I wanted to share some keto tips and tricks that worked for me when I was starting out on my keto journey. I have been keto for two months now (one month with no cheat days) and have lost nearly 30 pounds, but I am certainly no expert. I do know that what I have followed so far has shown tremendous progress and given me a lot of energy that I didn’t have before.
Please remember that this is what has worked for me and there is no single way to do it. Everyone’s keto is different and the trick is going to be finding what works for you. The information provided below is what I follow.
- Keep net carbs under 20g per day. Net carbs are total carbs minus fiber. The ketogenic or keto diet is a low carb high-fat diet that relies on nutritional ketosis (as opposed to therapeutic ketosis) which is a natural state where your body burns fat as fuel instead of glucose. During ketosis, your body creates ketones as your energy source. (Source). Some people can eat more carbs to stay in ketosis but 20g per day will guarantee that you get into and stay in ketosis. Check out Dr. Eric Berg’s introduction to ketosis and fat burning. You don’t have to eat carbs at all on this diet, because it is not an essential nutrient. My diet consists mostly of meat, eggs, cheese, and vegetables (spinach, asparagus, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are some of my favorites).
- The first one to two weeks may be hard. The keto flu is no joke. Breaking your body’s reliance on sugar and carbohydrates (glucose) will lead to withdrawal symptoms just like giving up caffeine. As your body gets used to not burning carbs for energy, it can make you feel achy and tired like you have the flu. You may also find that you have cravings for carbs during this time. I promise they will subside as you continue on. To get through this, I didn’t worry about my calories for the first few weeks, I ate no more than 20g net carbs daily, and I increased the amount of fat that I was eating until I felt full. When your body is switching from glucose to fat as its major energy source, you need to increase the amount of fat you consume so that your body has an easily accessible source to convert to energy. I also made sure that I drank plenty of water and replenished electrolytes. You want to be sure that you are hitting your sodium, magnesium, and potassium goals. We use pink Himalayan salt to help with that and lite salt (sometimes we will add a 1/4 tsp of these to our beverage). I also take a magnesium supplement daily to help with muscle cramping. When you are feeling low, dissolve a cube of Wyler’s Chicken Boullion in hot water and drink it. Fat bombs also helped me get through this time; there are many recipes online for fat bombs.
- Figure out your calorie and macro (fat, protein, and carbohydrate) goals/limits. I used an online calculator to determine this. Enter your information, set your lifestyle to sedentary, and set your net carbs to 20g. This calculator is going to give you ranges for protein and fat based on your exercise/activity level. I choose the highest protein option because part of my journey involves weightlifting as exercise and I want to have the protein to build muscle. After you fill everything in, you will get your personal results.
- Track what you eat so that you know you are not going over your net carbs and calories each day. Set up your goals in the app using the calculator results you got from the online calculator. When you are using the app, make sure that you verify that the foods you are using within the app are accurate. Check product labels or check the USDA nutrition information on the web to be sure you are using the correct information. I use an app called Cronometer to do this. I have also used CarbManager and MyFitnessPal. Each app has strengths and weaknesses, so experiment with each to find what fits your lifestyle.
- Weigh your food. You want to track everything that you put into your body. Weighing what you eat is the most accurate way to do this. We use this scale. You could start out with a less expensive option, but this one is heavy duty, and it will quickly switch units between grams and ounces.
- Follow the “rules.” Your net carbs is a hard limit; you should never exceed this number. Calories are a limit because you still have to burn more calories than you take in for weight loss. You don’t have to eat a certain amount of fat on the keto diet, just enough to stay full. Over time, your body will become fat-adapted and will more readily burn stored fat as fuel, so fat is a limit. Protein is a goal. You need protein during a calorie deficit, so you maintain muscle mass.
- Find recipes that interest you. Keto doesn’t have to be boring. There are a ton of sites out there with recipes; some of which will mimic your favorite comfort foods and sweet treats. Some of my favorite recipe sites are: KetoConnect, Ruled.Me, Headbanger’s Kitchen, Wholesome Yum, and Tasteaholics.
- Track your measurements. I have an official weigh-in day on Sunday (I actually weigh every day which is a little obsessive; once a week is adequate). I use a digital scale that is Bluetooth enabled and syncs to an app on my phone (which syncs with Cronometer through my Fitbit app). I also track my waist measurement that day and my ketones. One note about tracking ketones: this is entirely optional and using urine strips are not recommended because they are not accurate to track nutritional ketosis and are made for Type 1 Diabetics. I use the Keto Mojo blood monitor to track my ketone levels weekly (just for informational purposes) and daily to track my blood glucose (diabetes runs in my family, and I am trying to monitor how the diet affects my blood sugar).
- Don’t get bogged down by numbers. Don’t let the number on the scale discourage you. There were some weeks at the beginning that I would gain a few ounces rather than lose but I could feel the changes in my energy level, my mental clarity, and my clothes. The focus of your journey should be your health rather than just your weight. Stick to your macros and make small improvements every day and you will see results over time. Remember that this is a change in your lifestyle and not a temporary or fad diet.
- Find motivation. If you have an Instagram account, check out some of the keto hashtags, such as #ketotransformations. Instagram seems to have a very supportive keto community and looking at the transformation pictures is an excellent motivator for me. Also, there are groups on Facebook, but some of that community does not seem as supportive as Instagram. There are many keto subreddits on Reddit that provide motivation, recipes, and information.
- Research, research, research. Don’t take my word for what works. Read the websites I listed above for their keto advice. Interact with people on social media. Listen to podcasts (we like Keto For Normies and the KetoSavage podcast). You can also find a lot of information on YouTube (Dr. Eric Berg and Dr. Ken Berry). Read, listen, watch, experiment and find out what works best for you. This is your journey, and you have to find your own path. You can’t just follow someone else’s plan verbatim.
I hope this information helps. Please comment if you have questions or suggestions for me. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to speak privately. I plan to follow up and delve deeper into some of these topics in future blog posts.