Have you ever seen the traditional food groups chart at your doctor’s office? At the bottom, with the most grams, you have bread, rice, potatoes, and carbs. Somewhere at the top, you have your butter, olive oil, and other fats; just after carbs, you have your proteins and meats. Dieticians today typically do not subscribe to this food chart. Some dieticians argue that vegetables and fruits should be at the bottom, comprising at least half of your plate. Others say that protein is the most essential micronutrient.
As science continues to advance and doctors continue to study the human body, the science of diet continues, too, to change. One thing most doctors and scientists agree on, however, is that we do not need to eat as many carbs as we have been traditionally advised. On the keto diet, the food chart flips considerably. The fats take up the widest part of the pyramid, accounting for 75 percent of your caloric intake. Next comes protein, which makes up 20 percent of your caloric information. Finally, carbohydrates account for just 5 percent of your caloric intake. That equals something as small as a slice of whole wheat toast. Some people get 70 percent of their caloric intake from fats and increase their caloric intake from carbs to 10 percent.
That can seem frightening if you have spent your whole life loading up on pasta, rice, potatoes, pizzas, bread, etc. But you don’t need to fret or feel you cannot do it. Many people, even bodybuilders, live successful, healthy lives on the keto diet. If a bodybuilder can lift weights while fueling his workouts with just five percent calories from carbs, you can do it, too!
Now that you know all the benefits of a keto diet, how do you know what is keto-friendly and what isn’t? You will have seen people asking, “Is this keto-friendly?” What does that even mean? A keto-friendly meal/food will promote a state of ketosis. That means it follows the general 7:2:1 fats, proteins, carbs ratio. Fats, proteins, and carbohydrates are called macronutrients. They are the big food molecules from which your body gains energy. Not only that, they power all the processes in your body. If you don’t eat protein, your muscles get weak. If you don’t eat fats, you feel cold. Even your brain benefits from the fats in your diet.
To determine if a food is keto-friendly, you must count its macros. By measuring its macros, you will know approximately how much carbs, proteins, and fat it contains. It is important to note that the keto diet calculates the net carbs of food rather than the overall carbs. If you have ever studied the nutritional information on a food packet, you will notice that it sometimes lists how many carbs are in a serving and how much fiber is part of those carbs. The net carbs are the number left after subtracting fiber from total carbs. So why isn’t fiber calculated as part of your daily carbs? Fiber is processed very differently in your body than simple carbohydrates. Fiber is also known as roughly because it is not broken down by your body to give you energy. Your body cannot digest fiber, so it does not trigger an insulin response. What triggers your insulin response is the net carbs mixed in with the fiber. As the fiber is broken down in your body, the car molecules are freed up, prompting an insulin response.
In a typical diet where a person is not trying to lose weight, eating between 150 and 200 grams of carbohydrates a day is recommended. On a low-carb diet, a person typically consumes between 100 and 150 grams of carbohydrates daily. On a keto diet, this number typically decreases to between 15 and 30 grams of net carbohydrates daily (usually about 30 and 50 grams of total carbohydrates daily). Of course, these figures are based on an average of calories per day, 2000 calories. Nonetheless, these figures will rise or decrease depending on how many calories you consume daily, how much physical activity you perform, your BMI, and other factors.
On a keto diet, you must consume between 111 and 167 grams of fat a day on a 2,000-calorie diet. There is no set amount of protein to finish on a keto diet, just as there is no set amount of protein to consume on a regular diet. It all depends on your lifestyle, your weight, and other factors. If you need to repair muscle tissue, for example, if you work out a lot or are going through illness or stress and need more protein, you will need to adjust your protein intake too. If you are active, try to consume 1.8–2.7 grams of protein per kilogram (or 0.82–1.23 grams of protein per pound of weight. Conversely, if you are sedentary or overweight, you must consume 1.2–1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of weight (or 0.55–0.68 grams per pound).
What is Ketosis?
Once you begin the keto diet, your body will quickly burn fat since it no longer gets its standard supply of carbohydrates. For the first three to four days on the keto diet, your liver still has a store of glucose (called glycogen) with which it fuels your body. Once all this glycogen is used up, your body must find an alternative energy source. Since no glucose is in the body, your insulin level drops steeply. After all, your body does not need insulin anymore.
The human body has always stored fat as a backup energy source to rely on in times of scarcity. Since you feed your body very little glucose, it turns into its backup energy source. After day three or four, your body begins to burn fat and power itself on the ketones released by this process. These ketones, like glucose, also accumulate in the bloodstream to power us. Therefore, you have officially achieved ketosis once this occurs. You will have achieved ketosis at one time or another in life. For instance, this is mild ketosis if you go through many hours without eating. Sleeping with no or tiny dinner will trigger mild ketosis as you sleep. So what happens when your body reaches ketosis on the keto diet?
Naturally, your body prioritizes your brain. You cannot survive without your brain, so your body ensures to fuel it with enough fat and carbohydrates. Without carbs, your body begins to fuel your brain with ketones. This is why one of the symptoms of achieving ketosis is sudden mental clarity. At the same time, your body still needs carbs to survive. This is why you still eat a few carbs daily on the keto diet. This allows for a bit of insulin to be still produced daily. This, in turn, prevents excessive ketones from being made in your body. Like anything else in the body, too many ketones can be detrimental to your body, so you must endeavor to follow the keto diet healthily (as will be discussed in Chapter Five). The little insulin in your body works well enough to prevent excessive ketones from being produced and accumulating in your bloodstream.
When your body produces excessive and toxic levels of ketones, it is known as ketoacidosis. There are three types of ketones produced in the body. They are acetone, acetoacetate, and beta-hydroxybutyrate. When the concentration of these ketones reaches highly toxic levels, they can lead to life-threatening complications. However, the good news is that the limited amount of carbohydrates consumed daily is enough to prevent ketoacidosis.
Types of Keto Diet
There are four types of keto diets that you can follow, allowing you to modify your diet to meet your lifestyle, health, and exercise needs. They are:
- The Standard Keto Diet: The standard keto diet begins in this chapter. It involves consuming about 70 percent (or 75 percent) fat, 20 percent protein, and 10 percent (or 5 percent) carbs. In many instances, people on the standard keto diet fast intermittently daily from 12-18 hours, eating only during a 12-6 hour window.
- The Targeted Keto Diet: The keto diet is excellent for people who exercise and need more carbohydrates to power their workouts. With the targeted keto diet, you can eat slightly more carbs before working out, allowing you to quickly burn through the glucose, using it up for exercise. This way, your body stays in ketosis, and you have enough energy for your workouts. This keto diet is excellent for people who participate in high-intensity exercises, such as marathon runners.
- The Cyclical Keto Diet: The keto diet operates in a cycle, hence the name. It allows dieters to follow the standard keto diet for five days out of seven. During the other two days, you can consume carbohydrates as usual. This is another good diet for people who can quickly burn off the glucose so that they do not store any glycogen in the body, nor do they trigger the body to release a high amount of insulin. It is an excellent diet for people working out or playing high-intensity sports regularly.
- The High-Protein Keto Diet: The high-protein keto diet is as its name suggests. On this keto diet, you increase your protein intake from 20-25 percent to 30-35 percent. Consequently, you only take in about 60-65 percent of fat, although your carb intake stays the same, at about 5-10 percent. This is an excellent diet if you are starting your journey on the keto diet and you find it overwhelming to eat a diet of 75 percent fat. With the high-protein diet, you can ease into the keto diet by following a less intimidating version. Unfortunately, this means that you will struggle to enter ketosis and find it practically impossible to stay in ketosis since the excess protein will be turned into glucose.
Nonetheless, you can incorporate moderate to heavy exercise on a high-protein diet. This will ensure your body uses the protein to repair and build muscles. In addition, any excess protein converted into glucose will also be burned up while you exercise.
The high-protein keto diet should only be used as a starting point to get used to the keto diet. After a few weeks, you must swap to one of the other keto diet types if you want to remain in ketosis.
Foods You Can’t Eat on the Keto Diet
You will have to cut out the following foods from your diet to go into a state of ketosis:
· All starches, grains (such as quinoa and millet), and sugars. This includes anything immediately turning into glucose once ingested, such as carrots and other root and tuber vegetables that you may naturally consider healthy. You must also avoid honey and all different syrups, which may be bad news if you love pancakes or waffles. If you love juice, sports drinks, or sugary sodas, this is also bad news since juice metabolizes glucose in the body.
- Most fruits, apart from handfuls of berries, are eaten at once. Fruits contain sugar, which your body metabolizes into glucose-like carbs. Eating fruits can, therefore, delay or revert ketosis.
- Legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas, and peas, because they contain too much protein.
- Bad/unhealthy fats, such as trans fats.
- Drinks or food with alcoholic content.
- Foods deliberately marketed as low-fat, for example, low-fat mayonnaise. On its own, mayonnaise is generally keto-friendly; however, low-fat mayonnaise, like other low-fat products, typically uses less fat, using other alternatives to give it its taste and consistency. This could be unhealthy fats or even sugar, which are unsuitable for a keto diet. This is also why you cannot eat sugar-free foods on the keto diet. It is better to find keto-friendly alternatives to your favorite recipes than to “cheat” with low-sugar or sugar-free versions.
- Sugar-packed condiments include barbecue sauce, sweet chili sauce, or ketchup.
- Sweetened yogurt and other dairy products.
Foods You Can Eat on the Keto Diet
On the keto diet, you can eat the following:
- Healthy and natural fats include avocados, nuts, olive, and coconut oil.
- Meats, fish, and eggs.
- High-fat natural dairy products include hard cheeses, butter, and high-fat cream.
- Berries (eaten in small quantities).
- Vegetables with low calories include broccoli, kale, bok choy, asparagus, spinach, and arugula.
- Seeds, such as sunflower seeds.
- Low-carb sweeteners include stevia, monk fruit, tagatose, inulin, and allulose.
As you get used to calculating your carbs, proteins, and fats, you will find that you can still consume some of the foods on this list in low quantities. For example, depending on the amount of sugar per gram serving, you can get away with a tablespoon or two of ketchup if you avoid other carbs for the day. On the other hand, there is just no way to get away with even a small serving of fries because the amount of carbs it contains per serving will kick you out of ketosis.
In addition to the carbs, protein, and fat per gram serving of a food, there are other things you must watch out for on the keto diet to verify that it is safe for consumption:
Will it hurt your insulin levels? Eating food with a high glycemic index will spike your blood sugar levels too high and too fast, triggering you out of a state of ketosis. The glycemic index shows how quickly your food will spike your insulin levels. Foods with a high GI are considered very unhealthy; for instance, a slice of decadent chocolate cake has a high GI. You could eat some berries, but they will negatively impact your insulin levels if you do not control the portion.
Will it hurt your biomarkers? That is your cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides, etc. While butter is excellent to consume on the keto diet, frying your vegetables in butter for every meal will quickly raise cholesterol levels. You are on the keto diet because you want to be healthy. It is not an excuse to swap one unhealthy eating pattern for another under the guise of healthy eating.
Is it safe for consumption? Just because something is sold as food does not make it healthy and safe for your body. A bag of keto-friendly popcorn from the supermarket may help you meet your daily keto goals, but processed food is also shown by study after study to increase your chances of developing cancer. You shouldn’t consume it if it causes harmful side effects, but it is keto-friendly.
Can it be cooked without becoming unhealthy or unsuitable for keto? Cooking some fat at high temperatures can sometimes release harmful toxins, for instance. Likewise, can it be cooked without it breaking down into high-GI sugar? The fiber in a handful of berries reduces its GI when consumed. If you cook it at a high temperature, you break down the fibers, increasing its glycemic index.
Does it have any hidden source of carbs? Calculating the macronutrients in an avocado is easy because it is natural-made. With artificial food, manufacturers are more likely to sneak carbs, sugars, salt, fat, and other harmful ingredients into their food. What may be advertised as a simple chicken seasoning cube may have added sugar. Naturally, you do not expect chicken seasoning to have sugar, so you may easily miss this.
Signs You Are in Ketosis
The following are signs that you are in ketosis:
- Keto flu (as discussed in Chapter Five).
- Losing weight.
- More physical energy.
- More mental clarity and focus.
- Problems with digestion – This lasts for a short while as your body adjusts to the new changes. It typically manifests in the form of constipation or diarrhea.
- Problems sleeping – This lasts a short while your body adjusts to the new diet. You may also feel exhausted for a short while.
- Reduced appetite – You may find that you do not feel hungry for long periods between meals because you are consuming more fats and proteins.
- Bad breath – Acetones are a type of ketone that your body produces. Sometimes, when your body creates too many ketones, it passes these excess ketones (including acetones) through your breath and urine. Acetones are released with your breath after they mix with the air in your lungs first. This is also why keto-dieters sometimes get the “keto breath,” a sweet, bad, and odd-smelling odor to their breath.
Bad breath can also be caused by having too much protein in your diet. This happens when you are not getting enough fat but, rather, are supplementing some of your fat intake with protein. This is why charting your macros is very important, as you will sometimes need to adjust it to meet your specific body and health needs. If you begin to get bad breath, it could be a sign that you are taking in much more protein than your body uses. When this occurs, your body expels the excess byproduct released when protein is broken down: ammonia. As with acetone, this is released through your urine and your breath.
Finally, bad breath can occur because low-carb diets are notorious for causing dehydration. When your liver stores glycogen, it stores almost 3 or 4 times as much water as the glycogen itself. This causes “water weight” and makes you lose water weight when you deplete your glycogen stores. On the keto diet, your body is not storing glycogen, so you are also not storing much water. You will need to compensate for this by drinking more water than you are used to.
Why Aren’t I Going Into Ketosis?
You are not in ketosis if you don’t notice the signs above. The best way to verify if you are in ketosis is to buy a ketosis test. They are standard tests that check the levels of ketones in your blood. You can check the ketones in your urine, blood, or breath. Whichever method you use, your kit will have a guideline to help you decipher whether or not you are in ketosis, just like most other test kits.
If you choose to test the ketones in your urine, you will need to dip the test in your urine to see if you are in ketosis. Some varieties ask that you pee on the stick like a pregnancy test. The urine test is the most beginner-friendly while also being the cheapest. It is straightforward, giving you results in seconds (although some take up to an hour). It measures the amount of excess ketones in your body, disposed of through your urine.
A blood test can be used if you have been on the keto diet for over a few weeks or want to ensure a more accurate reading. Your body will start to become keto-adaptive after a few weeks or months. It is learning to use ketones as a fuel source much more effectively. As a result, it will no longer pass out as many excess ketones in the urine as it once did. So, a urine test would be inaccurate to determine if you are in ketosis. A blood test kit is more suitable in this instance. Blood test kits are the most accurate form of determining how much ketones are in your blood. If you are in ketosis, your test will read 0.5-3.0 mmol/l (mili-moles per liter). If you choose to test the ketones in your blood, you must purchase a finger stick with your blood ketone meter. You will use this stick to encourage a small amount of blood to flow to test your ketones.
With a breath test kit, you breathe into the meter to determine if you are in ketosis. It is costly to find your keto levels, but it is very accurate. I suggest a breath test for more advanced keto dieters or if you want a test kit that will last you many years. Another advantage to the breath test kit is that you do not need to buy accompanying gadgets, like a finger-stick. If you are in ketosis, the test will read between 8-40 PPM (parts per million). Anything below means that there aren’t enough ketones being produced in your body, meaning you are not in ketosis.
To get a more accurate reading of your ketone levels, do it just after you wake up before you eat or drink anything, and before you even brush your teeth. This way, you don’t consume anything that could alter your test results. Alternatively, if you cannot take a test first thing in the morning, take one after a twelve to fourteen-hour fast, where you have consumed only water. If you want even more accurate results, take two keto tests daily: one in the morning and another at night. Since ketone levels are lower in the morning, an accompanying nighttime reading will help you find your average daily ketone levels. You may also use a keto-tracking app to help you gather data on your ketone levels over a long period.
Once you verify that you are still not in ketosis, diagnosing why this is happening is your next step. There are a few common reasons why you are not going into ketosis.
- Your Macronutrients Are Not Accurate: The first thing to note might be that you went into ketosis but ate too many carbs and sugars, which reversed your ketosis in hours. Remember that consistency is the key to entering and remaining in ketosis. If this is the case, you might need to calculate your micronutrients correctly and consume more carbs and protein. Alternatively, you might destroy the right amounts of carbs and protein but need to drink more fats. Keto-enthusiasts find that using a food scale is a great way to accurately measure how much fat, proteins, and carbs they consume. Another way to verify the amount of macronutrients in your food is to purchase food with obvious, detailed, and precise nutritional information. If you buy food without nutritional information, such as fresh vegetables, research its information correctly to ensure accuracy.
- Stay calm if you are struggling to balance your macronutrients. Rome was not built in a day, and you cannot master the science of keto without a few hiccups. The more you practice, the more familiar it will become. You can also use an online nutrition tracker or app for accurate macronutrient information.
- You Need More Time: Secondly, if you aren’t going into ketosis, it may simply be the case that you need more time. Although the human body typically burns through its store of glycogen (stored glucose) in a matter of days, it can often still take 3-6 weeks for some bodies to really “get the message.” When you are on the keto diet, you tell your body to stop its usual metabolic process of burning glucose for energy. At this point, your metabolism, gut, brain, and organs and systems have become used to relying on glucose. It can take them a while to get used to being powered by ketones. Indeed, for some people, this process can take months. Allow your body time to adjust, and use that time to balance your daily macronutrients perfectly.
- Your Body Needs Extra Help: As discussed above, your entire body has to get used to being powered on ketones. This is a smooth transition for some, but a little extra help might go a long way for others. Your digestive system is essential in ketosis, particularly your stomach and intestines. These organs will break down your food and absorb all macro and micronutrients. Digesting and absorbing fiber and fats can be more complicated in some bodies. You can give your body some much-needed help by eating foods naturally high in probiotics (healthy bacteria for your gut) and prebiotics (food to promote the growth of probiotics in your heart). You may also want to buy digestive enzymes to help you get to ketosis. You can purchase tablets that combine digestive enzymes, prebiotics, and probiotics.
- If you have a history of yo-yo dieting, low-fat diets, and digestive issues, then this is most likely why you are not going into ketosis.
- You’re Stressed: Remember to underestimate the effects of stress on your health and diet. Stress and the hormone produced as a natural reaction to stress, cortisol, are potent forces affecting every area of our body and health. Likewise, high-stress levels can keep your bodily processes imbalanced so you do not go into ketosis. Hormones, such as insulin, play a significant role in our digestion. Cortisol is no different. The digestive system and the brain are directly linked. As a result, if you are stressed, your digestive system often does not work correctly. This is why some people overeat when stressed while others stop eating altogether.
It is easy to make yourself stressed, thinking of how to count your macronutrients and plan your food shopping, etc. But it is OK to remind yourself that this is a way of life. It is not a temporary quick fix that must be done right the first time to avoid failure. Instead, it is a learning process that gets better with experience. There is no need to rush or try to get it perfectly right the first time. Instead, approach the diet with a sense of adventure. For example, the meals you will be making are different, so you might be excited about trying something new. You might also be excited about how the keto diet will improve your workouts if you exercise often and how good you will feel once you take charge of your life and health. This is a lifestyle change, not a quick-fix scheme, so a slow and steady approach will benefit you more in the long term.