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Keto Diet Glossary
Ketogenic Diet Terminology

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Keto Diet Glossary: Ketogenic Diet TerminologyShareFollow us 261.1k

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Keto (Ketogenic Diet, Keto Diet)

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb diet. It's a diet that causes ketones to be produced by the liver, shifting the body's metabolism away from glucose and towards fat utilisation. You can find a complete guide to the keto diet here

Paleo Diet / Primal Diet

Strictly speaking, a paleo diet is a diet high in protein, moderate in fat and low in carbs while primal usually refers to diet high in fat, moderate in protein and low in carbs. Additionally, the paleo diet doesn't allow dairy.

The paleo / primal diet is based on the idea of eating foods our body has been used to for thousands of years of evolution, especially during the hunter-gatherer era. Foods like meats, eggs, nuts & seeds and fruits & vegetables are paleo-friendly, but you should avoid grains, legumes, artificial sweeteners and processed foods. Here is a complete keto diet food list.

Total Carbs vs Net Carbs

Net carbs are defined as total carbs minus fibre. Also, there is no wrong or right in counting carbs. As I've discussed previously, counting net vs total carbs depends on your goal.

Very Low Carb Ketogenic Diet (VLCKD)

A VLCKD is a diet that is very low in carbohydrates. Nutritional ketosis can be achieved by restricting total carbs per day to 50 grams or less. This is an equivalent to 20-35 grams of net carbs depending on the fibre content. According to Volek and Phinney, people with less carbohydrate intolerance can have even more than 50 grams of daily total carbs.

"Zero-Carb" Diet

The ketogenic diet is NOT an equivalent name for a "zero-carb" diet. Typically, if you follow a "zero-carb" ketogenic diet, it means you eat less than 20 grams of total carbs. Such diet is low in micronutrients - most vegetables are not allowed or only in small amounts. The reason for the popularity of "zero-carb" is that many people wrongly believe that they will lose more body fat if they follow a "zero-carb" diet. However, there is no proof that a "zero-carb" diet accompanied by high levels of ketones will help you lose more body fat. You can learn more about this approach and what actually matters in this post.

Nutritional Ketosis

Ketosis is a state at which your body produces ketones in the liver, shifting the body's metabolism away from glucose and towards fat utilization. The presence of ketones in your body, which is indicative of lipolysis, is a definite proof of ketosis. According to Volek and Phinney in their best-selling book The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Living, nutritional ketosis is defined by serum ketones ranging from 0.5 to 3.0 mM. You can learn more about ketosis and measuring ketones here.


While nutritional ketosis is perfectly safe, ketoacidosis is an indicator of serious health problems. Ketoacidosis only occurs in type 1 and type 2 diabetics and alcoholics and has nothing to do with nutritional ketosis. The level of ketones in ketoacidosis are 3-5 times higher than in ketosis resulting from a ketogenic diet. While in ketoacidosis, blood glucose levels are high. To read more about ketosis and ketones, read these posts: Ketosis & Measuring Ketones and The Ketone Craze - Who Really Benefits From High Ketone Levels?

Exogenous Ketones (Ketone Esters and Ketone Salts)

Exogenous Ketones (Ketone Esters which are synthetically-made, and Ketone Salts which are naturally-derived) are ketones that are provided via supplements. Their health effects are currently being studied.

Although exogenous ketones seem to enhance performance in athletes and may be used in managing diseases such as epilepsy, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or cancer, beware of supplements containing exogenous ketones. They have wrongly been marketed and endorsed for their exaggerated weight loss properties. It's a myth that high levels of ketones lead to more fat loss and there is no proof that exogenous ketones will help you lose more weight. Additionally, they may cause stomach distress even in keto-adapted individuals, especially if they are sensitive to MCTs. You can read more about exogenous ketones in this post.


Electrolytes (sodium, magnesium and potassium) are often underestimated on low-carb diets. Mineral and electrolyte management is the key to avoiding side effects typically associated with keto dieting. You can make your own electrolyte drink in a few easy steps: Beat Keto-Flu with Homemade Electrolyte Drink

Also see: Quick Guide to Keto-flu Remedies, The Importance of Magnesium in Low-Carb Diets and The Importance of Potassium in Low-Carb Diets

Keto Flu

When entering the induction phase of a ketogenic diet (50 grams or less of total carbs - about 20-30 grams of net carbs), most people experience "keto-flu”. The "flu" is nothing else than a result of starving the body of carbohydrates. You can easily counteract these effects by replenishing electrolytes. Make sure you include foods rich in electrolytes in your everyday diet and take food supplements if needed. You can learn more about keto-flu and electrolytes in this post.

Fat Bombs

If you’re on a ketogenic diet, ensuring that your diet contains enough healthy fats can be tricky, especially if you’re new to this way of eating. That’s where fat bombs come in: high in fat and low in protein and carbohydrates, they’re the ideal snacks if you’re eating low carb. You can find all fat bomb recipes here. and in my Fat Bombs Book.

Here is when you can include fat bombs:

  • They are great for those who need to add healthy fats into their diet to meet their personal macronutrient targets
  • If you're on the fat fast
  • They can be used as pre or post workout snacks
  • Finally, they are great party snacks

Fat Fast

When you begin a ketogenic diet, it will take 3 to 4 weeks for your body to start using ketones effectively for energy. Before you get keto-adapted, your main source of energy is glucose.

A fat fast is a type of fasting that’s suitable for those who reach a weight loss plateau when they’re already keto-adapted. During a fat fast, you get about 80 to 90 percent of your calories from healthy fats while keeping your calorie intake low, no more than 1000 to 1200 kcal a day. A fat fast should last no more than 3 to 5 days: any longer, and you risk sending your body into starvation mode, losing muscle, and becoming deficient in essential nutrients. You can learn more about the fat fasting technique here.

Beta-Hydroxybutryate (BHB)

BHB is an organic compound synthesized in the liver from acetoacetate, the first ketone produced in the fasting state and while following the ketogenic diet. It can be measured using a blood ketone meter.

Insulin Resistance (IR)

Insulin resistance (IR) is a physiological condition in which cells fail to respond to the normal actions of the hormone insulin. When the body produces insulin under conditions of insulin resistance, the cells in the body are resistant to the insulin and are unable to use it as effectively, leading to high blood sugar. Beta cells in the pancreas subsequently increase their production of insulin, further contributing to a high blood insulin level. This often remains undetected and can contribute to a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes or latent autoimmune diabetes of adults.

Metabolic Syndrome

Overconsumption of carbs, especially sugar, causes what is known as metabolic syndrome: obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, lipid problems, inflammation and hypertension. You can learn more about health effects of low-carb diets in this post.

Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT)

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) are saturated fats our body can digest very easily. MCTs, which are mostly found in coconut oil, behave differently when ingested and are passed directly to the liver to be used as an immediate form of energy. They are also present in butter and palm oil in smaller quantities. You can learn more about healthy fats and oils here.

Saturated Fats (SFA)

Saturated fats are found in red meat, cream, butter, ghee, lard, tallow, eggs, coconut oil or palm oil (use organic from sustainable agriculture). They are the most stable, have long shelf life and high smoke points. Use these oils for most of your cooking. In fact, most of your fat intake should come from saturated and monounsaturated fats. You can learn more about healthy fats and oils here.

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA)

Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA, omega 9, oleic acid) are found in avocados, olives, beef and nuts (especially macadamias) and have been known to prevent heart disease. Oils high in MUFA such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil and macadamia nut oil are best for cold use (MUFA are less stable than SFA), for finishing meals or after cooking. You can learn more about healthy fats and oils here.

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA)

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are both essential and our body needs them. However, our diet is often loaded with PUFA and we eat too many of them. In general, polyunsaturated fats are unstable and not suitable for high-heat cooking.

Because it's likely you are already getting enough omega-6, focus on increasing your intake of omega-3 foods, such as wild salmon, fermented cod liver oil, grass-fed meat, walnuts and macadamia nuts. When using animal sources, always opt for grass-fed meat for maximum omega 3 fatty acids.

In fact, grain-fed meat is low in omega 3 but loaded with omega 6 fatty acids. You can learn more about healthy fats and oils here.

Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)

This is the most common type of the ketogenic diet. The rule is simple: You eat the minimum amount of carbs at all times. This type of the ketogenic diet is the same as the Induction phase of the Atkins diet. It requires round 20-50 grams of net carbs a day. The exact amount depends on the individual needs. SKD is the best approach for the vast majority of people. You can read more about Standard Keto Diet here.

Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)

On this type of diet, you eat carbs strategically, right before (30-60 minutes) exercise. It's advisable to choose easily digestible carbs with high Glycemic Index such to avoid upset stomach. Avoid foods high in fructose and go for glucose-based foods. Fructose would replenish liver glycogen - which you want to avoid on a keto diet - instead of muscle glycogen. You can read more about Targeted Keto Diet here.

Cyclic Ketogenic Diet (CKD)

On this type of diet, you also eat carbs strategically. According to CKD, you alternate days of ketogenic dieting with days of high-carb consumption also known as "carb-loading". Typically, carb-loading lasts for 24-48 hours. CKD usually requires about 50 grams of carbs per day during the first phase, and about 450-600 grams of carbs during the carb-loading phase. Bodybuilders and other athletes use this diet to maximise fat-loss while also building lean mass. Therefore, for the majority of people, this type is not recommended. You can read more about Cyclic Keto Diet here and more about carb-ups on keto in this post.

Restricted Ketogenic Diet (RKD)

Based on studies, ketosis is a beneficial condition for managing cancer. When you restrict carbohydrate intake below 20-50 grams, your body runs out of glycogen stores and starts producing ketone bodies. Healthy cells can use ketones for energy, but some types of cancer cells cannot use ketones. Apart from severe carb restriction, such approach is also limited in calories.

Also, ketogenic diets have been used for treating neurological diseases (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism, depression, migraines, epilepsy), chronic fatigue syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome (POS) and more. You can read more about types of keto diets here.

Also read: Ketogenic Diet and Brain Cancer, The Ketogenic Diet for Alzheimer's Disease and Practical Applications of the Ketogenic Diet in Patients with Parkinson's Disease.


LCHF is a diet that is low in carbs and high in fat (Low-Carb High-Fat).


HWC refers to heavy whipping cream - a common ingredient on a keto diet.


WOE refers to way of eating - your own diet.


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