Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV or the internet. Consult your physician if you have serious health problems or concerns about your diet.
So a friend reached out recently wondering about the Ketogenic diet and how to get started. After doing this for a year and a half, I’ve learned a few things along the way, so I thought I’d answer his question by reviewing the basics followed by 10 tips that will help you get fit rocking keto.
THE BASICS OF KETO
At its purest form it’s a simple diet. Don’t eat carbs. And you don’t have to cut them out entirely. The technical calorie distribution should be roughly 10% or less carbs, 20-30% protein, and 60-70% fat.
Why it works is also simple: your body burns carbs first, fat only if it has to–so by limiting carbs you’re forcing your body to burn fat, which will include some of your own if you’re not overeating.
Here’s the cool thing: it’s kinda hard to overeat on Keto. The food is so fatty, rich, and delicious that at least for me I tend to get full before I can overeat. However, when you mix Keto with fasting, now you’re really cooking with grease (pun intended), because your body has no option but to burn your own fat for an extended period of time.
It’s also important to point out that there are two other huge benefits to the diet aside from weight loss:
A) your clarity of thinking will greatly improve.
B) you’ll have decreased body inflammation.
Both are due to the fact your system isn’t experiencing large fluctuations in blood sugar. There’s also evidence suggesting the diet may be somewhat anti-cancer because cancer cells like sugar, and in ketosis they can’t get it, and either lie dormant or starve. Cool stuff, right?
TIPS TO HELP YOU ROCK THAT KETO
1) Don’t under eat—especially when you start out.
It’s easy to think that if you were used to having some yogurt, a piece of fruit and some toast for breakfast, you can replace it with like two eggs and some nuts or avocado which are keto friendly. Wrong. Think four eggs and avocado, or four eggs and two to three slices of bacon or a couple spoons of almond butter.
Why? Because if you under eat you’ll get super hungry and then it’ll be really easy to eat one of the donuts your coworkers who are trying to get everyone fat bring to work. And they think they’re just being nice, right? But seriously, if you crash you’re going to grab the first thing you can (usually carbs) and that’s not the goal, which brings me to the second point.
2) Meal Prep
It’s the name of the game for basically the same reason, because you’re going to get hungry—especially when you first start out. So have a couple of hardboiled eggs in the refrigerator at work or some cheese or a jar of nuts or an extra chicken thigh or even some veggies sautéed in butter or Coconut oil.
If you get hungry, eat. And don’t worry: as you get more used to the diet, you’ll just stop getting hungry—unless you’re a waif. And if you’re a waif, WTF are you doing on a ketogenic diet? EAT BREAD GODDAMNIT SOMEONE HAS TO!
3) Cheat Day
Give yourself the occasional cheat day. It shouldn’t be more than once a week, but it’s not going to kill you—in some ways it’s actually really good because it keeps your body on its toes and you’ll get some nutrients when you eat carbs that you may not be getting while you’re on keto. Plus: tacos and pizza are delicious.
4) Remember: It’s Low Carb—Not No Carb
Want to know a little secret? You can eat a piece of fruit a day on keto and probably get 95% of the same benefit as if you didn’t—especially if it’s in the morning.
And something like fruit, eaten with some fat and protein, is unlikely to spike your blood sugar the way bread or white rice or anything with processed sugar in it does. Like, occasionally, I’ll have a sweet potato loaded with a bunch of fat, because my body likes sweet potatoes and so does my mouth. Is it ideal? No, but that’s the cool thing because…
5) You Don’t Have to be Perfect
In fact, you don’t even have to be full on keto to apply the general principle—the fewer carbs you eat, the more your blood sugar will stabilize, the better you’ll feel, the more weight you’ll lose.
However, if you are going full bore, the real key is to spend extended periods of time in ketosis, say three to four days at least.
6) Eggs are Your Friend
Eggs are delicious and one of the most nutritious things you can eat. I eat an average of four a day and if you’re wondering my blood work is phenomenal: low cholesterol, low blood sugar, low blood pressure, healthy heart rate.
The other thing is that eggs are relatively cheap, can be prepared a number of ways, and go well with a ton of other ingredients, especially things that are keto friendly. I love scrambled eggs with any combination of the following: avocado, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, asparagus, bell pepper, onion, cheese (pepper jack is my jam), and I’m sure there’s more I’m forgetting.
For work I find the easiest thing is to have four hardboiled eggs and avocado or bacon for breakfast—and hardboiled eggs kick ass for those random times you start feeling hungry.
7) Keep it Healthy
I see a lot of my #keto peeps on Insta (love you guys) posting these incredibly greedy, food-porn like pictures of steak, bacon, sausage, cheese, etc. And those things are fine to eat—in moderation.
Not because of the fat content but because of the processing. Things with a lot of heavy salting, nitrates, preservatives, etc. just aren’t good for our bodies and there’s some evidence that suggest a diet high in these foods can increase the risk of cancer.
Additionally, it’s still entirely possible to eat too much on keto, and if you’re taking in more calories than you burn, the fact you aren’t having carbs doesn’t matter.
So go ahead and have those greedy ass meals, but make sure you’re mixing in some sautéed or roasted veggies, eating lots of salads, and grabbing a handful of nuts for snacks more often than the salami and cheese sticks (which are fucking delicious btw).
I also try to mix the kinds of fat I’m eating, because each has it’s own benefits. Butter, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, etc.
Short and sweet: nuts are nearly the perfect Keto food, have a ton of nutritional benefits, and are widely available, even when you find yourself in a pinch at a gas station in the middle of nowhere. My favorites are pistachios and almonds, but whatever you like eat those—and don’t forget the nut butters! A spoonful or two cures a hungry belly right quick.
9) If you can: fast.
Fasting along with a ketogenic diet is going to produce the best results in terms of fat loss. The cool thing is that if you’re body is used to being in ketosis, it’s not that hard.
Like, sometimes I forget to eat. Because I’m just not hungry.
See, part of what causes us to be hungry are the spikes in blood sugar followed by the subsequent crash when our body responds with insulin, which in turn makes us feel hungry. When you’re in ketosis, you’re blood sugar is pretty damned stable, so you never get that rebound hunger like you would after eating a sandwich or bowl of pasta.
When I’m being a good boy I eat breakfast and dinner, or sometimes if I’m being really good, I’ll just eat breakfast and lunch. Then every day I’m getting either two 11-12 hour sessions a day of fasting, or with the later, up to 18.
Of course, going longer is even better. The longest I’ve gone without eating is 72 hours, and yeah it sounds awful, but it’s really not that bad (I still have coffee with coconut cream in the morning—if you want to say that doesn’t count, fine, but I’m addicted and I can’t stop). Plus, the more research they do the more it seems fasting is pretty great for our body.
Keep in mind however: fasting is not necessary. You’re going to fast for at least seven to eight hours every night anyway while you sleep. So go with whatever you feel comfortable with.
10) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate and make sure to get enough potassium and salt.
People on a ketogenic diet frequently experience muscle cramps, and this is simply because a) we urinate more in ketosis (IDK why, but you just do), and b) potassium, while common in various fruits and grains, is not so common in ketogenic foods. Tip: avocado has a lot of potassium, and avocados are a kick ass keto food—super fatty, super delicious, and super healthy.
My quick fix if I’m getting cramps actually is to eat an entire avocado with salt, and then drink a few pints of water. Always does the trick.
If you want info on what specific meals/food to eat, or what the keto diet looks on a timeline, check out this earlier post.