What Is The Ketogenic Diet?

Have you ever heard of the ketogenic diet? Also known as “keto”, “nutritional ketosis”, or “keto-adapted” diet?

What Is The Ketogenic Diet?

Basically, it’s a diet wherein you decrease your carbohydrates and let your body start using ketones from fat as fuel instead. It’s a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. And when I say low-carbohydrate, I mean in the range of about 0-15% of calories. For an average person , that limits carbs to about 75g max, and usually a lot less. Generally, when docs put people on a ketogenic diet, they suggest 4 grams of fat per every 1 gram of carbohydrate or protein.

Why Go Keto?

Surprisingly, your body doesn’t absoutely need carbohydrates to thrive. In fact, some people do much better using fat as fuel on a ketogenic diet, including people with brain issues like Alzheimers, autism, seizure disorders, and more. The ketogenic diet has also helped people lose weight who’ve had no luck with other kinds of diets.

Example of a Meal on Ketosis

Here’s a photo of a typical meal on Jimmy Moore’s diet. Eggs, heavy cream, avocado, sausage, salsa, and the eggs are probably cooked in butter. His diet is around 82% fat, 3% carbs, and 15% protein

Ketosis meal

My Non-Dairy Paleo Menu for Ketosis

When I tried ketosis on a non-dairy Paleo diet, this is the menu I came up with to try to meet Jimmy’s fat/protein/carb ratios.

Breakfast Scramble
3 slices bacon
1 egg
1 cup chopped kale
1/4 of an onion
1/2 avocado
2 tsp bacon grease to fry it up in

Lunch (Coconut Curry Salmon)
3 oz baked salmon
1 tsp curry paste
1/3 cup canned coconut milk
2 tbs coconut butter/manna melted on top
1 cup mushrooms
1 cup cabbage

Dinner (Steak and Carrots)
3 oz eye of round steak with some fat left on it
1 large carrot sliced up, sautéed
2 tbs beef tallow to cook it all in and/or drizzle over
1/2 avocado

Calories: 1,570
Carbs: 13% = 49 grams (much of which is fiber, so the net would be lower)
Fat: 74% = 129 grams
Protein: 15% = 60 grams

This is what I ate when I tried ketosis because I don’t eat dairy. I definitely achieved ketosis, judging by the urine strips I was using, which is one of the ways you test your ketone levels.

My Experience with Ketosis

I blogged about my own experience with ketosis a while back. I was trying to see if I’d feel more energetic and maybe get rid of some of my various symptoms by using it. Here are the posts I wrote about it.

To be honest, it didn’t go well. I lost weight rapidly and I didn’t need to. I was very dizzy, had NO energy, couldn’t recuperate from workouts, and I was depressed. I either did it wrong or ketosis just doesn’t work for my body type. I was eating as much fat as I could get into me on a Paleo (and no dairy) diet, and as many other calories as I could stomach (being on keto decreases your appetite). But no matter what I did, I felt awful. I only made it 6 days, actually.

My failure with nutritional ketosis was actually blogged about by That Paleo Guy, a Paleo sports nutritionist, who explained why my body type didn’t do well with keto. He said that I’m lean and have built my muscle through power exercises (rock climbing and lifting weights). Here are some photos of me before I started keto for reference.

Neely before keto IMG_0005

And yes, I know my body is crooked. I have a bunch of injuries that my body compensates for by twisting and turning. I’m working on it ;)

Anyway, therefore, he says, “Neely is going to more likely have type-2, fast twitch muscle fibres, and perhaps, more specifically, she has a preponderance toward the fast and powerful type 2b fibres that love to run on glycogen (carbohydrate) as their primary fuel.”

And I think he’s right. In my Paleo journey, I definitely started off way lower carb than I am now, and I feel much better overall now than I did then. My body loves carbs, in other words. Yours may not. Check out his post, “Calorie Rants and Ketosis (part 2)”, to find out if you’re more well-equipped to do ketosis.

Despite my failure with ketosis, I think it can be an extremely beneficial tool for weight loss, and for people who have the disorders I mentioned above (pending their doctor’s recommendation, of course).

A New Book on Ketosis

My interest in trying ketosis was sparked by Jimmy Moore, who, after many years of failed attempts at losing weight on a low-carb diet, had tremendous success on keto. He continues to lose weight on it even now.

keto clarityJimmy Moore and Dr. Eric Westman actually have a book coming out called Keto Clarity: Your Definitive Guide to the Benefits of a Low-Carb, High-Fat Dietwhich I’m VERY excited about!

Finally a modern guide to ketosis. After Jimmy and Dr. Westman’s collaboration on their last book, “Cholesterol Clarity: What the HDL Is Wrong with My Cholesterol Numbers?”I think this guide to ketosis is going to be extremely informative and easy to read.

I’ve already ordered mine. I may not use ketosis in my own life, but I do use it with clients. And I love science :)

If you’re interested in trying ketosis out and you want to learn more about it, I suggest you pre-order this book. It may just be that little piece to the puzzle you’ve been missing…

Have you tried ketosis? If so, how did it go for you?


  1. I did also try ketosis along with my trainer. I think I took the complex carbs too low – eliminated almost completely for about 10 weeks. I did notice my mood worsened in the last 2 weeks and I experienced palpitations. I had no sex drive by the end. My strength in weight training tanked. I did also pair this up with intermittent fasting 2-3 days per week (5-6 hour eating window). I feel the same way- I either didn’t do this right or it didn’t work for me. I enjoyed the increased fat intake and satiety from it however and would like to try it again. I appreciated your sample menu.

  2. To me your protein was too low on your sample menu If you are working out hard and only consuming 1500 calories that is why you lost weight so fast and felt so weak. And you didnt list any snacks in there either. I would be sleeping if I ate so little.

  3. Due to a long history of chronic health issues ( fibromyalgia type issues for over 20 years), I eventually found, when conventional medicine was killing me, that a low carb diet enables me to function like a fairly normal human being. I am in moderate ketosis ( based on urine strips), yet am approx 15 lbs overweight. I eat an average of 1,100 calories a day and do light exercise daily ( walk a mile or more daily, lift light weights). I consume approx 30 grams of carbs daily, on average. My diet is not excessive in fat intake, but is quite healthy with salads and cooked vegetables making up the bulk of my carb content. I am perimenopausal ( which I attribute my weight gain over the last few years to in spite of my sparse diet. I had been quite thin on a ketongenic diet until nearing menopause) However, I feel good and am rarely ever ill with any infectious illnesses that other people tend to contract seasonally. My blood tests are normal and I am healthy and take no medications at all. I only struggle physically as it relates to my chronic issues ( occasional migraines and myofascial trigger point pain that travels to various parts of my body).

    I realize that there are ongoing debates regarding this issue. I would strongly emphasize that each person is an individual, with varying genetic predispositions to carbohydrate intolerances. My extended family is full of obese individuals who are diabetes- prone and exhibit almost 100% cases of blood sugar dysregulation of some form or another ( hypo or hyper glycemia etc) I would never advocate a strict, ketongenic diet for all people. I would assess on a case by case basis. I do, however believe that a paleo type diet is the healthiest for the masses.

  4. Wait… I’m confused… don’t all Paleo diets trigger Ketosis, due to the lack of simple Carbs…?

    That was the impression I was under…

    If not, where is the line to trigger it…? What % of diet as Carbs do you go below to trigger it…?

    Also, Where does Protein fit in the mix…? I eat a higher Protein diet (try for 2-300 grams/day for lean mass gains), plenty of healthy fats, decent mix of complex carbs & then very low on simple… Ketogenic?

    I have never confirmed it with strips, but I eat little Carbs (some Sweet Potatoes, fruits & veggies, and sometimes a little sugar for coffee, if out of Honey)… can’t give that up!), and seem to have the energy needed (most of the time, at least)… seems I should be Ketogenic… but maybe I haven’t been…?

  5. 6 Days? You didn’t give it much of a chance!

    Thanks for the article, though – will be checking out Jimmy’s new book. I’ve been keto-adapted for over three years now. Going well!

  6. @Charles

    Jimmy overall lost weight and his lipid panel was abnormal to begin with.

    The general results of ketogenic high fat diets is improvement of all lipid results. Also, as seen here: http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/n1 he lost around 80 pounds in a year.

    Carbohydrate is the only non-essential nutrient for humans. The point is, you don’t need to eat them. You also don’t need to exclude them.


    I also do IF, usually around 24-30 hours 1 time a week. Been keto for over 3 years. It definitely isn’t for everyone as most won’t put up with the restrictive nature.

  7. Just because you read or hear about one person not doing well on the Keto diet, or that their numbers aren’t great, doesn’t mean the whole world will react in the same way as the person you just read or heard about. Their are children and adults who can only eat this way because of seizures and their numbers are great. What works for one, doesn’t always work for everyone. A keto way of life works wonders for me and I’ve have been eating this way for over 10 years now and my numbers look GREAT!!

  8. 6 days? Is that even enough to get past the “low carb flu” which pretty much describes your symptoms, there is tons of information on this and blogs about exactly as you describe that are temporay, (Google it). The rapid weight loss was probably water weight…it’s carbo-hydrate” meaning WITH WATER, decrease the carbs in the bod yand decrease the the retained water.

    Your metabolism, much like a muscle needs time to change. During this time, you’re eating to your “destination point” and waiting for you body to 1)exhaust the carbs it’s currently has simply circulating in the body. 2) signal to create ketones 3 )ramp up production of ketones. Think of is as “sore muscles” as your body adjusts to the sudden, somewhat extreme change.

    While it’s true ketosis might not be for you, 6 days isn’t conclusive. Not to mention 1500 kcal/day.. seems low if you’re fairly active.

    1. Penty – No, it was absolutely not enough time to get past the “low carb flu” and I didn’t say that it was. I just said that I felt so bad that I could not stand doing ketosis anymore. When I went Paleo, I felt bad for 3 weeks and then I felt great. I know what detoxing is. This was different. I had heart palpitations, muscle cramps, extreme fatigue, dizziness, all I did was cry, I had headaches, I couldn’t sleep, and my muscles were so sore I couldn’t walk down steps without using the railing to hold myself up. It wasn’t worth it. This is not me saying that ketosis doesn’t work for people. I know it does, and that’s why I’m offering up resources for it. I’m just saying it did not work for ME on this particular attempt at it.

  9. I have been on a ketogenic diet for a little over three years now, as has my husband. During the first six weeks, due to our inexperience, we cut carbs to almost nothing and one day realized we were both depressed. The depression was completely resolved that morning by adding a cup of strawberries to our breakfast. We didn’t make that mistake again. Berries, vegetables and nuts make up the majority of our carb consumption, with some 85 – 88% dark chocolate for fun.

    You can eat carbs and stay in ketosis. The amount of carbs that each person can eat and remain in ketosis will vary, it takes some experimentation. My limit is about 25 carbs per meal, consuming protein, fat and fiber at the same time. If I got a pure sugar hit of 25 carbs at one time, it would probably move me out of ketosis.

    Once you are in ketosis, and your craving for carbs has lessened or gone away, one way to tell that you have somehow had too many carbs for your system is that the carb cravings return. Another is the overnight weight gain of a pound or three. These signs are very useful for figuring out what foods do and do not work for you. That is how I learned, sadly, that I can’t eat heavy cream if I am trying to lose weight, and only a very minimal amount if I’m trying to maintain my weight.

  10. Thanks for sharing your experience! I have to agree 6 days may not be enough time. The first week is always “low-carb flu” time. You are making a tremendous shift here… I know Mark Sisson advises 21 days to become fat-adapted.

    I gradually went Keto– reduced carbs from 100 to 75 to 50 to 20 over months. I had no ill effects.

    I know many long distance athletes are employing keto and studies show it is at least as good as glucose-based diet in terms of performance. I imagine they also have a similar lean body type. (check out Jimmy Moore’s ‘Ask the Low Carb Experts’ podcast on Keto diets and athletic performance)

    I think everything takes time– especially re-training your body to burn a different fuel. If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine. But it does take time and practice :-)

    1. Michelle – I am 5 feet tall and 100 pounds. I wasn’t working out during the time I was trying ketosis. 1500 was plenty – I know my body.

  11. How could you possibly call yourself Paleo in one sentence and then say you cannot maintain a state of ketosis. Absolutely preposterous. You are clueless! For 2.5 million years we lived on nothing but ketosis. Carbs were far too scarce to achieve direct glucose blood levels. We derived glucose from gluconeogensis, converting fats to glucose as needed. It is THE most efficient biological generation of human energy. Particularly for brain function.

    To attempt ketosis for 6 days is laughable. To then say you felt bad and even depressed indicates you in no way achieved ketosis, as the brain functions more efficiently in ketosis and would actually improve depressive symptoms. You, like the rest of us, have been raised to be a “carboholic”. So to try ketosis for 6 days is like an alcoholic trying to quick their addiction to alcohol in 6 days. They start to feel bad and then say, “Oh well I quess I operate better drinking, but I think sobriety is good for some people, like my clients. How preposterous and irresponsible. What is you source of Paleo information, your first grade teacher. Shame on you!

    1. Steve – Paleo and ketosis have nothing to do with each other. For 2.5 million years, our diets have been extremely varied, and many modern day hunter gatherers (who likely mimic past hunter gatherer groups) live on mostly carbohydrates, such as the Kitavans. We are all different, and people throughout history have thrived on the foods that were available to them, which have always (until now) been dependent on the part of the world in which they lived. The fact that you troll other people’s blogs calling them names is “preposterous” – not my honest assessment of my OWN experiences, which I’ve kindly published for others to learn from. All further comments from you will be marked as spam.

  12. I am a certified hypnotist, and as such see a lot of clients who want to lose weight. Although I’m not overweight, I feel it’s most beneficial for me to try things that I may recommend or utilize in sessions with clients, so I’ve done a lot of different diets over the years, including high fat/low carb. I’ve experienced many of the same things mentioned in other posts: low energy, dizziness, and very rapid weight loss. I did find that the low energy and light-headedness peaked during the first two weeks, and then my body seemed to recover. I work out 6-7 times weekly, and the first few weeks were really tough. A couple of things I haven’t seen mentioned, but have certainly experienced doing the low carb thing: moderate to severe constipation, and funky breath. I’ve also read the physiological reasons behind both, but knowing the cause doesn’t make either any more enjoyable, haha. I don’t think I could do the ketosis thing permanently. I’d end up looking like a rail, and it’s so restricted, boredom definitely comes into play. I do, however (and have) recommend Paleo to a lot of my clients. I’ve been on it for over a year, and feel great. I all but eliminated problems I used to have with my digestion: heartburn, indigestion, GERD, diarrhea attacks. That is all the proof I need that it’s healthier for me than my old diet.

  13. @ LCC Congratulations on your success with a ketogenic diet. However, we are all an experiment of n=1 and what works for one will not necessarily work for another.

    My experience: I was VLC (50 gms or less/day) for three plus years. I am built a lot like Neely. Muscular, naturally lean, no weight to lose. I tried ketosis because I wanted the increased energy. My husbands and my norm was to IF from about 6pm to 10am (16 hour window). I kept track of my carbs by logging on FitDay. I ate between 1500-2000 calories/day. My workouts included weight training, and some type of cardio for no longer then 30 minutes 4xweek. I also added a HIIT workout once a week as one of my cardio sessions. I would always workout in a fasted state, as well.

    Results: My period stopped (my estrogen dropped to zero), loss of sex drive (no estrogen), nodules on my thyroid, cold intolerance, weight gain, body composition changes (I noticed my legs seemed heavier, with more fat…..I’ve always been able to pull my fat off my leg away from my muscle because I don’t have a lot), no energy, dry hair and skin. My TC >300, LDL 170. Also, I had major digestive issues, like chronic constipation that was definitely not my norm.

    I initially went to a doctor who drew my labs, and did a thyroid US. Her solution was to put me on a variety of meds, which I refused. I went to a naturopath who placed me on a diet containing 200 to 250 gms of carbs/day, and he had me eating breakfast every morning before 8am. I was terrified I’d blow up like the good year blimp. In 6 weeks, I lost 10lbs, I had increased energy, my constipation was gone, I leaned out, my skin looked better. I can’t say what has happened with the nodules, because I haven’t had another thyroid US yet, nor have I had my cholesterol rechecked…..but I will. And finally, I actually just had my first period in over a year.

    All that to say, a ketogenic diet is not for everyone. Especially for women. The research shows that our thyroids need carbohydrate to function. Without enough carbohydrate, the thyroid gland down-regulates because it thinks we are in starvation mode. All my symptoms were a result of low thyroid. It put my body into premature menopause. Plus, as I said, like Neely, I am naturally muscular…..I didn’t have any weight to lose…..so my body held onto weight…..I got fatter!

    @LCC: please stop judging everyone based on your personal experience. We are all different. Had I read information on what IFing and VLC diets can do to females, especially lean females, I could saved myself a lot of pain and money.

  14. I have been on the keto adapted diet for years now. Maria Emmerich discusses what goes on physiologically when one starts to get into ketosis for the first time or after being out of it for a while and why some feel so bad, almost like detoxing with flu-like sympfoms. It does pass. I felt bad for about 3 weeks. But after that I felt better than I ever have. Same with a friend of mine who started it about 8 months ago. If you’ve never read her blog, I’d encourage it. Mariahealth.blogspot.com. You can search for specific information you’re interested in. I love being keto adapted… It actually helped me lose weight and kick my gi problems and depression. I recommend to all my friends to try it for 30 days. Those who have get past the crappy feeling stage and into the awesome stage!!

  15. Sorry, but this diet works wonders for many people. I don’t think that 6 days is nearly long enough to really evaluate it. Jimmy Moore is now in the best health he’s ever been in since he adopted the Keto diet. I’m very sorry that it didn’t work for you, but please stop the fear mongering. This is the only hope for many people.

    1. JEV – I think I was very clear throughout that it just didn’t work for me. I’ve stated time and time again that it does work for many people – just not me when I tried it.

  16. It’s sad you decided to moderate out informative post out of your comments simply because they contain contrary but educated opinions\information.

    This really says a lot.

    1. Troy – What, exactly, are you talking about? I don’t moderate out informative posts – just blatantly rude ones…

  17. Ketosis did not work for me either – I tried it to support my hubby who is a Grand-mal epilleptic – he does just great on a ketotic diet…

    Me, I lost a ton of weight (over 60lb in 6 months), but I ended up with adrenal fatigue and hormonal issues as a result. More than 1 year on, I am still battling to correct that….

    Some people, women especially, do not do well on ketotic diets.

  18. Sounds like your body went into a perceived hypoglycemic state. It is called reactive hypoglycemia. You can google it to read up on it. It is pretty much harmless for most people even though you feel terrible. This happened to me. For people who are lean if you cut out too many carbs too fast, your body reacts as if you are having a blood sugar crash even though you really aren’t. So your body will produce the symptoms of it such as weakness, dizzyness, fatigue, depression. When this happens you just have some fruit and Gogol at a slower rate. I had the same symptoms as you when I did it too fast. Lean people need to do it much slower over a longer period of time. It is working much better for me doing that and I no longer have those symptoms.

  19. If I were naturally lean, I probably wouldn’t bother with ketosis. You can be lower carb without ketosis, and still maintain a healthy Paleo diet. I gave up wheat first, and lost almost all cravings, joint pain, and have lost over 120 pounds in 3 years. In the process, I moved more toward a Paleo way of eating….with the occasional gluten free junk mixed in. I am to the point now that I have to be under 50 grams of carbs to lose weight. I don’t do a lot of exercise, and would probably have lost faster if I did. I try to stay active. But I was not naturally thin. I always struggled with my weight and honestly. Low carb/ ketosis is what works for me for health and weight loss. All of my cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar levels are normal and good. It just depends on the person. Like I said, if I were like Neely….I wouldn’t bother with ketosis.

  20. 62 days ago I was Fat, sick & nearly dead, & had severe inflammation from food allergy’s & pain in my joints .I surrendered to God & He gave me PALEO …..No Flour , No Sugar , No Dairy .
    Eating Salads, Veg ,Berries & Meat & drinking lots of water , I have no more inflammation, , no more joint pain, Lots of inches & Lbs down never hungry & more energy .Paleo saved my life.
    Being accountable with my food intake on a daily basis to my friend & mentor Kim M. Has been a big part of my success ……
    I hope this will inspire someone if I can do this you can too , Truly Gods Grace is enough!!!!
    Love & Healing Linda

    1. That is an amazing story. I am so glad that a Paleo lifestyle could help this much and thank you for encouraging others.

  21. Thanks! I too tried that diet about a year ago…and had the same reaction as you…but the “guru” I was following didn’t have any good response for why. I felt kind of like a failure with no will power. I literally have the same exact looking body as you..and your explanation is very helpful for me to understand why I seem to really need carbs.

  22. I am also a lean athlete…12% body fat and former bodybuilder. I still lift weights 6x a week. My experience was very similar to Michelle’s. I followed the diet to the T…read every book available. I gained weight, felt miserable, my workouts were painful, and I, too, had trouble walking up stairs because of the pain in my knees. I took a break, felt better, and then decided to give it another try. I got sicker than ever, but being the warrior that I am, stuck with it longer. My body finally crashed. I, too, now have adrenal fatigue and my thyroid, for the first time ever, is slow. My hair is falling out, and what hair I do have is so full of static from a chronic electrolyte imbalance that I’ve also developed. I’m trying to get myself out of this, but it appears I’ve become over sensitive to carbs after restricting them for so long. So I also have to work my way through reactive hypoglycemia. I understand this diet has saved many lives and improved the quality of others. But if you are already lean, do resistance training, and have no health issues, there may not be any benefits to a ketogenic diet. For me, it was a nightmare.

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