The ketogenic (keto) diet is a low-carb diet that is currently gaining huge popularity, and that studies show is great for your health. On this diet, you eat only 20-50g of carbohydrates per day, and most of this diet consists of fat – not exactly what we normally associate with healthy eating. However, keto really does work because this style of eating will turn your body into a fat-burning machine.
When you follow the keto diet, your body enters a metabolic state called ketosis (aka fat-burning mode). Being in this metabolic state is linked to easier weight loss, glycemic control, and increased mental and physical energy. Keto also helps improve blood lipids, reduce inflammation, and prevent cancer. If you’re interested in trying out keto, below are tips and tricks commonly used by experienced keto dieters.
The Keto Diet: Tips and Tricks to Achieve the Best Results
Let's face it, eating little to no carbs while making fat your main nutrient is tough. That's why it's best to follow the keto tips and tricks below to make keto easy, safe, and, most importantly, effective.
1. Plan your diet well
In order to stick to the recommended keto carb limit, it's best to always plan your meals. With careful meal planning, you'll also ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Meal planning will also help you avoid cheating. So, how exactly do you plan keto?
First, learn everything you can about the keto diet, especially what food is allowed and not allowed. Secondly, empty your fridge and pantry of food you don't need and shop for keto-friendly foods making sure to include a variety of ingredients for maximum nutrition. Thirdly, research low-carb and keto recipes that suit your preferences and budget.
But if all of this seems like too much of a hassle, look for ready-made plans and menus online, like this 2-week keto diet plan for beginners. It includes every essential bit of advice you need to begin your keto journey.
Careful planning is an essential step of going keto. It ensures that you stick to eating nothing but keto-approved food in addition to making your meals as nutritious as can be.
2. Prepare for the keto flu
The keto flu refers to the uncomfortable side effects that keto beginners experience 2-7 days into their keto diet. These include fatigue, muscle aches, headache, digestive issues, and brain fog. The keto flu is a result of low blood sugar, fluid loss, and electrolyte imbalances that happen when you begin to cut back on carbohydrates.
To prevent and even stop the keto flu, keto beginners are advised to take the following measures:
Drink plenty of fluids
Drink at least 8 glasses of fluids a day to avoid dehydration when beginning a low-carb diet. Keep in mind that water from food such as soups, stews, vegetables, and fruits also contribute to your daily fluid intake.
Electrolytes are minerals like sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Consuming 2-4g of sodium (from table salt) a day is recommended on keto. Sources of other keto electrolytes include broth, bouillon cubes, sugar-free sports drinks, low-carb vegetables, nuts, seeds, and electrolyte supplements.
Reduce carbs gradually
Reducing carbs gradually is great if you're prone to hypoglycemia, for example, if you have diabetes, are inactive, or used to eating lots of carbs on a daily basis. Also make sure you're eating enough protein (0.8-1.2g per kg of body weight) and fat (70-80% of total calorie intake) in addition to reducing carbs.
The keto flu is a common but completely avoidable side effect of restricting carbohydrates. By staying hydrated and with gradual carb reduction, you will transition into ketosis side-effect free.
3. Focus on nutrient density
Macronutrient ratios are central to keto, but nutrient density also matters. Real foods are usually nutrient dense and include things like dairy and low-carb vegetables. On the other hand, prepackaged and ultra-processed foods may also be ketogenic, but they often provide empty calories and put you at risk of nutrient deficiencies.
As a general rule, go for natural, organic, and unprocessed foods since they are denser in nutrients than prepackaged and conventional foods. Organic and pasture-raised food has an additional advantage of being pesticide and antibiotics-free. However, this doesn't mean you should avoid everything sold in a bag or without the "certified organic" label. It's all about putting an emphasis on real food to maximize nutrition on keto.
Examples of nutrient-dense keto foods include:
- Grass-fed dairy
- Pasture-raised eggs
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Fatty fish like sardines
- Minced beef
Fat is important on keto but so are vitamins, minerals, and fiber. You can get all the nutrients you need by making nutritious food the center of your keto diet.
4. Try intermittent fasting and carb cycling
The standard keto diet works well if you follow it correctly. But it can be tough to initiate ketosis with standard keto and adhere to this way of eating for a long time. That's where things like intermittent fasting (IF) and carb cycling come in handy. Both are also often used interchangeably to make keto easier. Let's explain how you can use both instead of the standard keto diet.
IF is simply fasting for a short period of time (say 12 hours) followed by a period of feeding (within a specific "feeding window"). For example, having dinner and eating your next meal between noon and 2 PM the next day constitutes IF. IF is great for two things: it lets you get into ketosis quicker and it helps you carb cycle. So, what is carb cycling now?
Carb cycling is referred to as the cyclical keto diet (CKD) in keto communities. It involves eating a standard keto diet for 5-6 days and eating a normal carb-based diet for 1-2 days. This allows your body to replenish its glycogen stores, improve intestinal flora, and curb carb cravings. Once your carb refeed days are done, it's advised to start your "keto week" with a one day fast to get you back into ketosis as soon as possible.
Carb cycling and fasting help keto dieters transition into ketosis quicker and they help stick to this diet. Both are often used with the CKD, which is considered a less restrictive type of keto.
5. Check your fiber intake
Because keto is a low-carb diet, and because fiber is found mostly in carb-rich food, not getting enough fiber does become a problem on keto. But fiber is important; it feeds your gut bacteria, regulates bowel movements, and is essential for the immune system. Studies also show that fiber helps prevent type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and colon cancer.
To ensure you're eating enough fiber (25-40g/day), include these fiber-rich keto foods into your daily meal plan:
- Nuts – A handful of almonds provides 3.5 of fiber.
- Seeds – A handful of chia seeds provides 10g of fiber.
- Avocado – A whole avocado has 13g of fiber.
- Artichoke – One globe provides 13g of fiber.
- Coconut flour – Just two tablespoons has 10.5g of fiber.
- Spinach – A bunch provides 7.5g of fiber.
By eating a variety of low-carb fiber sources, you'll get soluble and insoluble fiber. Both types are important for normal bowel functioning and health. Without these fibers, you will become severely constipated on keto in addition to risking other health problems.
Keto beginners often don't pay attention to their fiber intake and become constipated as a result. Luckily, there are plenty of keto-approved sources of fiber that help meet your daily fiber requirements.
Keto is so much easier when you follow foolproof keto diet tips and tricks like the ones we outlined above. From planning your diet and taking measures to prevent side effects to using carb cycling and focusing on fiber-rich ingredients, there are many nuances that you need to know about to make transitioning to low-carb eating as smooth as possible. Make sure to follow these tips and learn as much as you can about keto to get the best out of this revolutionary diet.
Thank you to Sofia Norton from Kiss my Keto for the guest post!