The keto diet, with its low carb-high fat ratios, works by restricting your carb intake and switching your body’s source of fuel from glucose to fat (via naturally produced ketones!).
And in doing so, a myriad of health benefits emerge for many: from faster weight loss, diabetes management, mental clarity, to anti-inflammatory effects, and many more. But is there a right way to do the ketogenic diet?! Yes and no, let’s discuss!
I want to introduce you guys to a new section at gnom-gnom called ‘Keto 101’; where we bring up various topics around the keto diet and talk about them, all collectively as a community.
Because let’s face it, the keto diet is still in it’s infancy; with research still very limited (but growing!), and most of the information out there being anecdotal (which I don’t necessarily see as a bad thing at all).
So this is where you come in! I get daily emails from you guys about incredible inspirational stories on how the keto diet has helped improve your lives. And (very importantly!), many of you also share with me great tips about how each of you has adapted the keto diet over time to suit your needs.
Your emails have ranged from anything like diabetes, epilepsy, depression, autism, fertility (keto babies are a big thing guys!), autoimmune diseases… and of course, weight loss (and all the health benefits that come it).
So tell me, what are you doing the keto diet for?
Once a week we’ll bring up a topic (from hot issues to personal stories), give some background info, and get you guys pitching-in with comments and participating in the polls!
I’ve learned so much from you already, and I hope keto 101 to be a way to connect peeps with one another (and help to weed out the myths from the truths!). So let’s get started!
What is the keto diet?
Let’s start off by clarifying that ketosis is a metabolic state, not a diet. And trust me, this is a veeery good thing because it means that you can adapt the keto diet to suit your needs.
The one rule? You must restrict your carb intake, as this will force your body into a state of ketosis (i.e. to switch from using glucose as its main source of fuel to fat!).
How many carbs? This might surprise you, but this actually depends from person to person quite a bit! And while 20g net carbs is the fast rule (and a good one to ensure you become fat-adapted), the range is actually from 20g to even 100g (!!) net carbs a day.
How to know your limit? The only way of knowing for sure is to test regularly with a blood meter such as Keto Mojo (pee strips are super unreliable once you become fat-adapted guys!). It’s still generally advised that you stay strict keto for about 6 months in order to ensure your body becomes used to running on fat (i.e. fat-adapted!). After that you can play with your macros a bit, and test until you find your limit.
For instance, my limit is (generally!) 40-60g net carbs. I found this by accident one day during a small carb-up, and was pleasantly surprised that I was still in ketosis. We’ll talk about this in depth next week.
p.s. a great app to track is Martina’s KetoDiet app! (Not sponsored, just a fan of the gal and her work!).
So overall the keto diet is low carb, high and moderate protein. And while macros will vary from person to person, it’s customary to do roughly 70% fats, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrate. Though this is one of the areas were you can play around a bit to see what suits your digestive system best. And do note that some peeps that do keto for weight loss have seen a benefit of reducing the fat ratio (and being sure to keep the calories in check!).
The benefits of being in ketosis
The keto diet was initially devised back in the 1920s as a method to treat medication-resistant epilepsy in kids. But has since been found to have many more benefits, and for several conditions.
So while weight loss might just be the thing that gets most peeps into keto, benefits can range from management of diabetes and auto immune diseases, improvement in mood disorders, autism, fertility and and other reproductive system issues, mental clarity and sleep quality… and many more!
The Magic Formula!
Feel free to skip this section if you’re a keto seasoned pro, but let’s face it: when we all started the whole net carb thing was a little confusing. So the magic formula goes like this:
Total carbs – Fiber (- Sugar Alcohols) = Net Carbs
Essentially you just need to remember that getting fiber in the keto diet is a very good thing for most (helping keep things regular… you know!). So fiber is embraced on the keto diet and subsctracted from your daily carb count.
Natural sugar alcohols (erythritol and non-corn xylitol) and allulose (a monosaccharide) are a similar story. Because they go undigested through the digestive tracts of most peeps, it’s common practice to subtract them as you do fiber (this doesn’t give free reign to indulge though!).
Fun keto recipes (because feeling deprived ain’t an option!) 🍰
What foods are good on keto?
So while a keto diet is generally done grain and gluten free, free of processed inflammatory foods (think refined oils, artificial sweeteners…), sticking to grass-fed dairy where possible… it can technically also be done by just sticking to roughly 20-50g net carbs a day (what’s referred to as ‘dirty keto’ or simply low carb).
What I always suggest is the you listen to your body, after all it really does know best! So take note of which foods agree with your body and which don’t, something which does get easier once the inflammation in your body has gone down after a bit on keto.
EAT ‘N ENJOY 🍗🍓🥑🥓🍳🥥🥦🍅🧀
- Good quality fats (avocado, coconut oil, fatty fish…)
- Meats and broths (i.e. try and use up the whole animal!)
- Leafy greens and plenty of veggies (I personally don’t worry too much avoid carbs in veggies, particularly kale and such)
- Good quality dairy in moderation, particularly grass-fed (high in vitamin K2 and anti inflammatory agents)
- Berries and low carb fruits
- Nuts and seeds
- Natural sweeteners in moderation (stevia, monk fruit and some sugar alcohols- see our full guide here!).
TO AVOID 🍰🌽🍞🍌🍿🍣🍯🍕🥕
- Grains (gluten/wheat, rice, corn…)
- Refined oils (margarine, grapeseed, canola…)
- Sugar in all shapes and forms (this includes honey, coconut sugar and maple syrup unfortunately!)
- High carb fruits (apples, bananas)
- High carb veggies (potatoes and most root veggies)
- Artificial sweeteners (dextrose, splenda… and I’m going to include maliltol as well, as it’s known to kick peeps out of ketosis)
The Keto Flu
The infamous keto flu! Lets first note that you don’t actually get ‘the flu’, but rather your body may feel strange while it adapts to fats. Symptoms can range from headaches, light-headedness, tiredness, insomnia… not everyone gets all the symptoms, and it can range anywhere form a day to a week for most peeps.
Make sure you’re getting plenty of electrolytes, drink enough water and just sail through it (it’ll be worth it!).
I personally eased into the keto diet (I was already doing paleo for a while, and gradually began to reduce carbs). I’m fairly certain that because of this I didn’t notice many adverse effects… other than mad cravings for bread that is! So I do believe the keto flue can vary a lot, depending on how big your diet changes are.
Did you guys get the keto flu?!
Things to keep an eye out for long term
The keto diet is meant to improve your overall health, so if you’re not feeling your best or struggling to keep at it, you may need to change up the foods you’re eating. Some things to look out for are:
- Inflammation in your tummy area (particularly if dealing with autoimmune disorders)
- Changes in bowl movements (this is a very important one guys, as it reflects your digestive health!)
- Changes in mood. Did you know your digestive system is intricately connected to your nervous system?! Which is why the keto diet is known to help relieve anxiety and other mood disorders in many.
- Quality of your skin (are you getting breakouts?)
- Energy level (are you constantly tired?)
- Seep quality (are you waking up rested?)
Overall you need to feel good! This may sound like a no-brainer, but in the world we live today we tend to abuse caffeine, boosters and sleeping aids (all signs that our bodies are running on fumes!).
Some keto brekkie ideas! 🍳
The cons of being in ketosis
There’s two sides to every coin right? Bad bread and a particular body odor are some of the common complaints; and while they don’t happen to everyone and are definitely not serious, they can be annoying.
The good news is that they are generally only limited to the start of your keto journey, but ingesting chlorophyll pills is a common remedy with great reviews (think of them as an internal deodorant!).
Other things to lookout for can be insomnia (your body might just need more carbs), hair loss (doesn’t happen for most, but it did happen to me), changes in bowl movements (you just need to play around with the foods you’re ingesting, particularly rich-in-fiber ones such as chia pudding!).
To note: my doctor has also warned me that some studies have shown that the keto diet can put a strain on your kidneys and liver long term. Now, this is something that may or may not be certain; but I have bi-annual workups and both my kidneys and liver are good and healthy now (they were previously affected by my autoimmune). Just something to keep an eye out for!
How I do keto
Now, I actually think ‘the keto rules’ are fairly sound (particularly if you’re doing keto to treat inflammation, such as for autoimmune diseases). Ketones are natural anti-inflammatory agents, but removing grains and all processed foods can have wonderful effects on your body too.
For me personally, keto has mainly been about helping my digestive system heal. I was not diagnosed with Celiacs until my mid-twenties (after two surgeries and a lot of havoc to my overall health).
Removing gluten helped a great deal, but inflammation and frequent problems with my immune system continued until I went keto. And while at the beginning (roughly six months) I maintained a very strict 20g net carbs a day diet, I now do something called carb cycling and range from 20-100g net carbs a day (we’ll talk about this next week!).
Regarding dairy, I’m good with some (good quality, grass-fed) dairy, but in moderation (i.e no fat head pizza!). And it’s also highly recommended by my doc for a life-long vitamin B12 deficiency (courtesy of Celiacs). So it’s been a bit of a trial and error for me, but I’ve found that not all dairy is created equal in the eyes of my digestive system, so I try to stick to grass-fed butter and keep the rest on a more ‘special occasion’ basis.
Also important to note is that I don’t consume as much fat as many (roughly 50% of my macros, not 70%). I don’t have a gallbladder, and I’ve found that my digestive system works best with a little less fat and a bit more fiber.
The one thing that I’m very strict about is that absolutely nothing I eat is processed or artificial, as my body simply hates me after! So for instance, if I were faced with the choice of drinking a Diet Coke or a honey-sweetened drink, I would go for the honey one without a doubt. It might kick me out of ketosis for a couple hours (you might be surprised how quickly you get back in once fat adapted), but it won’t harm my health.
Overall, I truly like to think of keto as a lifestyle change for me.
How do you do keto?
I want to know! OK, so tbh I already get a general idea from many of your comments and emails. Some of you are purely low carb (and ask a lot about including vital wheat gluten in recipes… I love you guys, wish I could still eat gluten! 😂!), others are purely gluten free, but most seem to go all the way and go grain free too.
Got questions, suggestions, an opinion, or a topic suggestion? Drop it in the comments below and lets chat!