Keto is all the rage, but there is a lot of misinformation out there, and keto can be done in a number of ways, both healthy and unhealthy. These keto diet tips will help you sift through the information to help you determine if keto is right for you.
What is “keto?”
In a nutshell, the keto diet is a low carb, high fat diet with moderate protein. Proponents boast the benefits experienced by eating bacon, butter, and avocados while avoiding bread and sugar.
While green veggies are a staple in a healthy keto diet, gone are potatoes (both white and sweet) and other starches.
A ketogenic diet is based on the practice of eating in such a way to cause your body to create ketones for energy, vs. running on glucose, as the standard American diet, full of refined carbs and sugars, primes us to do.
What are ketones? Ketones are produced when you don’t have enough insulin in your body to turn sugar (or glucose) into energy. Your body then turns to fat instead.
Your liver turns this fat into ketones and sends them into your bloodstream, where your muscles and other tissues can use them for fuel.
Is a ketogenic diet anti inflammatory?
While there have not been extensive studies done on humans, studies on animals have found a ketogenic diet to reduce inflammation.
Particular attention has been paid, however, to the anti-inflammatory affects of a ketogenic diet on the brain, especially for those with seizure disorders.
According to an article from Psychology Today, ketosis “means a lower seizure risk and a better environment for neuronal recovery and repair.”
The same article goes on to point out that a ketogenic diet also boasts:
- Increased GABA (a calming, inhibitory neurotransmitter) in the brain, and decreased aspartate (an excitatory neurotransmitter which can be neurotoxic).
- More efficient production of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), the main source of energy for most cellular processes.
- More efficient energy usage in the brain with less toxic waste that is likely to result in brain inflammation.
How long does it take to get your body into ketosis?
So ketosis sounds pretty good, but you’re worried about “keto flu” and how long it will take your body to adjust?
For most people, staying under the optimal carb limit (we’ll talk more about that below), you should be able to get into ketosis in a few days, but for others, the process can take up to a week.
As with any kind of diet change or detox, you may go through some uncomfortable symptoms as your body transitions. Many people experience what has been dubbed the “keto flu,” which includes fatigue, achiness, headaches, and even feeling weak or faint. Keep reading for keto tips to help you make the transition more easily.
How do you know when your body is in ketosis?
Besides the above symptoms as you begin to transition into using fat for fuel, there are a few ways to know you are in ketosis.
Your breath or urine may change smell. There can be a sweet or even acidic/acetone smell in your breath or urine once you’ve hit ketosis. This should go away after your body gets well-adjusted.
You can test your blood or urine. You can use ketone test strips to test your urine or a ketone meter to test your blood. However, these may not actually measure whether your body is efficiently using ketones.
You drop weight like it’s hot. Ok, not everyone drops huge amounts of weight straight away, but rapid weight loss may be a sign that you’re hitting #ketogoals.
Can a ketogenic diet help you lose weight?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched shows like The Biggest Loser and cringed as well-intentioned coaches demanded their wards eat low-fat diets full of skinless chicken breasts, steamed vegetables, and whole grains. I cringe because, while restricting calories will eventually lead to weight loss, the process may be slower and less efficient than simply cutting carbs.
The answer is, yes, the ketogenic diet can help you lose weight. A long-term study of a ketogenic diet for weight loss found “The weight and body mass index of the patients decreased significantly.”
While other studies have questioned the safety of long-term ketogenic dieting (whilst demonstrating the benefits of a short-term keto diet), the study demonstrated the beneficial effects of a long-term ketogenic diet:
[Keto] significantly reduced the body weight and body mass index of the patients. Furthermore, it decreased the level of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and blood glucose, and increased the level of HDL cholesterol. Administering a ketogenic diet for a relatively longer period of time did not produce any significant side effects in the patients. Therefore, the present study confirms that it is safe to use a ketogenic diet for a longer period of time than previously demonstrated.
So how many carbs can I eat?
Everyone wants to know- how many carbs can you eat per day on a keto diet?
Here’s where we get to the nitty gritty, and the answer will depend largely on what your goals for doing keto are.
Brain inflammation or autoimmune disorder? Probably want to stay very low carb.
Trying to lose weight or support hormones (especially for women)? You may benefit from carb cycling.
Struggling with your relationship with food and worried about falling back into bad habits like binging or behaviors that may look like an eating disorder? You may benefit from having a “cheat day.” (Though I don’t really like the connotation of the word “cheat.”
Zero/no carb- also known as a “carnivore diet,” which literally does not include carbs, so therefore no vegetables or fruits. While I’ve heard of good results on weight loss and autoimmune conditions, and have heard of children on the spectrum doing well with only meats and animal fats for a short period of time, this may not be a good choice long-term, particularly for women whose hormones depend on carbohydrates for proper functioning.
Low/moderate carb- this is where most keto diets fall. To stay low carb and encourage ketosis, you need to eat less than 50 grams of net carbs per day, meaning you subtract the grams of fiber from the grams of carbs in foods.
Carb cycling- most days, total carb intake will be below 50 grams, but on days when you cycle up, carb intake may reach up to 150 grams, but should come from healthy foods like fruits and veggies.
Cheat days- while I don’t like to use the word “cheat,” because I think we should make a plan and not feel guilt or other negative emotions related to what we eat, for the sake of explanation, a “cheat” day simply means you allow yourself a day each week to have food freedom and not count carbs.
There are lots of low carb sweeteners that can be used on a keto diet, most notably stevia, xylitol, and erythritol. A newer sweetener is becoming popular, called monk fruit, though most contain erythritol as well.
I’ve never been a huge fan of zero calorie sweeteners, though I think they can be ok in moderation. I’ve personally found that I can stay in ketosis and still enjoy small amounts of raw honey in fat bombs. Many low carb sweeteners are corn-based, so our family avoids those for this reason.
One mistake some people make is by switching over to artificial sweeteners. Some people call this “dirty keto,” which means that technically you can be in ketosis, but it’s not a “clean” or healthy way of eating.
Our favorite keto diet resources
Ready to give it a try? Here are some keto diet tips to get you started!
Keto diet tips from the pros
From The Castaway Kitchen:
From Flab to Fitness:
From Keto Summit:
From Beauty and the Foodie:
Keto cookbooks you’ll love
Made Whole: More than 145 anti-inflammatory keto-paleo recipes to nourish you from the inside out. Our family especially loves the Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Tenders on page 210, but there are tons of tempting recipes, including plenty of desserts and treats! Get the book here.
Keto: The Complete Guide to Success on the Keto Diet. The simplified science behind a ketogenic diet, complete with no-cook meal plans. Grab it here.
Keto Made Easy: 100+ Easy Keto Dishes Made Fast to Fit Your Life. Classic recipes, remade keto-style. Grab the book here.
We have a few keto-friendly recipes here on the site, but you can find just about any keto recipe these days by searching “keto ________” in your favorite search engine.
Keto products we love
Embarking on a keto diet is really a lifestyle change, so here are a few things to help you along and to consider stocking your kitchen with.
Not sure where to start or which products or supplements are safe? Try the Onnit Keto Box. It’s filled with keto-friendly products and arrives month after month with fresh ideas, yummy snacks, and supplements to help you get and stay in ketosis. Check it out here.
In addition, you’ll find that Onnit has a whole array of supplements and foods to support a keto lifestyle. I especially love their Trilogy Nut Butter, Krill Oil, and Total Gut Health (essential for helping break down all those fats you’ll be consuming!).
Mr. Incredible really loves receiving his monthly box of keto goodies and has enjoyed the Powerfood Active to get him going in the mornings. He also never misses his Total Human supplement pack, which comes in convenient day and night packets so he’s able to get his brain moving in the mornings and calm it down at night for restful sleep. Check it out here.
You already know I’m a huge fan of MCT oil, and there are lots of great ones to choose from. Onnit has a quality MCT oil, as well as flavored Emulsified MCT oils to make your morning cuppa extra yummy, and even a savory MCT oil for soups and salads.
Be prepared and go for it using these keto diet tips
Using these keto diet tips, you can be prepared for a new keto lifestyle. Figure out what carb level works best for you, what your goals are, and what to expect as you make the transition and you’ll be a keto pro in no time.