Let’s take a few moments to review what the ketogenetic diet is, benefits and what you can eat and what to avoid under the keto protocol. “Keto” has become such a buzzword and most of the people either have tried a keto diet or know someone who did. I’m sure a lot of you are already familiar with what a keto diet is but I wanted to recap the basics and I hope you’ll learn something new here.
Ketogenic Diet the Basics
The ketogenic diet is defined as a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat which helps your liver break down fat into chemicals called ketones which turn into a primary source of energy instead of using glucose produced from carbs.
In a keto diet, you will limit your carbs down to about 5% of your daily intake, 20% from protein and 75% should come from fat. This diet was originally employed as a treatment of children with epilepsy in the 1920s and later found to be linked to weight loss.
How is the Ketogenic Diet different from the Atkins Diet?
The Keto diet is like the Atkins diet or the low-carb diet. In both diets, you limit carbohydrates intake and induce building up ketones. Under the ketogenic diet protocol, protein intake is limited while the Atkins (or low-carb diet) has no limits on the volume of proteins you can take.
In Atkins, you are allowed to reintroduce carbohydrates eventually as long as you can sustain the target weight while on Keto, carbs are always limited.
It seems like Atkins is more sustainable for most people but bringing back the volume of carbs will increase the likelihood of rebounding. But because many people were getting sick and gaining weight back in the long run, the popularity of Atkins died down.
4 Major Benefits of Keto Diet
Most of us jump into a Keto diet hoping to lose weight fast without starving ourselves. But the good news is that Keto diet not only assists you to lose weight by using body fat as a source of fuel, it also provides many of health benefits many people didn’t expect. Here are major benefits you can expect:
- More energy and better sleep – once you are keto-adapted (we will discuss how long it will take later), you will be more energized while you will have less craving for carbs. This is because the insulin levels get stabilized and energy sources become available. Sleep quality will also improve, but, the direct cause is still unknown.
- Improvements in brain functions – you will experience increased mental clarity, better focus, improved memory, and cognition. Although the mechanism of this has not been identified, the Keto diet is getting attention for improving every stage of dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
- Preventing heart disease – by lowering the blood glucose level and keeping it stable, the Keto diet helps keep blood pressure and lowers triglyceride levels.
- Curing obesity and diabetes – because the Keto diet keeps blood sugar levels and insulin in control, the study shows that the Keto diet works effectively on treating obesity, type I and II diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and hypertension.
Are these too good to be the truth? Let’s discuss what it takes to get to Ketosis next.
What food can we eat in a Keto diet?
As you know, keto diet is a low carb diet. So no sugar, bread, pasta, rice are allowed. Ideally, net carb intake should be no more than 20g a day but 50g per day is a good start for a beginner. Then what can we eat and what should we eat to get into ketosis faster?
Leafy greens are preferred on keto over higher carb vegetables such as corn, root vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes. Onions and carrots are also high in carb but not nearly as bad as potatoes. Examples of low carb greens are spinach, lettuce, kale, arugula, and cabbage. Nutrition packed vegetables such as red, green, yellow peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, and broccoli are also great candidates on a Keto diet. Some of those vegetables contain low carbs but you shouldn’t worry about counting carbs for vegetables because those carbs are mostly fibers which are excluded from the “net carb” calculation.
As mentioned earlier, keto diet limits protein consumption to about 15% to 20% of total daily calories’ intake. Proteins help with muscle repair and growth, maintenance of healthy skin, nail, hair, and bones, creating hormones and enzymes. Good source of proteins includes organic, pasture-raised and grass-fed meat, eggs and nuts and seeds. A power bar or protein bar is easy to access but definitely not Keto friendly.
Don’t be afraid of consuming fat on a Keto diet as recommended consumption of fat is 70% of your daily calorie intake. But let’s be smart on selecting good fat over harmful fat.
Good fat includes:
- Grass-fed animal, cheese, butter and cream (including peanut batter!)
- Olive oil, palm oil, coconut
- Nuts seed, sesame seed
- Wild caught fish
Bad fat includes:
- Soy, corn, canola (GMO)
- Restaurant fried food (or food truck, carnival)
- Coffee – I am so grateful about this: a few cups of coffee is okay on a Keto diet but, adding sugar or artificial sweetener is not okay.
- Juice – since fruits are high in glucose, the juice is not allowed on Keto
- Soda, energy drink and vitamin water – you should not consume any of them during a Keto protocol even if labeled “diet” soda. If you are serious for practicing a Keto diet, fix your sweet taste
- Alcohol – you can get away with consuming the allowable amount of alcohol like a dry red and white wine is okay, but the beer is not because it’s made of barley. Spirits themselves have no carbs.
- Water – water is the best choice but drinking excessively is not suggested or does not help adopt Ketosis faster.
Banned on Keto
Apparent but ice cream, coke, cakes, french fries are not allowed on keto and the list goes on and on but to help you get an idea, below are major food groups you need to avoid:
- Any food made of starch such as bread, rice, pasta, baked potatoes, cookies and cakes and so on….
- All sorts of fruits as most of the fruits are high in sugar except for avocado which is strongly recommended eating on Keto (yes! avocado is a fruit)
- Processed food that’s labeled as “low fat”, “nonfat”, “fat-free” because those products use sugar and/or fructose corn syrup for flavor.
How long does it take to adopt ketosis?
The time you need for your body to adopt ketosis fully depends on how hard you work toward it but if you stick with net carb limit (20g), you will enter ketosis within 2 to 3 days but it can take up to 7 to 10 days if you have insulin resistance.
If you want to get into ketosis as soon as possible, follow the tips below:
- Concurrently use intermittent fasting – intermittent fasting helps deplete glycogen storage in your body because in intermittent fasting, you delay your breakfast time, or even skip breakfast which gives you a head start of being a fat burning stage.
- Do light exercise – this might be obvious. But exercising speeds up consuming glycogen and takes you to ketosis faster. One thing you need to keep in mind is to keep it light to moderate because hard workout could increase your stress hormone called cortisol preventing you from getting into ketosis. I recommend walking, hiking, light jogging, and yoga workouts at the beginning. Once you reach ketosis, you are free to jog, kick box, bike, play tennis and so on as long as you feel good.
- Sip MCT oil – When consumed, MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) won’t be digested in your stomach. MCT oil will instead move to your liver which breaks it down into ketones and helps your body burn fat for fuel. You can start off with sipping one table spoon, mixed with your favorite salad dressing, drop into bullet proof coffee, or sip from a spoon, then you gradually increase the amount. If you are also doing intermittent fasting, take MCT oil during your feeding window because it breaks fast.
- Get ZZZZZZ – at least 7.5 hours of sleep is necessary to speed up the Keto adoption process. Sleep itself won’t let you get there but crucial for your body to repair itself
Signs of being ketosis
While your body is trying to adapt to ketosis, you might experience side effects although the Keto diet is known to be a safe protocol for healthy people. The symptom is called Keto flu and usually, you will get over it within a few days. Typical symptoms include:
- Low energy level
- Brain fog
- Boosted feeling of hunger
- Digestive problem
- Feeling blue
- Lower workout performance
To minimize these symptoms, add some salt to meals or even take mineral supplements because keto diet changes the water and mineral balance within your body. Also, easing into keto protocol is also helpful in limiting those side effects.
Tips for Maintaining a Ketogenic Diet
A Keto diet is a not a temporary diet. It is a lifestyle you choose. We don’t recommend going back to your original diet after reaching your target weight because obviously, you will most likely rebound.
I hear people say they can have a cheat date. But as soon as you consume excess carb, you will be kicked off ketosis and getting back in will take another 2 to 3 days so you are starting all over again. So I wanted to share tips that helped me stay on track when I’m tempted to reach a piece of pastry….
- Remember that there are many health benefits you are getting from this. A keto flu is only temporary and it’ll pass for sure if you remain strong and stick to it. I’m sure benefits including getting in shape outweigh a brief pain.
- Stay focused on your goals. Having a clear goal that is measurable (i.e., losing 20 lb before thanksgiving) encouraged me to stay motivated. Since I’m an accountant, I love seeing trends and numbers. So I kept track of my weight on a bar graph using the excel sheet. Being able to see the progress on a graph motivated me to stay on the diet.
- Vacations, Holidays and birthdays are tough times for Keto dieters. Before my birthday, I announced that I’m on a strict Keto diet so I’d prefer low-carb items. My gracious coworkers brought Keto friendly breakfast from Wholefoods. On my 2-day trip to a winery, we stuck with wine tasting (sipping wine only), meat and cheese and went to restaurants and ordered a large bowl of salad.
- Plan out your meals. When you run out of food at home when hungry, you get so tempted to grab something easy like fast food which always is ketosis killers. Planning and preparing food for the week or even for the next few days, if possible, will keep you away from those bad decisions. We can find lots of health food delivery services available these days. Taking advantage of it here and there might not only give you easy access to Keto friendly foods but also give you ideas on recipes.
- If you keep failing on Keto, try a well-established program like The 28-Day Keto Challenge.
We are in this together!
We are on the same journey with you. We are juggling to get through the day while trying to stay strong and making right food decisions, researching what to eat on a Ketogenic diet, and thinking about how to distract ourselves from eating high carb items. There are several interesting Keto friendly food such as low-carb pizza and low-carb tortillas we have tried. Please check out our articles and let us know your comments.