What is the ketogenic diet? Is it right for me?

Everywhere you look it seems there's another news story highlighting the ketogenic diet. From weight loss to management of Type II diabetes and even as a conjunctive therapy for cancer patients. Love it or hate it, there's no escaping the keto diet.

How does the ketogenic diet work?

Carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of energy. Our body relies on carbohydrates to fuel the body during its normal metabolic processes as well as physical activity. Carbs are either used immediately for energy or stored in the liver and muscle as glycogen for later use.

Ketogenesis is a metabolic pathway that produces ketone bodies as an alternative fuel source instead of carbohydrates. Ketone bodies are produced by the liver from fatty acids. We naturally produce small amounts of ketone bodies (acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and acetone) as a source of fuel for the body. When our carb stores are significantly decreased or fatty acid concentration is increased, there is an upregulation of ketone bodies in our system. This is evident in times of fasting (such as overnight sleeping), prolonged intense exercise, low food intake, starvation, alcoholism, and untreated or poorly managed Type 1 diabetes. As a result, our body starts to rely on our fat stores as an energy source.

Before becoming popular for weight loss, ketogenic diets were and are treated as the primary therapy for epilepsy.

What does a keto diet look like?

The ketogenic diet is high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates. This equates to 60-75% of your calories coming from fat, 15-30% from protein, and 5-10% from carb. For example a 2,000 calorie diet would consist of 135-167g of fat, 75-150g of protein, and 25-50g of carb.

Sample Day of Eating

Breakfast: 4 whole eggs cooked in 1 tablespoon butter, ½ avocado, 2 slices bacon, and ½ cup cherry tomatoes.

Lunch: Southwest Steak Salad with Spicy Avocado Dressing

Snack: 3 oz deli meat and 2 slices of full fat cheese rolled up into wraps or Zucchini Chips

Dinner: Easy White Turkey Chili or Portobello Bun Cheeseburger with Celeriac Everything Oven Fries

What can I expect from following the keto diet?

Most followers of this diet feel good for a day or two but as glycogen stores deplete many followers of the diet report feeling symptoms of the "keto flu." Symptoms of the keto flu may include nausea, vomiting, headache, weakness, and irritability. Typically these symptoms last a week.

Many dieters report quick weight loss although that is to be expected as carbs hold onto more water than protein or fat. When you reduce carbs in your diet, you will see a decrease in weight from water weight. Keto followers have reported a suppressed appetite as well as achieving greater weight loss than low fat diets.

Is the keto diet right for me?

The ketogenic diet is an extreme way of eating and is not something I would recommend if you are new to weight loss or healthy living. Many healthy high-fiber sources of carbs are eliminated such as oatmeal, beans, sweet potatoes, and fruit due to the nature of the diet. If weight loss is your goal, it can be achieved without eliminating any major food groups. Ultimately weight loss comes down to compliance. The more often you make smarter choices the more often you will see results.

Something else to think about if you're considering keto is how likely are you to follow a specific style of eating? Do you rebel when you're told to not do something? Do you get tired of eating the same foods? With that in mind, if nothing else has worked for you in the past then the ketogenic diet is an option.


In a ketogenic diet your body produces ketones and switches your body's primary energy source from carbs to fat. A ketogenic diet is high in fat, moderate in protein, and extremely low in carbs. Ketogenic diets can help with weight loss however careful consideration should be taken before embarking on a ketogenic diet. It is advisable to contact a registered dietitian before embarking on the ketogenic diet as there are adverse health effects if not followed properly.

About the author

Kyla of Remedy Health and Wellness

Kyla Gavlin is a Registered Dietitian and can help athletes improve their performance, free chronic dieters from yo-yo dieting, and help manage diet related medical conditions.

Contact Kyla for your no-cost discovery session today!

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