There’s a reason why the ketogenic (keto) diet has become one of the most popular diets in America. To put it simply: It works. In fact, a growing body of research shows that going keto can result in reduced body weight and help you lower your bad cholesterol and blood sugar levels. A diet that helps you lose weight while setting you up for a happier, healthier life? It’s only natural to want to give this trendy-for-a-reason diet a go.
WHY GO KETO?
The ketogenic diet requires you to significantly cut back on carbohydrates and increase your consumption of healthy fats and proteins. When the body doesn’t have carbs — which are typically its primary source of energy — it instead feasts on stored fat. It turns this stored fat into ketones, which it uses for energy. When this happens, you enter a metabolic state known as “ketosis.”
During ketosis, your body is much more apt to burn fat, so you lose weight. On top of that, the reduction in carb consumption lowers your body’s levels of blood sugar and insulin. As a result, keto can help you get healthier and reduce your risk of serious long-term health concerns, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. It has even long been used to control epilepsy, especially in children.
But before you dive in headfirst, there are a lot of factors to consider. A whole new diet requires a whole new set of tools, recipes and lifestyle changes to ensure success. What’s more, this massive change in what you consume can cause some surprising — and unpleasant — side effects that you want to be ready for.
In this guide, we’ve put together the ultimate list of keto tips to help you make the switch as seamlessly as possible. Read on for some of our top health and wellness tips for how to master the keto diet with ease. From stocking your cabinets with the best keto supplements to connecting with fellow keto devotees, we know exactly what you need to do to crush your keto goals.
TIPS FOR GETTING STARTED WITH KETO
As with any big change, preparation is key to success in keto. Before you start slashing carbs and upping your fat and protein consumption, you need to spend some time setting up a few things that will make the whole process a bit easier.
- Determine your macros. The first thing you need to do when switching to a keto diet is determine your ideal macros. A typical macro ratio for someone following this diet is 5 percent carbs, 25 percent protein and 70 percent fat, but your ratio will depend on your age, weight, activity level, goals and other factors. There are many keto macro calculators available online to help you determine the percentages you should be aiming for each day. While calories shouldn’t be your main focus, make sure you are following your daily calorie recommendation. Regardless whether they are from fat, protein or carbs, if you are consuming more calories than you burn, you will not lose weight.
- Pick the right tracking app. It’s next to impossible to know the macro and micronutrients you’re consuming on a daily basis without plugging them into a tracker tool. Sure, you could guess, but that will only put you at risk of overshooting your macro goals and also missing clues of electrolyte imbalances and nutrient deficiencies that could be holding you back or making you feel less than your best. There are tons of excellent apps out there to help you keep track of what you eat each day, including MyFitnessPal and Cronometer, among others.
- Prepare for it to take time. You’ll start to feel the effects of keto right away, but that doesn’t mean your body has immediately adjusted to this new method of fueling up. In reality, it takes two days to a week before the body enters a state of ketosis. Be patient and stick it out!
- Create a saved recipes folder and prepare to cook more . While it is possible to eat out from time to time and still adhere to a keto diet, you’re going to want to get comfortable with the idea of cooking and meal prepping on this diet. Use popular keto recipe blogs, cookbooks, social media and online discussion groups to source easy recipes. Remember: The best diet is the one you’re most likely to stick to, so don’t pick recipes that are unnecessarily complicated or time-consuming. Put recipes and links into a spreadsheet so you have a database when you go to create your weekly meal plans.
- Invest in some helpful supplies. Before you start, go shopping for some essentials that will help you be successful as you start and maintain your new diet. Consider purchasing a ketone testing kit to regularly test your ketone levels. Stock your pantry with hydration capsules, electrolyte supplements and keto-friendly protein powder. If you’re not super savvy in the kitchen, some handy appliances such as an egg bite maker, air fryer or veggie spiralizer can help. A food scale will help you to understand your portion sizes, too.
- Go grocery shopping. Now that you’ve got a rough sketch of what you’re going to eat throughout the week, it’s time to hit the grocery store. In addition to your recipe ingredients, make sure you’re stocking the fridge and pantry with plenty of grab-and-go snacks that don’t kick you off your diet. We’ve outlined a few great keto snack ideas below so you always have something on hand.
- Purge the pantry and fridge. Not only do you need to stock up on keto-friendly foods, but you also need to get rid of the temptations from your past life. Purge the pantry of flour, bread, pasta, oats, cereal, corn, pasta, sugar, candy, chocolate, syrup, honey, starchy vegetables, beans including chickpeas, processed snacks and oils made with corn, soybeans or seeds. Clean out the fridge and pitch all low-fat dairy, margarine, juice, beer, wine coolers and sugary treats in the freezer.
TIPS FOR COMBATING KETO SIDE EFFECTS
A big change in your diet can bring some great benefits, but it also comes with a few pesky and unexpected side effects, too. In fact, many people who are new to keto experience an unpleasant group of side effects collectively known as “the keto flu.” Though not actually a form of influenza, this “flu” can cause you to feel downright terrible, thanks to digestive issues, headache, fatigue, brain fog, irritability, nausea and insomnia. Here are some ways to make sure they don’t knock you off track:
- Remember that it’s temporary. Most people get through the keto flu in a week or less, although some people have symptoms that linger. When you feel awful, bear in mind that your symptoms will pass. Once they do, many keto followers start feeling better than before, with a boost in mental focus and higher energy levels. Be sure to wait it out!
- Pay attention to electrolyte levels. Electrolytes are the salts in your body that help it work as it should. Without enough sodium, calcium, potassium and other essential minerals, you will feel tired, lethargic, nauseous, irritable or confused or even experience a fast and irregular heartbeat. When tracking, if you notice your electrolytes are lower than they were before you started, be sure to take a keto-friendly electrolyte supplement each day.
- Take a memory support supplement. Keto fog is a common problem reported by new keto adoptees. When the body doesn’t have carbs to snack on, it will initially feel zapped of energy, which will compromise your ability to think clearly and remember important information. However, taking memory support supplements can help you equip your brain with the fuel it needs to stay sharp and ward off any feelings of haziness or confusion.
- Make sure you’re getting enough water. Dehydration is a common symptom of the keto diet and other popular diets. If you’re also cutting your calorie intake in addition to redistributing your macro ratio, you may find that you’re consuming less liquid on the whole each day. Plus, higher levels of ketones can contribute to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Make sure you’re getting your recommended amount of water each day, supplementing with hydration capsules and electrolyte powder if necessary.
- Stock up on zero carb protein powder. If you want to stay full throughout the day without constantly cooking, you’re going to want to get comfortable with the idea of protein shakes. Just make sure you’re picking the right kind of protein. We recommend our multi-collagen protein powder because it’s totally keto-friendly and has zero sugar or carbs.
- Consider taking a collagen supplement. In addition to protein and electrolyte supplements, you may want to consider adding collagen to your keto supplement regimen. Collagen can help increase muscle mass, support the joints and ensure that your hair, skin and nails are healthy. Make sure you’re getting enough collagen on keto with multi-collagen capsules that are easy to integrate into your day-to-day routine.
TIPS FOR STAYING ON TRACK ON KETO
Now that you’ve done what you need to do to prepare for the big switch to keto and know how to combat some of its less pleasant side effects, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to keep yourself committed to this huge life change. It’s important to be realistic and remember that you will most likely experience a few setbacks. The key is to not let it kick you off track completely!
- Regularly test your ketone levels. Routinely testing for the presence of ketone levels in your urine or blood using test strips can help you determine whether or not you’ve reached a state of ketosis and are doing a good job of maintaining it. In the first week, you can test multiple times per day to see whether or not you’ve reached ketosis. From there on out, you only need to test once or twice a week to ensure you’re staying in ketosis. Be sure to test at the same time each day for the most accurate results.
- Stock the pantry and fridge with keto snacks. You’re not going to do well on a keto diet if you feel hungry or stressed all the time. For this reason, you want to make sure you have ample easy, keto-friendly snacks in the fridge you can grab as needed or throw in your bag for work or travel. There are so many great snacks that will work well on keto, but some of our favorites include:
- Meat and cheese roll-ups
- A handful of olives or almonds
- Celery with peanut butter or tuna salad
- A hard-boiled egg
- Veggies with yogurt dip
- Mushroom, sweet potato or kale chips
- Egg bites or egg muffins
- A few slices of salami or pepperoni
- Beef jerky or turkey jerky
- Lower-carb fruits, such as lemon, raspberries and watermelon
- Don’t be afraid to take the “easy way” out. As much as we all want to work hard and eat clean at the same time, the reality is that it’s really hard to do when we have real-life plates full of work, exercise, family and social obligations. Don’t beat yourself up over taking shortcuts, whether that is signing up for a keto meal kit delivery service or occasionally relying on store-bought snacks and dinners to help ease the burden. There are also more and more keto-friendly fast casual restaurants popping up that will help you stay on track throughout the week when life gets busy and you don’t have time to cook or meal prep. The bottom line: You should always reward yourself for getting healthier regardless of how you got there!
- Talk to people who are in the same position as you. Finding support from like-minded individuals is a fantastic way to reach and maintain your goals for the long-term. Seek out support groups at the gym or online via Facebook, Discord, Reddit or anywhere else you may find a community of keto devotees. Not only will this help you see real-life examples of keto working for others, but it will also provide you with direct access to tips, recipes and tools that will help make life on keto a bit easier.
GO EASY ON YOURSELF
Here at Key Nutrients, we think one of the most important things you can do to successfully transition to a healthier diet is to take it slow and give yourself a break. Beating yourself up over setbacks will only push you further off track. Instead, make sure to give yourself plenty of slack and trust that you will hit your goals in time. Following the above tips, while going easy on yourself at the same time, will make it easier for you to switch to and maintain a state of ketosis for the long-term.