Common Keto Terms and Words

The ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that has been used for certain medical conditions (like epilepsy) as well as by people just looking to improve their health. It has become increasingly popular in recent years, and is now one of the most Googled diets. But all the keto terms can make a person feel a little intimidated!

In this blog post, we will discuss 27 common keto terms that people may not be familiar with. These definitions will help prepare you for your new lifestyle!

Disclaimer:  This post has been reviewed by a nutritionist, but is for informational purposes only.  It does not constitute individual medical or nutrition advice.  Always consult your doctor or dietitian for questions about your diet.

Some high fat foods on a table with scrabble letters that say keto diet.

1. Ketogenic diet: The ketogenic (keto) diet is classified as a high-fat diet with moderate protein and very low carbohydrates. Roughly 70% to 80% of daily calories come from fat sources, while 15% to 20% comes from protein and only about 5-10% comes from carbohydrates. Typically, that’s no more than 50 grams of total carbs or 20 grams of net carbs – and sometimes less.

2. Standard Keto Diet (SKD): This is the most common type of keto diet, with macro ranges as described above.

3. Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD): Usually considered a less restrictive version, the targeted keto diet allows for more than 50 grams of carbs – but only in the time frame before physical activity, to help you achieve a more energized workout.

4. High Protein Keto Diet (HPKD): This keto diet is similar to SKD as far as carb intake, but shifts the fat and protein macros a bit. This typically falls around 60-65% fat, 30% protein, and 5-10% carbs. This may be helpful for bodybuilders or other athletes looking to optimize muscle mass.

5. Cyclical Keto Diet (CKD): This ketogenic diet variation allows for more carbohydrates periodically. Usually, you would follow a keto diet for 5-6 days, then have 1-2 days where you allow yourself higher carb consumption.

6. Clean Keto: Clean keto prioritizes nutrient-dense whole foods to meet daily macronutrient ranges. Such foods consist of vegetables, grass-finished meat, free-range eggs, wild-caught seafood, and healthy oils.

The primary goal of clean keto is to get the most nutrients as possible and minimize processed foods. For this reason, most that follow the clean keto approach stick to healthy homemade meals and tend to stay clear of fast foods or regular eating at restaurants. They take care in the selection of their food, it’s origin and the impact that it has on the environment as well as its sustainability.

7. Dirty Keto: Dirty keto prioritizes the adherence of daily macronutrient and carb counts in order to remain in a state of ketosis, with a lesser focus on how those limits have been met. For example, processed foods or fast foods can often be included on dirty keto, so long as the individual keeps their fat intake high and their carb intake low.

A note on clean vs. dirty keto:  We do not subscribe to a philosophy of clean keto or dirty keto. We believe that most foods should be nutrient-dense, but we also believe that ketosis is a metabolic state so there is flexibility in what is consumed as long as you stay in that metabolic state.  There’s room for keto treats!  Essentially, our philosophy falls in the middle.

8. Ketosis: When someone eats an average American’s amount of carbs for one day – about 200 grams for many people – their body converts it into glucose. This is used for fuel, but extra calories of carbohydrate (or any macronutrient for that matter) are stored as fat. On the flip side, if you’re following keto and eating no more than 50 total grams or 20 net grams of carbohydrates per day (and sometimes even less), your body is forced to use fat for fuel instead of glucose.  This is called ketosis and is what you’re aiming for.

9. Ketone bodies: Ketones are produced by the liver from fatty acids when there is not enough glucose for energy. The body can utilize these ketones as an alternative fuel source for the brain.

10. Ketone testing strips: Ketone testing strips measure whether there are ketones present in the urine, so people know if their diet is working.

11. Keto flu: Keto flu is usually characterized by uncomfortable symptoms that can sometimes occur during early stages of ketosis. This can occur to those just starting the diet, or if you kicked yourself out of ketosis with a higher carb day and are trying to get back into it. You may experience flu-like symptoms that are actually caused by the adjustment your body is making as it switches fuel sources from carbs to fat.

Possible symptoms include headache, nausea, fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, irritability, or muscle cramps. It usually goes away with time, but you can alleviate keto flu symptoms by drinking lots of electrolyte-rich fluids and backing off strenuous exercise for a day or two.

12. Ketoacidosis: Sometimes people get these confused – ketoacidosis is a different condition than ketosis. Ketoacidosis can occur in type 1 diabetes, and refers to very high levels of ketones that cause the blood to become acidic.  This is a dangerous and life-threatening condition. 

Ketosis as a part of a ketogenic diet in a healthy individual (without accompanying medical conditions) generally does not lead to ketoacidosis.  However, there have been some rare occurrences, like in this case study and this one, among individuals without diabetes who were following a very low carb diet.  While this is very rare, it’s always smart to monitor how your body is feeling, and contact your doctor if you experience symptoms like thirstiness, dry skin, gastrointestinal upset, vomiting, difficulty breathing, or confusion.

13. Total carbs: The total number of carbs in a food product, which include starch, fiber, sugars, and sugar alcohols.

14. Net carbs: Net carbs are the number of grams of total carbohydrates in a food minus the grams of fiber and grams of erythritol (a sugar alcohol) and/or allulose (a special type of sugar). Neither erythritol or allulose have a meaningful impact on blood sugar levels, so they can be subtracted from total carbs.

For example, if a keto snack product contains 8 grams of total carbs, but has 5 grams of fiber and 2 grams of erythritol – it would only contain 1 net carb. It’s thought that net carbs may be a more accurate way of measuring the impact of foods on blood sugar, but is not always a perfect measurement.

Also, remember that not all sugar alcohols have the same impact on blood sugar. For example, maltitol or sorbitol are have more of an impact on blood sugar, so it’s often recommended that only half of those types of sugar alcohol be subtracted out to determine net carbs.

15. Carb Threshold: The carb threshold is the number of carbs you can eat each day before the body moves out of ketosis and into carb-based energy. It’s different for everyone. Some people may need to stick to just 15 grams of net carbs per day, while others may be able to still stay in ketosis at 25 grams of net carbs per day.

16. Fat Adapted: This term is often used in the athletic community, and means the body has adjusted to burning fat over glycogen during moderate aerobic exercise. Note that a keto diet will always impair performance in short distance, sprint-focused events though, as stored glycogen provides much of the energy for shorter, intense events.

17. Fat bomb: A keto dessert that’s often made of a high fat base (like cream cheese, butter, nut butter, or coconut oil) along with flavorful add-ins and a keto-friendly sweetener like stevia or erythritol.

18. MCT oil: These oils are made up of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). MCT oil is processed differently than other fats, and may help support cognitive function and metabolism while providing long lasting energy. Note that too much MCT oil can cause gastrointestinal upset.

19. Fast: Some people choose to engage in a fast as part of their keto diet. A fast is when you do not eat any food or drink caloric beverages for a certain period of time. This can range from around 12 hours up to several days. Do not undertake a fast without your doctor’s approval.

20. Intermittent Fasting (IF): While a fast may be a one-time thing, intermittent fasting is usually a pattern of dieting in which people eat within a shorter time period than they usually would.

There are several styles, such as a 16:8 daily protocol (16 hour fast and 8 hour eating window) or a 5:2 weekly protocol (normal eating 5 days per week and significantly restricted eating of 500-600 calories on the other 2 days). Some people choose to do intermittent fasting in conjunction with the keto diet, but it is not an original part of the keto diet.

21. LCHF (low carb high fat): This keto term is an abbreviation often used to describe recipes or the diet itself.

22. NSV (non scale victory): Many people embarking on a diet may not be looking for weight loss, but may be looking for other health improvements. They can still celebrate NSVs even if they don’t lose any pounds – like when they sleep more soundly or notice that their blood pressure has improved.

23. Erythritol: Erythritol is sugar alcohol that is often used as a keto sweetener because it has fewer calories than regular table sugar and does not raise blood glucose levels.

24. Allulose: Allulose is a unique sugar that keto dieters often use in place of sugar because it is thought to not have an impact on blood sugar.

25. Exogenous ketones: These are ketones that come from an outside source, such as a special drink or supplement. Keep in mind, exogenous ketones shouldn’t be used as a quick fix and don’t replace the keto diet for driving your body into a fat burning state.

26. Macros: Short for macronutrients, this refers to three classes of nutrients: fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Many people on keto diets track of their food intake and make sure they are getting the right balance of macros.

27. Bulletproof Coffee: This is a drink that keto dieters often have in the morning. It consists of coffee, butter or ghee (clarified butter), and MCT oil (medium-chain triglycerides). It’s a way for those on the keto diet to get extra fats first thing in the morning, but is certainly not a necessity.

I hope this summary of keto terms is helpful as you get started on the keto diet!

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