The keto flu is a phenomenon that stops many people from fully experiencing the benefits of a ketogenic diet. They start the diet and when they start feeling poorly they use it as proof that the diet doesn’t work for them. Unfortunately this means they quit right before the magic happens.
The first time I ate a ketogenic diet I experienced keto flu symptoms. I was fatigued, achy and felt like I had “brain fog.” It resolved over a couple of days and I took those days to take it easy on myself. I wish I would have known that there were some simple things I could have done to feel better.
The process known as keto flu happens when your body is transitioning from a primarily carbohydrate burning metabolism to a fat burning metabolism. You may feel irritable, have a headache and feel fatigued. Some people even feel some heart palpitations. The body is trying to achieve a level of homeostasis. Many of the symptoms are related to dehydration and electrolyte loss. This usually hits around day 2 to day 4 of the keto diet. Unfortunately this is also about the time that your carbohydrate cravings will be raging.
As you eat less carbs your insulin levels go down and your body gets rid of more water and with that water goes some of your electrolytes.
Once you get past the keto flu you will begin to experience the benefits of a ketogenic diet. You will have more mental clarity, energy and you will be a fat-burning machine.
Traditional diets didn’t work for me. They worked short term but I couldn’t sustain them long term. I had success with many different diet plans. But I had never done the thought work required for changing my relationship with food.
My most successful traditional diet was Jenny Craig. This is a program where you get a personal consultant to work with you and they provide the food. Each week you go in and get weighed and talk with your consultant about how the week went. You set personal goals for the next week and select your next week’s food. You leave with boxes, bags and cans of food and a menu plan for how to use them. From this program I learned about portion control and accountability. I stopped the program because I was having jaw surgery. After recovery I felt that I was close enough to my goal weight that I didn’t need to go back.
Unfortunately I had not learned the skills to transition to a good eating plan. I hadn’t changed my thinking about food. I hadn’t learned to deal with urges and cravings. I hadn’t learned about the many ways I was using food for so many more reasons than just fuel for my body. I had basically learned how to eat processed food and practice calorie restriction (which doesn’t work long term). I didn’t know enough about nutrition. What I was learning was the government’s dietary guidelines which virtually guaranteed my eventual failure.
Slowly my old habits crept back in and I gained weight.
Fast forward many years and many pounds…
Earlier this year I had far surpassed my heaviest weight ever. I had working on personal development for the last couple of years but had never quite been able to do the mental work it took to conquer my thinking about my weight. Little did I know that my thinking was the root of the whole problem.
Coming soon I have a 4-week program to share with you what I have been learning. My goal is to help you think differently about food and to equip you to come up with your own nutrition plan. If that sounds like something that is interesting to you sign up for the newsletter by filling out the subscription form at the bottom of the blog so you will be one of the first to know.
Keto coffee (also known as butter coffee, fatty coffee or Bulletproof coffee) is a delicious frothy coffee drink that can help decrease hunger, increase energy and improve mental clarity.You may wonder how one drink can do all that. A breakdown of the ingredients can help clarify things. I make mine with organic coffee (12 oz.), 1 T grass-fed butter, and 1 T of MCT oil. If you’re new to using MCT oil start with a smaller amount and increase over time.
Coffee is not only delicious but it also has some health benefits. Coffee provides antioxidants which help your body fight off cell damage. Studies have shown that coffee may provide protection against Type 2 diabetes, cancer and dementia.Using organic coffee is preferred to conventionally grown coffee. Conventionally grown coffee is chemically treated with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Choosing organic helps to ensure that your coffee does not contain these extra chemicals.
Butter makes this cup of coffee creamy, rich and delicious. But more importantly grass-fed butter is higher in Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, beta carotene and Vitamins A, D, E, and K. It also contains higher levels of CLA which is a fatty acid that helps your body store muscle instead of fat.
Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) which boost your metabolic rate and provide easy energy for your body and especially your brain. Using coconut oil is an inexpensive way to get MCTs but purchasing MCT oil is a much more powerful way to boost ketones. I use NOW brand MCT oil from my local health food store or sometimes Bulletproof Brain Octane. The Bulletproof brand is more expensive but also contains a more concentrated form of the good stuff. In addition to boosting your ketones for more fat burning and brain energy, MCT decreases the action of ghrelin which is the hormone that makes you feel hungry.
If you don’t like coffee or can’t drink it you don’t have to drink keto coffee as part of your ketogenic diet. You can get healthy fats from a variety of sources. You can even get the benefits of the grass-fed butter and MCT oil by using them in other ways. For example, you can cook with butter and use the coconut oil or MCT oil as part of your salad dressing.
Using decaf coffee is fine. I’ve even had people say that they enjoy the recipe with tea or chai tea instead of coffee.
One of the most frequent questions I get is, “What is ketosis?” The human body amazing. We can get energy from more than one type of nutrient. We either use glucose for energy or we can use fat for energy. For me personally, ketosis means I’m in a state where my body is burning my stored fat and I feel fantastic with increased energy, clearer thinking and weight loss. But I sense that people want a more scientific answer. I made a quick video to explain what ketosis is. If you would rather read about it scroll down below the video.
I see so many people making keto complicated and it doesn’t have to be that way. I thought I’d write about some of the ways I make it easier for myself. This is my 3rd month on keto and I’ve lost 16 pounds so far.The best part of it all is that I feel great.
Dinner: My family is not eating keto so dinner is more variable. The easiest is when we have meat and veggies. (i.e. steak and asparagus, pork chops and greens or other combinations). I will add some sort of healthy fat to that like grass-fed butter, avocado, or coconut oil. If they are having something that is not on my eating plan I will modify. For example if they are having spaghetti I will have some meat sauce over zucchini noodles. If they have burgers I will eat mine without the bun. There’s always a way to modify. If all else fails I’ll scramble up some eggs with cheese.
Adding a cheat day or a cheat meal is one of the ways people try to stay on track with their nutrition plan. We tend to give in to the feeling of deprivation and “reward” ourselves with food that we miss. Everyone has to decide for themselves but I’m going to share with you why I choose not to include cheat meals or cheat days.
One reason I don’t cheat is that I’ve realized over the years that the only person I’m cheating is myself. Allowing junk food back into my eating plan has undermined my success over and over. Not only is it a slippery slope for me, it leads to increased hunger and cravings. I worked hard to kick my cravings and I have no desire to fire them back up again. Cheat meals feel fantastic in the moment however there are consequences.
Eating foods with poor nutritional value and unhealthy ingredients causes inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a major contributor to many chronic diseases. It affects your gut health and your mental health. It can also feed any food addictions you may have and can be a starting point for a relapse with subsequent weight gain.
We cheat for various reasons:
The list could go on and on but you get the idea. Next time you are tempted, ask yourself what’s really going on.
When you have cheat days on keto you have an additional set of consequences. You run the risk of knocking yourself out of ketosis. If you have been on a ketogenic diet for long enough you are fat adapted which means you are a fat burning machine. If you are not close to your goal I don’t recommend jeopardizing that fact. Cheating can cause an insulin spike and messes with your stabilized blood sugar. Eating junk food can increase hunger and re-ignite cravings. If you are hungry for certain types of foods I recommend that you find a keto friendly recipe that will help satisfy your craving with ingredients that won’t sabotage your progress. Sometimes it’s just about staying the course, getting used to eating real food, and learning a bit of something about our relationship with food. It’s OK to be uncomfortable and not give into temptation. There’s room for serious personal growth in those moments.
If you do cheat OWN IT. Remember you never “have to” cheat. Don’t play the victim Learn from it. Move on. Don’t use it as an opportunity to continue down a spiral of giving up on your goals. Anticipate the fact that you may feel some negative effects from it and you may be hungrier than usual. Forgive yourself. Don’t dwell on it. Set yourself up for success. Focus on creating better habits over time.
Since my body is burning fat for fuel now I can go longer periods of time without needing to eat. I am doing intermittent fasting. We all fast at night when we sleep. Extending that fast until later in the day has all sorts of benefits. I do what’s called a fat fast meaning I have some fat in the morning in my coffee but no other food. I eased into this gradually I started by keeping my feeding times down to 8 hours (fasting for 16 hours). So I was eating for the first time at 10 a.m. and stopping eating by 6 p.m. This past week I worked on lengthening the fasting window to 11 or 12 hours. I actually went until 1:30 one day when I was busy at work.
You can do intermittent fasting along with any nutrition plan. I am doing it along with a ketogenic diet (keto). Keto helps my body prefer fat as fuel and doesn’t stimulate insulin spikes. Since insulin is a fat storage hormone this helps me stop the continual gain and begin to lose fat.
I also love the flexibility of intermittent fasting. I don’t have to follow a strict schedule. It’s all about finding what works for me. As for right now I’m fasting 16+ hours a day during the weekdays. On the weekend I’m planning to eat breakfast with my family so my fasting window will be shorter. One thing that challenged me at first was wanting to snack near bedtime. I used to do this every night. In the hour before bed I used to have cheese or nuts or some other snack. I wasn’t hungry. I just did it because I wanted to. Purely out of habit. Now I’m mindful of my behavior and I distract myself when I feel the need to snack at night. Or I just go to bed.
Well, I used to think this too. I taught it to others for years. I thought that my body would go into starvation mode and I would do more harm than good. The funny thing is I believed that this was true while carrying around 35,000 extra calories stored right on my own body. Now I am allowing my body to burn those extra calories for fuel. And the result of that is that I’m losing weight and I feel great doing it. I’m enjoying delicious food along the way.
If you’re interested in learning more about intermittent fasting I recommend you watch Dr. Jason Fung on YouTube. This is a good one to start with:
He also has a great book called The Obesity Code that goes into detail about this concept.
One important part of eating a keto lifestyle is to know what macros you’re aiming for. There are many different ways that people calculate their macros. Below is my favorite way to calculate protein. I find that some of the online macro calculators allow for too much protein. Too much protein can stall your progress (more on this in a future article).
This protein calculation is based on an estimation of your ideal body weight and so it is based on your height.
45.5 grams for 5 foot tall
Add 2.3 grams for each inch over 5 foot
(subtract 2.3 grams for each inch under 5 foot)
50 grams for 5 foot tall
Add 2.3 grams for each inch over 5 foot
(subtract 2.3 grams for each inch under 5 foot)
Example – For a 5’2” female
45.5 + (2.3 x 2) = 45.5 + 4.6 = 50.1 grams of protein per day
You will aim for 20 grams or less of carbohydrates. Especially starting out. Later you can experiment with how many carbs you can handle without getting kicked out of ketosis. Most of your carbohydrates will come from low carbohydrate vegetables. These contain so many important nutrients so yes, eat your veggies. There are two ways to count carbs. The first is total carbs and the second way is net carbs. Net carbs are calculated from subtracting fiber and sugar alcohols from total carbs. To start out with I recommend that you just stick with total carbs until you get the hang of this.
Now comes the easy part. You will eat fat to satiety. Aim for eating at least as much fat as protein but on most days aim for twice the amount of fat.
I am 5’7”. My macros are 20g carbs, 64g protein and 152g fat. I am pretty good bout keeping my total carbs under 20 and I usually get close to my protein goal. My fat usually comes in around 100 grams because I’m just not hungry after that point.
You don’t need to stress over calories. I’m not going to go into detail here – that will be the subject of another post. Just trust me. Stay under 20 grams of carbohydrates, get close to your protein goal, and eat fat to satiety. If you’re not hungry, don’t eat. You won’t go into “starvation mode.” Your body will begin to use your stored body fat for energy as it was designed to do. That’s the beauty of this whole way of eating.
Need help with your macros? Comment below and I can help.