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The Basic Rules of the Keto Diet


The Basic Rules of the Keto Diet

What are the basic rules of the keto diet? When you’re starting to follow the ketogenic diet, it can seem like there are thousands of rules and details to remember. In reality, though, following the keto diet can be easier than you think, especially if you already have experience with following other low-carb diets like Atkins or South Beach. A lot of those rules come from common sense; just make sure that you don’t forget about these simple rules when following the keto diet!

 Stop eating sugar

Whether you’re on a low-carb diet or just looking to eat healthier, cutting sugar is a good place to start. Sugary foods and drinks have no nutritional value, and their impact on your health can be devastating: consuming too much sugar can cause everything from weight gain to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. 

In addition to slashing your overall intake of added sugars—which includes honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, and any juice that has been sweetened—it’s a good idea to watch out for hidden sources in foods like yogurt or healthy snacks such as granola bars. You should also try ridding your diet of processed foods as much as possible: no more candy bars or boxed macaroni dinners!

 Avoid carbs

The keto diet is, essentially, a very low-carb diet. On a traditional keto plan, your daily carbs are restricted to no more than 50 grams a day (for most people, about 20 grams), whereas on a typical low-fat diet, you might have as many as 130 grams. How does such a drastic reduction in carbs help you lose weight? Well when you eat less carbs, your body has to produce smaller or fewer molecules called gluconeogensis to keep up with your insulin levels and keep you in energy homeostasis—so it burns fat instead!

 And if that’s not enough to convince you that cutting carbs is good for losing weight, there’s even evidence that reducing carb intake can boost your metabolism by 3.6%. So go ahead: Eat all the cheese and bacon you want on a keto diet. It’ll still be good for your waistline!

 Focus on high fat, moderate protein

When it comes to weight loss, most people want to do one thing: lose fat. When you're starting out on a ketogenic diet, it's crucial to get your calories in check. If you start off eating too many calories—even if those calories are coming from high-quality foods—you'll be less likely to stick with keto in the long run. (For more info on macros and counting them, check out our guide here.) A good example: One cup of beans has about 230 calories. A cup of chicken breast has about 140 calories. But a cup of beef liver has about 1,200 calories! 

So when you're thinking about adding meat into your diet, don't just think about how much protein or fat is going into your body. Think about how much energy is being consumed as well. You can see why there's a lot of controversy around consuming animal products on a ketogenic diet—and why some experts say that all animal products should be avoided altogether. To keep things simple, follow these basic rules for getting started on a ketogenic diet:

Some tips for getting started with Ketosis

Make sure you’re getting enough electrolytes every day (sodium, potassium and magnesium). This will help prevent any headaches or fatigue caused by low blood sugar.

 Consume more fats

Most keto diets emphasize eating more fats to provide a steady source of fuel for your body and brain. When you reduce your carb intake, it's important to increase your fat intake, as well. You may have also heard that eating fatty fish like salmon can help boost feelings of fullness during weight loss (29). Salmon is rich in omega-3s, which have been shown to help balance blood sugar levels and encourage weight loss (30). Eating at least two servings of fatty fish per week will do wonders for your waistline. If you don't like fish, try adding some extra nuts or seeds to your salads and meals instead. What are good keto snacks? Cheese, peanut butter, nuts and seeds are all good options on a low-carb diet.

 Drink lots of water

The keto diet is basically a low-carb, high-fat diet, where you're encouraged to eat fatty foods with lots of protein. That said, it's important to stay hydrated on such a restrictive diet. Keep in mind that for keto diets and low-carb diets in general, you should be drinking plenty of water, Rorvik says. Most Americans drink about one cup per half hour; aim for double that amount. For example, if you have three cups left at lunchtime, try to finish them before your next meal--the idea being that you want to end each meal completely hydrated.

Avoid fruit juices and sweetened drinks

If you're starting a keto diet, try to avoid any drinks that are sweetened with sugar. Do not drink fruit juice or sweetened coffee or tea. In addition to added sugar, drinking sugary drinks often causes us to consume more calories than we would if we drank water instead. Instead of drinking flavored water, brew your own unsweetened iced tea or coffee and add stevia for sweetness and health benefits. Here are other keto friendly beverages you can choose from:

To learn more about what foods are allowed on a ketogenic diet, read our in-depth guide: The Ultimate Guide to the Ketogenic Diet . If you need help getting started on a ketogenic diet, visit our Complete Keto Guide . It's an invaluable resource for anyone starting a low carb lifestyle. ​​​​

 Avoid snacking between meals

When you eat often, you’re less likely to feel hungry. Snacking between meals can derail your diet by making you feel unsatisfied—plus, if you consume a lot of sugar in one sitting (say, from those granola bars), it can spike your blood sugar so much that you end up craving even more high-carb foods. This is a recipe for weight gain and poor health in general. To lose weight safely but quickly, follow these simple rules: Eat regular meals throughout the day and try not to snack; when it comes time to eat again, limit yourself to two smaller meals every three hours or so instead.

Cheat once in a while (optional!)

If you’re starting a keto diet for weight loss, it’s perfectly fine to cheat one day per week. You can follow all seven days of rules in a row, or just pick one or two days to eat what you like. It’s up to you—and if it makes you feel better, cheating is totally allowed! 

Check out these keto diet myths to make sure you don’t fall into any false traps that could derail your progress and prevent you from getting into ketosis. If done properly, intermittent fasting will help put your body into ketosis so that your body begins burning fat for fuel rather than carbohydrates. Learn more about how intermittent fasting works here > The Ketogenic Diet Myths Busted!

Don’t eat too much animal fat at once (optional!)

Animal fats like butter, bacon grease, and lard are high in a chemical called palmitic acid. When eaten in excess, palmitic acid can inhibit weight loss. Stick to one serving (1 tsp) if you’re going to go out of your way to include animal fat in your diet. 

The same goes for other sources of saturated fat like red meat and full-fat dairy products. Also avoid over-indulging in nuts and avocados, which are high in calories but don’t provide as much nutrition as many people think. Keeping track of how much fat you eat is an important aspect of long-term success on a keto diet!

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