It’s hard to prescribe a starting point. Mine was pictures I saw of myself online. I got to a tipping point and that was when I knew I had to make a lifestyle change. As I’ve said in other posts, I have tried a number of different things ranging from working out to exhaustion, slow-carb diet, low-fat diet, etc. Nothing seemed to be sustainable. I did a lot of research into the Keto lifestyle and then decided to jump right in. Almost 18 months later, I thought it would be practical to share how I think it would be best to get started.
Firstly, what is the Keto lifestyle? Basically, it is a way to get your body into nutritional ketosis. Your body will switch from mainly burning glucose for fuel to burning fat for fuel. The fat being used can be the fat you’re eating or the fat (adipose tissue) you’re carrying. I am going to make the distinction between fat you consume and the fat stored in your body as they are not at all the same thing. The adipose tissue you’re storing on your body is caused by the insulin secreted by your pancreas initiating a storage response due to your glycogen deposits in your liver being full. Essentially, you have more glucose than your body can process so it will store it in case you need it later.
Back to the point… Ketosis is achieved by keeping your carbohydrate intake below 10% of your daily intake, fat above 70% and protein around 20%. These numbers can and will vary but that’s the generally accepted rule of thumb. Once you’ve entered a state of Ketosis, then your body will burn fat for fuel. That’s the layman’s explanation. Your liver is actually breaking the fatty acids down into ketone bodies which can be used for fuel by your cells. Your body will continue to produce glucose, though. It can produce glucose from ingested proteins and glycogen stores in the liver. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine!
Now that we’ve covered the basics, here’s how to get started:
Forget all of your old dietary habits. I’m not being facetious here. There are times when you are going to put butter in your coffee or add salt to your food that will feel downright wrong because of everything you’ve been told in your life but just remember to trust the process.
FORGET IT! Please move to the next step.
Lowering your calorie count is just going to push your body to lower the energy it needs to compensate. It will lower your body temperature, heart rate and even blood pressure. Basically, don’t count your calories.
If your body needs energy, then it will go and get it from the stored body fat.
I’m a fan of My Fitness Pal. I have no actual affinity to it other than it’s a free app that has a pretty extensive food database. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, then you can create it.
I suggest tracking your macros for the first two weeks. The reason being it will give you a good baseline for the foods you are going to be eating. Once you get a good handle on the macro breakdown for basic foods like eggs, bacon, cheddar cheese, broccoli, steak, butter, etc, then it will just become second nature. It’s not a bad idea to pick up a food scale so you can ensure better accuracy. Here’s a scale similar to mine.
You’re going to focus on limiting your carbohydrate intake to less than 20g of net carbs per day. Net carbs are calculated by subtracting grams of fibre from total carbohydrates.
I know, I get it… Taking pictures of yourself in the mirror right now might be one of the last things you want to do but it will definitely prove worth it. Your body is going to change pretty drastically. Sugar is inflammatory so you’re going to see your body composition change and see inflammation come down. These results might not show up on your scale though. I find looking back at progress pictures is what keeps me going when I feel like I’ve plateaued in my progress.
Yes, I’m beating this old drum. It’s very important that you hydrate. I went out and bought myself a pretty large bottle that I take along with me almost everywhere. Here’s the Camelbak Chute I bought.
Replenish Those Electrolytes
No, please don’t go to the level they did in the movie Idiocracy. That being said, most people are actually lacking on some very important electrolytes. Most people do not take in enough Magnesium so supplementing it will never hurt. You can also add Epsom salts to a bath and your skin will absorb some of the Magnesium.
Carbs increase sodium retention so the lack of carbs in your new lifestyle will require that you increase your sodium intake.
Avocados are high in potassium and high in fat so they’re great for increasing your potassium intake! If you’re like me and not the biggest fan of avocados, then it’s not a bad idea to supplement.
Some people complain of what has been commonly been referred to as the Keto Flu. You might experience headaches so you need to make sure you’re hydrating and getting all of the electrolytes your body is craving. If you have a headache, then you can add some salt to your water.
A cursory search online will provide an exhaustive list of foods that are going to be staples in your diet. Here’s a quick list of the foods I stick to on a regular basis:
- Pork loin
- Chicken thighs
- Chicken wings
- Heavy whipping cream
- Hard cheese
- Brussels sprouts
- Coconut oil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Pork rinds
- Bone broth
One of the big complaints I read online involves ingesting too many carbs and not knowing how to adjust. You should get out in front of this issue! Find yourself some go-to recipes that you know are low to no-carb. It’s a cliché but bacon and eggs are a great staple! Here are a few more:
- Steak and broccoli
- Taco salad
- Roasted salmon with roasted cauliflower
- Coffee with butter and heavy whipping cream
- Bacon and eggs
Eat to Satiety
This is probably the most fun! Do you remember the feeling you get when you’ve eaten tons of chips, cookies or cake and how you felt? Stomach was full and you just didn’t feel well? Worse yet, you were hungry not long after! That has happened to me too frequently to remember.
The good news is I’m going to encourage you to eat until you’re full each and every time! The even better news is you’ll feel much better and will not be hungry nearly as quickly. You’ll likely end up skipping meals over time and you should just listen to your body! You can and are encouraged to fast for longer periods than you do on the standard, high carb diet.
Add Fat to Your Meals
You’re going to start through the motions of eating and you’re inevitably going to come to a point where your macros may be a little off. I ran into higher than desired protein and not enough fat. That often led to me feeling hungrier and eating more frequently. Luckily, there’s a pretty easy solution: Add more fat to your meals. Here are a few ways that I add fat to my meals on a daily basis:
- Butter sauces – Beurre Monté, Lemon butter, etc.
- Butter coffee – Often referred to as Bulletproof coffee. You can also add heavy whipping cream.
- Olive oil – Add some olive oil to your veggies before roasting in the often or even just as you put them on your plate.
- Salad dressing – Avoid packaged dressings and opt for a simple olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper recipe.
I think you can see a pattern here wherein I’m suggesting that you add additional whole fat products like butter and olive oil as toppings to boost your fat intake.
I’m going to be brief here and post about fasting another time. If you are not hungry, then do not force yourself to eat. Fat will keep you feeling more full than carbs so you will naturally eat less frequently. This is also encouraged as you’ll lower the amount of insulin your body is secreting. Insulin is the hormone secreted by the pancreas to trigger energy storage which is a fun way of saying fat storage.
Listen To Your Body
I have found that I have become in tune with my body over the last 18 months. I have learned to simply listen to what my body is telling me.
- If you feel hungry, then eat.
- If you are full, then don’t eat.
- Thirsty? Drink!
I think you get the point.
Am I In Ketosis?
You’re going to find a ton of resources here and elsewhere that will suggest other ways to get into Ketosis and stay there. Again, I will repeat that you should listen to your body. There are a number of ways to test if you’re in Ketosis and the most accurate will be a blood glucometer. Abbott Labs may provide you with a coupon for a glucometer online. You’ll need to buy blood glucose test strips though. You can then purchase blood ketone test strips. It will cost you about $2 per test so it can get pricey. A reading over 0.5mmol means you’re in Ketosis.
You can also use urine strips for testing but they are not as accurate and as your body becomes fat adapted, you will not be excreting as many ketones through urine.
There are other methods including breath tests but the two mentioned above are the ones I use on a regular basis. Now that I have a pretty good handle on how I feel when in Ketosis, I have begun to use them less frequently.
Other Miscellaneous Items
- MCT Oil: this is purified fatty acids derived from coconut oil and are the easiest for your body to turn into ketone bodies. People generally add this to coffee.
I think that just about covers how I go over the keto lifestyle with anyone who wants to hear more about it. Below are a couple of pictures of the changes I’ve seen over the last 18 months thanks to keto. I share these as I understand how motivating progress pictures can be. As I said earlier, the weight loss is incredible and the mental acuity and focus have really been what has continued to drive my keto journey!
The above pictures are from October and December 2016 respectively.
The above pictures are from May 2018.