A ketogenic diet is very high fat, moderate protein and very low carb. Fat, carbs and proteins are the 3 macronutrients we eat, and are typically referred to as ‘macros’. Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t eat high amounts of protein on a ketogenic diet; instead, the macronutrient you eat the most amount of is fat. Carbohydrates are limited to no more than 20 to 50 grams a day and no grains are eaten.
Why Keto Works
The Ketogenic diet works because it keeps your insulin low since you’re not eating foods that make your insulin go up, like carbs, grains and sugars. Higher insulin levels in your body tell your body to store fat and also increase your hunger. When you avoid eating foods that make your insulin go up, fat storing slows down and your body will begin burning the fat that’s stored and you’ll begin to lose weight.
Macros is a shortened way to describe macronutrients. Our foods are made up of 3 primary macronutrients: protein, carbs and fat.
The standard American diet is very high in carbs and protein, but low in fat. The Ketogenic diet is very low in carbs, has moderate protein and is high in healthy fats.
When following a ketogenic diet, it’s easiest not to track your macros, although many people do that. Following macros can be very frustrating and difficult, so I recommend tracking the total grams of carbs, protein and fat.
Here are the recommended amounts of each to consume each day:
Side note: I usually don’t worry about the carbs in avocados. For most people these carbs don’t have an impact on their insulin levels, and avocados are one of the healthiest things you can eat. The only time I really look at them is if everything else is in line and there are still issues.
Protein: To determine the grams of protein you should be eating each day, Dr. Adam Nally (docmuscles.com) has an easy formula, which is based on height. For the first 5 feet of height, consume 45.5 grams of protein, then add 2.3 grams of protein for each inch over 5 feet.
It’s very important to meet your protein requirements each day. Your body needs this protein in order to function well. It’s also important not to overeat protein. If you overeat protein, the excess protein that your body doesn’t use will be converted to glucose in your liver and as a result will raise your insulin levels.
Fat: You need to eat at least the same amount of fat as your protein grams in order to be following the ketogenic diet correctly. If you’re eating 5o grams of protein, you need to eat 50 grams of fat. You can go up to double the fat compared to protein, so if you’re eating 50 grams of protein, you can eat anywhere from 50 to 100 grams of fat. More is ok, but most likely you’ll be too full to eat more than that.
This is going to be the most difficult part of the ketogenic diet for most people because we’ve been trained to be fat-phobic. You need to eat a LOT of fat, especially in the beginning. Go overboard and don’t worry! Your body will adjust to the fat and eventually you won’t be eating as much.
Two Ways to Start
There are two ways to start the ketogenic diet. You can ease into it, or you can go cold turkey. Both have pros and cons.
Easing into it: This can make it easier to adjust to the new way of eating, but at the same time it increases the struggles with cravings and you won’t experience results as quickly as you would going cold turkey. On the plus side, you’re less likely to experience the keto flu.
Here is an example of how to ease in to a keto way of eating
Week 1: Give up grains, add more leafy green vegetables like spinach, dark lettuce, broccoli,
cauliflower, brussels sprouts
∙ Week 2: Give up sodas and sugars, add more healthy fats
∙ Week 3: Give up processed foods, add higher fat proteins
∙ Week 4: You should be completely on a keto diet as of week 4
This can be more difficult, but the transition period as your body gets over the carb cravings
and switches to fat burning is faster. You may experience the keto flu, but it won’t last long. Many people see initial results faster with this method.
Starting the Ketogenic Diet
Both methods should be started with the same initial steps.
1. Learn about the ketogenic diet. You don’t have to study it and know the science behind it, but you need to know why it works, how to do it, and what to expect.
2. Read the food list and learn what foods are allowed on the ketogenic diet. If it’s not on the food list, it’s not allowed. To help with meal planning, go through the food list, circle all the foods you like and plan your menu around them. You can get a free PDF of my food list by signing up for my newsletter here.
3. Look for recipes. You can look for recipes online using Pinterest and Google, but be careful. Just because a recipe says that it’s keto doesn’t mean it is. Check the ingredients to be sure. Choose a few simple recipes to try and make your shopping list. Or you can keep it simple and choose a couple of proteins from the food list, cook them, serve with some of the green vegetables, a cheese and some healthy fats. Your food can be as simple or as complicated as you like! The ketogenic diet is full of delicious and amazing foods! Find your favorites and make those the central part of your meal planning.
4. Buy ketogenic cookbooks. There are some excellent keto cookbooks available online. I highly recommend Carrie Brown’s cookbooks, you can find them at Ketovangelist Kitchen.
5. Cook in batches. When you’re cooking a meal, make enough for two meals and put the leftovers away for another meal. This makes it easier to have something on hand when you don’t have time to cook and you need something quick and easy. Remember, leftovers are your friend! You can also set aside one day a week to cook up a large amount of protein, portion it out and freeze it so you have protein available for future meals.
6. Look for keto alternatives to your favorite non-keto foods. There are a lot of dessert and bread recipes you can try to help you replace non-keto foods you miss. Brownie recipes, pudding recipes and more! If you like crunchy chips, try pork rinds! You can even make your own pork rinds with pork fat. Just ask the butcher in the meat department of your store if he has pork fat he can sell to you. Most do, and it’s cheap.
7. Drink plenty of water. Don’t worry that much about getting the 8 glasses of water a day, but be sure to drink. Drink when you’re thirsty.
8. Start adding salt to your food. Now that you’re not eating processed foods you’re not getting enough salt. You’re also not eating the foods that are causing your body to retain salt, so your body has begun flushing the salt like it’s supposed to do. Low salt is one of the causes of the keto flu and of not feeling well on a keto diet. I highly recommend pink Himalayan salt which has lots of essential nutrients and is very good for your health. For more information about the importance of salt, read, “The Salt Fix”, by James DiNicolantonio
Dr. Ken Berry has a great electrolyte replacement drink he calls Ketorade, this video has the recipe.
If making a drink isn’t for you, I recommend this electrolyte replacement drink. My favorite flavor is orange!
9. Start reading food labels. You’ll be shocked at how many foods have sugar in them that you wouldn’t think had sugar. Most pre-packaged foods are not keto friendly, so do be careful.
10. Prepare ahead when eating out. Most restaurants have their menus available online. Go look at the menu and decide ahead of time what you’re going to eat. My favorite thing to do at a restaurant is to get a burger without a bun or fries, and replace that with a side salad. I’ve also brought a small bottle of my own avocado oil and have drizzled that on top of the burger and salad. Restaurants are in the business of making their customers happy and usually have no problem making substitutions, especially when you explain it’s a dietary restriction.
11. Stop looking at what you can’t have and start looking at what you can have. This is vital. If you keep focusing on the foods you have to give up and can’t have anymore, you’re going to fail. No questions about it. You need to let go of them and start looking at all the great food you can enjoy and get to have! The ketogenic diet is not about deprivation, it’s about enjoying life and eating good food. If you want more information about what I consider the top 10 tools for success on a keto way of eating, sign up for my newsletter to get my free guide.
12. Weigh and measure yourself. I can’t say this often enough. The scale is what we’re all used to measuring our success by, but it lies. It doesn’t take into account fat loos and muscle gain. One pound of fat is much bigger in volume than one pound of muscle, which is why you NEED to measure yourself and use that as your guide to see how successful you are. You may not be losing weight according to the scale, but you are more than likely losing inches, which means you’re succeeding. Forget that number on the scale! If you’re smaller and fitting into smaller clothes, than it doesn’t matter what the number on the scale says.
13. Get into the right mindset. The ketogenic diet is a lifetime commitment. This isn’t a temporary fix. If you go into this trying to get to a goal weight and you plan to quit it once you reach your goal, remember this: your old way of eating made you fat, and it you go back to it, you’ll get fat again.
14. Get the idea of cheating off the table. There are no cheats once you start keto. Cheating will cause stalls and set your weight loss back. It’s also a mindset issue. If you think cheating is a treat, then you’re not doing keto the right way or thinking about it correctly.
15. Choose treats and rewards that aren’t food related. Food is no longer a way to reward yourself. Find other rewards, like getting a manicure or pedicure, a new CD, a concert, new clothes, new hairstyle, whatever works best for you as a reward.
16. You don’t need to do hours of chronic cardio every day to lose weight. All you need to do is be active and enjoy life. Take a 30 stroll up and down the block each morning or evening. Right now you may not have a lot of energy and that’s ok! Once you transition to being keto adapted and have more energy, find an activity you enjoy and do it.
17. Enjoy your life! Keto is about more than food and dieting; it’s a way of thinking about life. Life was meant to be enjoyed no matter how many hard times come. When you’re eating right, you’re setting yourself up to be healthy in so many other ways. Great nutrition is the foundation of so much in your life, including health, mental well-being and emotional well-being.
Please know that I’m always available to help you and answer your questions. If you need that extra attention, I’m available as a coach. You can see my coaching packages at the coaching page of my website.