10 Things to Know About Keto

The Ketogenic Diet. 

If you live in America and have paid any attention to the internet in the past few months, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. The diet that promotes high fat, medium protein, and low carb intake. Some doctors refuse to admit that there are many health benefits of the diet, while others are doing it themselves. All this controversy makes it pretty difficult for some people to start, especially when they lack the support of their friends and family.

When I initially began loading my food up with butter, bacon, eggs, and a side of leafy greens, I think quite a few people were hesitant. As usual, there was at least one troll on Facebook who was determined to prove that the diet was not good for a person’s heart (false – see why here) and that it wasn’t a feasible way of eating (again, false). Luckily, though, I had a bunch of friends and family supporting and encouraging me and, eventually, almost everyone realized that I was making some huge healthy strides in life.

So now I sit here, over fifty days into this supposedly infeasible way of eating, I can confidently say that there at least 10 things that everyone should know while starting their keto-journey:

1) Eat veggies. I don’t think I’ll ever forget one of my friend’s reactions when she found out that I planned on starting to eat in a keto-friendly manner.

“No, you don’t need that. What you need is more fiber in your diet!”

Was she wrong? No, not at all. Was she fooled by the false accusations thrown at the ketogenic diet daily? Yes, absolutely. Before I started eating keto, I think I ate about 1-3 cups of veggies per week (that may even be an over exaggeration). Now that I’m following a ketogenic diet, I eat at least four servings of vegetables (I’m talking Fresh-baby-spinach-leaves-in-a-bowl-on-a-wooden-table-640x479cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers, leafy greens, onions, peppers – all the non-starchy veggies) per day.

If you’re just starting keto, eat your veggies. They should be where the majority of your carbs come from! So throw that spinach in your eggs, eat leafy salads, do whatever you need to do! If you’re counting net carbs, you won’t go over in carbs! If you aren’t, you didn’t get fat from eating vegetables!

2) Eat berries. This is one thing that I can’t find a clear answer about anywhere online. Some people encourage the consumption of berries on the keto diet, while others insist they have way too much sugar. background-2277_960_720.jpgI personally love berries and what they provide for the body. They are stacked full of minerals, vitamins, and fiber.

I eat one cup of berries per day, almost every week, and I’m in a steady state of ketosis. The sugar they offer is enough to eliminate the annoying craving for sugar I had at the beginning of my keto journey. Now, they’re my favorite treat! I log them into my tracker and I still stay well below my carb count for the day. Stick with raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries! Otherwise, check out this blog to see what kind of fruits are “safe” on keto!

3) Drink water. One of the most important, yet least mentioned, aspects of ketogenic eating is the need to drink water, constantly. The the keto way of eating restricts the intake of carbs drastically, so besides diet soda (which is generally not recommended) and sparkling water, you don’t have many choices besides actual water. Every person glass-1206584_1920will tell you something different – drink 2-3 liters, drink at least 1 gallon, drink half your body weight (in ounces) – but the general consensus is you need water. Without it, you will most likely stall in weight loss, overeat, and feel like crap because your dehydrated.

I personally keep a 32 oz water bottle with me at almost all times and I drink out of it constantly. To make sure I’m keeping up with it, I downloaded the My Water app, which helps me track and make sure I’m drinking enough water daily. It even allows the user to set a two-hour reminder!

I’m not sure about everyone else, but when I don’t drink enough water, my weightloss stalls.

4) Give in to your cravings. The most restrictive part of the ketogenic way of eating is the lack of ability to “cheat”. I mean, you can have binge days but the following morning you will experience something that feels worse than a hangover. So, don’t binge!

If you really have a killer craving for something that you know isn’t keto friendly, but you can’t get it off your mind, then give in. Take one or two bites. Odds are, it won’t taste like you remember it tasting and you won’t even want to finish the rest. If you haven’t started keto yet, then you won’t understand the amount that your taste buds can or will change. Sugary foods will literally repel you, salty foods will become your favorite treat – even if you hate them beforehand (in my case, olives).

8143215572_aaa192f850_kThe thing is, if you restrict yourself completely from the things you want, by the time you have them you will be ravenous! You’ll want every crumb – and carb – of that thing that you’ve repeatedly told yourself you cannot have. So, once you finally have it, you’ll have it all. Then, you’ll wake up the next morning feeling like total shit and completely regretting it.

I promise you, regret tastes just as disgusting when your leading a keto lifestyle as it did before.

5) Be careful with protein. What? Be careful with protein, but you thought you were allowed to eat that – in endless amounts? Unfortunately, you’re not. While protein is essential to maintain and increase muscle mass. Increased muscle mass is essential for an increased metabolism. So, yes, you absolutely need 15 – 30% of your calories to be from protein. The issue is, essentially, that excess protein is converted to sugar, which is BAD because excess sugar equals ketosis.

protein (1)

I sincerely admit that I have no idea how to actually manually calculate my macros, but I do frequently check them at the following websites:

Generally, the results are pretty similar. If they aren’t, feel free to research how to manually calculate them or find your own favorite calculator.

6) Keto is not a “diet”, it’s a lifestyle. Will you gain weight if you stop keto and eat a crap ton of carbs? Yes, you probably will. Just like a calorie restricted diet, if you go diet-vs-lifestyle1back to your old way of eating, you will gain weight.

Does that mean you will never be able to eat or drink any non-keto foods again? No. It means that you have to learn how to eat properly, get yourself in great shape, and then enjoy “naughty” foods occasionally, while readily maintaining a ketogenic lifestyle. I know this sounds rough, but after you achieve fat adaptation, you won’t want to go back to your old way of life again.

7) Do not expect to eat your favorite carb-loaded snacks in a keto-friendly variety. Unless it’s switching from store bought cream of chicken soup to the kind you whip up on your own, odds are the recipe is going to taste different. But, no, radishes do not taste like french fries, zoodles aren’t macaroni flavored, and no strand of stevia extract tastes just like sugar. Thinking otherwise will leave you feeling disappointed.

Healthy food does not taste like crappy food, it just doesn’t.

8) Count calories. I think one of the most annoying things I’ve heard about keto is that you don’t have to track your calorie intake. Technically, in order to obtain or maintain ketosis, you don’t. Yet, to lose weight using the keto way of eating, you do.

Calories are not the primary focus on keto; eating good fat is. Consequently, your calorie limit may be higher than a regular, low-calorie diet. Still, you do need to count the calories because if you’re eating too much of a good thing, it becomes a bad thing – you can still gain weight and maintain ketosis. 

9) Accept the changes. As you continue leading a ketogenic lifestyle, you will start to notice odd changes. They aren’t coincidences and, yes, they are linked to your new way of eating. What are some of these changes?

  • You’ll like new foods that you’ve never liked before.DIJON-MUSTARD-600x303 I have spent my whole life hating mustard. My family can tell you stories about how much I hate mustard. Guess what I suddenly love! Mustard.
  • You’ll have so much energy. The first week is groggy, to say the least. Soon after, though, you’ll start waking up early, staying up late, and getting things done on the weekend instead of sleeping. Crap, I had so much extra energy that I started working out willingly!
  • You’ll feel better. Of course, when you see the weight falling off, you will feel excellent. Before that, though, you will just feel healthier.

Enjoy the benefits of these changes. Trust me, keto will change your life if you let it!

10) It’s not always easy. Sometimes, it sucks to have to plan out your meals at restaurants to make sure they fit in your macros. Other times, you will get sick of explaining to people why you can eat one thing and not another. You might stumble, you might fall right off the wagon; climb back on. Just do yourself a favor and don’t give up.

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Keto & Cholesterol

I would like to think that most people are, at least, aware that there are two very different kinds of cholesterol – High Density Lipoprotein and Low Density Lipoprotien, commonly referred to as HDL and LDL. Just in case you aren’t aware of how exactly they work, I’ll give you a brief lowdown.

HDL Cholesterol – The Good Guy

HDL cholesterol is our body’s own little clean up crew. The higher our HDL level is, the lower our LDL level is. This is because our HDL transports cholesterol that has been stored in our arteries to our liver, which then processes it and dispenses it from our body.

Cholesterol

LDL Cholesterol – The Bad Guy

Whereas HDL cholesterol is extremely beneficial, LDL cholesterol is not. This guy is the one that spreads cholesterol throughout our arteries and, unfortunately, leaves it there to build up into plaque. LDL cholesterol is frequently the underlying cause for chest pains, heart attacks, and strokes.

The Mayo Clinic suggests that, in order to keep the LDL cholesterol levels low, people eat a low sodium diet – full of fruits, veggies, and whole grains – while limiting their intake of animal fats and moderating their consumption of good fats. If you’re anything like me, red flags just popped up all over the keto lifestyle, which lacks fruit and whole grains and promotes the consumption of fat and/or protein.

The Good News

The good news is that there is literally so much research that demonstrates that living a keto lifestyle is actually extremely beneficial, especially in regards to keeping your HDL high and LDL low. To verify this information, I read through three academic journal articles that reflected on findings of three different studies, where obese individuals entered into a monitored ketogenic diet program.

Study Number One

This article reflects on a study that actually compared the results of a low-carb, ketogenic diet versus the results of a low fat diet. In order to participate in this controlled trial study, individuals had to be between the ages of 18 and 65 years with a body mass index (BMI) between above 30 kg/m2 – yet under 60 kg/m2 – and, finally, a desire to lose weight. Using a computer-generated randomization program, individuals were assigned to either the low carb or low fat diet.

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The ketogenic eaters were allowed to consume unlimited amounts of animal foods – meat, fish, and shellfish – and two cups of salad veggies, one cup of low-carb veggies, as well as four ounces of hard cheese. On the other hand, low-fat dieters were instructed by a registered dietitian to have a diet that consisted of “less than 30% of daily energy intake from fat, less than 10% of daily energy intake from saturated fat, and less than 300 mg of cholesterol daily.” (Yancy, William S., et al., 2004)

In the end, over 75% of the individuals participating in the low-carb (ketogenic) diet completed the entire 24 week study, where only 57% percent of those in the low-fat program lasted through the end. Stunningly, these ketogenic dieters had greater weight loss, reduction in triglyceride levels (which works with LDL cholesterol to cause strokes and heart attacks), and a notable increase in HDL cholesterol.

What does all this mean, though? Well, this first study indicates the following:

  • The ketogenic lifestyle is less difficult to stick with than the low-fat lifestyle.
  • Ketogenic eating actually increases the level of good cholesterol in our bodies.
  • The low-carb, ketogenic eating plan is a lot less confusing that the low-fat alternative (seriously, I can’t even understand the requirements they had to meet).

Study Number Two

The next scholarly article I reviewed was in regards to the results of a study that quinoa-salad-6looked at the long term effects of the ketogenic diet on obese participants with high cholesterol levels. In this diet, 66 individuals followed an eating plan that consisted of the following:

  • Less than 20 g of carbohydrates in the form of green vegetables and salad
  • 80–100 g of proteins in the form of meat – fish, fowl, eggs, shellfish and cheese.
  • Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (5 tablespoons olive oil) were included in the diet. (Dashti, Hussein M., et al., 2006)

In this study, there was a 74% completion rate for the 56 week study. After the first week, the levels of the participants HDL cholesterol increased and the level of the LDL cholesterol – and the level of its helper, triglycerides – significantly decreased. Not only that, but their blood sugar levels also dropped!

What we can see by looking at the results of the first two studies is:

  • The low-carb ketogenic diet has a three-out-of-four success rate!
  • The eating plans aren’t only simple, but they sound pretty delicious.
  • The lifestyle raises the good cholesterol, decreases the bad, and even lowers blood sugar levels.

Study Number Three

The final study I reviewed was focused on the long-term effects of ketogenic eating on obese individuals. In this case, the 83 participants were required to begin the program with a BMI greater than 35 kg/m2, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol.

Again, the participants were presented with a fairly 6a2b7accd3610c99cd8043ff0c0e7972--hey-girl-meme-girl-memessimple eating plan that consisted of 20 – 30 grams of carbs from green veggies and salads, 80 – 100 grams of protein from animal foods and cheese, and polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats. They were then monitored at eight weeks, 16 weeks, and, finally, 24 weeks. (Dashti, Hussein M, et al., 2004) During each “check-up”, the following was reflected:

  • A decrease in LDL Cholesterol, which continuously dropped in levels.
  • An uninterrupted decrease in triglycerides.
  • A steady increase of HDL Cholesterol.
  • A steady decrease of blood sugar levels.

One thing I particularly liked about this study is that it discusses other benefits of the ketogenic lifestyle, including it’s ability to be a mood stabilizer for bi-polar disorders and depression. Furthermore, it helps prevent osteoporosis and chronic diseases that result from high sugar intake. Finally, there are less – or no – side effects for obese individuals who utilize the ketogenic lifestyle to lose weight, unlike many quick-fix weight loss drugs that are on the market today.

What This Means

So, here we sit. I’ve just gave you the low down on three different studies that were conducted on three different groups of people by three different sets of Doctors. All of these studies present data that goes directly against what has been believed for decades by the general population. Not only can a low-carb diet that is high in unsaturated fats help people lose weight, but it can also decrease LDL cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and triglycerides all the while increasing HDL cholesterol – also known as the good cholesterol.  Additionally, unlike the fad low-fat diets and weight loss supplements flashing across our television and computer screens regularly, there are minimal negative side effects.

Not only can a low-carb diet that is high in unsaturated fats help people lose weight, but it can also decrease LDL cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and triglycerides all the while increasing HDL cholesterol – also known as the good cholesterol. 

I’m not a doctor, but I think that the conclusion is obvious: the ketogenic lifestyle is not only easier to maintain, but more likely to beneficial to your health and well-being than the alternatives.

Bibliography

  • Dashti, Hussein M, et al. “Long-Term Effects of a Ketogenic Diet in Obese Patients.” Experimental & Clinical Cardiology, Pulsus Group Inc, 2004, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/.
  • Dashti, Hussein M., et al. “Long Term Effects of Ketogenic Diet in Obese Subjects with High Cholesterol Level.” Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, vol. 286, 2006, pp. 1–9., doi:10.1007/s11010-005-9001-x.
  • Yancy, William S., et al. “A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet versus a Low-Fat Diet To Treat Obesity and Hyperlipidemia: A Randomized, Controlled Trial.” Annals of Internal Medicine, American College of Physicians, 18 May 2004, annals.org/aim/fullarticle/717451/low-carbohydrate-ketogenic-diet-versus-low-fat-diet-treat-obesity.

The Down Low on Net Carbs

The Down Low on Net Carbs

Let me ask you a quick question; how do you calculate your net carbs? My guess is that, right now, you either googled what the hell a net carb is or started reciting some discombobulated formula – which you most likely found, via google – that makes no sense and, if I were to question you, would just become more confusing.

According to the Mayo Clinic Staff, net carbs are “the amount of carbohydrates in a product excluding fiber, or excluding both fiber and sugar alcohols.” Why are those two things excluded? Well, essentially fiber is part of plant foods that can’t be digested by the human body. Consequently, the body doesn’t process them and essentially just flushes them out instead of holding them in storage. Per the Joslin Diabetes Center, sugar alcohols come from some fruits and berries that have their carbohydrates altered through a natural chemical process. They appear in our foods with names like mannitol, xylitol, and isomalt. These sugar alcohols are not easily absorbed by our bodies and, consequently, may have a laxative effect.

So, how does that apply to Keto?

RuledMe claims that the ideal amount of carbohydrate consumption for ketosis is less than 35 grams of total carbs and 25 grams of net carbs. Martina Slajerova, the creator of img_fruitsandvegthe KetoDietApp.com and author on the blog, does clarify that tracking net carbs is an effective method for weight loss, while tracking total carbs is more suitable for managing diseases, like cancer or epilepsy.

Personally, I like having both listed on MyFitnessPal food diary. Ideally, I want to stay below 25 total carbs. However, say I decide to have a lot of broccoli in my meal plan for a week, then it’s nice to be able to compare. For example, next weeks meal plan contains spinach, artichokes, broccoli, and cauliflower. This resulted in my going above my total carbohydrate limit by 4 grams (so 29, which is still under 30 – not too shabby, if I do say so myself), but since most of those carbs are coming from foods that are full of fiber, my net carb intake was still 5 grams below my limit of 25 grams.

I guess, in a way, my net carb intake is kind of like a security blanket. I can use it to ensure that, although my total carb intake isn’t perfect, I’m not eating carbs that are bad for me – just ones that are rich in fiber.

Wait… Did you say Net Carbs on MyFitnessPal?

That I did say. You probably think I’m confused, since My Fitness Pal 1there is no option for Net Carb  intake on the “Nutrients Tracked” drop down menu (Click “Food” -> “Settings”), but I’m not.

If you go to GitHub, there is a user script titled  “mfp-keto-userscript”. In order to install it on Google Chrome, you will also need to install Tampermonkey (click here for a direct link to the Chrome Web Store). After that, all you have to do is install the user script and, suddenly, your food diary nutrient totals will become something even better. If you happen to not have Google Chrome, directions for other internet browsers can be found on the GitHub website.

Below, you can see how the screen will differ:

My Fitness Pal 1

My Fitness Pal 4

On an even more exciting note – at least with Google Chrome – you can try it and, if you don’t like it, turn it off. To do so, you must be on the MyFitnessPal page and click the Tampermonkey icon in the upper right hand corner, then click the switch to disable it.

Unfortunately, this user script is only available on the actual internet browsers and not in the app, itself. I do most of my meal planning on an actual computer, since it’s easier to import recipes and mess with macro totals.