Thinking of starting on the ketogenic diet? Here are 10 thinks I wish I had known before I started.
A few days ago I posted a progress photo of myself on my Instagram. In just 2.5 months on the keto diet, I’m feeling so much better and have lost 26lbs. A lot of my PCOS symptoms have disappeared and my hormones are slowly returning to normal levels instead of being out of whack from the PCOS. It’s super exciting to be seeing this progress in my own body! In case you missed it, here’s that photo! (And sorry about the big watermark, but I don’t want to end up on a sketchy ad anywhere.) Isn’t it crazy how much difference a few lbs makes?
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1. Definitely go read the FAQ over on Reddit at r/keto.
They have a ton of great advice and many people there have been doing this diet for quite a while. It’s actually where my doctor sent me to find out more info. Reddit is an interesting online community – sometimes scary, sometimes crazy – but the keto community over there is the most welcoming and supportive that you’ll ever find. They have daily “check-in” threads too that really help keep you on track.
2. Be sure and use the keto calculator here to figure out your macros.
“Macros” which is short for macronutrients, are the amounts of fat, carbs, and protein your individual body needs. The calculator will make sure you’re getting the right amounts. When you use the calculator: Set your daily carbs at 20g, your activity level at sedentary (you can always adjust later if you’re starving), and make sure you choose at least .8g protein per pound of lean body mass. Most people recommend a 20-30% deficit if you’re trying to lose weight, but no more than that.
3. For your macros: the number of carbs and calories are an upper limit, your protein is a goal, and you should eat fat until you’re full.
So don’t feel like you have to get the absolute perfect number of each macro each day. (I made this mistake at first.) You just want to make sure you have enough daily protein that you don’t lose muscle mass, and you don’t want to go over on carbs or you’ll get kicked out of ketosis. If you’re hungry, eat a bit more fat, but don’t scarf down fat bombs just to meet a number. Your body has plenty of body fat it can consume if it needs to, and fat loss is usually the goal of keto anyways.
4. Electrolytes on keto are key to success and not feeling like crap, especially in the first few weeks.
Keto is an anti-inflammatory and diuretic diet, so you’ll lose a lot of water, especially in the first few weeks. If you aren’t replacing lost electrolytes, you can end up feeling really crappy (the dreaded “keto flu”). A supplement called LyteShow available on Amazon is our favorite because it has all of them in one product. I drink 1-2 doses a day and feel great. You can also find potassium and magnesium in supplements, Powerade Zero, or something called “lite salt” that’s potassium chloride (sold by the salt in the grocery). Drinking a bouillon cube soup is another good way to replenish electrolytes. You’ll know if you need electrolytes because you’ll get a headache, feel tired, and/or possibly have leg cramps. Note that too many electrolytes can also cause an imbalance, so don’t go too crazy.
Side note for women: We usually need fewer electrolytes on average than men do, but we also need to increase our consumption a bit around the time of PMS and periods. It will help cut down food cravings and help with cramps.
5. Drink your water.
You are changing up your body chemistry and the way it processes foods. Your liver will be working hard to make the ketones your brain needs to function and to process the foods that are coming in. Water helps all of this along and drinking plenty will help keep things flushing through your systems like they should. Grab a fun water bottle to make it easy to track your intake. Herbal tea, lemon, Dasani drops, Mio, and various other zero calorie water add-ins are great if you don’t like plain water.
6. Making a plan is key for success.
Almost all of the “convenience” foods out there are full of carbs, so you’ll want to plan to cook, and batch cooking and crockpot meals have been working well for us. Some simple things are: Bacon and eggs; Chicken and steamed broccoli; salad with cheese, olives, a protein, and ranch; boiled eggs; tuna and avocado; sausages; etc.
7. It’s recommended to avoid artificial sugars for the initial adjustment period just to help your body get over the sugar addiction.
This really helped me, but Hubby totally ignored this advice and he’s been fine. Truvia (but not the baking blend with sugar), Swerve, Stevia, and Erythritol are the low-carb recommendations that won’t have gastric side effects. Avoid sweets with Malitol or Xylitol unless you want diarrhea. (Trust me on this one!)
8. Weighing and tracking everything you eat is highly recommended.
As you get used to what macros each food has and understand what you’re eating, you may be able to stop tracking so carefully, but it’s easy to get carried away and eat way too much if you’re not watching serving sizes. Here’s a great post on how to set up My Fitness Pal which is my preferred food tracking app. Note that you can scan barcodes to easily find your foods to log, just double check the MFP nutrition against the label.
9. Take progress photos and measurements.
Weight loss is a funny thing. There are so many variables that go into your day to day weight like how much water you’ve consumed, food still in your digestive system, women hold water certain times of the month, stress, your reaction to specific foods, etc. It’s entirely possible to be losing inches from your body while your scale measurement has stayed the same. So take some “before” photos, weekly progress photos, and take some weekly measurements (I like to use centimeters instead of inches so you can see the progress is faster.) You’ll be surprised to look back at them later on and be able to see the changes taking place even if you don’t see it day to day in the mirror.
10. Keep Calm and Keto On (KCKO)!
This is a popular saying over in the Reddit sub. Things happen – stress, life, getting sidetracked, accidental carbs, social pressure, cheats, progress stalls, etc – but the important thing is to keep calm and continue sticking to keto because it works. Weight loss won’t be linear, but the overall progress should continue to be downwards if you keep making the right choices. You got this!