Starting a new diet is never easy. That's why I like to share my personal experiences navigating the nutrition and fitness world.
I've dabbled in the keto diet for quite a while now: I've figured out what works for me and what doesn't.
Guess what? This wasn't easy to do with keto.
As someone with a hefty background in nutrition and health, I thought switching to a low-carb diet would be a no-brainer.
I totally underestimated the effort I needed to put forth strategizing and tracking my food intake.
In fact, I gained five pounds the first week. Yikes!
But I didn't give up: I rearranged, reorganized, and reevaluated. Now, I want to share what I've learned over the past year with you.
You Absolutely Need to Count Your Macros
Let's say you're about to consume a 500-calorie meal. You have a lot of options, right?
You could choose one slice of meat lovers' pizza, tuna salad lettuce wraps, a big slice of cake, or you could eat broccoli until you explode.
Although each one of these options contains 500 calories, what's inside the calories matters much more.
The whole idea behind the keto diet is to train your body to burn fat as its main energy source instead of carbohydrates. To do that, you need to consume a lot of fat and protein while hyper-restricting your carbohydrate intake.
How to Count Your Macros the Right Way
You might think broccoli was the "healthiest" choice – not on keto. It's the tuna salad lettuce wraps. (Yes, with mayo.)
Although everyone's body is different, your diet should look something like this:
- 60-70% from fat
- 15-30% from protein
- 5-10% from carbohydrates (with absolutely none from sugar)
Yeah, this gets difficult because plenty of fat sources also contain fairly high levels of protein, and lots of protein sources – especially plant-based ones – contain surprisingly high levels of carbohydrates.
If you usually consider veggies like broccoli, a protein source, you need to rework your brain to think of them almost solely as carbohydrates.
Don't get too freaked out. It gets easier once you get the hang of it.
This calculator from Perfect Keto makes monitoring your macros really easy. Plus, you can also plug in your activity level – which makes a huge difference. They'll also send you an awesome recipe book.
What Happens if You Don't?
If you don't carefully monitor your macros, you won't reach ketosis – and that's the entire point of the keto diet.
In order for the keto diet to "work," you need to be in a state of ketosis where your body creates ketones from fat and uses them for energy.
Ketosis gives you all the amazing benefits of the diet such as:
- Not feeling hungry all the time
- Trimming belly fat and getting toned
- Improved cholesterol – both the good and bad kinds
- Low blood sugar levels and reduced risk for developing diabetes
- Low blood pressure levels
- Reduced risk for developing heart disease
- Therapeutic benefits for conditions like autism, traumatic brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, migraines, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, liver disease, and many more
This is something you need to monitor constantly. If you don't strategize properly for just a day or two, your body can get kicked out of ketosis and you'll need to start the process all over again.
How to Get Enough of the Right Protein
A lot of people love the idea of a low-carb diet because they think it gives them a green light to eat a ton of food other diets told them they couldn't, like bacon and cheese.
Yes, it's true that low-fat diets suck and probably don't even improve health very much, but that doesn't mean you should get your fat from unhealthy sources.
It was difficult for me to find healthy sources of protein that contained enough fat – especially since I'm a big fan of plant-based diets to begin with.
That's why I was so happy to find this grass-fed protein powder from Perfect Keto. Not only is it low-carb, but it contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), fiber, and 10 grams of collagen per serving.
Collagen is basically the "glue" that holds everything in the body together and has a ton of amino acids. Most importantly, this protein powder contains fat without any sugar.
6 Sneaky Places Carbs Are Hiding
I had a hard time getting the hang of this, but it's gotten easier. Carbs pop up where you wouldn't even expect them. Even a few extra grams can throw off your ketosis.
1. Your Prized Protein Powder
Believe it or not, your favorite protein powder may be costing you carbs – always make sure it's keto-friendly.
2. Greek Yogurt
Many dairy products, like yogurt, contain unexpectedly high levels of carbohydrates. Why? Lactose is a natural sugar – and Greek yogurt has quite a lot.
3. The Spice Cabinet
Garlic powder contains a whopping 6 grams of carbs per tablespoon while chili powder contains over 4. I had to start keeping a close eye on everything I added to my meals.
4. Your Favorite Condiments
Salad dressings? Huge sugar bombs. And ketchup? Forget it.
5. Artificial Sweeteners
A lot of people try to replace traditional sugars with artificial substitutes – this is a huge mistake. Xylitol, sorbitol, Splenda, and even vegetable glycerin are all carbohydrates that can also spike your insulin levels.
6. Your Kale Smoothie
Remember when I said you need to start thinking of vegetables as carbohydrates rather than protein sources? Yes, I know, it's not easy. Although kale contains unusually high levels of carbs (6 grams) as far as greens go, all veggies contain more than you might expect.
How to Make the Most of Your Keto Diet
Going keto has forced me to adopt and seek out new – healthier – sources of fat and protein I would have never considered.
What I love about the keto diet is that I get to learn about and improve myself – and not just my physical health.
By paying special attention to my diet, I've become more attentive towards everything around me and much more aware of what I'm putting into my body.
The key is to find a routine that works for you.