This was a great read , Steve, thanks! I’m 19 days in but forever educating myself. Wish I’d been more prepared for the keto flu cos’ that hit me HARD! Out the other side now though and hoping to see some improvements in my cycling endurance and less reliance on the gels and goos! I’ll also be doing lots of HIIT for some racing that I’ll be doing this winter (in the UK) so looking forward to experimenting with that! As a former (and maybe still current) sugar lover, the dessert tips were especially useful. Thanks again!
“Your liver produces ketones all the time, but the rate depends on carbohydrate and protein intake,” says Jeff Volek, Ph.D., R.D., a professor of human sciences at Ohio State University. When the majority of your diet is made up of of carbs and protein, ketogenesis slows. Replacing carbs and protein with fat will put your body into ketosis, thus ramping up ketone production. This takes about three days to induce.
This is of course just an overview of what you can eat, but these are things I’m most likely going to pick up from the grocery store. I also didn’t want to include crazy expensive specialty items like Erythritol for beginners. I think we all get excited about making our favorite junk foods in the style of our diets right away. This is fine…but it can be very expensive, time consuming and exhausting. Stik with the basics, especially when first starting out!
Check the nutrition labels on all your products to see if they’re high in carbs. There are hidden carbs in the unlikeliest of places (like ketchup and canned soups). Try to avoid buying products with dozens of incomprehensible ingredients. Less is usually healthier.Always check the serving sizes against the carb counts. Manufacturers can sometimes recommend inconceivably small serving sizes to seemingly reduce calorie and carb numbers.
Other experts say the long-term accumulation of ketones could be harmful. “Those ketones are emergency fuel sources, and we’re not meant to run on them long-term,” says Kristen Kizer, a registered dietitian at Houston Methodist Hospital. “Ketones are negatively-charged molecules, which means they’re acidic. When you build up ketone bodies in your system, you’re building up acid. One of the ways your body buffers acid is by pulling calcium from your bones.” Kizer also notes that the diet isn't very balanced and involves a very high intake of animal products, which generally do not protect against cancer, diabetes, or other diseases.
It comes down to simple mathematics. In order to stay in ketosis, you need to eat a very very low number of carbs. And if you eat too much protein, this can actually knock you out of ketosis as well. Therefore, if you’re eating almost no carbs, and you are eating moderate amounts of protein, the ONLY remaining macronutrient you can consume to fill you up each day would be fat. Add in that consuming fat allows you to stay in ketosis, and you are consuming a high fat, medium protein, low carb diet.
Net carbs are what we track when following a ketogenic diet. This calculation is pretty straightforward. Net Carbs = Total Carbs – Fiber. For example, one cup of broccoli has 6g of total carbs and 2.4g of fiber. That would mean one cup of broccoli has 3.6g of net carbs. We count Net Carbs because dietary fiber does not have a significant metabolic effect.
In a state of ketosis, your body breaks fat down in the liver and converts it into ketones to be used for energy. Fat doesn't generate an insulin response, so insulin levels remain stable. This makes it much harder to store excess fat, and easier to tap into body fat stores for energy. Not only will this allow you to maintain your weight, but it will greatly encourage weight loss.
For a period of 3-4 days up to 2 weeks, you will be eating the minimal amount of carbohydrates and sugar (20 grams net carbs maximum per day). After this you may be able to add in small amounts of net carbs if your body can handle it, but probably not more than 50 net carbs total per day. This is tricky, because some people can't handle more than the 20 net carbs even after they have adjusted to ketosis. Others can handle 50 net carbs and easily stay in ketosis. If you feel fine at 20 net carbs and it doesn't bother you, than there's no reason to make any changes. You can test your ketosis by how you feel, or by actually testing - which is discussed in section 3.
After the initial transition period (often referred to as the fat-adaptation or keto-adaptation period), most people find they gain a ton of mental and physical energy. They don’t have energy crashes in the afternoons and they often sleep a bit less but wake up feeling refreshed. They also tend to eat less because they don’t feel hungry or have cravings.
Drink lots of water. If you aren’t consuming enough water then the organs in your body can’t function properly. There is no point in eating right if your body can’t do what it is supposed to with the foods. Drinking plain water can get tiring so I like to either use MiO in my water (this kind also helps to replenish electrolytes) or I’ll turn to a detox water to change things up.
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.
The keto diet isn’t new, and it’s been around for nearly a century. It was originally developed to treat people with epilepsy. In the 1920s, researchers found that raised levels of ketones in the blood led to fewer epileptic seizures in patients. The keto diet is still used today to treat children with epilepsy who don’t respond well to anti-epileptic drugs.
Net carbs are used because fiber is not fully digested as energy, and does not impact your blood sugar the same as a regular carb. This is why you should still eat plenty of high fiber, low net carb vegetables…your body needs that fiber, and it won’t hurt your ketosis. Still confused on what a net carb is? Check out how to read a nutrition label on the keto diet.
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!)
Alison Moodie is a health reporter based in Los Angeles. She has written for numerous outlets including Newsweek, Agence France-Presse, The Daily Mail and HuffPost. For years she covered sustainable business for The Guardian. She holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she majored in TV news. When she's not working she's doting on her two kids and whipping up Bulletproof-inspired dishes in her kitchen.
The ketogenic diet — a high-fat and very low-carb eating plan — can be tough to start. After all, it’s likely a radical departure from the way you’re eating now (a typical standard American diet is high in carbohydrates and processed foods). But many people are trying the keto diet, which puts your body in a state of ketosis. That's what happens when your body’s carb-burning switch flips to a fat-burning one, a change that can cause weight loss and has even been credited with controlling diabetes. (1)
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