The low-carb, high-fat eating plan known as the ketogenic (keto) diet seems to be all the rage these days. We’re seeing more and more of this diet in the news and on the Web. But the keto diet isn’t all that new really. This diet was developed back in the 1920s as a way to treat childhood epilepsy. Since then, scientists have been discovering other potentials of this diet, just one of which is weight loss.
If you’re interested in following this low-carb eating plan yourself, there are things you need to familiarize yourself with to really make keto work. The diet comes with many rules and caveats. But with a bit of researching and practice, anyone can go keto the right way. Here are just a couple of beginner’s tips to help get you started.
First, What is the Keto Diet?
The ketogenic diet is, by definition, a very-low-carb diet. On this diet, you eat only around 50g of carbohydrates a day. However, the exact amount of carbs you can eat on keto may vary depending on your activity levels and the exact type of keto diet you are following (yes, there’s more than one way to do keto).
Besides restricting carbohydrates, the ketogenic diet requires that you increase your fat intake. Fat makes up 65-75% of your daily calories on this diet. And last but not least, protein intake needs to be moderate on a keto diet, making up around 25% of your daily calories.
When you eat this way, you create somewhat of an energy crisis because your body normally relies on carbohydrates to make energy. To counteract this crisis, the body starts oxidizing fat, which the liver then converts into molecules called ketones. Ketones then serve as an alternative fuel to glucose, primarily in the brain.
While the diet was originally used to treat epilepsy, it grew in popularity as a weight-loss diet. Other benefits of keto include glycemic control, diabetes reversal, acne fighting, cancer prevention, and improved brain health.
How to Do Keto Successfully
The keto diet involves more than restricting carbs and eating fatty foods. The diet needs careful planning to work and to help you stay well-nourished and healthy. Below are foolproof tips to help you succeed on this diet.
1. Stock up on keto foods
Some foods are better to eat on a keto diet than others. Wheat, corn, and potatoes are all high in carbohydrates and can quickly get you well over your daily carbohydrate limit. In order to get enough vitamins, minerals, protein, and fat while keeping carbohydrate intake low, you need to eat only keto-friendly foods like bacon, butter, coconut oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and berries, to name a few. Make sure to research keto-friendly foods and to learn which foods you need to avoid on this diet.
2. Track your macros
Diet apps make following this diet a whole lot easier. Logging in what you eat each day can help you know you’re eating within the recommended keto macronutrient (macros) ratio, which is usually 5-10% calories coming from carbohydrates, 20-25% from protein, and 60-75% from fat. However, the exact amount of each macronutrient you should take can vary depending on your age, sex, weight, activity levels, and so on. That’s where keto calculators come in handy. Click here to calculate your exact keto macros today.
3. Measure your ketone levels
Keto diet beginners may benefit from measuring their ketone levels. There are several ways you can do this but using ketone urine test strips is the most affordable and noninvasive way. You can easily purchase urine strips online or at your local pharmacy. Having ketones in your urine is a sign you’re in ketosis and that your diet is working. Other ways to check if you are in ketosis is to use a blood ketone meter, a ketone breathalyzer, or to look for signs of ketosis such as having a fruity breath (aka keto breath) and reduced appetite.
4. Prepare for the keto flu
The keto flu is a popular way of referring to uncomfortable symptoms that happen when you transition into ketosis. What usually happens is that your body’s glycogen stores become depleted, and with that glycogen, you also lose a lot of water (glycogen is three to four parts water). When you lose water, you also lose important electrolytes like sodium and magnesium, which leads to the aforementioned keto flu symptoms. Ways to prepare for the keto flu is to boost your sodium and magnesium intake and stay well-hydrated.
5. Consider making lifestyle changes
Whether your goal is to lose weight or manage illness with the help of a keto diet, it’s a good idea to include lifestyle changes. Exercising and stress management is examples of things that you should consider when making keto your lifestyle. Both are helpful in improving health outcomes but may also make the diet more effective. Exercising, for example, breaks down muscle glycogen and boosts insulin sensitivity – both important for keto dieters. Sleeping regularly is also confirmed to enhanced metabolic health.
6. Consider keto superfoods and supplements
Foods like grass-fed butter and coconut oil are popular keto diet staples. The first because it’s higher in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants than conventional butter, the latter because it’s rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), fatty acids that boost ketone production. Keto dieters also like to get their MCTs directly from MCT oil, a popular keto diet supplement and even take exogenous ketones (ketones in a pill).
7. Check your fiber intake
A major setback of the keto diet is that it’s low in fiber when poorly planned. Inadequate fiber intake on a keto diet leads to constipation and other digestive issues. To boost your fiber intake on this low-carbohydrate diet, make sure to eat plenty of low-carb vegetables like kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and avocados. Also feel free to indulge in nuts and consider adding flax meal or fiber supplements to your keto smoothies, shakes, and breakfast yogurt.
8. Practice caution when necessary
Most people can tolerate the keto diet well. However, those with diabetes and pregnant and lactating women may want to be careful with this diet. The diet is known to keep blood sugar at stable and low levels, so you may need to adjust your insulin when starting this diet if you have diabetes. We also don’t know much about the safety of keto diets during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so caution is necessary. And if you suffer from rare medical conditions like porphyria or fat-metabolism disorders, then this diet is definitely not safe in your case.
The ketogenic diet is great for a number of things, but weight loss and glucose control seem to be the most sought-after benefits of this diet. If you’ve heard about the many benefits of going keto, then it’s a good idea to become informed before taking the leap into low-carb living. The ketogenic diet requires lots of planning and preparation to be successful. But once you have been practicing this diet for a while, you’ll see that it becomes easy to maintain for a long time, preferably until you reach your desired goals.