The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins and low-carb diets.
It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.
When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
Ketogenic diets can cause massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increased ketones, has numerous health benefits (6Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
There are several versions of the ketogenic diet, including:
- Standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This is a very low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. It typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs (1Trusted Source).
- Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This diet involves periods of higher-carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high-carb days.
- Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): This diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.
- High-protein ketogenic diet: This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more protein. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein and 5% carbs.
However, only the standard and high-protein ketogenic diets have been studied extensively. Cyclical or targeted ketogenic diets are more advanced methods and primarily used by bodybuilders or athletes.
The information in this article mostly applies to the standard ketogenic diet (SKD), although many of the same principles also apply to the other versions.
A ketogenic diet is an effective way to lose weight and lower risk factors for disease (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
In fact, research shows that the ketogenic diet is far superior to the often recommended low-fat diet (2Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
What’s more, the diet is so filling that you can lose weight without counting calories or tracking your food intake (16Trusted Source).
One study found that people on a ketogenic diet lost 2.2 times more weight than those on a calorie-restricted low-fat diet. Triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels also improved (17Trusted Source).
Another study found that people on the ketogenic diet lost 3 times more weight than those on the diet recommended by Diabetes UK (18Trusted Source).
There are several reasons why a ketogenic diet is superior to a low-fat diet, including the increased protein intake, which provides numerous benefits (14Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
The increased ketones, lower blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity may also play a key role (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source).
For more details on the weight loss effects of a ketogenic diet, read this article.