What is Keto?
Keto is short for ketogenic/ketogenic diet/ketogenic lifestyle. They all refer to the same thing. When following keto, you are in a state of ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state when ketones are produced in the liver as a result of a low carbohydrate diet. In a standard american diet, the body seeks glucose for energy. Glucose is produced when we consume carbohydrates and sugar. When in ketosis the body seeks fat for energy instead of glucose. We achieve ketosis by restricting our carb intake.
Ok, Ketosis. How Do I Get There?
Now that we have restricted our carb intake, simultaneously, we want to monitor how much fat and protein we are consuming. Fat, protein, and carbohydrates, also known as Macronutrients (Macros for short), are the components that make up all food. Your daily macros are specifically calculated for your body.
The Keto diet is described as high fat, moderate protein, and low carb. Thus, your macros will be roughly 70% Fat, 20% Protein, and 5% Carbohydrates.
You can calculate your own macros, use an online macro calculator, or purchase your macro calculations from me. Your results will guide your daily eating limits to ensure you are eating at a deficit. That means that you’re taking in less energy via food than you are putting out via exercise/living. Your macros also ensure that you consume at least the minimum amount of fat that you need for your organs to sustain themselves and protein to maintain your muscles, hair, skin, and nails.
We get into ketosis because we are eliminating carbs as our primary source of energy. It will be tough in the beginning, but after the first week it will be second nature. Because your body will be burning body fat, it will not be looking for carbs/glucose for energy and your cravings will decrease over time. The fat that you eat will keep you full longer. If you do find yourself getting hungry, increase your fats for the day or your next meal. Remember that your carb macro is a limit, not a goal! You do not have to reach 20g of net carbs, but you should never exceed 20g of net carbs. To calculate your net carbs, subtract the FIBER and/or SUGAR ALCOHOLS from the TOTAL CARBOHYDRATES listed on the nutrition facts.
EX: Nutrition facts on my Sunflower Seed Kernels lists 7g TOTAL CARBOHYDRATES and 3g Fiber per 1/4 cup serving.
7g TOTAL CARBS – 3g FIBER = 4g NET CARBS
20g NET CARBS for the day – 4g NET CARBS = 16g NET CARBS REMAINING
Note: 20g net carbs may be as much as 50g total carbs.
Protein helps to maintain the muscles in your body along with your hair, skin, and nails. If you eat below this goal because you just aren’t hungry, that is fine. However, you do not want to make this a habit as this is typically the minimum amount of protein that your body needs to maintain healthy functions. Listen to your body and truly recognize how much protein you need. If you are exercising daily, you may need more protein to aid in muscle recovery.
This is now your body’s most essential nutrient. Fat makes up a majority of your calorie intake. You do not want to exceed this daily number. Your fat macro is a lever. That means that you adjust how much fat you eat based on how you feel daily, but without exceeding your number. You may find it difficult to reach this number because you are feeling full and satisfied. That is fine. Do not force yourself to eat. However, if you find yourself getting hungry often or like you are not full, add fat. Make sure that you are consuming healthy fats to meet your goal. Healthy fats include: avocado, butter, bacon, coconut oil, MCT oil, and sometimes nuts.
Remember, when in ketosis, your body is burning fat for energy. That is the fat that you eat AND the fat that you are already holding in your body. If you eat too much fat, your body will not have the opportunity to burn the fat that you need to release from your body. Eat until you are full and your body will handle the rest.
As you restrict your carb intake you are training your body to get into ketosis. However, this brings on the symptoms of what is often called “keto flu”. Every gram of carbs has the potential to retain 2-3 grams of water. This is why we often feel bloated after a bread binge. While restricting your carb intake, your body is no longer retaining so much water and is in turn flushing your system more frequently. i.e. you’ll be using the bathroom a lot. As your system is being flushed, your electrolytes are also being flushed. Our primary electrolytes are sodium, magnesium, and potassium. These minerals help your body function and keeps your system balanced. Electrolytes are depleted daily and in turn must be replenished DAILY!
Keto flu is your body’s response as it shifts from burning glucose for energy to burning fat for energy due to carb restrictions. Your body is literally going through carb withdrawals. Your symptom severity can vary based on your diet prior to adapting this lifestyle. Stick it out and the results will be worth it.
Everyone’s experience varies. Keto flu symptoms may include any combination of the following:
- brain fog
- muscle cramps
- difficulty sleeping
- low energy
- heart palpitations
- low blood pressure
- extreme thirst
- carb cravings
You may be able to find relief from Keto flu symptoms by using the following tips and products:
- pickle juice
- chicken broth
- Himalayan pink salt (sodium)
- no salt (potassium)
- electrolyte powder
- magnesium/potassium supplements
- Recommended products
During this transition and carb withdrawal your body is releasing more water. You’re going to be using the bathroom a lot because there are no carbs to retain that fluid in your body. As you are releasing more water, it is also important that you drink more water. Staying hydrated can bring some relief to Keto flu symptons, but will also help keep your body functioning properly, keep your organs hydrated, and help your skin clear up and snap back as your weight changes.
Many recommend drinking a gallon of water a day. Jumping to a gallon of water per day may be overwhelming if water is not currently a part of your routine. Set weekly goals to increase your water intake until you get to a comfortable and consistent amount that suits your body and your lifestyle.
Ok, sis. When do we eat?
What’s great about Keto is that we’re eating real food. No pills or shakes are necessary for success. You may have already heard that butter, bacon, and cheese are “Keto Approved” foods. This is true, but eating while Keto is about more than indulging in such fatty delights.
We’ve all see the Standard American Diet food pyramid:
This way of eating has been ingrained in our brains from childhood and is encouraged as the healthy way of eating.
Well, when in ketosis, we flip that food pyramid upside down:
In real life, there are not “keto foods” and “non-keto foods”. Ketosis is a metabolic state in which our bodies process energy. The key is to provide our bodies with quality whole foods so that it can maintain in ketosis, heal from within, and effectively process energy.
When making food choices, these foods are on the “Keto approved” list and are most likely to help you reap health benefits as you maintain this lifestyle. I have not listed every possible item to eat, but have included a wide variety of options.
It is important that you read your food labels and research ingredients. There are a lot of hidden sugars, carbs, and chemicals in our food. Read and research anything you are not sure about.
Meat & Fish
- leafy greens (lettuce, cabbage, kale, collards, mustards, turnips, spinach, swiss chard, bok choy, etc.)
- brussel sprouts
- green beans
- tomatoes and onions (in moderation)
- unsweetened teas
- unsweetened coffee
- Broth (chicken, beef, bone, vegetable)
- Berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries)
- Lime/ Lemon
- heavy whipping cream (HWC)
- Oils (avocado, coconut, olive, MCT, macadamia)
- duck fat
Nuts, Seeds, & Flour
- macadamia nuts
- sunflower seeds
- pumpkin seeds
- hemp seeds
- flax seeds
- chia seeds
- almond flour
- coconut flour
- flax meal
When planning your meals, the easiest route to take is to: 1) choose a protein, 2) choose a vegetable (carbs), and 3) add a healthy fat. The amount of protein, veggies, and fat will vary based on your macros.
Omelette: Eggs with sausage, spinach, and green peppers, topped cheese and cooked in butter.
Steak with a side of mashed cauliflower, topped with butter.
Grilled chicken with bacon wrapped asparagus.
Loaded broccoli: Steamed broccoli topped with cheese, sour cream, chives, bacon, and the protein of your choice (chicken, steak, shrimp, etc.)
Skillet Pizza with a side salad and ranch dressing
Foods to Avoid
To stay in ketosis, the following foods should be avoided while living the Keto lifestyle:
- Fruits (except berries and avocados)
- Grains (bread, pasta, corn, rice, cereal, oatmeal, granola)
- Root Vegetables (carrots, potatoes)
- Sugar/honey (Google: names of sugar)
- Sugary drinks (Soda, juice)
Strict vs. Not Strict
While I am #TeamMacros, there are some people who choose a less strict approach to Keto.
Lazy Keto describes those who focus on eliminating sugar and junk from their diet and focus on restricting their carb intake to 20g net carbs per day. Their focus is not on calculating macros or tracking food in an app unless it is to monitor carbs.
Dirty Keto describes those who follow the Keto lifestyle, but may include more processed foods in their diet. They typically follow the “if it fits in my macros” mindset. For example, low carb tortillas have flour in them. Flour is an ingredient that is considered non-Keto. However, many people eat these tortillas as long as it fits in their daily macros. I prefer the term “Comfortable Keto” because following this route is just a little more relaxed than strict keto. You are still in ketosis, but give yourself a few more options.
Strict Keto describes those who follow their macros and count calories while also focusing on ingredients. Strict Ketoers may eliminate certain ingredients including artificial sweeteners that have a high glycemic index. They track all of their food and make no exceptions outside of their plan and their daily macros. Taking this route provides accountability and helps increase your discipline to another level beyond saying no to your old favorite foods.
Ok, But Which Way is the Right Way?
All of these Keto routes have proven to be successful for different reasons.
Honestly, everything that you eat does not have to be organic, grass-fed, fresh off the farm. That’s just not realistic.
In my journey I have prioritized certain foods and I make sure they are fresh/clean/whole, whatever you want to call them. However, there are some foods that I know are way better than the foods that I used to eat whether organic or not. At this point of my journey I believe that I am following a combination of all three… depending on the day. I’ll make certain exceptions and keep living my life. With that in mind, I did have to follow strict Keto when I started (for a year an a half) in order to establish the discipline that I have now to maintain a Keto lifestyle.
Don’t let social media bully you into spending all of your money on certain foods. You only have to answer to yourself and as you learn your body, you will have a better understanding of your preferences. Whatever you decide, make sure that health is your ultimate goal.
Do I Have to Exercise?
Exercise is a valuable part of a balanced lifestyle. With that said, it is not entirely necessary at the beginning of your journey. However, as you become more comfortable and confident in the Keto lifestyle, I highly recommend some form of physical activity.
You do not have to go to the gym. There are free videos and programs On Demand and online that you can complete at home, walking and running outdoors, swimming, city leagues… anything! You just want to be sure to do something that gets your heart pumping.
Find some workout ideas HERE
Check Your Mental
There is a lot of information about Keto and ways to customize it specifically to your needs as a lifestyle. It may feel easy to get overwhelmed and just say, “There’s got to be another way!”
Trust me. I said the same thing before I sat down, wrote out a plan, and made the choice to commit to myself.
We will either have to learn how to eat for our body or learn how to follow doctor’s orders while taking medication. Even not making a choice is a choice.
What are you choosing?
I’m not saying that this lifestyle is going to be easy. There will be days when you may just be completely over it. You may not feel your best or think you look your best, but then your remember your WHY. Anything worth having is worth fighting for. Are you willing to fight for your life? Your family? Your future?
As you embark on this journey you will be faced with things from your past and present that are not so pretty. There are still consequences from previous choices that you will have to overcome. You will have to learn to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations. But you are not alone.
There is a community of Keto-ers who share in your experience. As you reap the physical benefits of living a Keto lifestyle, don’t forget to acknowledge the mental benefits!
Conquering is not easy, but it is oh, so worth it.
Success starts in your mind!