not a necessity when beginning a ketogenic diet. Being in a state of clinical ketosis is not a requisite for benefiting from this type of diet. Moreover, nutritional ketosis is often intermittent, and if you’re on a TKD or CKD, KetoStix may give you errant results due to short-term carbohydrate intake.
Q: What’s the best way to tell if my body is producing enough ketones?
A: The three ketone bodies humans produce have a distinctive smell, which can be detected in your breath. Your urine will also smell of them (if the other urine smells don’t overwhelm them).
The smell is difficult to describe; some people note that it smells like overly ripe apples. Once you smell ketone bodies, you’ll realize it’s a very distinctive, unique smell that leaves a metallic taste in your mouth.
There you have it, ketogenic dieting 101 is wrapped up and hopefully you now have a better grasp of what exactly this type of diet entails and how to setup your very own ketogenic diet plan.
Give it a shot and see if you propel your fat loss efforts. Be sure to leave comments below if you have any feedback or questions!
1. Kraegen, E. W., Clark, P. W., Jenkins, A. B., Daley, E. A., Chisholm, D. J., & Storlien, L. H. (1991). Development of muscle insulin resistance after liver insulin resistance in high-fat–fed rats. Diabetes, 40(11), 1397-1403