1. Prerequisite Information
The information in this section is important to understand if you want to truly understand the Ketogenic Diet. This section is dense with information that is relevant to understanding the fundamentals of how the Ketogeneic Diet works.
I suggest you read and re-read this section until you really understand it. Once you really understand this section, understanding how the Ketogenic Diet works will be simple.
1.1 Macronutrients vs. Micronutrients
Let's start by reviewing the difference between Macronutrients and Micronutrients.
Macronutrients are essentially the same as calories - they come from carbs, fats, and protein. Our body takes in macronutrients and converts them into things like glucose, fatty acids, etc. which can be used for energy.
The easiest source of energy for our body is Glucose - which is the type of energy we convert from carbs. Your body will first use all your glucose for energy before tapping into other types of energy.
Let's give an example of how easy it is for our bodies to convert carbs into energy vs. fat.
- Scenario 1: Let's say you eat 1 full cup of sugar (which is ~750 calories of carbs).
- Scenario 2: Let's say instead, you ate 3 chicken breasts (which is also ~750 calories - primarily of protein and some fat).
How quickly will you feel the energy spike from each of these scenarios? Obviously - in the sugar scenario (#1), you'll be wired with a “sugar high” almost immediately. This is because your body had to do almost no work to convert the sugar calories into usable energy. Scenario 2 will take more time to digest and won’t cause the sugar high like scenario 1.
Micronutrients don't give us calories or energy like macronutrients do. Instead, micronutrients are what gives our bodies the necessary compounds to work. Micronutrients are very important in helping your body run efficiently, prevent or fight disease, build our immune system, etc. They are absolutely critical for our bodies to work.
One thing to dive into a little bit more is antioxidants. To understand what antioxidants are, you need to first understand free radicals. Free radicals are bad. They are responsible for creating various diseases as well as aging. Our bodies will naturally produce free radicals and do so all the time. Things like exercise, inflammation, etc. all produce free radicals.
But free radicals can also come from external sources - like smoking, pollution, x-rays, chemcials, etc. 
Antioxidants are what helps us remove free radicals from our bodies - which is good. There are thousands of different types of antioxidants and each can perform different functions in different parts of your body. That's why it's very important to consume a variety of antioxidants.
In other words, we produce free radicals internally, we consume them from external sources, and we get rid of them via antioxidants. Antioxidants are good and free radicals are bad, yet unavoidable.
The best sources for most micronutrients (including antioxidants) are fruits, vegetables, and superfoods. This is going to provide a challenge to the traditional keto diet, we will dive into further in a later section.
1.2 How your Body Uses Macronutrients
Carbs get broken down into Glucose which then insulin takes throughout your body to be used as energy. This is very easy and fast for your body to do - which is why this is the first place your body goes to for energy.
All parts of your body can use glucose for energy.
If you consume too much glucose for your body to use, your body will then create little packets of glucose called Glycogen. But we can only store limited amounts of glycogen, so any excess glucose beyond what we can store is converted into fat.
Fats get broken down into Fatty Acids and Glycerol. It is either stored as body fat or can be immediately used for energy.
Your body will first use glucose for energy, and only uses fats as energy when it has no glucose.
Not all parts of your body can use fats for energy (e.g. your brain cannot). Because of this, your body will convert fatty acids into "Ketones" - which can be used by your brain for energy.
Your body produces ketones only when you have no glucose available. Ketones are created from fats to be used by your brain for energy.
Proteins get broken down into Amino Acids which are used to help repair tissue.
Protein is your body's last choice as a fuel source. It would rather get energy from glucose or stored fat.
1.3 Net Carbs and Other Types of Carbs
Here's a great overview on the different types of carbohydrates:
Carbs are made up of Fibers, Starches, and Sugars.
Unlike sugars and starches, your body is not able to break fiber down into glucose. Fiber has various health benefits to digestion, regularity, cholesterol, and can even counter blood sugar levels. This why you may have heard that the sugar from whole foods (e.g. fruit) is not as bad as the sugar from juices (where the fiber has been removed)
Simple Carbs: Simple carbs are easier and quicker for your body to turn into glucose than complex carbs.
There are two types of simple carbs: Refined and Natural. Refined carbs have been processed down to reduce fiber, micronutrients, vitamins, and/or antioxidants. Refined carbs are not healthy. Natural carbs come from whole foods and retain all the benefits of the whole food.
Complex Carbs: These are things like whole grains, pastas, potatoes, beans, vegetables, etc. Complex carbs require more time for digestion to convert into glucose. Because of this, they provide a more even amount or stable form of energy.
"Net Carbs": Some people don't believe that fiber should count as a carb, since your body is unable to break it down into glucose. So "net carbs" is a term that represents the total amount of carbs without the fiber included. Or if you like math: Total Carbs - Fiber = Net Carbs.
Net Carbs are the carbs that are turned into glucose. Since fiber is not turned into glucose, most low carb diets don't worry about fiber, they only worry about the net carbs.
1.4 Types of Fats
The Ketogenic Diet is a high fat diet; which is why this section is important.
"Fats" are really referring to "fatty acids". There are more than 20 different fatty acids found in food. You may have heard of some of these: Oleic Acid, Linoleic Acid, Alpha-Linolenic Acid, DHA, EPA, Caprylic Acid, etc.
Fatty Acids generally get grouped into a classification system that most of us are very familiar with: Monounsaturated vs. Polyunsaturated vs. Saturated vs. Trans Fats.
But a completely different, independent, and alternative classification system exist: Short Chain vs. Medium Chain vs. Long Chain Fats
For example, lets look at the fatty acid called "Lauric Acid". Lauric acid is categorized as a "Saturated Fat" in one classification system and a "Medium Chain Fat" in the other classification system.
Unsaturated Fats ("Healthy Fats")
Almost everyone agrees that unsaturated fats are good for you. These are fats in avocado, nuts, olive oil, and others. Studies show that unsaturated fats can improve cholesterol levels, improve insulin levels, and decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes. 
Trans Fats ("Bad Fats")
Trans fats are not natural. They are artificial sources of fat. In fact, the FDA banned trans fats starting in 2018.
Saturated Fats and Cholesterol - Good or Bad?
There is a lot of debate and differing opinions about saturated fats. What most of us have been raised to understand is, "Fats raise Cholesterol levels, which causes Heart Disease". But that traditional argument now goes 1 layer deeper to "Saturated Fats raise LDL (Bad) Cholesterol levels, which causes Heart Disease".
But many people believe that this statement is completely wrong. Many people believe the link between saturated fats -> cholesterol -> heat disease was paid for and promoted by the sugar industry to distract people from blaming sugar; and that it continues to be pushed today by the pharmaceutical industry - which sells cholesterol lowering drugs (statins) to 1 out of 4 Americans.
In 2014, the University of Cambridge looked at data from 72 separate studies, which included 600,000 people in 18 different countries and concluded that evidence did not support a link between consumption of saturated fats and heart disease. 
Many people believe that "saturated fats" is too general of a term to be labeled as bad.
- While saturated fats do raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, some saturated fats also raise HDL (good) cholesterol as well.
- Recent studies have also been looking at the particle size of LDL cholesterol - showing that only the small and medium LDL sized particles are bad and the large sizes are associated with lower heart disease. 
- There have also been studies that have shown that the Ketogenic Diet actually improves cholesterol levels.  This is likely due to the first bullet about raising HDL (good) cholesterol as a strategy to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. It is important to note that studies go both ways on this, which is probably a good indication that it depends on the type of saturated fats that you are eating.
Antioxidants help prevent LDL Cholesterol from building up in your arteries
In order for LDL Cholesterol (Bad Cholesterol) to build up in your arteries, it first has to be oxidized by free radicals. We already discussed that antioxidants help rid our body of free radicals. Because of this - antioxidants can help prevent LDL cholesterol from collecting in your arteries. This is a big reason why we recommend adding high antioxidant superfoods to your diet when you are doing the Keto Diet.
What you need to understand as it relates to the Ketogenic Diet:
- The ketogenic diet believes sugar is the #1 issue to our health problems, not fat.
- Some keto dieters do not worry about saturated fats at all.
- Some keto dieters believe that "saturated fats" is too general of a term and that it depends on which type of fatty acid in particular we are talking about. Remember that the term "saturated fat" is a category of a bunch of different fatty acids. Some of these fatty acids have been shown to increase your good cholesterol more than your bad cholesterol, and have various types of health benefits.
- Almost all keto dieters support high amounts of certain MCT's (Medium Chain Fatty Acids). This is because your body is able to convert MCT's in ketones very easily and quickly. Consuming MCT's can quickly raise your ketone levels.
Most foods that contain fat have combinations of fats and fat categories. For example, let's look at coconut oil below. You can see that coconut oil is comprised of many different types of fats and how they get categorized under the different types of classification systems.
The reason I used coconut oil as the example to explain how fats work, is for a reason.
You are likely to hear a lot about coconut oil related to the keto diet. This is because Coconut Oil is high (65%) in Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCT's ). The reason this is important, is because MCT's are very easily converted into ketones - so consuming coconut oil can quickly raise your ketone levels.
The specific fatty acids within the MCT's also have different characteristics. For example, C8 (Caprylic) fatty acids is the form that will most quickly get converted into ketones to be used as energy. C12 (Lauric Acid) has been linked to anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties, but takes longer to be converted into ketones.
You might also hear about MCT oils. This is coconut oil (or palm oil) that has been refined to remove all the long chain fatty acids. Therefore all that is left is the Medium Chain Fatty Acids - which is what MCT Oil is.
Some MCT Oil is refined even further to remove some of the C12-Lauric Acid and/or the C10-Decanoic Acid; that way there is a much higher percentage of C8-Caprylic Acid. C8 is much more easily converted into usable ketone energy than C10 and C12.
2: What is the Ketogenic Diet?
2.1 Balancing your Macronutrients - With Fat on Top
Take a look at the picture that compares the American Dietary Guidelines vs. the Standard Ketogenic Diet. You can see that the Ketogenic Diet switches your primary energy source from carbs/glucose to fats (or fatty acids and ketones).
There are a few different types of Ketogenic Diet plans that we'll get into in a later section. But for the "standard" ketogenic plan, you can see how it differs from the American Dietary Guidelines.
The Ketogenic Diet is entirely based on macronutrients and re-prioritizing what macronutrients you should be eating. The Ketogenic Diet does not consider the micronutrients - it is entirely based on the macros.
As previously discussed, the best source of micronutrients are fruits and vegetables - which are mostly classified as carbs - which the Ketogenic Diet has you reducing your intake of. In our opinion, this is one of the biggest issues of the Ketogenic Diet - a total lack of focus of the micros.
Most people on the Ketogenic Diet take high quality vitamins and supplements to help make up for the lack of micros in their diet, but we all know that food based sources are the best sources.
2.2 What is "Ketosis"?
"Ketosis" is a term used when your body no longer has any glucose to use for energy. When your body is in ketosis, it is using fat as it's energy source.
Since certain parts of your body cannot use fatty acids as energy (e.g. your brain), your liver will convert the fatty acids into Ketones, which your brain is able to use for energy.
The Ketogeneic Diet is a diet that puts your body into a state of ketosis. In order to be in ketosis, your body must be depleted of glucose. When your body is depleted of glucose, it will then use fatty acids and ketones to power your body.
In simple terms, when you eat a bunch of carbs, your brain is being powered by glucose. When you have no glucose available, your body will take your fat and convert it to ketones to power your brain.
When your body is in a state of ketosis, various benefits have been observed - such as improved cognitive ability, appetite suppression, and a lower production of free radicals. We will get into these benefits in more detail in a later section.
2.3 Fasting & The History of the Ketogenic Diet
We fast every day. A fasted state is when your body is running off of stored energy (fat) instead of glucose. When you are in a fasted state, you are in ketosis; as your body is using it's own fat for energy.
Fasting is "the original Ketogenic Diet". Hippocrates wrote about fasting thousands of years ago as a treatment for epilepsy. In 1911, 2 French physicians authored the first scientific report on fasting as a treatment to Epilepsy.  Around this same time, American physician Hugh Conklin had his epileptic patients fast for 18-25 days with a 90% cure rate in children and 50% in adults.  Various other studies soon followed.
In the 1920's, a doctor named Russel Wilder with the Mayo Clinic invented the Ketogenic Diet - hoping that he could find a way to mimic the effects of fasting, without having to fast. In a Ketogenic Diet, your body is using fatty acids and ketones for energy instead of glucose - just like how your body works in a fasted state.
In 1925, Wilders colleague Mynie Peterman reported the following on his young patients under the Ketogenic Diet: 95% improvement on seizure control and 60% completely cured of seizures. 
In 1938 an anti-seizure pharmaceutical drug was founded - and research focus shifted form natural solutions to pharmaceutical solutions.
2.4 Keto vs. Atkins
The Atkins diet is a low carb diet. The focus is on the amount of carbs that are consumed. There is no focus on the amount of protein or fat consumed. So if you were eating 90% protein, 0% fat, and 10% carbs – that meets the needs with Atkins. In addition, with the Atkins diet, you start out with an "introduction phase" which is very low carb, but then you gradually bring more carbs back into your diet after the introduction phase.
Unlike the Atkins diet, the Ketogenic diet cares about more than just low carbs. The Ketogenic diet is not only low carb, but it also limits your protein intake to 15-20% of your calories. This is because too much protein can take you out of Ketosis. Protein can get converted into glucose for use as energy, which is how it can take you out of ketosis. Not only can too much protein take you out of ketosis, but it may also accelerate aging (to learn more about protein and aging, view this article: link).
3. Variations of The Ketogenic Diet
3.1 Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)
In the standard Ketogenic Diet, it is recommended you consume your calories from the following macronutrients:
- 5-10% from carbs.
- 70-80% from fat
- 15-20% from protein
You are allowed to eat however many times per day you would like, just as long as you are in the above percentage range for all of your meals.
If you are trying to lose weight, you will also need to ensure your total calorie consumption is less than your metabolic rate.
3.2 Daily Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (DCKD)
The #1 issue with the Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD) is a complete lack of focus on micronutrients.
Fruits, Vegetables, and Superfoods are the best source of micronutrients, but they are high in carbohydrates; and carbohydrates are only allowed in very small amounts by the SKD.
We created the Daily Cyclical Ketogenic Diet to solve this problem, and is our general recommendation as the best type of ketogenic diet for most people.
In this diet, you do the Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD) for the first 10 days and then follow the Daily Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (DCKD) plan. The first 10 days is to get your body "fat adapted" (which we will cover in a later section).
The DCKD plan has you following the SKD plan with the exception of 1 meal per day. During this one meal, you consume very high/dense micronutrient foods - like superfoods, vegetables, and fruits. For this high micronutrient meal, we recommend keeping your net carbs to under 50g (or calories from net carbs to under 200 calories). This will take your body out of ketosis for less than 4 hours.
To learn more about the Daily Cyclical Ketogenic Diet and its meal plan, please read "Daily Cyclickal Ketogenic Diet - with Meal Plan".
3.3 Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)
The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) cycles between low carb, high protein, and high fat with periods of high carb, high protein, and low fat; but the majority of the time, you'll be in the low carb cycle.
There are different points of view on how often and when to cycle - they will be roughly:
- 1-2 Days of high carb
- 5-6 Days of low carb
The advantages discussed for the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet are:
- Athletes: Complex carbs serve as a more efficient fuel source for the body. So if you are an athlete, being on a full time low carb diet may result in energy and endurance problems.
- Easier to follow than SKD: It seems like it would be more complex, but if you are able to eat high carb on Saturday and Sunday - it might fit in better with your weekend life.
We never recommend you consume simple, refined carbs. If you choose the Targeted Ketogenic Diet, choose simple unrefined carbs (e.g. fruits) or complex carbs (e.g. vegetables, whole grains, etc.)
3.4 Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)
The Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD) allows for carbs to be consumed before intense workouts. This is especially good for short term, high intensity exercise like a soccer game or intense bodybuilding workout.
Remember - when you are in ketosis, your body is using fat for energy. But it's easier and more efficient for your body to use carbs for energy. This is why many athletes will choose to add carbs before their workout.
We never recommend you to consume simple, refined carbs. If you choose the Targeted Ketogenic Diet, choose simple unrefined carbs (e.g. fruits) or complex carbs (e.g. vegetables, whole graines, etc.)
3.5 High Protein Ketogenic Diet (HPKD)
The High Protein Ketogenic Diet (HPKD) is similar to the Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD), only it has you eating a higher percentage of your calories from protein.
Both the HPKD and SKD has you consuming roughly 5% carbs. But the HPKD has you consuming 60% fat and 35% protein, where the SKD has you consuming ~80% fat and 15% protein.
4. Potential Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet
4.1 Weight Loss
There are many theories that exist on how the Ketogenic Diet can help with weight loss. We'll cover a couple reasons that we feel are supported with scientific evidence.
Please note: There is only 1 way to lose weight - consume fewer calories than you burn. Going on a Keto Diet, consuming 4,000 fat calories a day will have you gaining weight, not losing weight. The #1 reason why the Ketogenic Diet can help you lose weight is due to appetite suppression, which should lead to consuming fewer calories.
- In order to turn fat into energy, there is a much longer metabolic process and digestion process involved than if you were to get your calories from simple carbohydrate sources like sugar. Try consuming 240 calories from a 20 oz coke vs. 240 calories from 3/4 of an avocado. The avocado is going to keep you full much longer.
- When you are eating, your body produces a hormone called CCK that helps make you feel full. When you lose weight, your body produces less of this as your body's way to try to get you to keep eating to bring your body back to pre-weight loss levels. This is a problem. However, studies have shown that in a ketogenic diet, CCK was sustained at the same levels as before weight loss. 
- When you lose weight, the "hunger hormone" Ghrelin increases - which makes you hungry. But studies have shown that under a Ketogenic Diet, that is not the case and Ghrelin can actually decrease.  
4.2 Neurodegenerative Disease (Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Huntington's, etc.)
Neurodegenerative diseases primarily affect neurons in the brain. Various studies have linked benefits of the ketogeneic diet to neurodegenerative diseases. 
- Alzheimer's: Research has shown a positive correlation between memory improvement and ketone levels 
- Parkinson's: In one uncontrolled study, Parkinson's disease patients experienced a 43% average reduction in Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale scores after a 28-day exposure to the Ketogenic Diet. 
- Mild Cognitive Impairment: Studies have shown that ketone levels are positively correlated with memory performance. 
4.3 Mental Clarity, Focus, and Cognition
The prior section on Neurodegenerative Disease discussed benefits related to people with actual cognitive issues.
But if you are completely healthy, can increased ketones help improve your mental clarity, focus, and/or cognition?
Anecdotal evidence (personal accounts) certainly seem to support this. But scientific evidence to support this doesn't really exist. That's likely because it's hard to measure.
How do you scientifically measure better focus, mental clarity, etc.?
4.4 Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is a disease where you have problems producing or using the hormone insulin (Type 2 Diabetes), or when your body doesn't produce insulin at all (Type 1 Diabetes).
Insulin is the hormone that is produced to help your body absorb glucose, store glucose as glycogen, or store glucose as fat. The more glucose you consume, the more insulin your body will produce.
The exact causes of Type 2 Diabetes are unknown, but we do understand the primary risk factors to be weight, fat distribution, inactivity, family history, race, age, prediabetes, gestational diabetes, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. 
There have been a few studies on how the ketogenic diet impacts people with Type 2 Diabetes:
1.) In 2005, a study at Duke looked at 28 overweight people with type 2 diabetes. After 16 weeks of going on the Ketogenic Diet, receiving nutritional counseling, and reducing medictions - they found an average of 19 lbs lost, decreased blood glucose levels by 17%, and decreased triglyceride (fat) levels by 42%. 
2.) Another study compared results of Type 2 Diabetes between a low calorie diet and a Ketogenic Diet. Here is a table of the results: 
3.) Another study compared people without diabetes to determine how these diets might impact the risk of getting Type 2 Diabetes.  They put people into 3 different diet groups:
Here are some key results of this study:
- All diets produced similar body fat and weight loss.
- VLCARB was more effective in improving tracylglycerols, HDL cholesterol, fasting and post-meal glucose and insulin concentrations. More specifically, triacylglycerols decreased by 39.9% in VLCARB subjects, 4.0% in VLF subjects, and 9.6% in HUF subjects.
- Insulin levels decreased by 33.6% in VLCARB subjects, decreased by 18.7% in HUF subjects, and increased by 15.1% in VLF subjects.
4.5 Lower Production of Free Radicals
Free radicals are associated with aging and various diseases. They are produced naturally in our body, found in food that we eat, air we breathe, etc. They are everywhere. You may have also heard of "oxidative stress" which is referring to damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants are what removes free radicals from our body - which is why we want to consume antioxidants.
Research in animals has shown that when using energy from fatty acids instead of glucose, fewer free radicals are produced.  Human studies have also shown that the ketogenic diet elevates blood antioxidative capacity and does not induce oxidative stress. 
5. Potential Disadvantages of the Ketogeneic Diet
5.1 What about the Micronutrients?
In our opinion, this is the #1 disadvantage of the Keto Diet. The Ketogenic Diet focuses entirely on Macronutrients with no focus on Micronutrients.
Not only that, but your micros are likely to suffer pretty badly by following the Keto Diet, because most micronutrients are not found in high-fat foods. They are found in fruits and vegetables - which are typically high carbohydrate foods.
Because of that, most people on the Keto Diet take high quality vitamins and supplements to help compensate from the lack of micronutrients in their diet. However, we also all know that food is the best source of micronutrients and our bodies are better able to use the micronutrients we get from food vs. supplements. So while taking vitamins is a good idea for people following the Keto Diet, it is still a major disadvantage of the Keto Diet.
We do have a solution and recommendation surrounding this issue:
- Add as many superfoods to your diet as possible. If you drink Keto Coffee, add superfoods like cacao, cinnamon, maca, and more.
- Eat nutrient dense foods as much as possible.
- Do a Daily Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (DCKD). This ketogenic plan has you in a ketogenic state for ~20 hours per day, but not all day every day. The ~4 hours per day that you are not in a ketogenic state, you are consuming nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.
5.2 Carcinogens - Do this Diet the Right Way
Avoid Processed Meats
Processed meat is a carcinogen. It refers to hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausage, and some deli meats. "Processed meat" refers to meat that has been treated in some way to preserve or flavor it. Processes include salting, curing, fermenting, and smoking.
From the World Health Organization, twenty-two experts from 10 countries reviewed more than 800 studies to reach their conclusions that processed meat is a carcinogen.
An easy way to implement the ketogenic diet is to just eat a bunch of processed meats that are full of fat. But that is the wrong way to do it. You need to succeed without adding a bunch of processed meats to your diet.
Limit Red Meat
Red meat is considered a "probable carcinogen" by the World Health Organization. You should also limit red meat. Don't plan to do the Keto Diet by eating steak and hamburgers every day.
5.3 "Keto Flu" / Adaptation Period
People can experience flu-like symptoms when starting the keto diet. Symptoms can include headaches, nausea, irritability, etc.
A lot of people raise theories to why this can happen, but here are some of the most common:
- It takes time for your body to get used to using fats and ketones as energy - your body is not efficient at it and it takes a while to adjust to it. Some people will talk about your body being "fat adapted". This is when your body is used to using fats for energy. If your body is not "fat adapted" and you go into ketosis, then your body struggles to get energy until it's efficient at this process.
- Sugar withdraw. Your body is so used to being fueled by glucose, that your body will start to have withdraw symptoms. After all, research has shown very similar properties between your brains response to sugar as your brains reponse to drugs like heroin, cocaine, and morphine.
- You will lose water weight the first few days. Glycogen is stored with water and your glycogen levels get depleted, so does your retained water.
The adaption phase is only for a limited time (some say they've experienced up to two weeks) and there are some things you can do to help avoid it or lessen its impacts:
- Drink lots of water.
- Don't cut calories immediately. Your body will be able to more easily covert fat from food for energy than it will be able to convert stored fat for energy.
- Eat nutrient dense foods. We recommended adding a lot of superfoods to your diet as a way to do this. You might also consider high quality vitamins. Also consider Vitamin B12 and Magnesium to help combat headaches and muscle cramping.