Keto can be confusing to newbies (sometimes to veterans, too). With so many different "types" of keto popping up, and all kinds of foods advertised for the lifestyle, it can be difficult to figure out what to do and to whom you should listen. Here at Ketogenic Success, we promote the standard ketogenic protocol. It's clean, very low carb, moderate protein, and high fat. Standard keto is a great jumping off point, because for most people it's best to start out with the original formula and then branch out when your body is ready to experiment. Once you know the very basics of a ketogenic lifestyle, there are some things you can do to make sure you are successful in your standard keto journey.
Don't Skimp on Fat
- This might seem like a no-brainer, but even inside the keto community there are a variety of opinions on whether or not you should intentionally consume a high amount of dietary fat. While there are all sorts of reasons one might try scaling back on eating fat (some good, some not-so-good), when you're just starting out you probably want to keep your fat intake at about 75%-80% of your daily calories. Keeping your fat high will keep you from feeling a lot of hunger (and away from carby temptations!), and it also helps to get your body started burning fat for fuel and aids the adaptation process. Dietary fat and cholesterol are both essential for proper hormone production and function, so eating fat also helps to stabilize your endocrine system, especially if you've been fat-starved for a long time.
Eat Low Carb
- This tip may also seem fairly obvious, but you might be surprised to learn that within the keto community there are athletes and other experimenters that tinker with higher carbs from time to time (called cyclical keto, carb cycling, or targeted keto). What you should understand is that most of these people are either very serious athletes and/or they have been living the ketogenic lifestyle for a long enough time that their body knows what to do when they cycle on and off low carb eating. In other words, their bodies are very well adapted to ketosis. At the beginning of your journey (or if you're trying to get back into the groove), it's very important to allow your body to adapt to using fat for fuel. That means getting into and maintaining ketosis for a substantial enough period of time that your system gets very good at running on fat instead of glucose. For some, keto adaptation can take a few weeks, for others it can be months. Regardless of how long it takes your body to adapt, we highly recommend you stay very low carb for months to a year, at least, and be very honest with yourself about your own body and circumstances before you start tinkering with carb-ups. While some are able to successfully cycle in and out without negative consequences, unfortunately for many others, especially anyone recovering from long-term yo-yo dieting, it might be something that is never in the cards.
Keep an Eye on Protein
- Protein can be a controversial subject, not only within the keto community but in the larger health, wellness, and medical ones, too. Protein contains essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce and we must eat to acquire, thus it seems apparent that we need to eat a decent amount of it. "How much is too much?" is the question at hand. Medical professionals that warn people away from keto are frequently concerned that protein consumption on the ketogenic protocol may venture into ranges that are too high for the kidneys to handle. On a standard ketogenic protocol, however, this is very unlikely. We tend to advocate moderating protein; meaning you eat enough of it to meet your body's needs- anywhere from 20-35% of your calories should come from protein- but don't gorge yourself. For those new to a ketogenic protocol, especially those coming to the lifestyle from a place of metabolic disfunction, it is important to be mindful of protein intake to avoid exaggerated insulin responses which may prevent your body from adapting well. Over time, or if you're already fit and incredibly active, you may be able to increase your protein; maybe even by quite a bit! Each person's tolerance level is going to be slightly different depending on body type, activity levels, and metabolic health. The important thing to remember is that we shouldn't be afraid of protein, but don't treat it as a "free" food, either.
- Magnesium is a major power-player in your body. It is involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions. Magnesium is required for energy conversion (from food to energy), muscle movement, utilizing protein, genetic maintenance, and regulation of your nervous system. It can lower blood pressure, improve your sleep, help with headaches, improve insulin resistance, and it's anti-inflammatory to boot! Research also suggests that magnesium may help with treatment of depression. If you, like many in the community, choose to get your magnesium in a supplement, we recommend choosing a chelated form, like magnesium glycinate. The absorption rate is significantly better than many other kinds of magnesium, and tends to be easier on the stomach.
Don't Forget to Salt
- Like magnesium, salt is a crucial mineral. We realize that salt has been demonized for a substantial number of years, but the truth is is that the human body cannot survive without it. Salt is involved in maintaining proper water balance in your blood and cells, adrenal function, nerve stimulation (including in the brain and heart), proper expansion and contraction of muscles, and a very long list of other bodily processes. While standard low-fat diet advocates will advise minimizing salt, on a ketogenic protocol- which is slightly diuretic and should be largely free of processed goods that account for large amounts of dietary sodium- we need to be mindful that we aren't avoiding salt. The general guidelines that work for most are two teaspoons good quality salt per day (around four grams sodium). Many health advocates recommend Celtic Gray or Himalayan Pink sea salt, because they are less refined and more mineral-rich.
Get Some Vitamin D
- Vitamin D is crucial in regulating insulin levels, improving lung function, immune system health, and in the maintenance of bones and teeth. Modern life, however, tends to induce deficiency. The single best source of Vitamin D synthesis in the human body is the sun. In minutes a day, you can produce all the Vitamin D your body needs just by going outside and exposing your skin. Some people, due to a variety of circumstances (cancer concerns, lifestyle constraints, climate, etc.), may not be able to obtain enough Vitamin D from sun exposure, and so taking a good quality supplement at sufficient levels can be of aid.
Get Sufficient Sleep
- Sleep is fundamental for mental strength, immune health, bodily repair and recovery, clarity, and- maybe most importantly- overall stress management. Most people think they need eight hours of good sleep, and they may be right, generally speaking. The truth, however, is the higher your stress levels, the more sleep your body needs to recover. It's also the one thing that tends to get tossed aside when life is stressful, when it really should be the opposite. If you're not getting enough sleep, it's important to evaluate your schedule and responsibilities to ensure you're adequately rested. How do you know if you're getting enough sleep? The best way is to determine how you feel in the morning, after you wake up. If you're always looking to hit the snooze bar and go back to sleep, then you're probably not getting enough. If you waking up and feel rested, then you're probably doing well.
Drink Water, But Don't Drown
- Water is essential. Everyone knows this. Unfortunately, water consumption recommendations can range from, "Drink a lot!" to "Drink until you float away!" Drinking water is a must, but drinking so much that you flush all of your electrolytes (that would be the salt and magnesium we mentioned above) is a bad idea. The best rule-of-thumb is to drink when you're thirsty, don't when you're not. Just like your hunger is the body telling you it needs more fuel, your thirst mechanism is you body's way of telling you it needs water. Follow it and you will be fine.
- Many people believe exercise is essential for health and weight loss in a never-ending calorie-balancing game. That's not why we think exercise is important. Physical exertion is essential for mental well-being, and that can affect your physical well-being. When you find what you enjoy doing, exercise is an escape. It should be something you look forward to. If you resent it, you'll stop doing it (or you'll end up stressed to the gills instead of relaxed and in your zone). The good news is that there is no mandated form in which exercise must happen. If you enjoy running, make time for it. If you'd rather lift weights or take a spin class, that's fine, too! Don't be afraid to try (and maybe even fail) at a few things until you find the movement you love. Whatever works for you, do it with passion, zeal, gusto, and enjoyment.
Bonus Tip: Find a Coach
If you're having trouble dialing things in, don't fret! Remember that it can help to have someone who has successfuly made it down this road, and knows how to take the mystery out of finding your health and your success. Getting a coach can help you find the best way to keto for your body, and provide support when you hit a snag. FInd out more about Ketogenic Lifestyle Coaching and pick your success partner today!