My Ketogenic Diet, Part 1: The Basics

My Ketogenic Diet, Part 1: The Basics

Everyone diets at some point. Not always does it work and rarely is it enjoyable. To be entirely honest, diets SUCK. We feel punished and self-loathing, and think of doing awful things to people if it meant we could eat our favourite indulgences without guilt or affect. What’s worse, it takes AGES to see results. In our insta-everything digital age, we’ve been conditioned to get what we want in nano-seconds – not weeks or, god forbid, months.

I’ve been on (and off) the keto diet for about 1.5 years. I first started because I hit an all-time high in my weight thanks to a rather sedentary but busy lifestyle. I also noticed my energy levels tanking, my mental focus deteriorating, and felt terrible about the lack of time I had to do anything about it, as I was already juggling my own career and helping my partner with his business, while running our household, tending to our expanding pet count, traveling a lot, etc.

When I first jumped into keto, I went gung-ho and lost 25 lbs in 3 months. With zero exercise. Bonus: over a third of my total weight loss was in the first 4 weeks as keto also expels water-weight, so it definitely soothes the “impatient” itch [1]. Sharing a very private image here to prove my point:

Then as things in life changed again, moving house, adding on more business projects, the weight slowly creeped up about halfway. So then came another keto-kick. Boom. Dropped all that gain in 2 months. How reliable! Here’s the issue though: swinging one’s dietary approach can’t be good long-term. So a few months ago I moved from my gung-ho keto diet to a more relaxed low-carb diet. It’s kept me at my current weight quite perfectly for the last 3 months (and no, I still haven’t had time to add exercise to my daily routine). Low-carb on it’s own isn’t really effective for weight loss, but it is a much more sustainable (and convenient) lifestyle.

Diets are not the answer in the long-term. The answer is to just find slight alterations rather than continuously torture oneself. At least, that’s what’s worked for me. But before getting to that stable happy-weight point, a slim-down is fastest on a diet. And the keto diet is king. So we’ll cover keto first, and in a future post I’ll talk about my transition to a low-carb lifestyle.

BIG OL’ DISCLAIMER

Obviously, I am by no means a health or dietary expert. I’m just a typical girl who wanted to shed a few lbs, did my own research, know enough about my own body, and found something that worked for me. You should NOT act on my (or any) advice without consulting your doctor first, especially if you have any health conditions or are pregnant.

This post is also not meant to be a be-all-and-end-all for anyone in their keto understanding. If I’ve gotten something wrong or you wish to expand on a point I’ve made, please feel free to share your knowledge and experience in the comments below!

KETO Q&A

What is Keto?
Ketogenic diets are high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates. Generally, the ratio between these three macro-nutrients varies within the following ranges on your daily intake: 55-75% of calories from fat, 15-35% of calories from protein, and 5-10% of calories from carbs [2].

How does this diet work?
A carb based diet is what most of us grew up on. Remember the food pyramid they taught us in school with the widest level on the bottom being carbs? Yeah, thanks for making us all fatter, World Health Organization [3]. With this approach, your liver converts carbs (sugars, starches, etc) into glucose for the body’s primary fuel source, and excess consumed fats are stored in “fat deposits” as they are only a back-up for energy use. In a fat based or keto diet, you avoid carbs, forcing your body to get into and stay in a glycogen-deprived state, also called ketosis, burning ketones for energy instead, and putting those fat deposits to use[4].

Why are ketones better than glucose for energy?
One of the tell-tale signals for diabetes is sudden notable weight loss without a change in diet, caused by the body switching to ketones for energy because it cannot process the glucose made by the liver. That DOES NOT mean ketones in the blood is bad or dangerous. To the contrary, glucose is the dangerous one if too much of it is in the blood, and people with diabetes sometimes adopt a keto lifestyle to manage their condition [5].

Why are carbs bad?
Carbs aren’t really bad per say, you need everything in the macro-nutrient trinity to stay healthy. But carbohydrates just naturally process into glucose in your body and this is why they are not helpful in ridding your body of those pesky fat deposits.

What else can keto do?
Keto can also help with [5, 6]:

  • Reducing high blood pressure
  • Reducing triglyceride levels
  • Raising HDL cholesterol levels (a good sign of heart health)
  • Improving mental performance
  • Boosting overall energy levels
  • Curbing cravings and sense of hunger
  • Improving complexion
  • Improving mood (carbs put your body AND your mind on a roller-coaster)

IMPORTANT TO NOTE

  • Calories still matter. Don’t be daft and think that keto will help you at all if you’re eating 4k calories a day when you should be on 2k.
  • Exercise is still important to overall health.
  • There’s a thing called “keto-flu” and yes, it exists. It’s not a real flu, it’s just a colloquial term for the transition process your body goes through when you enter ketosis – basically it’s withdrawal from carbs. This manifests as headaches, fatigue, stomach bug-like experiences, and dehydration/lack of electrolytes. It can take days or weeks to pass but is easy to manage with adding salt to meals, drinking low-carb miso soup or other broths, and lots of water.  If you’ve been living on potatoes and bread though, buckle up because typically the severity of the flu correlates to what your macro-split looked like before you started. I also recommend not doing much exercise during this phase, and avoid stress as it can compound the symptoms. [7].
  • If you’re struggling to stay committed to the diet because of temptations or lifestyle (travel especially) look for low-carb options when you’re dining out, but don’t beat yourself up over the situation. Just try to get back in ketosis as soon as possible. After all, everything in moderation, including moderation.
  • A few months in, your body can get too used to keto and you may need to switch from a full keto diet to a cycling keto diet in order to re-trigger your weight-loss. We’ll cover that at a later time.

HOW TO START YOUR KETO DIET

  1. First, talk to your doctor about this diet and make sure it’s the right choice for you.
  2. Next, calculate your macro split and calorie intake goals based on your height, age, lean weight, and frame. I used this calculator.
  3. At least until you’re used to cooking/living the keto lifestyle, install and use the free MyFitnessPal app to track total amounts of carbs/fats/proteins (called macros), water intake, workouts, weight loss/gain, etc. It may be fiddly and take minutes to enter in meals sometimes, but it’s the only true way to hold yourself 100% accountable and most of us need that until we’re used to stuff, especially if you’re trying to lose weight or otherwise think you’re at risk for overdoing things.
  4. The day you decide to start keto, purge your house of anything that has over 10 carbs a serving (that’s getting into danger zone). If in doubt, google it. I hid all my carbs in the crisper and top cupboards until my keto flu was gone, and as soon as it was, I felt so good I knew I could commit fully, so I bagged up whatever carby foods I had that were unopened and non-perishable, and dropped them off at the food bank. The rest I straight up threw away. Starting keto doesn’t cost much for the supplements, nor for starting to buy the right foods, but I probably threw away/donated £150-200 worth of carby/junky food by shifting to keto. Honestly though, it was better than keeping it around and being tempted. Be ruthless. It’s the only way.
  5. Go shopping. The key to keto is learning to read the nutrition label on food (or googling the nutrition contents on unlabeled food) and adhering to the proper macro-nutrient split. Basic guidelines:
    – NO items with added sugars and minimal fruits (only berries in serious moderation)
    – No grains (rice, breads, pastas)
    – Little to no starches (potatoes, legumes, peas, root vegetables)
    – No sugary drinks or desserts (unless they are zero-sugar and keto-friendly…more on this another time)
    – Other foods you eat will often have small amounts of carbs in them so even avoiding all actual main carbs, you will still be hitting your daily carb allowance
  6. Starting off on the strongest foot possible, and preferably on the start of a weekend so you don’t go through keto flu at work or school, try to follow a supplement schedule (these are what I take – the only ones that are truly essential are fish oil, multivites, and ketones):
    – Biomega (fish oil): take one with breakfast
    – Multi-vitamins: one with breakfast
    – Raspberry ketones: two 30 mins after breakfast (these add a boost to your ketone levels and help regulate your ketosis)
    – Vitamin D: one with breakfast
    – Potassium: if you’re not hitting that 3500mg DRA then take a small supplement (though if you’re eating dark meats and leafy greens, you should be ok)
  7. Eat every 2.5-3 hours, for a total of 5-6 meals a day, and always eat the proteins first. A typical day would look like this:
    – Breakfast (ensure you have a protein and a fat as you need to start your day right, and take multi-vitamins, one biomega capsule, potassium, and vitamin D)
    – Snack (30 mins before before snacktime, take ketone pills)
    – Lunch
    – Snack
    – Dinner
    – Snack/dessert
  8. When you eventually add exercise to your routine, be sure to eat protein right afterwards. I used the free custom workout builder here to get started.

THE STARTER KIT LIST

  1. Ketone pills
  2. MCT oil (not a necessity, but we’ll get to what this is and why you should have it in the next post)
  3. Keto-friendly foods (look for my next post for a full walkthrough!)
  4. Keto test strips (I use these, and they help me measure my ketones to ensure I’m in fat-burning mode [8])
  5. Multi vitamins
  6. Fish Oil capsules

BEFORE YOU GO

I got a lot of responses on my Instagram when I asked if I should cover my approach to keto, but as I began to write it, I realized it was FAR too much information for one post. So I’ve reassessed and broken the whole thing into a series. So there’s much more to come on this if you like it! Next you should check out this next post on the foods I eat and where I answer some of your questions and feedback to this post. Soon, I’ll also share my own recipes and updates for you all – and I invite you to share your updates and experiences with me if you choose to go keto!

Do you have any questions about keto or anything else we’ve covered here?

Let us know in the comments!

[1] http://ketogeniclifestyle.com/water-weight-and-fluid-management/

[2] https://ketodietapp.com/Blog/post/2015/12/07/how-much-fat-on-a-ketogenic-diet

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketone

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_pyramid_(nutrition)

[5] https://www.diabetes.co.uk/keto/

[6] https://www.perfectketo.com/how-to-fix-biggest-ketosis-mistakes/

[7] http://breaknutrition.com/keto-flu/

[8] http://www.joslin.org/info/ketone_testing_what_you_need_to_know.html

Follow:
Shannon Plante

Entrepreneur, gaming industry business and community ops, and founder of shannonplante.com. 25th great-granddaughter of Henry II, the first Plantagenet king.

Find me on: Web

Share:

1 Comment

  1. GollyMsMollie
    14th January 2018 / 9:21 AM

    I’ve tried keto a few times with moderate success, but I always reach a point where foods seem too rich, fats seem too much, and all I want is tons of veggies (and fruit tbh)! Is this something you’ve encountered and, if so, how did you overcome it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *