A Beginner's Guide to the Ketogenic Diet


We’ve been programmed to believe that FAT is BAD. That dietary fat (the kind we eat) equals to BodyFat (the kind we store). That FAT is the cause of all things evil; from heart disease and diabetes to Obesity and Stroke. So it is no surprise that the typical reactions we receive are those of disbelief when we say that the Ketogenic Diet is a High Fat diet, and will help you lose weight, gain energy and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. If you are one of those who’s jaw drops in horror (and disbelief) at such claims, read on. 

What is a Ketogenic diet?

The Ketogenic diet is a High fat diet with super low carbs and moderate proteins. Macronutrient distribution for a typical diet that generates ketones is 80% calories from fat, 15% calories from proteins and 5% calories from carbohydrates. This is the theoretical distribution of macronutrients conventionally followed for a ketogenic diet.

It involves drastic reduction of carbohydrates and replacing it with fats. This puts body in a metabolic state called ketosis. The body turns fat into ketones in the liver, which in return supply energy to the body and brain.

How is a ketogenic diet different?

In a Ketogenic diet, the body does not rely on glucose for energy, instead it derives energy from a much superior molecule called Ketones. The body produces ketones from fat breakdown in the liver. The body’s metabolism shifts from glucose burning to fat burning. There is optimal fat utilisation on a ketogenic diet. This happens only when there is restriction of carbohydrates to as low as 5% or lower as a function of total calories.

Is FAT a superior fuel source? 

Fat breakdown for energy generates ketones. Why do we need ketones? Do we really have to care where the energy comes from? This thought makes the process interesting.

Ketones are found to be superior energy producing compounds than glucose. Mitochondria- which are the powerhouse of every cell, function better with ketones than glucose. Glucose has to be processed first, however ketones directly pass to the mitochondria where they are utilised for energy. Ketones yield 20% or more of ATP (energy currency for the cell) than glucose.

Fat breakdown (dietary fat and body fat) provides a constant supply of ketones. It is a concentrated and stable source of energy. It does not require frequent refuelling. This is the reason, ultra marathoners/ sportsmen prefer staying in ketosis for stable energy supply. Also, drops/fluctuations in blood sugar and the corresponding insulin spike are minimal with a ketogenic dietary protocol. 


How do I get into Nutritional Ketosis?

By restricting carbs for a period of 2- 4 weeks, the body gets into a state called “Nutritional Ketosis” or “Fat Adapted state”. This period can vary from 2-6 weeks depending on how metabolically damaged the body is with years of eating a high-carb lifestyle. Once in a state of NK (Nutritional Ketosis), the body switches its fuel supply to run partially on ketones. In this state, ketone levels in the blood are in the 0.5 - 3 mmol/litre range. The ketones required to fuel the body’s energy supply are derived from fat- both Body Fat and Dietary Fat. 

Is it safe? How long can I be on it?

Ketone levels in the blood can continue rising upto 7 mmol/litre safely, without the body getting into an unsafe state called ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis typically occurs in Type-1 diabetics when both Glucose and Ketones concurrently rise to abnormally high levels owing to a pancreatic malfunction. This however is theoretically next to impossible in a non-Type-1 diabetic since the presence of blood Glucose will automatically shut down ketone production. 

What are the benefits of the Ketogenic diet?
  • Staying in Nutritional ketosis means the primary source of energy is now Ketones and not glucose. This phenomena is an effective way to lose body fat and improve body composition.
  • A ketogenic diet prevents insulin spikes, improves insulin sensitivity and improves blood sugar control to a great extent.
  • It reverses the metabolic disorders associated with excessive fat gain like PCOD, cardiovascular disorders, blood pressure, hypertension.
  • It may delay/ prevent the onset of various serious disorders– Cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to name a few.
How to plan a ketogenic diet?

Simply avoiding carbohydrates, will not put you in a state of nutritional ketosis. To ensure that your body switches its primary fuel supply to ketones (instead of Glucose), your meals have to be planned meticulously culling out every hidden gram of Fat from them.

  • Calories from Fat- 65-70%,
  • Calories from Protein- 20-25%
  • Calories from Carbohydrates < 5-10%. 
  • Also, as a thumb rule, restrict your carbs to less than 30-50g a day.
Foods to include in the ketogenic plan


Your menu should revolve around these foods: 

  • Meat – Chicken, beef, pork, fish. Grass fed meat is a richer source of vitamins and minerals. Organ meats are richest source of vitamins like B12, folic acid, fat soluble vitamins, and minerals like iron, zinc, selenium and magnesium.
  • Eggs – Best foods for Ketogenic diet as they are rich sources of saturated fat and are complete proteins. Most strikingly, it as 0 carbs, making it ideal for LCHF diets.
  • Cheese – Cheese that comes in variety of types. It is fat and low in carbs. This makes it suitable to the LCHF diets. Cheese is very delicious and it is used in variety of recipes.
  • Coconut oil/ MCT oil- Coconut oil has 15% MCTs which are directly metabolized in the liver and converted to ketones. MCTs are an instant source of energy for the brain. Coconut oil is also rich in Lauric acid which has tremendous anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties.
  • Low carb nuts – Nuts like Pili nuts, hazelnuts and macademia nuts can be consumed freely. Avoid peanuts and cashews.
  • Yogurt and paneer – Yogurt and paneer can be incorporated in varies recipes. They are moderate fat, moderate protein and low in carbs.
  • Butter, ghee, cream – These are the sources of saturated fat which have to be used for cooking or as a top up
  • Low carb vegetables – Including leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables and vegetables like tomato, cucumber, bellpepper, olives, zucchini, bottle gourd, broccoli  and avoid roots and tubers which have higher carb content. Can include avocado which has 30gm fat in a single avocado.
Foods to avoid in the Ketogenic plan -  


  • Cereal and millets
  • Pulses
  • PUFA rich oils like sunflower, safflower, rice bran, groundnut oil
  • High carb vegetables and fruits – Vegetables like onion, potatoes, carrot, beetroot, corn, yam should be avoided. Fruits like banana, custard apple, Papaya,Orange, Sweetlime, guava
  • Juices/ Colas 
  • Chocolates/Candies
  • Alcohol options like beer, wine, high carb mixers
  • Milk in large proportions (should not exceed 30 gm total carbs/day)

And remember, it takes the body 4-6 weeks to get into a state of NK. Be precise and patient and you will soon be on your way to Fat-loss, High energy nirvana!

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