Starting a new eating plan can be overwhelming. I know when I first started researching the ketogenic diet online, the materials available were confusing, and I felt like I was back in science class.
But at its core, “keto” is focused on eating a diet full of healthy fats, mixed with proteins and very few carbs.
Ideally, the carbs you do eat will come mainly from vegetables. Your body will switch from burning sugar and carbs for energy to burning fat/ketones for energy.
This process is called “ketosis,” and it puts you in the optimal state for burning body fat and losing weight. But weight loss is not the only benefit to the keto plan.
Mental clarity, reduced inflammation, and increased energy are just some of the other benefits.
When you are first beginning the keto diet, you may find yourself eating more to feel full. But quickly, as you become keto-adapted, you will find that you are often not hungry at mealtime.
It is important to learn to listen to your body, and if you are not hungry, you don’t need to eat. I continuously remind myself of this lesson. When I am at work, I often feel like I need to eat at noon when everyone goes to lunch.
However, on the weekends, without such a schedule, I can often go until 2 or 3 p.m. before eating. Allow your body to guide you, but always make sure you are drinking plenty of water and getting the proper intake of electrolytes.
The benefits of a ketogenic diet are vast, and each person has their own reason for embarking on a keto journey. For me, I was focused on reducing inflammation in my body.
Removing sugar, which is extremely inflammatory, and carbohydrates have been life changing. Enabling your body to be in nutritional ketosis can be helpful for conditions such as obesity, epilepsy, neurological conditions, and more.
Being a fat burner instead of a sugar burner may also boost your longevity. It seems like every week there are new studies supporting the keto lifestyle.
When starting a ketogenic diet, you may encounter new terms and have some questions:
What is ketosis? Drastically restricting carbs and sugar in your diet puts your body into a state of ketosis, which is when the body burns fat (ketones) instead of glucose (carbs and sugar).
When there are very few carbohydrates in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. The ketone bodies pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source.
This elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood is known as ketosis. You can often achieve a state of ketosis within the first week of starting a keto diet, which is the first step of eventually becoming keto-adapted, which can often take about a month to achieve.
What are macros, and why are they important? When you first start a keto diet, you will want to calculate your “macros” and track them every day.
Macros, or macronutrients, are the major nutritional elements that make up the caloric content of your food—protein, carbohydrates, fat, plus some minerals.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the typical American diet is about 50 percent carbohydrates, 15 percent protein, and 35 percent fat.
In contrast, the structure of a typical keto diet is closer to 5 percent carbs, 20 to 25 percent protein, and 70 to 75 percent fat.
To find the best macros for you, you can go on Google and search for “keto macro calculator.” The macro calculator will ask you to enter information (height, weight, activity level, goals, etc.), and based on that information, it will suggest your keto macros.
The macros represent the upper limit of your ideal nutritional intake for each day. Macros will be broken down into calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
If weight loss is your goal, it is often recommended that you stay under 20 net carbs per day, which is my daily goal. I use the free Carb Manager application to track my food.
You can set the preferences to net carbs. Some people monitor their total carbohydrates while on the keto diet, and some follow net carbs; it is a personal decision.
I count net carbs, which basically means that you subtract the insoluble fiber content from the total carbs because fiber is a carbohydrate that your body cannot digest.
For example, ½ cup of cauliflower has 2.65 grams of carbohydrates and 1.2 grams of insoluble fiber. So you subtract the fiber from the total carbohydrates, and the net carb content of that serving is 1.45 grams.
Is eating that much fat good for you? Eating 70 to 75 percent fat on the keto diet probably seems a little crazy when you are used to a typical high-carb, low-fat diet.
In fact, when I first started on the keto plan, I found it easy to quit carbs but much more difficult to hit my recommended fat amount every day.
The most important thing to remember is that you want to eat high-quality fats; not all fats are created equal! High-quality fats like grass-fed butter, ghee (clarified butter), grass-fed meats, organic full-fat dairy, avocados, macadamia nuts, and salmon are examples of the kinds of fats you want to consume.
You should avoid low-quality fats like vegetable or canola oils. You will notice that on the keto plan, you won’t be hungry as often because the high-quality fats will keep you satisfied and feeling full.
What is intermittent fasting? Intermittent fasting (IF) can be adopted as part of a ketogenic lifestyle. I typically eat all my food for a day within an eight-hour “eating window,” which for me is typically between noon and 8 p.m.
This leaves 16 hours in the day where I am intermittently fasting, but I am sleeping for a good portion of that, which makes IF pretty easy to achieve.
During the IF time period, I drink Bulletproof Coffee which is allowed on the Bulletproof Intermittent Fasting protocol, and water, but I don’t consume any solid food.
The Bulletproof Coffee curbs my appetite because of the fat content in the grass-fed butter and Brain Octane Oil.
The longer you are on the ketogenic diet, the less hungry you will become in general, because the higher amount of fat you are eating will satiate you.
What is keto-adapted? Most people reach a state of ketosis within a couple of weeks of following their ketogenic macros, but becoming keto-adapted takes a little longer.
Once keto-adapted, your body has switched over from using glucose as its main source of energy to using fat for energy. This process generally happens within a month of sticking to a ketogenic diet and producing a certain ketone level.
For more in-depth and scientific information on the ketogenic diet, I highly recommend everyone read The Ketogenic Bible by Jacob Wilson Ph.D. and Ryan Lowery. It is the most authoritative and thorough explanation of all things keto.