How To Start Your Keto Journey
If you’re going to be going keto there are a few things you need to know first to get the most out of what may be a rewarding temporary experience of a profound transformation. To begin with, ketosis is more than just a state you achieve by changing your diet. Ketosis is a way of being that entails altering how you eat, think, and feel.
There’s no need to feel intimidated, however. There are many paths to getting and staying in ketosis. It’s also something that’s accessible to those who are vegan, vegetarian, on a budget, or even on the go. At this point, enough research and field testing has also been done that being in ketosis isn’t something you need a doctor’s supervision or a celebrity’s freedom to do. It’s available to anybody’s who’s interested.
So, prepare to take stock of your life and reap the rewards. Getting into ketosis is easy. And while there might be some growing pains, and even a bit of physical discomfort for some at the earliest stages, once you’ve gone keto you may never want to go back. But don’t take the word of testimonials for it; try the diet yourself.
No more bread, pasta, pizza, cake, cookies, sweets, or sugary drinks. It’s a long list that can keep on going. That’s because in addition to the usual high-carb culprits, foods with added sugar are everywhere. Ketchup (and most other sauces), McDonald’s fries (dextrose is added to maintain color consistency), and even some jerkies and bacon, which you thought you could trust. Once you cut out these items you’re actually most of the way to being in ketosis.
To get the rest of the way, you need to increase the amount of fat and protein in your diet. The most common ration is 70% fat, 25% protein, and 5% carbs. However, you have plenty of wiggle room and the main thing is keeping your carb intake to around 30 grams per day. Luckily, meats, fish, avocado, and nut butters make this an easy feat to accomplish. And even if you’re vegetarian or vegan you can still manage thanks to the abundance of fats that come from non-animal sources.
Once you’ve achieved the proper ratio, your body will begin to enter ketosis. In a diet rich in carbs, your body turns everything from potatoes and pie into a sugar known as glucose. Glucose is then transported around the body via the bloodstream and released into cells with the help of a hormone called insulin. But when you’re entering ketosis, your body burns through all the glucose and begins to turn its own fat into ketone bodies, which then are used to fuel your body.
Being in ketosis means more consistent energy levels, improved mood, and even improved focus. That's because ketones are a more reliable and consistent form of energy than glucose. That means no more sugar crashes, food comas, and definitely no more spikes in sugar that leave you tired, unfocused, and hungry soon after eating.
First, however, you may go through a phase known as “keto flu”. That’s when your body adjusts to being in ketosis. It only lasts a few days, but during that time you may feel lethargic, depressed, unfocused, and even experience stomach pain or cramps. Muscle pain during the first couple days of ketosis are the result of your mineral balance being thrown off. This can be remedied by consuming 3,000–4,000 mg of sodium, 1,000 mg of potassium, and 300 mg of magnesium daily. Or, you can add salt to your drinking water.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting Ketosis
Before your body goes into ketosis, your body burns through its glycogen stores. Glycogen is a form of glucose that your body holds onto in case of emergencies. Glycogen also retains water, so it’s not uncommon to lose a couple of pounds of water weight as soon as you enter ketosis. This is especially encouraging for those who appear less puffy and whose muscles look more tight thanks to the decrease in water weight.
Your body uses its own fat to facilitate weight loss when you’re in ketosis. However, there are other processes that aid in weight loss as well. The National Institute for Health (NIH) conducted a study that showed that ghrelin, a hormone that controls hunger, is suppressed by ketones. Concurrently, ketones increase the presence of cholecystokinin (CCK), which keeps you feeling full longer. That goes a long way to maintaining your caloric deficit.
Even though you can enter and stay in ketosis without the help of any supplements, there are a few products that can help you achieve your diet goals. First, there’s MCT oil, which is composed of medium chain triglycerides, type of fat. Due to their length, MCTs are digested differently by the body. They're not only a quick source of energy, but the NIH also did a study that found that MCT oil can help produce the hormones peptide YY and leptin, which promote feelings of fullness.
You can also use exogenous ketones, which are ketones produced outside the body. Most exogenous ketones are beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), a ketone body that the human organism naturally makes on its own. Taking BHB can get you into ketosis faster, keep you in ketosis in the event that you think you’ve consumed too many carbs, and also provide you with a burst of energy or focus.
If you intend to stay in ketosis you’re going to have to learn the difference between total carbs vs net carbs. Total carbs is the total number of carbs in any given food item. That includes both sugar alcohols and fiber. Net carbs is the number of carbs that actually count toward your daily carb intake. The reason there’s a difference is because fiber and some sugar alcohols don’t get turned into glucose. Not all sugar alcohols, however, are the same. Maltitol, xylitol, aspartame, are 67, 60, and 85 net carbs per 100 grams respectively, while erythritol is five net carbs for every 100 grams.
Making the Most of Ketosis
If you’re going to use ketosis as a way of achieving weight loss then there’s a few things you need to know. First off, you can learn how to eat sweets on the keto diet. Berries, sugar free candy, and even dark chocolate are a way to curb your cravings. Low carb chocolate in particular can be quite useful because its high fat content makes it easier to stay in ketosis. You can consume alcohol so long as it’s got no carbs. That means whisky, vodka, tequila, rum, and brandy are okay.
You can even consume low carb versions of your favorite baked of breaded goods thanks to almond flour.Almond flour is made out of almond that are blanched in boiling water for the purpose of removing the skin. They are then ground and sifted into a fine powder. In addition to being high in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, and magnesium, which has properties that help reduce stress, almond flour nutritional breakdown is 4 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein, and 6 net carbs. That's how come you can use almond flour to make cakes, bagels, biscuits, and almost anything else.
Strength training is obviously a part of any weight loss plan. It burns calories, makes you stronger, and gives you a nice, lean look after the weight comes off. But there are many reasons why you should do cardio on the keto diet too. By consciously exposing yourself to stress by doing cardio you get better at dealing with stress, which is important because nothing undermines weight loss like stress. Additionally, doing cardio lowers bad cholesterol, improves blood pressure, helps keep you in ketosis by burning up accumulated glucose, maintains your caloric deficit, and gets your body to produce human growth hormone, which plays a part in building and restoring muscle as well as in keeping your energy levels up.
Eventually, you’ll get used to the diet and exercise routine that’s helping keep you in ketosis, but you’ll still want to test yourself daily using keto strips. You know you're in ketosis when the number of ketone level in your blood is between 0.5–3.0 mmol/L. And, sure, you could test your blood for ketones, but it's much easier to measure the ketone levels in your urine. You either submerge the test strip in a urine stream or in a urine sample, allow the strip to change colors, and then compare the strip to a color guide that's usually on the test strip packaging. It's important to test daily to make sure that what you're doing is actually keeping you in ketosis.
Eating in Ketosis
One of the trickiest things about being in ketosis is eating the right foods. Luckily, there are keto friendly fast foods. Every place that sells burgers gives you the option of eating a quarter pounder without the bread. Most sandwich shops will turn your sandwich into a salad. And convenience stores like 7 Eleven carry hot dogs, oven baked wings, or hard boiled eggs, all of which work when you’ve just got to eat. There are also snacks like nuts, seeds, and pork rinds to hold you over until you get to something more substantial.
You can also do keto on a budget. That entails making meal plans and bringing your own lunch and snacks with you when you go out. Both of these options are also great ways of staying in ketosis because you end up with greater control over your carb intake. Additionally, you should avoid shopping hungry to avoid making poor shopping decisions, stick to the outside of the supermarket where stores keep most of their unprocessed foods, buy frozen berries and vegetables to save money and avoid spoilage, and consider joining a bulk retailer like Costco or Sam’s club.
If, however, staying in ketosis is too difficult for you and your cravings for carbs are making you miserable, you can practice what’s known as cyclical ketosis. That’s when you maintain ketosis for five days and then have a break for one or two, typically on the weekend. This is done for the purpose of providing a weekly reward as well as for making sure the fat burn is accelerated when you’re in ketosis as opposed to something your body gets used to and, as a result, slows down.
Alternatively, you can also practice targeted ketosis, which is when you have 10 to 20 grams of carbs before or after a workout so that you can have a more intense workout.You can do this as an excuse to have a fun sized Snickers before hitting the weight lifting machines. What you may find, however, is that processed foods and foods with added sugar simply don’t taste as good once you’ve been living on a whole food, low sugar diet for so long.
Remaking Your Life
There are at least eight reasons you're not losing weight on the keto diet. You want to maintain a caloric deficit, of course, but you also don’t want to consume so few calories that your body goes into starvation mode, which entails slowing down your metabolism and storing fat. To make sure you’re getting the right amount of calories, you’re going to want to keep count and eat mindfully. Because ketones produces hormones that keep you full longer and lessen the severity of your hunger, you’re able to eat when you’re actually hungry as opposed to for reasons like boredom or habit. This will change your relationship with food so that you begin to eat well and actually enjoy the experience by being present with your meals.
It’s also important to get enough sleep. Sleep is when your body goes through recovery, and sleep deprivation is a significant stressor. As reported by WebMD, not enough sleep is a lot like not enough calories: it will prompt your body to slow its metabolism and store fat. Additionally, when you’re not getting enough sleep your cognition, which means that you’re more likely to make poor eating decisions.
While the ketogenic diet plays a large part in weight loss, it’s important to adjust your expectation as to what weight loss looks like and how long it takes. First off, it’s more reasonable, as Lifehacker reports, to accept that you need to burn 7,000 calories to lose a pound, not 3,500. Additionally, weight doesn’t come off the instant it’s burned. It takes week for the pounds to accumulate, and even longer for the change to be visually noticeable. Factors such as height, body frame, and the order in which you put on weight are all important considerations.
If, however, weight loss and health are very important to you, then you may consider adopting the ketogenic diet permanently. If not directly, then at least as an indirect consequence of eating unprocessed foods and limiting the number of foods with added sugars that you consume. The health benefits are numerous. Studies by the NIH have shown that the ketogenic diet makes people less susceptible to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, and brain tumors.
Lastly, since humans are social animals, you may consider roping some other people into going keto with you. A study by the NIH published a study on the benefits of recruiting participants with friends and increasing social support for weight loss and maintenance. Of those who participated in the study on their own, only 76% finished and 24% maintained their weight loss for four to ten months. But of those who did the program with others, 95% completed the program and 66% were able to maintain their weight loss for four to ten months. This is good news for those you care about as well as a good reason to strengthen your bonds with others, which will in turn strengthen you.
Taking the First Steps
Changing your diet and starting to exercise is intimidating to a lot of people. It just looks like a monumental task, especially if you’re not only starting at zero but also have to struggle to begin at all. Luckily, the ketogenic diet helps you reach your goal every step of the way. Feeling tired? Being in ketosis will give you more energy. Bummed about cutting out sweets? Ketosis is a mood elevator! Can’t keep your mind centered because your work out has left you sore? Ketosis improves your focus! Of course, it doesn’t hurt that once you make it past the keto flu stage, if you experience keto flu at all, that you’ll quickly drop a couple pounds of water weight.
You’ll do cardio, strength train, and eat healthy. You’ll experience setbacks, disappointments, and feel hopeless at times. But then you’ll notice your pants are looser, you caught that bus you didn’t expect to catch, and people start asking you, “Hey, have you lost weight?” You’ll smile knowing that it’s all thanks to some small choices you made months ago that led to all that change. And that’s something you can start today just by cutting carbs, doing some cardio, and adding some moderate weight training at the gym.