Episode 4, Getting Started with Keto! Interested in trying keto? All my best info an advice in one quick episode.
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Getting Started with Keto!
activity, episode 3 we discussed getting started with strength training. For the
Episodes 1 and 2 we talked about getting started with tracking our macros and
next few episodes of our Getting Started series I want to talk: food plans. Just
some options, things I’ve tried that I think can be useful tools in our getting
Now, I like to stick with the terms ‘food plan’ or ‘eating plan’ instead of the word
‘diet’. The D word. Even though to me our diet is just how we eat, it has taken
on such a negative connotation. Also, people tend to view a ‘diet’ as something
short-term. Something you do for a bit until you reach your goals and then you
go back to ‘normal’. But the ‘normal’ folks want to get back to is what got them
to the place of needing change in the first place!
True change comes from true change. Not short-term fixes. So, when I talk: food
plans, I’m talking: lifestyle changes that are meant to stick in order to bring about
the healthy changes we’re seeking. Yes, they can be tweaked over time as our
goals change, but the general template stays.
I have several food plans that I find helpful to share with you guys, but I decided
to start with keto because so many seem curious about it right now. It’s been sort
of the hot thing since 2017ish. If you’re somehow not familiar, keto is a high fat,
adequate protein, low carb eating approach. Usually with macros of 75% fat,
20% protein, and 5% carbs. Though that can vary depending on the individual
and goals. By keeping your carbs consistently around 20-30 grams of total carbs,
your body will get into a state referred to as nutritional ketosis. Once adapted to
the keto approach, your body will begin to use ketones as a primary fuel instead
of glucose. Ketones are broken down from fat sources, whether that be dietary
fat we consume or stored body fat. Thus, why people call themselves “fat burners”
Keto has been around for ages and is most known for being used to treat epilepsy
patients. It has, however, seen a great resurgence the last few years and it has
many other therapeutic uses. People are utilizing keto to help supplement their
treatments for everything from type 2 diabetes to cancer, to neurological disorders.
However, the biggest reason for its resurgence in popularity has been as a tool
for weight loss and body composition goals; and a little bit for it’s cognitive
benefits and ability to boost energy levels and mental performance.
Many will see fat loss and muscle and strength gains by adding keto into their
healthy lifestyle plan. Keto has a protein-sparing, muscle-sparing, anti-catabolic,
anti-inflammatory effect. People looking to lose fat and gain (or retain) muscle
and strength often look to keto for this reason.
Yes, it can be a great tool if fat loss is your goal, but I definitely think the
therapeutic uses aswell as the boost to energy levels, mental performance, and mental focus and
clarity shouldn’t be overlooked.
So, how do we get started with keto?
Well, the simplest way is to drop our carbs to 20 to 30 TOTAL grams per day
and focus on protein, veggies, and healthy fats. From there we can play around
with protein and fat levels, depending on our goals, and find our individual sweet
spot. Higher fat is useful if you’re looking for mental or therapeutic benefits and
higher protein will be useful if your goals are mostly body composition related.
Macros will actually vary widely from person to person. You don’t have to just
follow the 75/25/5 template. Some people will feel amazing at 80% fat. Some
people will do better with higher protein. Personally, I tend to up my protein
when I’m looking to lose fat or gain muscle and take my protein down just a bit
and up my fat when I’m in maintenance because I feel mentally better at the
higher fat level.
Again, just like I said in the food tracking episode, I think it’s best to get a good
protein gram goal, plug that in, plug in 20-30 grams of TOTAL carbs and see
where that leaves your fat. Try that for a while, and adjust from there.
Now, I keep saying TOTAL carbs. It’s usually best to focus on total carbohydrate
grams. Don’t blame the keto for what the net carbs did! A LOT of people count
net carbs. I do not suggest this. Yes, it will leave more room for ‘keto’ cheat
foods, but your results will suffer. The majority of people that tell me keto just
doesn’t work are counting net carbs.
Net carbs is: subtracting things like fiber and sugar alcohols from your carb
totals. But total carbs matter. I find counting total carbs to be the most effective.
If you look at the back of some of these ‘keto’ junk food they’re selling these
days they’ll have over 20 grams of total carbs and like 2 or 3 ‘net’ carbs.
Nonsense. Count total carbs, it’s easier and it works better.
OK, I said the simplest way, but it’s definitely not easy. Transitioning into keto
can be a bit rough if you’ve never been that low carb before. Keto flu is a real
thing. Basically, keto flu is a combination of dehydration and your electrolytes
being off and sugar withdrawals. It’s no fun.
To avoid this you can either slowly reduce your carbs. So, let’s say you’re eating
300 grams of carbs now, you’d reduce your carbs maybe 25 to 50 grams a week
until you reach your keto goal.
However, if you’re like me and you’re more of a jump in with both feet type
there are some supplements you can use to ease the transition. Those are:
MCT Powder, LMNT electrolytes, and possibly exogenous ketones. You’ll also
want to drink plenty of water and go easy on your workouts as you transition.
Walking can be great during this phase. Once you get back to more strenuous
workouts you may want to continue to utilize LMNT and possibly add a keto
pre workout if you’re still lacking oomph.
Just a note on exogenous ketones, they were all the rage for a while, but I
really only recommend them for the transition phase and maybe a little in your
preworkout if you want. The thing is, you want your body to make the ketones,
not take them in from an outside source. People take some exogenous ketones,
then test their ketone levels and say WOW, look, I’m in ketosis. But you really
just drank those ketones and they’re now circulating in your blood. Your body
still has to flip the switch to burning fat to make its own ketones. Like, I said
they can be useful in transition to ease keto flu symptoms, but I wouldn’t go
crazy with them and a lot of folks can transition just fine without them.
Now, the MCT Powder and LMNT I find priceless when going keto. I still use
them regularly. It’s really easy to get your electrolytes out of whack when you’re
keto. I thought I was doing great, but when I added in LMNT a little over a year
ago I was amazed at the difference they made. I was having sort of low blood
pressure/thyroid-ish/adrenal symptoms that I couldn’t really explain and those
all resolved with LMNT. Also, I’ve found a whole nother gear in my workouts
since starting LMNT. My electrolytes were out of balance. Now LMNT is a staple
for me. I’m on their subscription and get nervous if I’m getting low! Try the
watermelon. Mmmm. The chocolate salt is also great as a hot chocolate at night
before bed. Add a tablespoon of half and half or heavy cream if you do dairy. So
good. OK, OK, this isn’t an LMNT commercial, you get the point.
The MCT powder I have in my coffee every morning with some collagen for an
easy keto coffee, and I have a yummy matcha latte with MCT powder in the
afternoon. I’ll link all of this in the show notes.
So, what foods are best in our quest to hit that 20-30 gram goal?
I’ll just give you a quick run-down on the best keto choices, always read your
labels and take carb totals into account:
For healthy fats: coconut oil, grass-fed butter, grass-fed ghee, walnut oil,
macadamia oil, olive oil, avocado oil, avocado oil mayo and salad dressings,
mct powder or mct oil, coconut, coconut cream, coconut milk, coconut butter,
cream cheese, sour cream, low carb cheeses, and eggs.
For great protein sources: meat of course, all meat, poultry, seafood, and fish.
Beef, chicken, pork, venison, duck, salmon, turkey, oysters, sardines, lamb cod,
tuna, elk… you get the picture. Grass-fed, wild caught, organic is always best,
but don’t stress. Go for what fits in your budget. Again, read labels on processed
versions of these foods as many will add gross additives and sugars. Carb
counts on something simple like sausage or lunch meat can surprise you.
Also, if dairy doesn’t bother you, a quality low carb protein powder can be
helpful if you struggle to hit your protein target. I’ll link to my favorite in the
Great choices of low carb nuts include: pecans, brazil nuts, and macadamia nuts.
Check carb counts on labels and watch your portion control here. If I’m aiming
at fat loss I cannot have nut butter in the house, I don’t care how keto it is.
For low carb veggies: green veggies are best. Again, check carb counts.
Salad greens, broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, cucumbers, zucchini,
collard greens, swiss chard, green onions, cauliflower, and spinach are all great
Now with fruit, berries are really your best choices and you really have to
watch portions. Strawberries and blueberries are my favorites to include.
Just count your carbs and see what works best for you. And of course
non-traditional fruits like olives and avocados are amazing choices.
Salts and spices: go crazy, just watch labels for added sugars etc.
Beverages: water of course, as well as unsweetened versions of any coffee, tea,
mineral water, electrolyte-added water, sparkling water, things like Perrier and
Pellegrino are great, you can make infused waters like lemon water and
cucumber water, and of course non-dairy milk alternatives like unsweetened
vanilla almond breeze and milkadamia (which are my favorites).
Treats: be extremely careful with keto treats. Especially the various keto-treat
and bread-like recipes online as well as the prepackaged keto foods lining the
shelves. Often the carb counts are just too high. I do not recommend any of
the keto breads and wraps out there. They often have wheat and other things
that aren’t going to be helpful and just plain too many carbs. Good keto treat
options are low sugar/low total carb dark chocolate and homemade fat bombs.
I also like things like Quest protein chips and Zevia. I occasionally splurge on
some keto bars. I’ll leave links to my favorite treats in the show notes.
But again, be careful here.
Alcohol. It may be a good idea to test your ketones and blood sugar and see
how various alcohols affect you. Low carb alcohols like vodka can be a good
option or light beer. Because of the way our bodies process alcohol, most will
find it beneficial to limit alcohol.
It can take several weeks to get in a good groove with keto. Be patient with
yourself. Once you hit your stride you should feel amazing and start seeing your
metrics edge close to your goals.
OK, now I’m going to shift and answer some common questions I get on keto:
How do I know when I’m in ketosis? Well, people say there’s ways to tell, but I
think testing is the best way. You can use urine test strips. Ketostix are the only
kind I like. Those work best for people new to keto, but sometimes not as well if
you’ve been keto for a while. You can also get a blood keto monitor. I have one
that tests both ketones and blood glucose. I think it’s good to track both. I’ve
been on keto for years and don’t really track ketones anymore, but I do keep
tabs on my fasting blood sugar. I think that’s one metric all people should watch.
But you don’t have to test. If you’re keeping your carbs at 20 to 30 total grams
you should be golden. If you are wanting to try to go up from there for some
reason, definitely test your ketones and watch how it affects the scale and your
fasting blood sugar numbers as well.
Do I have to track on keto?
Nope. You should count your carbs daily and make sure you’re getting
enough protein. Most people can do fine just doing that and it’s definitely the
easiest way to get started. However, a lot of people will benefit from tracking
their food while they’re figuring out this new way of eating. And those seeking
specific health or wellness goals with keto will be best served by tracking.
Episode 1 on tracking can help you out.
Do calories matter on keto?
Yes. Yes they do. Sort of. OK, quality of food and carb count is the most
important thing here. A calorie of high fructose corn syrup isn’t processed by
your body the same as a calorie of steak. But many people run into trouble on
keto because they’re simply eating too much delicious keto food. So, yes, the
amount of food you’re taking in can affect whether you reach your goals.
Whether or not you need to track your calories depends on your goals and how
in touch you are with your body and your hunger and fullness cues.
Does carbohydrate type or quality matter or is a carb a carb?
There are those who do clean keto (like me) and those who do what we’ll call
dirty keto. Where they just count carbs and don’t care if their day is filled with
diet sodas and keto junk food. Honestly, whatever works for you and your goals.
But often focusing on good, clean, quality foods is the best approach to a truly
sustainable and healthy keto plan. This really should be about health no matter
your goals. And honestly, because we are limiting carbs so much on keto, it’s
best to get the most bang for your buck nutrition-wise from the carbs we do
choose. Definitely focus on nutrient-packed choices like greens, berries,
Should I do carb-ups on keto?
A lot of people think you should, but I completely disagree. I’ve seen so many
people stay on the blood sugar merry go round with this strategy and have
personally seen no benefit from carb-ups.
Which sweeteners are best on keto?
I recommend stevia and monk fruit. I’ll link to my current favorite. But I think
it’s best to minimize sweeteners in general. Losing our intense cravings for
sweet foods is a perk and huge benefit of keto. I generally just have the little
bit that’s in my LMNT or matcha latte.
I’m stalled, I hit a plateau, what do I do?
OK, in order I think you should try them and try one at a time not ALL!
First, if you’re not tracking. Track for a week or so. Your carbs, calories, or
macros may not be what you think they are. OR you may need to drop your
carbs or calories a bit.
Second, make sure you’re counting TOTAL carbs not net.
Third, cut out nuts and dairy for a few weeks. This is often my problem. It can
be really tough, but can make a huge difference.
Fourth, if you’re not testing your ketone levels and fasting blood sugar do this.
You may need to adjust something to get where you want to be here.
Fifth, cut out the keto treats, fat bombs, and packaged foods. These foods will
stop many a keto weight loss journey in its tracks. Often these are laden with
sugar alcohols, artificial ingredients, and crappy carbs that will keep us from
Sixth, make sure you’re getting enough water, salt, and electrolytes.
Last, try cutting out all sweeteners. Sometimes this can be just the trick to get
us moving in the right direction again.
If you’ve tried all of that and you’re still stalled try some IF. Condense your
eating window slowly and see if that helps.
I’m bored, what do I do?
I hear this a lot. We often just get in a food rut. No matter our eating plan.
The best weapon against boredom is variety. For keto, this can mean trying
new foods and recipes. Cruise pinterest or find a new keto cookbook to try out.
Go through the produce aisle and pickup some things you’ve never tried.
Really try to get out of your comfort zone, you may find new favorites!
What about exercise on keto?
Of course you don’t HAVE to exercise on keto, but we want to be healthy, so yes
you should be doing some form of exercise. If you’re new to keto I recommend
taking it easy the first few weeks while your body is adjusting. No need to add a
bunch of stress with intense workouts. Walking is great here. If blood sugar
control is your goal a 10 minute walk after each meal is beyond helpful!
Once you’re adjusted go back and check out our strength training episode…3
I think. Then, once you’ve got in a good groove with that add in some cardio.
Whatever you enjoy.
Do I need fat bombs?
Probably not. We want our bodies to burn their own fat most of the time.
Keto really isn’t aobut main-lining fat. If you have room in your macros they
can be fine, but definitely not necessary. Where fat bombs can be beneficial is if
you’re trying to get into therapeutic levels of ketones. Fat bombs with coconut
oil are great here. Most store bought fat bombs have way too many carbs.
Look for a good recipe that lists total carb count.
What about cheat meals?
OH, the cheat meal question. I personally don’t do cheat meals, in any form.
I just think they undermine our goals and they’re such a slippery slope to giving
up. They keep us on the blood sugar roller coaster, keep us craving the junk,
and usually make it take longer to reach our goals. I don’t think they’re helpful
for our mindset or our willpower either. The whole cheat mentality just isn’t good.
You deserve good healthy food!
Now, what I do are what I call keto splurges. They’re just keto-friendly treats
that are a little higher in carbs or calories than I normally choose. Or they’re
more dairy or nuts than I usually do. That might be a keto cheesecake with a
nut crust on Christmas. Or once in a while some peanut butter keto bars that
are a little higher carb than I would normally do. Quest protein chips and Zevia
are treats to me that I have fairly regularly. Things like that. I never just go ham.
I just don’t feel good when I eat junk. It’s not worth it for me. Now, I went paleo
in 2011 and slowly worked my way down in carbs, so it’s taken me a while to
get here. But I can honestly say I have no desire for oreos or pizza or any of
that. I’ve just lost the taste for junk. Plus, I stay keto for health reasons and
that keeps me motivated to keep the cheats out.
OK guys, those are my thoughts on getting started with keto. Thoughts
questions? Tweet me.
Thanks for listening. See you next time!