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What Is Keto Diet For Beginners: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

The keto diet has become one of the most popular diets in recent years for its effectiveness in helping people lose weight quickly. But what exactly is keto, and is it right for you? This complete beginner’s guide will give you all the information you need to understand the keto diet, how it works, the benefits and risks, how to get started, and tips for success.

What is the Keto Diet?

The ketogenic or “keto” diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that forces your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.

Normally, your body uses carbohydrates from the food you eat as its main source of energy. On the keto diet, you restrict your carb intake so much that your body enters ketosis – a metabolic state where your body starts burning fat for energy instead of carbs.

When this happens, your liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies which become the new primary energy source for your cells, organs, and muscles. This is why the keto diet leads to quick weight and fat loss – you’re literally training your body to burn fat for fuel!

How Does Ketosis Work?

Here’s a simple breakdown of how ketosis works:

  1. You severely restrict your carbohydrate intake, usually to less than 50g net carbs per day (net carbs = total carbs – fiber)
  2. With very low levels of carbs coming in, your body depletes its glycogen stores (the storage form of carbohydrates).
  3. Your body starts looking for an alternative energy source to replace carbohydrates.
  4. Your liver begins converting fat into fatty acids and ketones through a process called ketogenesis.
  5. These ketones become the new primary fuel source for your body and brain. This metabolic state is known as ketosis.
  6. As long as carbs stay very low, your body will stay in ketosis continuously burning fat for energy until you reach your health and weight loss goals.

Benefits of the Keto Diet

There are many proven benefits that make the keto diet so popular such as:

  • Rapid Weight Loss – The high fat intake coupled with low carb makes you feel fuller longer. When in ketosis the body also tends to suppress appetite leading to easy calorie restriction. Losing up to 10 lbs in the first week is common on keto.
  • Reduces Hunger – Fat takes longer to digest keeping you feeling full. Ketones help control appetite-regulating hormones like ghrelin.
  • Increased Energy – Your body runs more efficiently on ketones providing steady energy and mental clarity.
  • Controls Blood Sugar – The keto diet lowers and stabilizes blood glucose levels and insulin resistance making it great for diabetics.
  • Improves Heart Health – Ketosis has been shown to increase HDL (good) cholesterol while lowering Triglyceride levels leading to less risk for heart disease.
  • May Reduce Risk of Cancer – Several studies have linked the keto diet with cancer prevention and tumor shrinkage. The restricted carb intake limits the growth of certain types of cancers.
  • Treats Epilepsy – The keto diet has its origins in treating epilepsy. Ketosis produces anticonvulsant effects that can help control seizures.
  • Cognitive Performance – With ketones as the preferred energy source, mental focus, clarity and brain health are improved.

Clearly, the unique metabolic state of ketosis offers powerful health benefits for many people. But is it right for you as a beginner? Let’s cover who the keto diet is best suited for.

Is the Keto Diet Right For Me?

The keto diet can be a highly effective diet for many individuals looking to lose excess body fat, improve health, or control symptoms of certain medical conditions.

However, it may not be the best fit for everyone. Consider if keto is right for you if:

  • You have a lot of weight or fat to lose. Keto accelerates fat burning like no other diet.
  • You have diabetes, prediabetes, or insulin resistance. The keto diet lowers blood sugar and improves insulin sensitivity.
  • You struggle with FRBs and food addiction. Ketosis naturally controls hunger and cravings.
  • You experience migraines, brain fog, or other neurological conditions. Ketones provide an instant boost in mental clarity and performance.
  • You have epilepsy or experience seizures. Ketosis has potent anti-seizure effects.
  • You have PCOS, breast cancer, or other diseases impacted by metabolic syndrome. The keto diet reverses conditions causing metabolic syndrome.
  • You are an athlete looking to burn fat and improve endurance. Ketones provide steady clean energy during training.
  • You want proven health benefits like reduced inflammation, better cholesterol, and heart health.

For the average person looking to lose weight, optimize health, and improve mental performance, the keto diet can be life-changing. But it may not be recommended if:

  • You are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have certain rare genetic disorders.
  • You have gallbladder issues like gallstones that can be aggravated by high fat intake.
  • You have a history of disordered eating or feel the keto diet may trigger an unhealthy obsession with food or weight.
  • You take medications for diabetes or lithium that require very careful management when starting keto.
  • You are an athlete participating in explosive-style sports like sprinting or weightlifting that require maximum carbohydrate intake.

Talk to your doctor before starting keto if you have any underlying health conditions or concerns. But for most people, the keto diet is perfectly safe and easy to adhere to.

How to Start the Keto Diet – Quick Beginner’s Guide

Getting started with the keto diet is fairly straightforward. Here is a quick step-by-step beginner’s guide:

  1. Set your carb limit. A typical keto diet limits net carbs (total carbs – fiber) to 20-30g per day. Lower is better at inducing faster ketosis.
  2. Calculate your macros. Determine your optimal intake for fat, protein, and total calories based on your goals. Use a keto calculator for the most accurate macros.
  3. Choose your fats. Focus on heart-healthy unsaturated fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. Limit saturated fat.
  4. Stock up on low-carb foods. Buy meat, eggs, non-starchy veggies, full-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, healthy oils & fats.
  5. Eliminate carb-heavy foods. Get rid of excess sugar, grains, starches, legumes, fruits, juices, alcohol, and high-carb sauces.
  6. Become fat adapted. Stick to under 20g net carbs daily for 1-2 weeks to train your body to burn fat for fuel. Fight through low energy and cravings.
  7. Prevent side effects. Drink plenty of water, supplement electrolytes, eat enough calories, exercise, and sleep well to avoid “keto flu”.
  8. Track macros and ketones. Use a tracking app to ensure you’re hitting your macro goals. Measure ketones with urine strips.
  9. Reach ketosis. Check for symptoms like bad breath to confirm you’ve achieved ketosis meaning your body has adapted to burning fat.
  10. Adjust and sustain. Make any needed changes to your diet, macros, or calories to sustain energy levels and fat burning over the long term.

With preparation and commitment to following the low-carb, high-fat keto diet, you can transition your body into an optimal fat-burning state of ketosis within just a few weeks.

Sample Keto Diet Meal Plan for Beginners

Planning meals and snacks will be crucial to sustaining the keto diet long-term. Follow this simple low-carb meal plan for a typical weekday on keto:


Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with avocado, sauteed spinach, and turkey bacon.

Lunch: Chicken salad made with olive oil mayo, hard-boiled eggs, and a side salad with oil & vinegar.

Dinner: Bunless cheeseburger with sautéed mushrooms and green beans.

Snacks: Full-fat Greek yogurt, almonds, celery sticks, and peanut butter.


Breakfast: Keto smoothie made with almond milk, cocoa powder, avocado, protein powder, and peanut butter.

Lunch: Tuna salad lettuce wraps made with olive oil mayo. Side of raw carrots, celery, and nuts.

Dinner: Meatballs served over zucchini noodles with parmesan and basil. Side Caesar salad.

Snacks: Sliced cheese rolled up with turkey, 90% dark chocolate.


Breakfast: Veggie omelet with onions, peppers, spinach and cheddar. Side of berries.

Lunch: Pork stir fry made with riced cauliflower instead of rice.

Dinner: Grilled salmon served over a bed of greens with olive oil and lemon.

Snacks: Tuna salad with celery sticks, keto mug cake made with almond flour.


Breakfast: Coconut yogurt with chia seeds, walnuts and stevia.

Lunch: Leftover pork stir fry from the previous night.

Dinner: Zoodles pasta with meat sauce, side salad.

Snacks: Hard-boiled eggs, sugar-free jerky, avocado.


Breakfast: Frittata with spinach, onions, mushrooms, and feta cheese.

Lunch: Keto Chili made with ground turkey. Top with sour cream, avocado, and cheddar.

Dinner: Grilled chicken wings seasoned with garlic parmesan. Side of broccoli.

Snacks: Pumpkin seeds, macadamia nuts, strawberries.

This sample meal plan highlights the nearly unlimited delicious real food options you can enjoy on keto. Mix and match recipes, experiment with new low-carb ingredients, use your creativity and you’ll never get bored!

Keto Diet FAQs

How many carbs can I eat on keto?

For ketosis, aim to limit your daily net carbs (total carbs – fiber content) to 20-30g per day. The fewer carbs the better at pushing your body into fat-burning mode.

What foods can I eat on the keto diet?

You can eat whole, unprocessed foods like meats, eggs, full-fat dairy, non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats and oils, nuts and seeds, and some berries. Read labels to avoid added sugars.

What foods should I avoid on keto?

Avoid all grains, rice, pasta, bread, cereal, beans, legumes, root vegetables, fruit, juice, candy, desserts, chips, alcohol, and high-carb sauces.

Do you have to eat high-fat on a keto diet?

Yes, the keto diet is specifically a very high-fat, low-carb diet. 70-80% of your calories should come from fat. Choose healthy sources like olive oil, avocado, salmon, nuts, and seeds.

How can I track my macros and ketosis?

Use a tracking app like MyFitnessPal or Cronometer to ensure you’re meeting your macronutrient goals. Measure ketones in urine or blood for confirmation of ketosis.

What are the side effects of starting keto?

The “keto flu” happens as your body adapts to ketosis. Symptoms like fatigue, headaches, cramps, nausea, and constipation usually subside within 1-2 weeks with proper hydration and electrolytes.

Is keto safe long-term?

Yes, studies show the keto diet is safe long term with no adverse impact on cholesterol, heart health or kidney function for most people. Consult your doctor before starting keto.

How do I know if I’m in ketosis?

Check for ketosis symptoms like increased energy, suppressed hunger, mental clarity, rapid weight loss, and unpleasant breath. Use keto strips to detect excess ketones in your urine or blood.

Can I exercise on the keto diet?

Yes, combine keto with exercise for increased fat loss and performance benefits. Just ensure you’re eating enough calories and drinking electrolytes to fuel your workouts.

Starting the keto diet as a beginner can bring rapid results in terms of fat loss, appetite control, brain health, and energy levels. Use this complete guide to understand the basics of keto, whether it’s right for you, and how to get started for successful fat-burning ketosis.

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