What is a Ketogenic Diet?
A Keto diet is a low-carb, high fat diet. By limiting your consumption of carbs your body will enter into a state of nutritional ketosis. Your carb intake is limited to 20-25g of net carbs per day and the rest of your calorie intake would consist of protein and fats. This results in your body using fat as an alternative to carbohydrates as its primary energy source.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a natural metabolic state which uses fat instead of glucose, which only occurs with the absence or near absence of carbohydrates in our diets.
Normally our body uses the glucose found in carbohydrates as its main energy source but by reducing our intake to 20-25g of net carbs per day for most people, sugar levels will be much lower, which tells our hormones to release fatty acids from our fat cells. It is these fatty acids which are used as our replacement to glucose.
When you start your journey on a keto diet it takes a few days for your body to enter a ketosis state. This can be anywhere from 3 - 14 days, everyone is different.
What to Eat?
If you are wanting to make the most of this journey to ketosis you will need to plan ahead and limit or stay away from certain foods that are high in carbohydrates. What we don’t realise is many of the foods we enjoy are recommended when on a keto diet, you may need to change some aspects of your favourite meals but there are quite often some great substitutes that will help you to maintain ketosis.
The energy your body needs is stored in food in the form macros which are fat, protein and carbohydrates. We will continue to break down what you are allowed, moderate intake or remove completely.
Foods with little to no carbohydrates
These are the foods you are welcome to eat anytime during your keto diet.
● Unprocessed meat – such as chicken, beef, pork and lamb
● Unprocessed fish and seafood – such as salmon, tuna, shrimp
● Oils – such as avocado, coconut, olive oil
● Most hard cheese
Foods with low carbohydrates
These are the foods we need to moderate our intake of as part of a plan keto diet.
● Low carb vegetables growing above ground – such as spinach, avocado, asparagus,
eggplant, tomato, zucchini, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and
● Some nuts – such as pecan nuts, macadamia, brazil nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts and
● Chia seeds, flaxseeds
● Processed meat – such as cold cuts, bacon
● Heavy cream
● Cream cheese
● Some low carb fruits – such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries
Foods with high carbohydrates
These are the foods you should avoid.
● Pastries and sweets
● Juices and sodas
● Most fruit
Any foods made with the use of flour or sugar are in the no go zone but there are a number of alternatives to these when it comes to some of your favourite meals.
You can substitute white flour with coconut or almond flour and use sweetener instead of sugar.
What are Macros?
There are three macronutrients or macros that make up all foods and they are each broken down in the body differently and for different purposes. These are protein, fat and carbohydrates. When on a keto diet it’s all about keeping track of your daily macros and what makes up your macros. Something to help with this is “Protein is a goal, fat is a lever and carbs are a limit.”
There are several ways to approach Keto but Muscle Fuel recommends a macronutrient split of 60-65% Fats, 30-35% Protein and 5% Carbs.
Your body needs a certain amount of protein to maintain healthy tissue. Out of the three macros, protein is the most filling, so when you eat enough of it you’re more likely to have lower hunger levels and reduced cravings.
The recommended amount of protein you should eat daily is dependent on how much you weigh. Muscle Fuel recommends eating 1.5 – 2.0g of protein per kilo of bodyweight to maintain body function and muscle mass. The loading rate we use depends on physically active you are and how much muscle mass you have.
As an example:
Jane has a sedentary job but takes her dog for a walk every night. She weighs 75kg. We would put a loading of 1.6 so she would be aiming for around 120g of Protein per day.
In the Keto Community the recommended amount of protein to consume per day can vary. Some people are concerned that eating too much protein will stop them from going into Ketosis however studies have shown that the upper limit is much higher than some have advocated in the past. You certainly don’t want to go crazy however 1.6 - 2.0g of protein per kilo of bodyweight is generally safe for Keto.
When picking your meat try to get organic or grass-fed meat. Grass fed meat tends to be higher in certain vitamins and anti oxidants than non grass fed meats. Fortunately this is the standard in NZ so you shouldn’t have a problem sourcing these meats.
Eggs are a fantastic option for breakfast and snacks as they have both protein and fat profiles. There are so many different ways to cook eggs to stop you from getting bored of them.
When using dairy products, we need to be selective around which products to go with and use in moderation. When on keto you will want to limit or avoid milk as it has a higher carb count of about 4/5g per 100ml, same goes for store bought yoghurt. You can have unsweetened almond milk and have heavy cream. When buying dairy products do take the time to look at labels as some contain a higher amount of carbs than you would think. A great alternative is Coconut Yoghurt.
Check out the range at Raglan Coconut Yoghurt, with low carbs, high fat and lots of probiotics they tick all the boxes. Plus they taste fantastic!
It’s unlikely that you will also need to consume additional protein by way of a protein shake but should you need to make sure you only use high quality protein powder with minimal carbs. A Whey Protein Isolate is your best best.
Aim for one with less than 1g of carbs per serve.
You will need to restrict your daily intake of net carbohydrates to less than 20-25grams in order for your body to stay in ketosis. When we refer to carbs there are two types of dietary fiber and net carbs which is your sugar or starches. When counting your daily carbs, you won’t need to take into account your dietary fiber intake as these are not digested and actually pass through your gastrointestinal tract, it is actually the sugar and starches you need to watch out for. These are referred to as net carbs as they have an effect on your insulin levels.
When working out your carbohydrate intake you need to use this formula:
Total Carbs – Fiber = Net Carbs
While on your keto diet you will need to be strict in your avoidance of processed
carbohydrates. High carb foods like pasta, rice, breads, potatoes and most sweet or starchy food increase the blood sugar and insulin level in your bloodstream and should not be consumed. If you were to eat these foods while trying to achieve ketosis your body would no longer burn fat and would actually retain more fat. There are definitely some good foods you will want to consume that do contain carbohydrates as they hold essential vitamins and minerals. These are your above ground vegetables most of the carbohydrate content in them is fiber so is not absorbed by the human body. The natural fiber in vegetables can help maintain your digestive health and the vitamins and minerals are always important for your long-term health. In terms of fruits you will need to avoid most as they have too many carbs in one serving but you can have some berries in limited amounts.
Keto Short-Term Hacks
There are a couple of ways to get started on a keto diet, you can either start with some small, gradual changes or go all in right from the beginning. If you are someone that likes to jump right in or if you have found your weight loss has stalled, here are some tips to help you get started.
Fat fasting is when your diet is made up of 1000 calories or less consisting of mainly fat with a little protein. This is a good thing to try if you have plateaued in your weight loss over three weeks. For this to be effective your body needs to be in a state of keto adapted which is when your body has going through the changes that occur in ketosis. In the past this has been used to help obese patient’s loss weight quickly in a controlled environment.
This is all about eating eggs and plenty of them over a few days. Again, we are reducing our intake to 1000 calories or less. People going through an egg fast have found that there are a number of creative ways to use eggs such as desserts and beverages.
Exogenous Ketone Supplements
Exogenous ketones or ketones produced in a lab are a fuel for the brain and body and as a flavour comparison. Using ketone supplements is a way of kick-starting ketosis and increasing the ketone bodies in circulation at the same time as your glucose level drops. The most effective exogenous ketone supplement is ketone salts. Using a supplement is not something that you should go straight into. You should review your diet first and then think about how a supplement may help you as this is not to replace a part of your diet but an addition.
Top Benefits of a Keto Diet
A keto diet can affect our bodies in a number of positive ways, many of these are still being researched and to what extent this occurs.
Weight loss is now the most common reason people are jumping on board and starting a keto diet. When on keto you have a high intake of healthy fats which helps people control their hunger as you feel fuller. People find it easier to eat less calories and more effective for weight loss when on a keto diet compared to a low fat, medium carb non ketogenic diets.
Better Control of Blood Sugar
Due to eating less carbohydrates which is where your body absorbs sugar from, people on a keto diet will have a better balance in their blood sugar levels.
Improved Brain Function
When you are on a high carb diet people experience surges of mental activity and also moments when it can feel like your brain isn’t on. When your body is in ketosis you may notice improvement in memory, concentration and problem-solving skills.
Improved Hormone Balance
Fat is an important part in keeping a good hormonal balance and if your keto diet is well thought out and planned it can have a positive effect. Commonly women with polycystic ovary syndrome will see an improvement and men can have a decrease in testosterone levels while being on a Keto diet.
Improved Physical Performance
Everyone, no matter how lean they are, have thousands of calories stored in their fat cells available to be used. Ketones produced from fat oxidation can assist us better than glucose for a range of activities, such as endurance races and hours of playing with your kids.
Digestive issues are common for a number of people and carb-filled diets can worsen these problems. By eliminating carbs as you do with a keto diet can make a difference as fat feeds the good bacteria that you want to keep in your gut while sugar feeds the bad.
What you can eat
● Extra Virgin Olive Oil
● Avocado Oil
● Coconut Oil
● Fatty Beef/Steak
● Pork Belly
● Olives, pickled, green
● Cheddar Cheese
● Feta Cheese
● Greek Yogurt
● Chicken Breast
● Chicken Thighs
● Turkey Meat
● Duck Meat
● Pork Meat
● Beef Liver
● Beef Kidneys
● Ground Beef
● Bone Broth, Beef
● Salmon, raw
● Cheddar Cheese
● Feta Cheese
● Greek Yoghurt
● Lemon Juice
● Apple Cider Vinegar
● Coconut Milk/Cream
● Extra Virgin Olive Oil
● Basil Leaves, Fresh
● Basil Leaves, Dried
● Cayenne Pepper
● Black Pepper
● Garlic Powder
● Black Coffee
● Black Coffee with heavy cream
● Black, Green or Oolong team
● Water and Lemon Water
● Almond Milk, unsweetened
● Coconut Milk, Unsweetened
● Bone BrothFlour
● Flaxseed Meal
● Almond Flour
● Coconut Flour
Want help introducing yourself to the Keto Lifestyle?
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