Written By Denise Tam, Holistic Nutritionist
Image credit: Total Shape
The ketogenic diet has one of the steeper learning curves when compared to other diets like vegan or paleo. The commitment factor of any diet is what makes it work and so it’s extremely important we can get through that first hurdle which is that transition into ketosis. Those who live a typical modern lifestyle of convenient fast foods and snacks will have a more difficult time making these transitions compared to those who are already adopting a healthy lifestyle and eating wholefoods. Of course there are those who are extremely adaptable. You know the ones that don’t train and just run a marathon or attempt base camp? But for the majority of us, we need some planning, prepping and understanding of what’s before us. Because the keto diet is quite strict, it will require careful planning. For many, this diet would be on the completely different side of the spectrum in terms of lifestyle and eating habits even if you are a green smoothie loving machine. Achieving ketosis is not really something you can just wing without understanding what essentially happens in your body during ketosis and what gets your body into that metabolic state. But more importantly planning your body and mind to successfully achieve ketosis is what most forget about when excitedly embarking on this journey.
Below are some mistakes I see people make and my tips on how not to fail.
1) Failure to Prep and Plan
Carbohydrates normally account for at least 50-70% of the typical American diet. Though our ancestors were always living off of a low carbohydrate diet of around 30% carbs. It wasn’t until the industrialization of food when we started creating these processed grains that were convenient and stable that we started increasing our grain consumption to such large amounts. In Asia, our meals are also carbohydrate heavy typically based on rice, noodles and bread. The refined and highly processed carbohydrates that we are used to in our modern day life are extremely addictive. These fast-digesting carbohydrates like white rice, noodles, bread and pastries can stimulate regions of the brain involved in cravings and addiction, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Also, if you’re not used to eating fat or if you’re not supporting your body to digest the large amount of fat that you would need to consume on a ketogenic diet, you may find it very difficult to drink coconut oil or put butter in your coffee without running to the bathroom straight after. This, also known as ‘keto diarrhea’ 💩 which will make it extremely difficult to maintain a keto lifestyle.
Preparation Tips: Start on a low carb (around 30g) and higher protein diet for a week or two prior to starting on your official keto program. Once you feel you are adapted to this you can then move into your full fledged keto macros of maybe 15-20g of carbohydrates and decrease your protein and increase your fast. While you’re doing this, set yourself up for success by preparing your mind and your environment to support you into this transition. You can also consider a digestive enzyme to help you break down the increased intake of fats. Other Reading : Beginners Checklist to Starting on Keto
2) Overeating the Wrong Protein
Many fall into the trap of eating too much protein in order to fill their hunger and cravings. The keto diet requires a very careful planning of macro nutrients and an overconsumption of one can switch you out of ketosis very quickly or prevent your body from switching to a ketogenic state in the first place. While too little protein will eat away at your muscle mass, something we don’t want. More people are in the too much protein camp when starting out on keto. Protein is used to fill their satiation because frankly who would choose a spoonful of oil over a piece of bacon? And though protein is allowed and should make up a portion of your macros in a keto diet, the type of protein is just as important. Processed meats and dairy like bacon, cheese, burgers and sausages can create inflammation, a stressor on the body. Stress on its own can kick your keto goals right out the window. This trap is so common that it’s now been termed ‘dirty keto to reflect unhealthy keto choices.
Preparation Tips :
If you’re following the low to moderate cycle into the keto diet, you would likely be able to increase fats more easily and keep your protein intake on the lower side. Plan out your meals and stock your fridge with healthy proteins so you’re not reaching for that cheese burger each time. An easy way that doesn’t break your bank is to keep a good quality whey protein and collagen peptide at work or home. Powders are easy to store and also take out with you. My favourite whey is from Protelicious, a cold processed whey from grass fed, pasture raised cows in New Zealand. For my collagen, I use Locako’s keto enhanced pasture raised collagen with coconut derived MCT oil that provides 10g of collagen and 5g of MCT oil per serving! When starting out it’s also important to track your protein intake and ketone levels. This way you will know what throws you in and out of ketosis.
3) Keto Flu
Some people get what is called the ‘keto flu’ after they have switched into ketosis or fat burning mode from sugar burning mode. This usually happens a week or so into the start of your keto plan. The keto flu is not a virus or bacteria, nor is it contagious in any way. It’s a term that was coined because of the similarities to the flu. Not everyone gets the keto flu but for some they may experience symptoms of :
- mood swings
- brain fog
- sugar cravings
- muscle cramps
For some the symptoms from the keto flu are too much for them to handle and they end up giving up.
I don’t like to take my chances and always aim for prevention rather than cure. It’s the same with getting the keto flu. Below are some tips in minimizing either the symptoms or the chances of getting the keto flu in the first place. A lot of this prevention process comes with the planning stages. Easing into keto will allow your body to adapt to the changs and the shock will not be as, well, shocking. Many of the symptoms are due to a mineral imbalance, dehydration and withdrawals from sugar or carbohydrates. Because ketosis will draw out important minerals from your body, I like to recommend adding some Himalayan Sea Salt to your filtered water every morning and afternoon and to ensure you’re drinking enough fluids. Another great way to get in natural minerals is by including bone broth to your drink list which is extremely rich in nutrients. Make sure your bone broth is from clean sources like Nutraorganic’s organic chicken or pasture raised beef broth. For vegetarians, non gmo organic miso or Nutraorganic’s vegetable stock with a miso base could also help balance your electrolytes. You can also opt for a multivitamin or magnesium.
The planning and preparation to ease your way into a keto diet is really important in making sure you will successfully achieve ketosis as pain free and seamlessly as possible. Set yourself up for success by adopting these strategies.
Read more about Keto in our Ultimate Guide to Keto