The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that offers many health benefits.
Over 20 studies show that this type of diet can help you lose weight and improve health (1).
Ketogenic diets may even have benefits against diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease (2, 3, 4, 5).
This article is a detailed beginner’s guide to the ketogenic diet.
It contains everything you need to know.
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet (often termed keto) is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins and low-carb diets.
It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake, and replacing it with fat. The reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.
When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain (6, 7).
Ketogenic diets can cause massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increased ketones, has numerous health benefits (6, 8, 9, 10, 11).
Bottom Line: The ketogenic diet (keto) is a low-carb, high-fat diet. It lowers blood sugar and insulin levels, and shifts the body’s metabolism away from carbs and towards fat and ketones.
Different Types of Ketogenic Diets
There are several versions of the ketogenic diet, including:
- Standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This is a very low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. It typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs (1).
- Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This diet involves periods of higher-carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days.
- Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): This diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.
- High-protein ketogenic diet: This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more protein. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.
However, only the standard and high-protein ketogenic diets have been studied extensively. Cyclical or targeted ketogenic diets are more advanced methods, and primarily used by bodybuilders or athletes.
The information in this article mostly applies to the standard ketogenic diet (SKD), although many of the same principles also apply to the other versions.
Bottom Line: There are several versions of the ketogenic diet. The standard ketogenic diet (SKD) is the most researched and most recommended.
Ketogenic Diets Can Help You Lose Weight
A ketogenic diet is an effective way to lose weight and lower risk factors for disease (8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13).
In fact, research shows that the ketogenic diet is far superior to the recommended low-fat diet (2, 14, 15, 16).
What’s more, the diet is so filling that you can lose weight without counting calories or tracking your food (16).
One study found that people on a ketogenic diet lost 2.2 times more weight than those on a calorie-restricted low-fat diet. Triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels also improved (17).
Another study found that participants on the ketogenic diet lost 3 times more weight than those on the Diabetes UK’s recommended diet (18).
There are several reasons why a ketogenic diet is superior to a low-fat diet. One is the increased protein intake, which provides numerous benefits (14, 19, 20).
The increased ketones, lowered blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity may also play a key role (21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26).
For more details on the weight loss effects of a ketogenic diet, read this article: A Ketogenic Diet to Lose Weight and Fight Disease.
Bottom Line: A ketogenic diet can help you lose much more weight than a low-fat diet. This often happens without hunger.