The ketogenic diet has been around since the 1920’s and is an extremely low-carb, high-fat diet that involves reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbohydrates changes your metabolic state and puts your body into what is called ketosis. As soon as you reach a state of ketosis, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy instead of glucose. The ketogenic diet causes a considerable reduction in blood sugar and insulin levels. This works for so many people because it addresses many underlying issues of weight gain including hormonal imbalances, excessive hunger, and binge eating.
It’s advisable to have a keto approved food list at hand, especially when just starting on your ketogenic journey. You will begin by drastically limit your net carbohydrate intake on a ketogenic diet to between 20 and 30 grams per day. Make sure you know what foods contain mostly fat and protein so you can make the right choices at any given time. In general, bread, pasta, cookies, and chips are some of the major foods that need to be eliminated as well as beans and any grains as they are very high in carbohydrates. The best foods that don’t contain carbohydrates are healthy grass fed meat, non-starchy vegetables, and healthy fats, like butter and oils like olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil. The goal here is to always to keep your body in a state of ketosis. This means your body is breaking down fat instead of sugars, carbs or protein to get its fuel. Therefore, you need to eat a LOT of healthy fats, approximately 70% of your daily calories.
A moderate amount of protein is also important when going keto. It is good practice to monitor your intake of meat and eggs based on their protein content. If you consume too much protein in relation to fat, it could cause your body to break down protein for fuel. You don’t want this to happen, as it would stop your body’s state of ketosis.
Note: Beware of cured meats with added sugars, meats that contain processed ingredients, or sauces. These can easily increase your daily carb and sugar intake without you realizing it.
When considering what vegetables to eat think low carb and no starchy and always opt for leafy greens first.
The amount of recommended daily macronutrients will differ depending on your current goals and state of health. In general, your daily calories should consist of approximately 70-80% fat, 15-20% protein, 5% carbs each day and strict keto diet usually consists of 20-30 net grams of carbohydrates per day. It is best to track your daily intake on a food-tracking app such as Carb Manager. This provides accurate information to help you along your keto journey.
Keto flu is a sign that your body is adapting to a ketogenic lifestyle and a subsequent lack of electrolytes. Your body is going through significant changes and you are probably going to notice some unusual symptoms due to the change in your system going from a sugar/glucose burning machine to a fat burning machine. Common symptoms range from headaches, feeling light-headed, nausea, brain fog, sluggishness, and body aches. Other side effects can include sleep disturbances, moodiness, loss of libido and bad breath. It’s normal to experience these the first week or two, considering you’ve been glucose adapted pretty much your entire life. Stick with it and the symptoms will subside with time.
Stay focused and in tune with how you feel and remember, your body has been burning glucose as its primary fuel. Therefore, it’s going to take a little time for your body to adjust but hang in there. It will pass within a few days.
The typical physical signs are a slight change in breath known as “keto breath,” as well as increased mental clarity, appetite suppression and weight loss. The gold standard would be to test your blood ketones. This requires a blood ketone meter and some blood ketone measuring strips. According to experts, you want your blood ketones ranging from .5-3 mmol/L. Another option would be to use a breath ketone meter to measures the levels of acetone in your breath. The breath ketone meter is reusable and one-time investment. The cheapest way is to buy ketone urine strips, which measure the ketone excretion through the urine. This can tell you if your body is producing ketones.
Everybody is different, and while some people may be able to get into ketosis within two days, others may take anywhere from 7-14 days. This can all depend on your body type, activity levels, and what you’re eating. If it takes you longer than others, don’t worry. Hang in there and trust the process.
Ketosis is when your body is producing ketones. If you’re producing ketones at a level between 0.5 mmol/L and 3.0 mmol/L, then you are in ketosis. Fat adapted means your body is efficiently using fat as your primary fuel source. To become fat-adapted, you have to produce ketones long enough for your body to use fat efficiently as an energy source. This can take anywhere from 60-90 days of staying in ketosis.
Since keto is such a high-fat diet, it is a more satiating way of eating. Therefore, finding yourself not hungry by the time you would normally eat your next meal is quite common. If you’re not hungry, don’t worry and listen to your body. Be careful not to eat too little, you must get adequate calories each day.
It’s best to stay away from bad fats (margarine, Crisco, vegetable oil, hydrogenated oils, etc.), starchier veggies like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, as well as grains, rice, cereals, bread, pasta, chips, cookies, crackers, juices/sodas, smoothies, sugar, honey, and maple syrup.
Here are a few suggestions of things you could keep with you to make sure you don’t go hungry.
It’s best to stick with meat as your main meal. Make sure it’s not breaded or deep-fried. Steak, burgers, fish, chicken, sausages, and bacon are all great choices. Get non-starchy vegetables or salad for your sides. Bring your own salad dressing and stay away from bread, pasta, chips, and grains. Don’t be afraid to ask if they could sauté vegetables in butter or olive oil, most restaurants will accommodate. If your meal doesn’t have enough fat, ask for olive oil or butter on the side. Other than that, you could add cheese, avocado, bacon, or butter to any order.
Prepare yourself before you go!
The thing about keto is either you are in ketosis, or you are not. If you have a high carb meal or more than 5% carbs one day, you will possibly kick your body out of ketosis and you will then have to work your way back into ketosis. Depending on how far into your keto journey you are, and if your body is fat-adapted, it might not take you long to get back into ketosis. But if you haven’t been in ketosis for very long, it may take your body longer.
Natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit are keto approved. If you purchase powdered versions, read the labels. They are commonly mixed with other sweeteners or bulking agents that can cause problems – like hidden carbs or even sugar. Sugar alcohols like erythritol, xylitol, or allulose are also good choices because they aren’t absorbed as sugar, they pass right through the body. Have them sparingly, though, as some people report upset stomachs after consuming too much. Avoid synthetic sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, dextrose, and maltodextrin.
Remember, life happens, and it’s normal to have an off day. Don’t get discouraged and don’t give up. Get up and jump right back on. Don’t wait until Monday. Start with your very next meal, and remember your WHY. Why did you start in the first place? Why do you want to get healthier? Why are you taking this keto journey? It may also help to announce it to your friends, family, or any support groups you have. Tell them WHY you are doing this, and ask for accountability. When you share your goals, and there are people in your life, holding you accountable, you’re more likely to succeed. And don’t beat yourself up about it, just move forward and keep doing your best.