The Basic Rules of a Keto Diet
Unless you’ve been MIA from the internet for, like, years, you probably know that keto diet guidelines = high fat and low carb. But if you’re actually trying to go keto, that’s not really helpful. But no worries, friends, because we’re helpful. So helpful in fact, that we’re breaking down what those keto diet rules actually mean.
What even is ketosis?
The ridiculously simplified version: Most of the time, your body breaks down the carbs you eat into glucose for fuel. When you’re in a ketogenic state, your carb intake is so low that your liver produces ketones to use as fuel instead, meaning you are now a fat-burning machine. This means it’s easier to burn stored fat too, so you can hit those #goals.
High Fat + Moderate Protein + SUPER Low Carb
High fat = 70-80% of your daily calories
It’s probably a lot more fat than you’re used to eating. But once you’ve adjusted, you’ll find that you’re basically never hungry, which is part of why keto works for so many people.
Moderate protein = 15-25% of your daily calories
Fat is the MVP, but protein is still super important on a keto diet. A lot of new ketoers are surprised by how much they actually need, especially if they’re trying to gain muscle on keto. To hit your macros (more on that below), you may end up eating even more protein than you did before.
Eggs, cheese, grass-fed beef, and fatty fish like salmon are going to be your best friends here.
Super Low Carb = ~5% of your daily calories
For most people, staying under 25 grams of carbs per day is a safe way to stick to ketosis. The super athletic and active types can often do closer to 50 grams.
Track those macros...at least at first
To track or not to track? We know… tracking macros seems a little extra when you’re already cutting out alllll the carbs. But to really make sure you’re sticking to the keto guidelines of 75% fat, 20% protein, 5% carbs (ish), it’s smart to track for a week or two. The My Fitness Pal app already has the macros for most foods in its system, so it’s not as much of a hassle.
Here’s what you need to know to get started:
1 gram of fat = 9 calories
1 gram of protein = 4 calories
1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories
So if you need, say, 1800 calories per day, and you’re aiming for a 75-20-5 ratio, you’d want to eat:
- 1350 calories from fat, or 150 grams of fat per day
- 360 calories from protein, or 144 grams of protein per day
- 90 calories from carbs, or ~23 grams of carbs per day
It’s more work up front, but you’ll get a way better idea of what to eat each day to hit your goals. Once you’ve got that down, you can shift to eyeballing it.
Eat your veggies
Certain corners of the internet will have you believe that going keto means eating cheese wrapped in bacon wrapped in cheese for every meal. Yeah… don’t do that. You might still lose weight if you’re hitting your macros, but you’ll probably feel like crap. And it’s not even necessary to stay in ketosis – you can cram in a ton of veggies and still stay under that carb count. Mark Sisson – author of The Primal Blueprint and a huge name in the paleo and keto worlds – eats his famous Big Ass Salad pretty much every day, even when he’s in ketosis.
As a rule, avoid the super carby vegetables like sweet potatoes (duh), but you’re good to go when it comes to leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, and even moderate amounts of berries and tomatoes.
Need a little more help in your keto journey? Our guide to Keto Approved Snacks has more ideas to get those veggies in while staying in ketosis, plus other yummy keto-friendly treats like our line of zero-sugar jerky and meat sticks.