I finally went to my first social gathering since the pandemic started. I went to a family cookout with about 25 other family members. Some of those family members have begun their own keto journey or have made some changes to their diets. What I noticed was everyone seemed to have their own idea on how to do the diet and that’s okay, we all need to do what we feel is best for ourselves and there is no single plan we can all follow to get great results. I would like to give some general guidelines on how I think you should begin a keto diet.
First and maybe most important, if you are considering a keto diet you need to commit to at least 8 weeks initially. It takes the average person 6-8 weeks to enter deeper ketosis and make the switch to burning fat for fuel. You have to deplete your body of its stored glycogen (stored sugar and carbs) and give it enough fat, so it feels safe enough to start burning fat for fuel. I think many people get hung up on old information that fat is bad for you, or eggs are too high in cholesterol to eat every day, or whatever. Most all of the information we have been given about nutrition has all been proven wrong, and the way we were taught to eat is exactly why most Americans are obese and have serious health issues. If you have a concern about a particular issue, my suggestion is to google it or look it up on YouTube. You still need to be careful of your sources of information. I would not even take the advice of a doctor as the absolute truth they don’t spend much time studying nutrition in med school. Some doctors yes, but not all of them are up on current information. Some of my trusted YouTube sources are Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Jason Fung, Dr. Berg, Mark Sisson, Shawn Stevenson, and there are others, but these guys have been at this for decades and respected by many as some of the leaders in health, nutrition, and fasting information. Seek a few different sources on the topic of your concern, and form an opinion based on what you believe and what makes sense to you. If you have reservations about certain aspects of the keto diet, if you can’t commit to at least 8 weeks, and if you think you will be cheating often, I advise you to look for another diet. Hey, everyone will likely stumble and have some moments of weakness. I think expecting anyone to be perfect is an impossible ask. The trouble with cheating (having sugar and excess carbs) on keto is, when you eat a high fat diet combined with carbs and or sugar you can get in trouble real fast. You need to strive to stick to the plan whenever possible if you want the results you are seeking.
Here is my idea of how you should do keto. There are technically many ways you can do keto and still meet your macros and achieve the state of ketosis. The most common macros are 5% carbs, 20% protein, and 75% fat. I would advise you to do it by trying to include 7 cups of vegetables daily. This gives you the fiber, minerals, and vitamins you need to avoid some of the issues people experience by doing keto without eating a balanced diet. Some of these complications include constipation, cramping, hair loss, the keto flu, and on and on. If you really want to get healthy, you will have to eat healthy and make lifestyle changes. The way you eat, sleep, exercise, and your environment all contribute to your overall health. Don’t stop reading just yet you will not have to spend hours in the gym each day, but you should aim for at least 60 minutes of movement in each day. It does not have to be all at once, spread it out throughout the day. I would not advise you to do strenuous workouts daily either, there is plenty of evidence to support that’s not the best plan either. Just focus on eating healthy, developing good sleep habits, and moderate daily exercise.
Seven cups of veggies a day is not as tough as it sounds. I eat a big salad each day that can meet that requirement by itself. I also add things like kale, spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes to my eggs for breakfast. Eating this many vegetables also helps you feel full and satisfied for longer periods of time.
With keto or any diet, I would suggest you eat fewer larger meals over smaller more frequent meals. Eating less often allows your insulin levels to drop and you can begin to tap into those stored reserves or fat for the fuel your body needs. Also, snacking or eating smaller meals makes you want to eat more often. As soon as the body senses food, your insulin levels spike and make you hungry. I would suggest you do not snack at all when possible. If you get hungry between meals, try adding some additional fat or fiber next time to extend the period you feel full and satisfied. If you are eating correctly, you will notice that you do not get hungry as often. This is when you can really boost you results. Avoid eating when you do not feel hungry, you have enough stored calories on your body to last several days with no issues. I am not advising that you go several days without eating, you may start by going 12 hours or longer between meals. Initially, I would not suggest you go more than 36 hours without food, and you should work your way up to that. Only go without food for as long as you feel well and strong, you should feel good if you are fasting in a healthy way. My suggestion would be to get to 2 meals a day and push them as close together as you are comfortable doing. I would shoot for 8 hours initially and work towards a 4-hour eating window if you are comfortable with it. If you are over 40 like me, I would limit this to 4 days a week max. Fasting the same way and too often can cause your metabolism to drop and impact weight loss. This same theory applies to a caloric deficit as well, too deep, or too long of a caloric deficit will cause your metabolism to drop. Your body is just trying to keep you alive and thinks there is never enough food around. So, the body lowers metabolism to conserve energy and reduce the number of daily calories it uses. Losing weight is tough and the body doesn’t like to let go of it. It views stored calories as insurance that keeps you alive when food is not available. The problem is that food is always available, and most people do not go long enough between meals to ever dip into stored energy.
Many people like to short their fat macro and think it’s bad for them to eat a high fat diet. Initially you need to try and hit that goal to make it easier to make the transition to burning fat for its main fuel source. Once you deplete your body of its stored glycogen, it needs to know there is enough fat to become comfortable using it as its main source of energy. Most of the fat you consume will be burned for fuel and will not stay in your system. I also recommend getting most of your fat from healthy sources. Avocados, avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, hemp seed oil, grass fed butter, and nuts are all healthy ways to meet your suggested fat macro. You can play around with how much fat you consume after 8 weeks and see how it affects you. Along those lines, I would encourage you to play with all your macros as you go. The macros are just a suggestion and may not be the best path for everyone to follow. I suggest you keep a food journal and track both your meals and how you feel each day. You may want to eat more foods that help you feel great and have energy and reduce the foods which impact you negatively. Most likely the way you feel is from what you ate the day before or earlier in the day. Try and figure out how different foods impact you and design a diet that helps you feel your best each day.
As always, I suggest buying clean, grass fed, pasture raised, wild caught, and organic proteins whenever possible. What your food eats does matter. Just like we are made from everything we eat, so is our food. If I had my way it would also support regenerative responsible farming, as it helps to protect our planet and environment. Meats from industrial farming contain additional hormones and chemicals not listed on the label, they also have maybe the largest negative impact on the environment.
It would be my advice to avoid many of the popular keto products that are available. Like exogenous ketones, keto chow, and others you will be spammed with when joining a keto group. Most people that sell these have never tried keto, know little to nothing about it, and their only interest is in trying to make money off of people who are desperate to lose weight. My view on taking exogenous ketones is that it would likely prohibit you from producing your own ketones. If your body has fuel on hand to use, it will use that before it makes any of its own. They are fairly expensive, and I think some use them as a cheat or crutch to try and achieve ketosis without following a diet to put them in ketosis. I think the best way to guarantee results and to be able to keep the weight off once you reach your goal, is to learn how and what to eat to provide your body with what it needs to be healthy. It will be possible to have a more relaxed diet once you reach your goal, but you may have to be strict to reach it. If you get too relaxed and put on a few pounds, you will have already learned what to do to lose it. Many say keto is a good way to lose weight, but most gain it after going off the plan. If you do return to your old habits, you will likely return to your old body. If you develop new healthier habits and keep them, you will be much more likely to keep it off.
There are also forms of keto like lazy keto and dirty keto you may want to explore and learn about. Lazy keto is 10% of your calories from carbs and not tracking anything else. This could lead to possibly not achieving ketosis but may still benefit from reduced carbs and sugar. It does allow you to expand your diet to include more fruits, veggies, and starchy veggies like potatoes. It may also be worth trying before trying for a few weeks to ease into regular keto. Dirty keto includes more fast food, diet sodas, and usually more carbs. This diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies and more cravings for unhealthy foods. People still manage to have success on many kinds of diets, it is up to you to decide which path you want to follow. I only suggest you do your research and learn what you need to pay attention to avoid complications, nutrient deficiencies, and get the most out of whatever journey you choose.
That is my idea of how to start a ketogenic lifestyle, but you should feel encouraged to modify it over time, so it works best for you. Ideally you fill your diet with foods you enjoy eating and make you feel great. Ultimately only you can figure out exactly how you want to keto.
Good luck on your journey and have a great day.