Before You Begin Your Keto Diet Plan
The first thing you will have to do, and you may have heard this before, is you will need to eat a low amount of carbs. What exactly does that mean?
Well obviously, if one eats ZERO carbs this of course will leave the body no choice but to burnFATfor fuel, therefore you will enter the state of KETOSIS but this is not always needed to enter ketosis. There are a lot of opinions and studies out there, but it comes down to one main factor and that is YOUR genetics.
The meals that your friend eats to enter ketosis will not necessarily work for you. It is highly variable, and it potentially will require some practice, but I will give you the guidelines to best minimize wasted time and errors. –
So normally experts will refer to “low carbs” as less than 50 grams of net carbs a day and yes this includes your veggies. For some this will work but truthfully this is a bit high for the average person.
A safer amount and what I recommend is less than 20-30gms and for some it can mean less than 10gms or even ZERO (as mentioned above, which could be referred to as the Carnivore Diet).
Again, every person is different and how much carbs one can consume to stay in ketosis will depend on one’s genetics. So, start with 20-30 a day and adjust from there.
How To Know If You Are In Ketosis
There are two ways that I consider to be the most effective:
Method #1 – First you must know that when ketone levels in the blood exceed 0.5mmol/L (“mM” for short which is a type of measurement used to measure blood sugar levels, etc.)that’s considered to be a state of “ketosis.” Nutritional ketosis is defined as blood ketone levels ranging from 0.5 – 3.0mM by pioneering ketone scientists Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney in “The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Living.”1
The most certain and scientific way to test is through a blood testing device:
- You need a handheld device (i.e., Precision Xtraor Keto Mojo) and test strips, which can be relatively expensive.
- You must prick your finger for a blood sample which can be bothersome at first until you get used to it.
NOTE: I wouldn’t recommend any other physical type of testing such as urine strips because they are mostly inaccurate. Urine testing was designed to measure acetoacetate–one of three ketone bodies. But it doesn’t measure BHB the most abundant ketone body. Also, as you become more keto-adapted, you’ll excrete fewer ketone bodies through urine. Hydration levels can also affect these ketone readings and leads to inconsistent results. So, either get the blood tester or just save your money and go with method two (below).
Method #2 – The other way to know if you are in ketosis is simply by the way you feel. Yes, it’s a bit subjective but ask anyone who has been doing a keto diet for any significant amount of time and they will all tell you “you just know”. Personally, I like to describe it as running on jet fuel! my mind is clear, I feel no wavering in my energy levels, I can go quite some time without the need to eat; the thought of eating is distant and lastly, its free!
I sometimes use a blood strip to double check that my feeling of ketosis is correct or if I’m feeling uncertain after some meal but mainly I use them after a cheat meal, when trying to get back into ketosis I like to ensure I get there as quickly as possible. but yes, once I’m in ketosis I can simply just tell. It is a clear difference.
About The Keto Flu
It may happen that after starting the ketogenic diet you feel poorly at some point especially during the first week. This is what’s commonly referred to as the keto flu. It’s not really a flu, or even dangerous, but it can suck! Fortunately, it will pass, and you’ll soon feel fine again, with probably even more energy than before you started the diet.
Most common symptoms of this “keto flu” are:
- Sugar cravings
- Muscle cramps
This feeling occurs when your body is transitioning from burning glucose to fat for its fuel. It is essentially running out the last of the sludge in your gas tank before you fill it up with jet fuel aka ketones!
When one experiences this keto flu it normally means one of a few things:
you are not eating enough, dehydrated, or not enough electrolytes.
When beginning a keto diet your insulin levels will drop (a good thing), one of the natural responses of your body is to excrete sodium (salt) and water. You will find yourself urinating a lot in the first week of a keto diet. This is partly responsible for your immediate and rapid weight loss – which is a good thing
and very welcome -but of course losing lots of water and sodium (an electrolyte) can be why one experiences some symptoms of the keto flu.
Every person will have a different experience when starting a keto diet, it is very individual, for some it’s a walk in the park and for others it can be like pulling teeth. However, if one adheres to the tips below one can avoid it all together or immediately “cure” the keto flu.
First, once the body adapts, normally by just continuing for a few days, it will cure most symptoms of the keto flu for anybody.
But why suffer at all or for those who need a bit of extra debugging follow these tips:
1. Increase your salt and water intake
Since loss of salt and water is responsible for most keto flu issues, increasing your intake of both can help reduce your symptoms significantly and often eliminate them altogether.
drink a minimumof 3 liters of fluid every day during the first week of your keto diet. This will also help prevent any constipation.
Aim for an extra 1,000-2,000mg of sodium daily via:
- Pink Himalayan or Celtic Sea salt (not standard table salt)
- Bone or beef broth (1-2 cups per day)
- Shellfish (i.e. oysters, mussels, crab, etc.)
2. Increase your Potassium (electrolytes)
A low carb diet will leave one normally very low on potassium and other electrolytes.Many fruits and other carb sources contain a significant amount of potassium which of course are not keto friendly.
The salt depletion on a keto diet causes a parallel loss of potassium. Common symptoms of a potassium deficiency – include weakness, muscular cramps, constipation, or skin problems.
3. Adjust net carb total
This is highly dependent on genetics, but some will do better with more carbs as they are inefficient on producing ketones at least while getting first adapted to ketosis. This is where taking “keto pills” (more on this later) will help significantly.
Now on the contrary and more likely it could also mean that you need less carbs. If you are still eating too many carbs, you will not fully be in ketosis which is leaving you running on a low fuel tank filled with sludge instead of that jet fuel we know as ketones. So, make the commitment and switch the fuel source.
4. Reduce high intensity training temporarily
Although many people find that their energy and endurance improve on a keto lifestyle, trying to do too much during the fat adaptation phase can worsen keto flu symptoms.
Walking, stretching, yoga or other light exercise should be fine and may even help you feel better. But remember your body is already going through a big change trying to adapt to a different fuel system, think of how many years your body has been using sugar to operate – that being said don’t place an additional burden on it by undergoing any type of high intensity exercise for that first week. After the first week then gradiently increase your exercise intensity.
Note on ketoacidosis: It is a dangerous and unhealthy starvation state of the body, something a diabetic can experience but you don’t have to even begin to worry about ketoacidosisuntil you are over 10/mM of ketones in your blood and technically you aren’t even considered in this state until 20/mM.
Here is a list of high potassium keto-friendly foods:
- Avocado (whole – average) – 975mg
- Spinach (1 cup) – 840mg
- Kale (1 cup) – 330mg
- Mushrooms (1 cup) – 420mg
Another very important mineral is Magnesium.
Magnesium is the body’s “calming” mineral; helping to keep your brain, heart and muscles relaxed. It’s also essential for over 300 other biochemical reactions in the body. Intense exercise, lack of sleep, and stress can all deplete magnesium levels.
Animal protein is also a great source of magnesium – in particular shellfish, like oysters and mussels. Make sure to also eat plenty of dark leafy greens – the darker the more magnesium.
Top magnesium rich, keto-friendly foods:
- Spinach (1 cup) – 157mg
- Swiss Chard (1 cup) – 154mg
- Pumpkin Seeds (1/8 cup) – 90mg
- Oysters (3 oz.) – 80mg
- Avocado (1/2 medium)– 30mg
Of course, one can take supplements for this as well if one struggles to get enough through whole foods. Beware – not all brands and sources are created equal.
The Coveted Cheat Meal
The cheat meal is an actual part of the diet for most. It is it not simply a thing one should do if they choose but in fact will make your weight loss and keto journey far more efficient and long term will leave you in a better, healthier condition.
The surplus of calories and carbs “shocks” your system and ramps up your metabolism which of course will increase fat burning over time.
Now not all cheat meals are created equal. How dirty and often you have one is dependent on your insulin resistance and genetics. If after a cheat meal one feels overly lethargic, is bloated, doesn’t lose weight the following week, etc. those would all be signs that your cheat meal was too “dirty” – Dirty refers to how much sugar, total carb intake, amount of salt, quality and how processed the food was. A high spike of sodium in a meal can lead to bloating as it will pull water into the stomach. Low quality foods/overly processed foods can harm the stomach as well causing the body to have trouble breaking down this food hence the bloating. This is not a big deal as the body will end up balancing out and handling. For some eating a large plate of pasta and pint of ice cream can work for them, others will have to stick to something like a bowl of fruit or sushi rolls, something on that order. Adjust the carb intake as you go and see what gets the best results over the following few days.
Now how often one “cheats” can vary as well but most seem to do best with the common one cheat meal per week. Some may need two a week, others need only one every 2-3 weeks! Again, play with it, learn your body and get the best results for yourself.
NOTE: Something I must mention here is TRANS-FAT – labels can say they have 0gms when in fact that means its .4gms per serving or less. French fries, pizza and donuts are some examples of foods containing trans-fat. There is no safe amount of these for your body, they are a neuro toxin and very damaging – studies have shown major connection between consumption of trans-fat with depression and heart disease. These fats can stay in your body for up to 5 years!
So Trans-fat is too “dirty” for even the dirtiest cheat meal if one cares about their health.
Keto Diet Example Meals
Breakfast: Eggs, avocado, bacon
Lunch: Ground beef with macadamia nuts
Snack (optional): Almonds and coconut oil
Dinner: Salmon with asparagus and broccoli
Common Mistakes Made While On A Keto Diet
Not eating enough!!! I will repeat this here because it is so common – when you cut out all the carbs your calories will be heavily reduced, so to maintain energy levels, be sure to eat more fats to make up for this loss of calories – e.g. I reduce my carb total by 200gms leaving me with 800 calories to replace in my diet. When first starting the keto diet, I would eat an extra 80-100gms (720-900cals) of fat to replace those calories lost and help my body make the transition.
Fat – 9 calories/gram
Carbs – 4 calories/gram
Protein – 4 calories/gram
Most people simply cut out the carbs resulting in too little food leaving them very hungry which leads to them breaking the diet by eating a quick energy source i.e. sugar, to satisfy the intense cut of calories.
Too much protein in relation to fat! An example would be eating a plain chicken breast with nothing on the side! or an average protein bar, most of which have something on the order of only a few grams of fat with 20 protein and 5 carbs, this would not be considered keto-friendly. Protein alone or even a small amount of carbs in a meal without fats could spike insulin too high, which remember, too high of an insulin spike will kick one out of ketosis. On the keto diet one needs to limit the carbs to as close to zero with fats high and protein moderate.
Lastly and I dare say the most common mistake, is that one simply does not know what is in the food and drink they are consuming. I have had real conversations with countless people telling me that they are struggling on keto but when I investigate, I find out they drink coconut water or some sort of “energy drink” loaded with sugar several times a day, drinking milk, eating several protein bars a day, etc. I could go on and on with the examples. If you are uncertain, just take the time to learn about what you are putting in your body and keep the carbs to a minimum with a good moderate amount of protein intake and a lot of good fats and veggies!
First know that cravings often generate from an in balance of certain nutrients or stress levels being too high. To help combat these, without getting too scientific, I recommend one take Vitamin C whenever a craving turns on, anywhere from 500mg to 2gms as well as a daily balanced dose of B vitamins. This has been known to help a lot in the fight against cravings.
Another common reason one experiences cravings is due to the inefficiency of the liver in producing ketones, so the body continues relying on sugar, after all, it’s been awhile since the fat burning systems were used. The simplest and best thing one can do to aid this situation is to take what is commonly referred to as keto pills/ BHB supplement, also known as exogenous ketones. I recommend: *insert link and more data on it* Exogenous ketones have been proven repeatedly to produce numerous benefits for one on a keto diet such as, increase of energy levels, helping maintain ketosis much more stably, and increasing the efficiency of the body to burn fat for fuel by adding more ketone bodies to the blood. *cite a study*
Now it happens to almost everyone, you’ve eaten a good dinner, you’re not really hungry but all of a sudden WHAM! you need something bad and you need it now! You feel the cravings for the foods that are off limits… below are some of my favorite carb craving cures:
- Drink Zevia – or any similar stevia sweetened drink – the sweetness and carbonation of this keto-friendly drink can really satisfy a sugar craving.
- 1 Cup of blackberries and/or raspberries with sugar free whole whipping cream. (Fats with the berries for most will keep you in ketosis and can really satisfy the sugar craving while also supplying antioxidants from the berries.)
- MCT oil: normally an extract from coconut oil, is quickly broken down into energy as it is a short chain of molecules (without getting too scientific again) and this can handle that carb craving. It helps induce ketone production from the body as well and is a simple way to add more healthy fats to one’s diet. A bottle of this is liquid gold for anyone doing the keto diet.
- Coffee w/ heavy whipping cream, butter, or MCT oil. Coffee has long been known for its appetite suppression as well as increasing the fat burning mechanisms in your body. So as long as one stays hydrated, I recommend it. Use the above sources of fat to add flavor. The most effective for keto will be the MCT oil.
According to the research, it could take up to a couple months to wean off the snacking temptations. But remember how long have you been having these cravings and eating sugar?
So, if you stick to the list above, the cravings will pass, and the body will start to rely on fat for fuel. You will not regret it and your body will thank you!
The last pro tip I leave you with is to add organic raw cacao powder and cinnamon to meals or drinks for additional and healthy variations to your diet.
Cocoa powder has a lot of antioxidants and fiber with no sugar and can be used to flavor foods or coffee. The chocolate taste, for some, can handle a craving or two as well.
Cinnamon – has been proven to help one’s insulin sensitivity which is a great side effect of the keto diet itself. *insert a study*
You may run into “fitness experts” or certain friends that claim the keto diet is some sort of a scam, well these people are either viewing things through a straw or simply don’t understand how the body works. Often you will find they try to use scare tactics by stating lies, weather intentional or not, most common ones are: “keto is unhealthy for you because it puts you in a state of starvation” or “you will wreck your metabolism!” or ”you will lose all your muscle” etc. none of which are true when a keto lifestyle is executed correctly.
The funny thing is they** normally recommend a simple cutting of calories in your diet to lose fat which has long been proven to lower one’s metabolism after sometimes just a few weeks! and that a calorie is a calorie no matter the source which is, at best, laughable. I’ve noticed too they bully those who don’t agree with them, but if you inspect closely most haven’t made much personal gains recently and haven’t ever had much success training people at an elite level.
Some just need to learn more, others are just haters and interested in being right more than helping. My priority will always be to help YOU as I have thousands before you. I am not here to prove myself right to anyone instead I care about one thing and one thing only and that is RESULTS. This will never change for me.
I wish you well on your keto journey!
Stay tuned on survivalpotentials.com as I put out articles weekly on all things diet and exercise and for those on keto diets, make sure to check out: “Keto Q & A” and “The Top Keto Supplements”