Keto Diet for Beginners
Starting the keto diet can cause a lot of stress for the beginner. There are many terms and concepts that are new for most dieters. You are suddenly reducing your carbs to very low levels which may cause unusual symptoms. You may worry about doing it wrong, changing your daily meal routine, how you will feel, or about the diet not working. This keto diet for beginners guide about what to expect will help ease your mind and show you how successful you can be on the keto diet.
It can be less stressful if you buy the best keto foods at your local supermarket. Review our Keto Diet Shopping List.
Keto Diet First Week – Water Loss
In the first week, the keto diet leads to a shift in the body’s metabolism. This is because the body has been using primarily glucose for energy and must switch to using primarily fat. You may have been relying on carbs for years and years, and now suddenly everything changes. A lot of weight loss can occur in the first week because glucose, which is stored for easy use in our liver, is in a molecule called glycogen. Glycogen bound up with a lot of water. When starting a low-carb diet, stored glycogen is released and broken down, and water is lost with it.
The weight loss tends to be more pronounced in people who restrict their carbohydrates to less than 50 grams per day (a very low carb diet), as opposed to those who stick to a low-carb diet which is between 60 and 130 grams of carbohydrates daily. A standard diet contains about 200 to 300 grams of carbohydrates daily, so a low-carb diet offers a dramatic drop. Glycogen stores gradually build back up, with the glucose mainly coming from gluconeogenesis from protein. That’s important since the body needs some glucose and carbs especially for brain function. This is not at all a bad thing, as the body needs to maintain a certain level of blood glucose, and having a reserve is important.
Don’t Worry About the Scale
These changes can be concerning to scale-watchers who are anxiously tracking lost pounds. Even when you are losing fat, the fluid shifts occurring in your body may create what looks like stalls in your weight loss. The trick is not to get too tied to the scale during this time.
Typically in the first week of the keto diet people see a very quick drop in weight — anywhere from a few pounds to as much as 10! That’s because at first, keto makes your body release a lot of water weight (not fat) due to your lower carb intake. Carbs need water to stay in your body. When your body doesn’t use glucose immediately, it stores it as glycogen in your muscles. Glycogen binds to water. Each gram of glycogen is stored with 2–3 g of water. When you first switch to keto, your body will burn all the glycogen reserves before using fat. Once it runs out of glycogen, the water that was needed to store it gets eliminated. That’s why the weight on your scale changes so drastically.
Keto Diet for Beginners Tip: It’s important to stay hydrated on the keto diet.
First Signs of Ketosis
On about the 3rd day of the diet when testing the first urine in the morning, you will notice the strip is positive for ketones. Any change in the color of the ketostix toward pink or purple indicates ketosis. At the same time you may smell a fruity taste and bad breath as the ketone bodies are excreted as acetone thru the lungs. It’s nothing to worry about. It’s the ketones that burn fat.
Keto Diet for Beginners Week 2: Make Good Food and Beverage Choices
It’s good to think of the second week as a week of stability after the roller coaster metabolism shift of the first week. Even so, this is often where the real fat loss will start in most people who respond well to low-carb diets. Some bodies do take a little longer to adjust, however, so try to remain patient. It’s also important at this time to ensure that you are not only reducing your carbohydrate intake but choosing healthy alternatives. For instance, since carbohydrates are found in many fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products, and alcoholic drinks, you will be eating more fats and proteins. Many new vvegetable based rice and potato products are available.
Be sure to choose healthy sources of protein and fats (called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) such as:
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive oil
- Fish higher in fat, like salmon
These are easy to find in any supermarket.
Fruits and vegetables are healthy, though you just need to choose low-carb options such as:
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Spinach and Kale
- Bell peppers
- Brussel sprouts
The more difficult vegetable substitutes and zero carb snacks are also available from Amazon.com and some larger supermarkets. Review our shopping list.
Keto Diet for Beginners: 3rd and 4th Weeks
Sometime in the second half of the first month, your body will probably settle into a pattern of weight loss. The rate at which you lose depends on many factors. The most prominent factors are how overweight you are to start, your age, and your gender. In other words, people with less to lose will lose much more slowly than those with a lot of extra fat. You can lose 2-4 lbs. per week or even more depending on your starting weight. The usual advice is to weigh yourself once a week. This is recommended because of day-to-day weight fluctuations due to fluid, fiber consumed, and other factors. Also, women who are having menstrual cycles sometimes decide not to weigh in the second half of their cycles, especially if they tend to retain water at this time.
It’s important to choose a consistent time of day to weigh yourself. Most of the time people choose to weigh first thing in that morning, before beginning to eat and drink, because this is the best basis for comparison. If you weigh yourself at another time of day, there will be even more fluctuations.
Learn More About Starting the Keto Diet