Tips For Kickstarting Your Ketogenic Diet
If you could train your body to burn fat, would you? Of course, you would. Lucky for you, that’s what the keto diet is all about — burning fat, rather than glucose, for energy.
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low carb diet. Over the past few years, keto has grown in popularity as people recognize its benefits for reaching health and fitness goals.
What is A Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet, or “keto,” is a high-fat, low carb diet that puts your body in a fat-burning state known as ketosis. In ketosis, your body burns body fat, rather than carbohydrates, for fuel.
Following a diet containing high amounts of fat, moderate amounts of protein and extremely low levels of carbohydrate allows you to change how your body uses energy. To understand this it’s important to understand your body and its metabolic process.
- Your body always burns sugar before fat. Glucose is the preferred energy source of your body. As long as you keep eating carbohydrates your body will keep turning it into sugar, thereby burning that sugar for energy. In other words, when glucose is present, your body will refuse to burn off its fat stores.
- With no glucose available for energy, your body has no choice but to start burning its fat stores. Your body starts converting fatty acids into ketones, a metabolic state known as ketosis, the basis of a ketogenic diet.
- Ketosis is a natural survival function of your body. It helps your body function on fat when food is not readily available. Similarly, the keto diet focuses on “starving” your body of carbohydrates, transforming your body into a fat-burning state and supplementing with optimal nutrition.
- Macronutrient breakdown on Keto
- Calories from Carbs: 5-10%
- Calories from protein: 20-25%
- Calories from fat: 75-80% (sometimes more for certain people).
Tips To Kickstart Your Ketogenic Diet
- Master Your Macronutrients (Protein, Fat & Carbs). The hardest part about going keto, especially for beginners, is learning how to adjust your food intake to meet the requirements of a ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet is a low-carb diet (25 grams of carbs per day is a common starting point). The rest of your daily calories will come from protein and fat, the exact amounts of each depend on your goals (muscle building, fat loss, endurance athletics, disease management etc.). If you’ve never counted calories or read food labels before, learning how to correctly adjust your diet can be tricky at first. Start by calculating your target protein, fat, carb, and calorie goals by using a macronutrient calculator designed for ketogenic diets.
- Balance Your Blood Sugar. There are a few important areas to pay attention to when it comes to tracking your blood sugar on keto:
- Fasting blood sugar: Your “fasting” blood sugar is taken after consuming no food or drink (except water) for a period of 8 hours. Typically this measurement is taken first thing in the morning upon waking. Your fasting blood sugar will drop significantly on keto as you reduce your carbohydrate intake. This is also one of the first telltale signs that your body is on the way toward a state of ketosis.
- Post-prandial blood sugar: “Post-prandial” simply means a blood sugar reading taken after you eat a meal. Our goal on keto is to keep blood sugar low, thereby minimizing our insulin response. If you aren’t sure how your body will respond to a certain meal, test your blood sugar one-hour, two-hours and three-hours after eating. Try to limit post-prandial blood sugar to below 140 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L) and ideally below 120 mg/dL (6.7 mmol/L). Healthy fats consumed in food have virtually no impact on blood sugar, which is part of the reason why a low-carb/high-fat diet is excellent at keeping you feeling full AND minimizing blood sugar response.
- Track Body Composition. Weighing oneself every few days is another important monitor. The state of ketosis causes a diuretic effect resulting in weight loss due to loss of body fluid, which may be 5-10% of total body weight in the first few weeks of going keto. This is why it is imperative to hydrate with fluids and keep an eye on the scale, especially during the early stages of keto.Once your body’s mineral and fluid levels have had a chance to adapt to the new diet, your body will start melting away unwanted fat. By keeping blood sugar low through a low-carb/high-fat diet and minimizing insulin response, we shift the body’s metabolism to burning fat instead of storing fat.It is important to track BOTH weight AND body fat on ketogenic. If the weight number isn’t moving down but the body fat number is, you are on the right track. You are building and maintaining muscle mass while the fat mass is going down! You will likely notice your clothing starts to fit much better, even though your total scale weight may not be moving as fast as you’d like.
- Test Your Ketones. There are three methods you can choose from for testing ketones:
- Blood ketones: This is considered the most accurate method. Just like testing blood sugar, it’s a drop of blood onto a finger stick to get a reading. Nutritional ketosis is considered to be in the range of 0.5 – 3.0 mmol/L.
- Breath ketones: This method is more affordable as it does not require expensive test strips.
- 3.Urine ketones: This is the most basic method, yet it does work for many people and the test strips are relatively inexpensive.
- Bloodwork. The last piece to keep an eye on is your blood chemistry. Periodic lab work is highly recommended (ideally every six months) to make sure everything on the inside is trending in the right direction.
More and more people are turning to the ketogenic diet for the wonderful benefits that come from a body burning fat for fuel as opposed to sugar. The benefits don’t always come easy though and ketogenic diets take some work.
Once you’re in ketosis, you’ll be using fat for energy, instead of carbs. This includes the fat you eat and stored body fat.
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