Ketosis is the result of following the standard ketogenic diet, which is why it’s also sometimes called “the ketosis diet.” Ketosis takes place when glucose from carbohydrate foods (like grains, all sources of sugar or fruit, for example) is drastically reduced, which forces the body to find an alternative fuel source: fat. Ketosis can also be achieved by multiple days of total fasting, but that isn’t sustainable beyond a few days. (It’s why some keto diet plans combine intermittent fasting or IMF with the keto diet for greater weight loss effects.)
Spices are an easy way of adding more flavor, vitamins and antioxidants into your food. Furthermore, they are low in carbohydrates. Make sure that you're using fresh, organic spices for maximum flavor and nutrients. Some spices sold in packets found at the local grocery should not be used, as they often contain fillers that can increase your carbohydrate consumption, thus putting you out of ketosis.26
Some people like to weigh their food when they first transition from a normal diet to a ketogenic diet, in order to have a fuller understanding of the amount of carbohydrates that they consume, although this can be used just in the beginning as a guide. But ultimately no, you do not have to weigh your food in order to be successful with a keto diet.
To prevent side effects such as the keto flu, begin transitioning your meal plan gradually. Start by understanding how many carbohydrates you take in most days. Then begin slowly reducing your carbohydrate intake over a period of a few weeks while gradually increasing your intake of dietary fat to keep your calories the same. You should also make sure to seek guidance from a professional to make sure this plan works best for you and your health goals. “See a dietitian and adapt the diet to fit your long-term needs,” Spano recommends.
Probably, and there are a few reasons why, Keatley says. For starters, people usually reduce their daily caloric intake to about 1,500 calories a day because healthy fats and lean proteins make you feel fuller sooner—and for a longer period of time. And then there’s the fact that it takes more energy to process and burn fat and protein than carbs, so you're burning slightly more calories than you did before. Over time, this can lead to weight loss.
Historically, a targeted ketogenic diet consists of limiting carbohydrate intake to just 20–30 net grams per day. “Net carbs” is the amount of carbs remaining once dietary fiber is taken into account. Because fiber is indigestible once eaten, most people don’t count grams of fiber toward their daily carb allotment. In other words, total carbs – grams of fiber = net carbs. That’s the carb counts that matter most.
When you’re first getting started, it can be helpful to use a blood or breath ketone meter. What these meters do is measure the amount of ketones (the energy source your body is switching to) in your blood or your breath. Knowing those amounts and seeing how they increase or decrease depending on what you’re eating daily can often be a motivating and helpful indicator of the transition occurring in your body.
Some people also experience a change in bathroom habits. Moving your bowels can be difficult with a dramatic change in diet, and can be helped by choosing specific foods over others. Cheese is well known to stop up the works, so reducing cheese can help. Making sure to include plenty of fibrous vegetables can also keep things moving, so make sure to get lots of leafy greens, celery, and other veggies. In addition, make sure to drink enough water. Water not only keeps you hydrated, but also helps keep the bowels moving.
Bulk buy and cook. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, this is the best of both worlds. Buying your food at bulk (specifically from wholesalers) can reduce the cost per pound tremendously. Plus, you can make ahead food (bulk cook chicken thighs for pre-made meat, or cook entire meals) that are used as leftovers, so you spend less time cooking.
KetoVale‘s Tip: Exogenous ketones are NOT a magic pill or a carb blocker. You should be making better choices about your diet meal plan first and then ask yourself if you want to or how you can supplement afterward to help out. Remember it’s a supplement and not supposed to be used as an eraser to erase eating choices (by definition, supplement is a thing added to something else in order to complete or enhance it). It’s like building muscles, you can take supplements, but if you don’t workout and eat right, the muscles won’t show up. The supplements aren’t going to lift those heavy weights for you. There’s no magic bullet.
Most condiments below range from 0.5–2 net grams per 1–2 tablespoon serving. Check ingredient labels to make sure added sugar is not included, which will increase net carbs. (Stevia and erythritol will become your go-to sweeteners because neither raise your blood sugar — combine for a more natural sweet taste and, remember, a little goes a long way!)
Some dairy products can be used in moderation, such as heavy whipping cream and most cheeses. This would depend on your individual sensitivity to dairy (some people digest it better than others) and on the particular type of food. Milk contains a relatively high amount of carbs (4 to 5 g per 100 ml) and should be limited or avoided, as well as store-bought yogurt. You can, however, have unsweetened almond milk or heavy cream. Make sure to check the labels carefully when buying dairy products, as some of them contain a rather high amount of carbs. Some people also find that eliminating dairy helps them to lose weight faster, which might be something you want to consider in case you stall.
One of the most common side effects of starting the ketogenic diet is the “keto flu.” This term describes the often unpleasant, fatigue-inducing symptoms that occur as the body adjusts from a high-carbohydrate to a low-carbohydrate diet. During the keto flu, the body’s stored glucose begins depleting, and the body starts adapting to producing and utilizing ketones as energy. (2)
Experts are split on whether the keto diet is a good idea. On the one hand, Lori Chang, registered dietitian and a supervisor at the Center for Healthy Living at Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles, says using a “cleaner” source of energy—ketones rather than quick-burning carbohydrates—can improve mood and energy levels. When you eat refined carbohydrates or just too many carbs in general, the blood is flooded with excess insulin, Chang says. "This can lead to a blood sugar rollercoaster that stresses the body and negatively impacts energy levels and mood. When you’re in a state of ketosis, however, ketone bodies don’t require insulin to cross the blood-brain barrier, which wards off unfavorable blood sugar levels."
If this diet is so tough, then why has it been around since the 1920s? For starters, there’s some evidence to suggest that ketogenic diets help regulate epilepsy, according to research in ISRN Pediatrics.Redox Biology reports the diet may benefit cancer patients. While it may be helpful for short-term weight loss, that wasn’t the diet’s original intention, and the jury’s still out on its long-term effects.
It also interferes with some of the social aspects of food, considering how limiting it is. No cake on your birthday. No pie on Thanksgiving. No chocolate truffles on Valentine's Day. Boo to that! If you consider yourself someone who loves to eat and takes great joy in the social experience of a good meal, then the restriction of this diet may be emotionally unhealthy.
Although fat is the centerpiece of any keto diet, that doesn't mean you should be subsisting on butter-topped steaks, says Kristen Mancinelli, RD, author of The Ketogenic Diet. “A big misconception is that you should just put meat at the center of your plate and add more fat on top,” she says. You also shouldn't be relying on fatty meats to hit your fat quota, she adds.
Beverages: It’s common to become dehydrated on the keto diet. Your insulin levels drop when you restrict carbs, and low insulin makes it harder for your body to retain sodium and water. Drink plenty of plain water, and sip on bone broth to replenish electrolytes, especially during the first couple of weeks when your body is adjusting to the new diet.
Can’t you take ketone supplements? No. While it is possible to elevate ketones by taking them, “without the low-carb stimulus, there is no net increase in ketone production, no decrease in insulin, and no net increase in fat oxidation,” says Volek. Don’t trust trainers or “body hackers” who say you can induce ketosis quickly without changing your diet.
Once ketone levels in the blood rise to a certain point, you officially enter into a state of ketosis. This state results in fairly rapid and consistent weight loss until you reach a healthier (and stable) body weight. Overall, people enter into ketosis at different rates, usually after 3–4 days of fasting or following a very low-carbohydrate diet (20 grams of net carbs or less) that forces the need for an alternative energy source. (3)
Instead of thinking about the total carbs you’re eating, assess what those carbs provide to you. Do the majority of your carbs come from fruit and vegetables, with a payload of fiber and disease-fighting antioxidants? Fantastic. Or are you consuming them in the form of added sugars (cookies, candy, soda) or refined flour? If you are, you know what to do.
The best place to get started if you’re interested in the ketogenic diet is to first take a look at the fats you can incorporate, such as avocado, olive oil, or cacao butter. You could also take a look at more of an animal-based fat like grass-fed tallow or pasteurized lard or, if you are not too sensitive to butter, grass-fed butter is a really good option.
Thank you Lauren for your website! I have been in diet denial thinking that I am doing something wrong as my husband and I have been doing the Keto diet for 2 weeks now and he has lost almost 30 pounds and I have gained 2! I know that men always lost it faster and he has way more weight than me to lose but it is still frustrating nonetheless! I appreciate your words of encouragement throughout your blog and to your readers comments! “Keeping it simple” was like an Ah-Ha moment! Before Keto I cooked very simply…meat, starch, veggie…but once we started Keto I felt like I had to come up with fancy meals to supplement what I thought I would be missing! It’s exhausting and expensive like you mentioned! Another frustration is constantly counting everything. It really is almost a turn off for me not to mention constantly thinking about food which I NEVER DID BEFORE! So, in general, I guess what I wanted to say was thank you for keeping it real and really simple.
Thanks for the very informative article. This was the push I needed to at least try it. Starting next weekend, my partner and I will be trying keto for 30 days. I’m all for small changes, in theory, but what I sometimes discover is that sweeping changes can have their place, too, if they produce positive results. Often, what will work for me is trying a big change, and even if I then throw out 80% of it, at least the remaining 20% sticks. By contrast, any backsliding from a small change can often mean just throwing it out entirely.
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Medical Disclaimer: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.
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