The Keto Diet for Beginners: Your Complete Guide
By: Alison Moodie
October 7, 2020
- The keto diet is made up of mostly fats, moderate protein and a small amount of carbs.
- Eating a lot of fat and very few carbs puts you in ketosis, a metabolic state where your body burns fat instead of carbs for fuel.
- There are different types of keto diets, including the standard diet, cyclical keto and dirty keto. Get the details on the benefits of keto and how to start the keto diet below.
Eat fat to burn fat? It sounds counterintuitive, but that’s what makes the ketogenic diet so unique. Also called the keto diet, this high-fat, low-carb style of eating can help you feel energized and laser sharp. It can even help you stay at a healthy weight—all while enjoying delicious, satisfying foods.
Read on to learn everything you want to know about this style of eating with our keto diet for beginners guide. We’ll cover the science behind how it works, detail the amazing benefits of the keto diet and offer tweaks that can help you manage keto side effects and stay in a state of ketosis.
What is the keto diet?
You may have heard the old low-fat weight loss mantra, “Fat makes you fat.” It’s actually not that simple. Your brain and body benefit from healthy fats, regardless of what diet you follow. Eating keto means eating more fats and fewer carbs, which changes the way your body turns food into energy.
Think of your body like a hybrid car. You’re built to rely on carbohydrates, like bread and pasta, for fuel. Your metabolism is designed to turn carbs into glucose for energy. But just like a hybrid can run on gas or electricity, your body has another way to make energy: fat.
If you eat very few carbs, more fat and moderate protein, your body enters ketosis: a metabolic state where you burn fat instead of carbs for fuel.
In ketosis, your body produces ketones, an alternative source of fuel. Ketones are responsible for a lot of the keto benefits you might have heard about, like fewer cravings, more brain power and lasting energy.
The keto diet is one way to get your body to make ketones. Your body can also produce ketones when you’re intermittent fasting or taking keto supplements like Bulletproof Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil, aka the most ketogenic MCT oil.
Keto diet benefits
Ketosis delivers a bunch of health benefits besides just burning fat. Your metabolism works differently on keto, and people report the following changes in their mind and body.
More than 60% of your brain is fat, so it needs a steady supply of fat to keep the engine humming. The quality fats you eat on a ketogenic diet do more than feed your day-to-day activities—they also feed your brain.
When your body uses ketones for fuel, you won’t experience the same energy crashes or brain fog as you do when you’re eating a lot of carbs. You know the feeling you get after having a big bowl of pasta for lunch? Your blood sugar levels crash after processing all those carbs, and the rest of the day becomes naptime.
That’s not the case on the keto diet. In metabolic fat-burning mode, your body can tap into fat stores for energy. Ketosis also helps the brain create more mitochondria, the power generators in your cells. More energy in your cells means more energy to get stuff done.
Ketones suppress ghrelin, your hunger hormone. They also increase cholecystokinin (CCK), which makes you feel full. Reduced appetite means it’s easier to go for longer periods without eating, which encourages your body to dip into its fat stores for energy.
Fat is a satiating macronutrient, which means it helps you feel fuller, longer. On a high-fat diet, you’ll spend less time snacking and more time tackling your to-do list.
Some people use the keto diet to stay at a healthy weight. Unlike glucose, ketones can’t be stored as fat because they aren’t metabolized the same way. This might seem counterintuitive if you associate keto with piles of bacon and cheese. But in reality, the keto diet can support weight management by burning fat and curbing cravings.
The trick is to primarily get your fats from quality sources like nutrient-dense whole foods and pay attention to how you feel.
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to an invader it deems harmful. Too much inflammation is bad news because it increases your risk of health problems. A keto diet can reduce inflammation in the body by switching off inflammatory pathways and producing fewer free radicals compared to glucose. 
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Types of keto diets
The keto diet for beginners seems like all fat, no carbs and lots of bacon and cheese—but that’s not the case. There are different approaches to this style of eating, and it’s okay to experiment to find what works for you. Some people do well with slightly more carbs in their diets, and that’s perfectly okay. Here are a few different approaches to a high-fat, low-carb diet:
- Standard keto: This is typically 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% net carbs a day, every day. Some keto followers eat as few as 20 grams of net carbs per day.
- Cyclical keto: You follow a standard keto diet most of the week. One to two days a week, you have a “carb refeed” in which you eat slightly more carbs. For example, you might eat approximately 150 grams of net carbs during carb refeed days.
- Targeted keto: You follow the standard keto diet, but eat more carbs 30 minutes to an hour around workouts. The glucose is meant to boost performance, and you return to ketosis after the workout. If your energy is suffering in the gym during keto, this style of eating might work for you.
- Dirty keto: Dirty keto follows the same ratio of dietary fats, proteins and carbs as the regular keto diet, but with a twist: It doesn’t matter where those macronutrients come from. Dinner could be a bunless Big Mac with a Diet Pepsi. Learn more about the dirty keto diet.
- Moderate keto: Eat high fat with approximately 100-150 grams of net carbs daily. People who experience problems with other forms of keto sometimes do better with this diet because restricting carbs can sometimes mess with hormonal function and energy levels.
How to start the keto diet
Don’t ditch the carbs all at once. Keep reading to learn how to find out if the keto lifestyle is right for you.
Start slowly and mindfully
To get the best idea of which style of keto works for you, try a different style of keto for at least a month.
Make it easy on yourself by tracking your carbs, fat and protein using a food tracking app like MyFitnessPal and My Macros+. This will make it easy to set goals based on fat and carb intake instead of worrying about calories. Eat until you’re full, and listen to your body.
Most importantly, check in with your body as you go. Are you sharpest with a weekly carb refeed, or do you do better on a full ketogenic diet? Do you burn out when you dip below 100 grams of carbs per day?
There’s a lot of variation within lower-carb diets, and some people feel their best with different styles of eating. Find a good balance that works best for your body.
Eat quality fats and moderate protein
Unlike the Atkins Diet, which is high in protein, a keto diet avoids eating too much protein. This is because large amounts of protein can turn into glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis, which takes you out of ketosis.
There’s a bit of a learning curve when you’re finding out what to eat on keto. Broadly speaking, it’s best to get your dietary fat from nutrient-dense, whole food sources. That means eating more foods like avocados, coconut oil, olive oil and butter (or Bulletproof Grass-Fed Ghee). Your protein intake should primarily come from fatty cuts of protein like salmon and, yes, bacon.
How to know when you’re in ketosis
How long does it take to get into ketosis? It can take anywhere from 2-3 days to a few weeks to enter ketosis, depending on your body’s ability to adapt to burning fat for fuel.
As your body adjusts, it’s common to go through the keto flu during the first week or so. You might experience symptoms like brain fog, muscle aches and even an unusual taste in your mouth (aka “keto breath”).
Once you enter ketosis, you’ll notice changes like fewer cravings, clear-headedness and increased energy. Depending on how your body adjusts to this style of eating, you might also notice keto side effects. If you’re having trouble sleeping or dealing with low energy, you might feel better with slightly more carbs in your diet. Experiment with carb cycling to find what works for you.
The keto diet isn’t all bacon and lettuce-wrapped burgers. You can still enjoy delicious, low-carb foods you’ll look forward to eating as part of your keto meal plan. There are even keto-friendly versions of your favorite carb-heavy foods, like pancakes and desserts.
Here are a few of our favorite low-carb recipes. Browse Bulletproof Recipes to find more keto-friendly meal ideas.
Start your day with quality fats that keep you going strong all morning long. To whip up this keto coffee recipe, you’ll blend grass-fed butter or Grass-Fed Ghee with certified clean Bulletproof coffee beans and Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil to create a creamy, frothy latte that’ll keep you energized and satisfied.
Yes, you can still enjoy pancakes on a low-carb diet. This easy keto recipe uses coconut flour, vanilla and Grass-Fed Ghee to deliver delicious pancakes at just 2.2 net carbs per cake.
This easy hamburger salad features avocado, caramelized onions and a delicious aioli. Have all the satisfaction of a hamburger with under 7 grams of net carbs. The only difference is you’re trading the bun for a bowl.
Eating your veggies never tasted this good. Leafy greens are topped with eggs and smoked salmon to create a flavorful, nutrient-dense salad that satisfies your macros and your tastebuds. The dressing is made with Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil, which is a flavorless way to boost ketone production with any meal.
Get the taste of summer any time of year with this easy Lemon Drizzle Cake, plus a protein boost from Bulletproof Collagen Protein powder. One slice is about 9.5 grams of net carbs. Use keto-friendly liquid sweetener instead of maple syrup for an even more keto-friendly slice.
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This is an updated version of an article originally published October 2019.