It’s no secret: The keto diet has helped millions of people lose millions of pounds, and its devotees often rave about their success. But all that fanfare can make it extra disappointing for those who aren’t getting great results on the plan. Years ago, natural health expert Eric Berg, DC, had a few patients came to him with just that frustration. “Those three people kept me awake at night,” he recalls. “They drove me to look at new research, new theories and try many things that failed. But, eventually, I found a strategy that helped them — one I still use today.” So what is the Dr. Berg keto diet twist? It’s all about timing your meals to help kick start fat burn. Dr. Berg says it’s the fastest way to lose weight without exercise. And he’s got more than 11 million YouTube followers and an army of success stories backing him up. Read on to learn how it works, then keep scrolling for the turbo keto diet plan that can help you.
What is the keto diet?
The keto diet, short for “ketogenic diet,” is a food formula that involves consuming very low amounts of carbohydrates, moderate amounts of protein and high amounts of fats. This ratio of nutrients shifts the body’s source of energy from carbs (or glucose) to fats (or ketones). When we eat a diet with plenty of carbs, our bodies use up the carbohydrates we eat, converting them into glucose for energy. However, when you follow the keto diet and dramatically decrease your intake of carbs, your body doesn’t have enough glucose for energy. So, it starts breaking down fats for energy instead. This process is called “ketosis.” (Click through to learn more about keto basics and learn about “dirty” keto.)
Dr. Berg’s keto diet discovery
The Dr. Berg keto diet difference: In addition to keeping carbs to about 5 percent of your total calories, the best-selling author of The Healthy Keto Plan has you limit how often you eat to boost levels of human growth hormone (HGH) — your body’s number-one weight loss hormone — “by 1,300 percent,” he says, citing research from Intermountain Medical Center in Utah. “Maximizing your HGH is like flipping a switch that helps your body burn fat 24/7.”
How well does it work? “It can help an average woman lose five to 10 pounds within nine days,” Dr. Berg promises. He’s even seen losses of up to 22 pounds in nine days. (Prefer a slower approach? Click through for Dr. Berg’s baby steps approach to keto and see how one woman lost 176 lbs.)
How human growth hormone helps speed weight loss
“One of the main functions of human growth hormone is helping the body tap into fat reserves during times when there is no food. And science shows that simply eating less often causes HGH to surge,” Dr. Berg explains. While any intermittent fasting technique that lengthens the time between meals will boost HGH, Dr. Berg uses a staggered cycle, which has a distinct advantage. “An irregular eating pattern keeps your system off kilter, revving metabolism and preventing plateaus.”
Bonus: HGH — which tends to decline as we age — helps build firm muscle. So while some dieters look saggy after they slim down, that doesn’t happen on Dr. Berg’s diet. (Click through for more anti-aging keto benefits and learn how one women lost 75 lbs at age 66 with no sagging skin.)
Dr. Berg’s 9-day keto diet basics
To boost human growth hormone, Dr. Berg has you start by varying the number of meals you eat and eliminating snacks. For the first three days, enjoy unlimited low-carb breakfast, lunch and dinner. For the next three days, enjoy unlimited low-carb brunch and dinner. For the final three days, dig in to an unlimited low-carb brunch and have a green smoothie for dinner. You can repeat this nine-day cycle as often as you like. “The meals are delicious, and you eat as much as you need to feel content,” Dr. Berg says. “This is about meal timing and keeping carbs down. As far as portions go, there’s no need to hold back!”
Dr. Berg’s keto diet: success stories
“I had never gone low-carb before because I couldn’t even consider giving up bread, pasta and pizza. But at 230 pounds, I felt so lousy, I was ready to try anything,” recalls Jennifer Rogers, 44, a Florida caregiver. Eventually, she stumbled on Dr. Berg’s YouTube channel. “I steadily went from always hungry to never hungry. Now my body only wants to eat once or twice a day.” Her health has improved dramatically, with conditions from migraines and psoriasis to prediabetes disappearing. All told, she shed 80 pounds — and her husband dropped 90. Jennifer’s best tip? Track your progress. “Take measurements; try on outfits and take photos to show how far you’ve come. It will keep you inspired!”
For Michelle Spiva, 49 — whose sugar cravings led her to regain 45 pounds shed on Weight Watchers — Dr. Berg’s keto diet has been life-changing. “I lost 81 pounds and 14 inches off my waist,” marvels the Georgia romance novelist. “Somehow it even helped my emotional cravings for food!”
Then there’s North Carolina mom Vicki Bales-Humble. She hit a plateau using keto alone and turned to Dr. Berg for help. “Going back and forth between three meals, two meals, one meal — I was amazed at how wonderful I felt. I was not at all hungry, no cravings, loads of energy, even my joint swelling went away in a week,” she recalls. “I feel better at 49 than I did in my 20s!” Vicki lost 92 pounds. (For more inspiration, click through to read how one woman paired keto and intermittent fasting to lose 255 lbs at age 63.)
Dr. Berg’s keto meal plan to get you started
Our nutrition team followed Dr. Berg’s keto diet guidelines to create this version of his plan for you to try. Portions listed help ensure you’re getting the right proportions of carbs, fat and protein for optimal weight loss. If you need more food to feel satisfied, simply increase portions of foods that are high in fat with moderate protein (such as eggs, cheese, fatty fish and meat). While using this plan, be sure to drink plenty of water. Add other ultra-low-carb beverages and extras (coffee, tea, spices, vinegar, zero-carb sweetener) as desired. For more meal ideas and tips, check out DrBerg.com. As always, get a doctor’s okay to try any new plan.
Your meal schedule
You can repeat the nine-day cycle below as often as you’d like to help boost your weight loss. There’s no snacking on any day, so be sure to eat enough at each sitting to hold you over.
Days 1-3: Eat three meals a day, about four hours between sittings — such as 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 6 p.m.
Days 4-6: Eat brunch around 1 p.m. and have an early dinner around 6 p.m.
Days 7-9: Eat brunch around 2 p.m. and have a green smoothie (recipe below) for dinner no later than 6 p.m.
Dr. Berg’s keto diet recipes
Use the keto meal plan schedule above to determine how many picks to make each day. We’ve got 7 options below, plus Dr. Berg’s green smoothie recipe and a bonus crave-worthy Parmesan fries everyone will love. Want to make your own meals? The easiest way is to use a free app that calculates percentages of calories from carbs, protein and fat for you. On the Dr. Berg keto diet, you want to aim for about 5% of calories from carbs, 20% from protein and 75% from fat. We like the options at Cronometer.com and CarbManager.com.
Creamy Coconut Shake
This rich sip is packed with healthy fats and protein to keep you satisfied.
- ¾ cup full-fat coconut milk
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 2 Tbs. frozen berries
- ¼ cup zero-carb protein powder
- 2 Tbs. MCT oil or ¼ avocado
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ice cubes
- a few drops of liquid stevia
- In blender, combine all ingredients. Adjust stevia amount to taste.
- Blitz until smooth; enjoy immediately.
Cheesy Egg Scramble
Add as many low-carb veggies as you’d like to this quick, filling meal.
- Chopped veggies
- 3 eggs
- 2 Tbs. cheese
- 3 slices bacon, cooked
- In skillet, over medium heat, melt butter. Add chopped veggies. Saute until just cooked.
- In bowl, beat eggs. Add to skillet with veggies; use a spatula to keep the eggs moving. When just set, add cheese. Cook until done.
- Serve with bacon slices.
Dr. Berg’s Famous Taco Salad
Homemade guacamole makes it extra-irresistible — this is also a great way to use up leftover cooked meat.
- ⅓ mashed avocado
- 2 Tbs. chopped tomato
- 2 Tbs. red onion
- 1 tsp. lime juice
- ½ tsp. salt
- 2 cups lettuce
- 4 oz. browned ground beef
- ¼ cup cheese
- ¼ cup sour cream
- In bowl, mix avocado, tomato, onion, lime juice and salt until well combined.
- Add lettuce to serving plate; top with ground beef, avocado mixture, cheese and sour cream.
Cheesy Tuna Casserole
Cozy comfort food has never been so slimming, thanks to this casserole-for-one.
- 1 cup shredded cabbage
- 1 cup chopped cauliflower
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 4 oz. drained tuna
- 3 Tbs. cream
- 2 oz. shredded mozzarella
- 3 Tbs. Parmesan cheese
- Sauté cabbage and cauliflower in olive oil for 5-7 minutes; stir in tuna and cream.
- Pour into small baking dish and top with mozzarella. Bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes.
- Top with Parmesan cheese.
Salmon is packing with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Buy a filet with the skin on? Before you toss it, click through to learn how to turn it into keto-friendly salmon skin “bacon.”
- 4 oz. salmon or steak
- 2 cups baby spinach
- ¼ cup sliced peppers
- ¼ cup red onion
- 3 oz. feta cheese
- 8 large olives
- 2 Tbs. zero-carb dressing
- Sear salmon or steak in a pan until desired doneness.
- Serve protein on top of baby spinach, peppers, red onion, feta cheese and olives.
- Finish with zero-carb dressing.
Store-bought crust makes this keto version of a family favorite speed to the table.
- Prepared cauliflower pizza crust
- ½ cup no-sugar-added tomato sauce
- ¾ cup mozzarella cheese
- 3 oz. pepperoni
- ½ cup sliced mushrooms
- Top crust with sauce, cheese, pepperoni and mushrooms.
- Bake according to package directions. Serves 2-3.
Option 7: Fried Chicken Tenders
Pork rinds in the “breading” are the easy secret to these tasty bites.
- ¼ cup mayo
- ¼ mashed avocado
- ¼ tsp. chili flakes
- 1 tsp. lime juice
- ⅛ tsp. garlic powder
- 4 oz. chicken breast tenders
- Beaten egg
- Coconut flour
- Crushed pork rinds
- 2-3 Tbsp. safflower oil
- For dipping sauce, combine mayo, avocado, chili flakes, lime juice and garlic powder.
- Dredge chicken breast tenders first in beaten egg, then in coconut flour, and last in crushed pork rinds.
- Fry in safflower oil until internal temperature reaches 165°F, about 5-6 minutes.
- Enjoy with 1 serving of Parmesan Green Bean Fries (recipe below) and dipping sauce.
Dr. Berg’s Kale Smoothie
Aim for several cups of leafy greens a day, “and you’ll avoid nutrient shortfalls that are a big reason some low-carb dieters feel fatigued,” says Dr. Berg. “It’s the reason I include a green smoothie in my plan.”
- Frozen kale
- 1 cup berries
- Fill a blender with frozen kale almost to the top; add berries. Fill with filtered water.
- Blend for 4 minutes. Makes 1 large serving.
Parmesan Green Bean Fries
Move over, zucchini and sweet potato fries! Dieters and non-dieters alike go crazy for this green-bean version that’s perfect with our Fried Chicken Tenders.
- 1 cup green beans, stems and ends removed
- 1 egg
- ½ cup grated Parmesan
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- Pinch of chili powder (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a shallow dish, whisk egg. In another dish, mix Parmesan, garlic powder, chili powder, salt and pepper.
- Dip green beans in egg, then roll in cheese mixture to coat.
- Transfer to baking sheet in a single layer.
- Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Makes 4 servings
For more guidance on Dr. Berg’s keto diet
For more information about how to get started, Dr. Berg recommends this video:
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
To learn more about keto and intermittent fasting: