Keto Diet Fundamentals

Written by: Barb Kelly

August 12, 2019

Originally published on HVMN by Dr. Brianna Stubbs and Nate MartinsEdited by Barb Kelly

This is the first in a series of blogs that Ross Chocolates will be publishing about the Keto Diet.

You’ve heard of the Keto diet. Hundreds of thousands are eating the low-carbohydrate (low-carb), high-fat diet to improve performance and as well as weight loss.

Keto comes from the word ketogenic. This is a distinct term meaning that the body is producing ketones from fat.1 When blood ketone levels exceed 0.5mM, the body has achieved ketosis. Ketosis can be achieved in 3 ways:

  • Diet (forcing the body to produce ketones)
  • Fasting (forcing the body to produce ketones)
  • Consuming products that raise blood ketone levels (such as HVMN Ketone, ketone salts, or MCT oils).

Most people losing weight ketogenically are raising their ketones through diet alone. Ketones are a fundamentally different energy source than the glucose (carbohydrates) your cells use for energy on a typical carbohydrate-rich diet.

By limiting both carb and protein intake the Keto diet encourages the body to burn fat and, in the process, produce ketones. Because the ketogenic diet involves severely limiting the intake of carbohydrates (carbs), it often gets confused with other low-carb diets. However, just because a diet is low-carb doesn’t mean it’s ketogenic; subtle differences in the macronutrients consumed on a diet determine if it is keto or not.

A macronutrient is something humans consume in large quantities to provide the bulk of energy for the body. The primary macronutrients are carbs, fats, and proteins. For a diet to be ketogenic, it must be high in fat-intake, low to moderate in protein intake, and very low in carb intake.

Comparison of Low-Carb Diets

Here are some differences of various, well known, low-carb diets:

KetogenicBurn fat through the production of ketones by the liver.High fat Low/moderate protein Low carbohydrateThe body lives in a state of ketosis.
Low-Calorie KetogenicSeverely restrict calorie-intake to burn fat through the production of ketones by the liverConsume less than 800 calories per day (what you eat doesn’t matter)Not sustainable long-term.

The body lives in a state of ketosis (and starvation).

Low-carbohydrate (Low-Carb)Moderate to high restriction of carbohydrates to burn fatLess than 30% of daily calories from carbsKetosis may or not occur due to higher intake of protein and/or carbs
AtkinsA phased approach to carbohydrate restriction to burn fat. Ketosis may be present but is not an explicit aim.In phase one, carbs are limited to less than 20 g a day. In the second phase, carbs are reintroduced to “level the body can tolerate”Less restriction on protein than Ketogenic.

Ketosis may occur but it not an aim of the diet.

PaleoRestricted to foods that Palaeolithic Man had available: veggies, fruits, nuts, roots, and meat.No structural target but does tend to result in higher protein and fat consumption.Excludes dairy, grains, sugar, legumes, processed oils, alcohol, and coffee

So, it is clear that the critical thing about a ketogenic diet, as the name suggests, is that food intake results in the liver needing to break down triglycerides (fats) for energy and to produce ketones. Note that the ketones are not what cause the weight loss; they are a by-product of burning fat. Being in ketosis is, then, equates to burning fat and losing weight.

In other words, the intake of glucose (in the form of carbohydrates) is severely limited to encourage the liver to breakdown fat to supply energy to the body that is normally supplied by glucose. Note that the keto diet is the only diet that specifically aims to produce ketones and ketosis although others may do so at times.


The critical difference between the Keto diet and other low-carb diets is that the Keto diet promotes a state of ketosis and that is how the weight is lost. Essentially, by severely limiting the number of carbs in the diet, the body is forced to breakdown fat to provide energy for our body and brain. Thus, it is important to know when one is in a state of ketosis. Some signs that you are in ketosis are:

  1. Bad breath
  2. Weight loss
  3. Short-term fatigue (this will pass in time)
  4. Short-term insomnia (this will pass after a few or several weeks)
  5. Short-term performance loss followed by increased focus & energy
  6. Suppressed appetite

At the moment, the Keto diet is one of the most popular ways to lose weight because results usually are seen quite quickly and dramatically and, with careful monitoring, the Keto diet can be maintained for a long time. It is important to note, however, that going on a low-calorie Keto diet is not recommended for extended periods and should be followed only for a few weeks to a month at most and should be monitored by a physician or nutrition expert.

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