The Ultimate Guide to the Ketogenic Diet
This comprehensive article is meant to teach you everything you would learn if you read a book (or a few books) about the ketogenic diet. I’ve distilled the most important information and summarized it here so you can get started quickly and understand why you’re eating this way. I strongly recommend reading the entire article. When you understand the “why” behind the ketogenic diet, your chances of success are much higher.
Edit: I wrote this article before learning hypnosis. The ketogenic diet significantly reduced my cravings and improved my mood (understatement of the year). I still struggled with my weight and portion control until I applied what I understood about hypnosis to my eating habits. Hypnosis healed the part of me that felt out of control with food.
You can learn more about hypnosis here. https://www.trancypants.com/
PS. Hypnosis isn’t mind control. It’s neuroscience. It’s proven to be the quickest, most effective way to permanently change habits.
How the ketogenic diet changed my life
In 2004, I started taking drugs. They were prescribed by my neurosurgeon to control debilitating headaches.
My headaches did not improve, and there were some nasty side effects. I started losing hair. My thinking became fuzzy, and I would forget names and common words. My speech became confused and jumbled. One day I asked my daughter to “get out of the chicken,” when I was trying to say, “get out of the kitchen.” I was mentally and physically exhausted and unable to focus.
But there was another side effect. And I liked this side effect enough to stay on the drug for almost two years. The drug made me lose interest in food. The only time I thought about food or had any desire to eat was when my body had a genuine need for fuel. I watched the scale steadily drop until I was at the ideal weight for my height (I’m 5’2″.)
I could easily push the plate away when I was no longer hungry. In fact, the thought of eating beyond physical hunger was repulsive to me. This was an incredible shift because I have obsessed over food since childhood. My weight had always fluctuated dramatically as I cycled through a sort of slow-motion bulimia, binging for weeks or months at a time as the scale shot up, then starving myself on very low-calorie diets for months at a time.
I tried to memorize the way it felt to be on this medication. What it felt like to be free from cravings. But after a couple of years on the medicine, my cravings started to creep back in, and my weight started to creep back up. I was discouraged. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t figure out how to duplicate the freedom from cravings I’d first experienced.
I psychoanalyzed myself to death trying to figure out what’s “wrong with me.” Why couldn’t I stop overeating? I knew I was eating in response to stress, boredom, frustration, loneliness, etc. I entered therapy to try to learn what was causing me to overeat. I started meditating. I joined Weight Watchers. I was desperate to break free of my magnetic pull toward excess food.
I became more depressed (something I’ve struggled with since childhood) and more obsessed with brownies and croissants and cheeseburgers. I felt like a failure. Deep down I wondered if I would ever break free from this addiction.
My first thought when I woke up every morning was, “What did I eat yesterday?” Was I going to feel bad about myself for my behavior? Or had I been “good” and resisted the urge to binge on chocolate chip cookies or mac and cheese?
Then I found the ketogenic diet. I overheard a girl at work talking about the book “Grain Brain,” written by a neurologist. Given my history with neurologists, I was curious. I devoured the book in a couple of days. The scientific evidence was so compelling that I eliminated grains and sugar from my diet immediately.
I experienced quick and dramatic changes. My depression lifted, and I began to see life from an optimistic and hopeful perspective. I felt energetic. I felt compelled to move my body. Like there was fire shut up in my bones. I wanted to run and be active. I no longer obsessively craved food. I was losing weight without feeling deprived.
The “side effects” of the ketogenic diet were like positive side effects of the headache drug I’d taken a few years prior. But now my thoughts were focused and crystal clear instead of fuzzy and confused. My word recall and ability to focus and learn became dramatically better.
I discovered the ketogenic diet in 2013, and my life has not been the same since.
I don’t claim to have arrived. I still sometimes struggle with old patterns and habits around food. But the person I am today is night and day different from the person I was a few years ago.
A huge reason people struggle with food addiction is because they eat foods that trigger cravings. A ketogenic diet addresses the physical reason behind cravings. Tackle what you eat first. Address the physical aspect of your cravings first. Then shifting your mindset and habits around food becomes much easier.
I am not a doctor, and I’m not suggesting that a ketogenic diet is right for everyone. I’m only sharing what has worked for me and many others. Within this guide, you’ll find dozens of links pointing to scientific research that validates the information I present. I encourage you to investigate the links and draw your own conclusions. Don’t just take my word for it.
A ketogenic diet may not be for everyone. But if you find yourself feeling hopeless, depressed, and out of control with your weight and your relationship with food, it may just be for you.
This guide provides all the information you need to implement a ketogenic diet. Even more importantly, you will learn why the diet works and how it changes your metabolism from one that is fueled by sugar (glucose) to a metabolism fueled by fat.
Understanding the why behind this diet is vital to success.
I’m here to empower others to change life-long habits of overeating and self-sabotage. You can change your behaviors around food no matter how firmly embedded they seem to be. A ketogenic diet eliminates the physical aspect of food addiction.
What if we’ve all been lied to?
In 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus wrote a book stating that the sun is the center of the universe. He had the audacity to suggest the earth revolves around the sun. The Catholic church banned the book and worked hard to keep its ideas quiet.
It took almost 100 years for the theory to surface again. This time, Galileo used a newly invented telescope to expand Copernicus’ theory. In 1632, he also published a book theorizing that the earth revolves around the sun. Galileo was convicted of “grave suspicion of heresy.” He was forced to deny his beliefs and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.
Heresy: Any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs, customs, etc.
Only 46 years after Galileo’s death, Sir Isaac Newton invented a telescope which allowed him to see clearly and prove that the sun is the center of our solar system.
Some people still believe the sun revolves around the earth, even though we have scientific proof to the contrary.
Modern Day Heresy?
Much of what we believe about nutrition today is based on outdated, faulty science that has been disproven over and over again. This guide will make you aware of the other side of the story.
When making a lifestyle change, it’s important to know how to make the change. But chances of success skyrocket when you understand why you’re making the change.
These ideas may turn everything you’ve heard about nutrition upside-down. The ketogenic (keto) diet is very low in carbohydrates. Fat and protein recommendations fluctuate within the keto community and I will be covering these macro-nutrients in more detail later. Side effects of the diet include relief from brain fog and depression, increased energy, and decrease or disappearance of food cravings.
The keto diet is a natural appetite suppressant. You can expect to lose weight rapidly, with decreased hunger, while experiencing an increase in energy.
The keto diet corrects the way your body stores fat and uses food as fuel. Instead of burning sugar for fuel, you will use fat for fuel. Both the fat from your diet and your own body fat.
Insulin Makes You Fat
When you eat a high-carb diet, your body is dependent on sugar for fuel. It’s important to understand how sugar gets inside our cells to fuel the body and brain.
Carbohydrates become glucose in the body. Glucose is sugar. All carbohydrates break down into sugar in the body, everything from spinach to croissants. The only exception is fiber. The human body can’t use fiber, so it passes through the body unchanged.
Glucose needs to get into our cells to give us energy, but it can’t enter the cell by itself. Insulin is needed to move glucose from our blood into our cells.
Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas.
Think of insulin as the car that drives glucose to the cell.
Glucose must get inside our muscle cells, or it will become toxic in the blood.
Insulin cannot just move through the cell membrane into the cell. It has to attach to the cell through a receptor. Think of the receptor as a doorman who lets insulin attach to the cell. When insulin can attach to the cell, glucose can move into the cell.
When everything works right, insulin attaches to the cell’s receptor and glucose moves from the bloodstream, into the cells.
When glucose is inside the cell, it is used for immediate energy. Or it can be stored in little glucose packets called glycogen. Your body can’t store very much glycogen so extra glucose will go to the liver where it gets turned into fat and stored.
Read that last sentence again. Yep, insulin makes you store fat.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Sometimes the pancreas doesn’t create insulin. Without insulin, glucose poisons the body instead of going inside cells to produce energy. This is the cause of Type 1 diabetes: the body can’t make insulin.
Sometimes the pancreas secretes enough insulin, but the cell’s receptors don’t allow the insulin to attach. Glucose cannot get inside the cells. If glucose can’t get into the cells, it is sent to the liver and turned into saturated fat instead. This is insulin resistance and can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Most overweight people have some level of insulin resistance. Especially if they carry excess weight in their belly.
How Much Sugar Should be in Your Blood?
If your body uses insulin properly, you’ll have a little less than a teaspoon of sugar in your blood when you wake up in the morning. This is your fasting glucose level because you haven’t eaten for several hours.
A person who is pre-diabetic (on the verge of becoming diabetic) will have right at one teaspoon of sugar in their blood after fasting for several hours.
Someone with full blown type 2 diabetes will have 1¼ teaspoon sugar in their blood after fasting for several hours.
The difference between normal blood sugar levels and diabetic levels are small. Two hours after a meal, healthy blood sugar levels aren’t higher than 1 ¼ teaspoon.
Let’s say you’re in a hurry and grab a quick breakfast from Starbucks on the way to work.*
Starbucks Bagel = 56 grams carbs
Tall Cafe Mocha = 32 grams carbs
Total — 88 grams carbs
1 Teaspoon = 4.2 grams
88 grams of carbs = 20.95 teaspoons of sugar in the blood
Your Starbucks breakfast put nearly 21 times the normal level of glucose into your blood. This sugar rush causes your body to put all of its resources into releasing insulin to get the sugar out of your blood and into your cells. All your energy goes into clearing out glucose, so you feel tired and sluggish.
*This example was taken from Dr. Jeff Volek, Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Connecticut.
This sugar surge causes the body to overreact by producing lots of insulin. Insulin moves glucose into the cells too quickly, and our blood sugar levels dip BELOW normal. This is called low blood sugar. Low blood sugar makes you feel tired and weak. It also causes brain fog and tells your body you need to eat to get blood sugar back up. Now you’re hungry again.
Are you beginning to see why fueling your body with sugar is self-sabotage?
If we eat carbs often, it can cause the cell’s receptor to wear out and not allow insulin to attach when it arrives. Remember, this is insulin resistance.
Insulin Causes Fat Storage
Carbohydrates and insulin control the way your body stores fat.
When you eat carbs, you’re a sugar burner. Your body can’t use fat as fuel, so it stores the fat instead. All the carbs you eat beyond your immediate energy needs are also stored as fat.
Let’s go back to our Starbucks meal. In an insulin sensitive person, most of those carbohydrates are transported to muscle cells for energy. Insulin sensitivity is good because it means your cell’s receptors are doing their job.
But, carbohydrates can take another path. If you are insulin resistant, a lot of the carbs you eat can’t get into your cells, so they go to the liver instead. The liver converts extra carbohydrate into saturated fat and stores it.
When someone who is insulin resistant eats carbs, you can test them a few hours after they eat and see that the fat levels in their blood have gone up.
This can cause damage to the body. When your body turns carbs into fat, it is a sign that you’re carbohydrate intolerant.
Carbohydrate intolerance = Insulin resistance
What do people do if they’re lactose intolerant? They avoid or limit lactose consumption. It’s only logical that if a person is carbohydrate intolerant, they limit their carbs.
Origins of the Ketogenic Diet
For most of history, the human race has thrived while eating very few carbohydrates. If our ancestors had to eat three low-fat, high-carb meals a day, they never would’ve survived.
But they survived and thrived through prolonged periods of fasting. They became highly specialized hunters and herders. They lived in cultures that centered their lives around the animals they ate.
For two and a half million years, our ancestors lived as hunters and gatherers. Agriculture was introduced twelve thousand years ago at the end of the Paleolithic era.
More than one hundred thousand generations of humans lived as hunter-gatherers before agriculture existed. The agricultural period has had very little if any effect on our genetic makeup. As a species, humans have only been eating grains and farmed fruits and vegetables for the last .5% of our history.
Nutritional anthropologists published an analysis of the diets of 229 hunter-gatherer populations. Every one of these populations subsisted almost entirely by hunting or fishing. More than 85% of their calories came from meat or fish. Some societies not only survived, but thrived on 100% meat diets.
The ketogenic diet is the original human diet.
Ketosis to Control Seizures
In 1924, Dr. Russell Wilder created the ketogenic diet as it is known today at the Mayo Clinic. The diet was designed to control epilepsy in children and was very effective. When new anti-seizure medications hit the market in the 1940’s the ketogenic diet fell out of fashion.
In 1993, Charlie Abrahams’ parents brought him to the clinic. At 20 months old, Charlie had been having dozens and sometimes a hundred seizures a day for a year even though he was taking multiple anti-seizure medications and had brain surgery to treat the seizures. Within two days of beginning a ketogenic diet, his seizures stopped. Within a month, he was off all meds. Charlie followed a strict ketogenic diet and remains seizure-free 23 years later. A ketogenic diet is still used by many people to control seizures that are resistant to medication.
What is a ketogenic diet?
A ketogenic diet is low enough in carbohydrates to cause the body to produce ketones. The daily recommendation varies for each person, but a general guideline is less than 20 NET grams per day. Net grams are calculated by taking the total carbohydrate count and subtracting fiber. Fiber is not counted because it cannot be used by the human body and passes through the digestive tract unchanged.
The average American eats well over 200 grams of carbohydrates per day. This amount keeps the body running on glucose/sugar and causes the blood sugar levels to skyrocket then plummet repeatedly throughout the day. This is especially true in insulin resistant individuals. And if you’re overweight, you’re insulin resistant.
When you decrease your daily carb intake below 20 NET grams, your body stops using sugar (glucose/carbohydrate) as fuel. Instead, your body gets its energy from ketones, the fat you eat, and the fat stored in your body.
You become a fat burner instead of a sugar burner.
How Ketones fuel the Brain
The brain can use glucose and ketones for fuel. It cannot burn fat.
The brain is the fattest organ in your body and uses 10 times as much energy as the rest of the body. A large blood supply provides fuel and oxygen to the brain and keeps it from overheating.
The brain does not have a reserve supply of glycogen. Since it can’t burn fat, the brain needs a CONSTANT blood supply of fuel and oxygen. So even a short drop in blood sugar causes intense cravings, shaking, anxiety, brain fog, or quickened heart rate.
A low-calorie diet keeps your brain from being properly fueled which causes fuzzy thinking (brain fog.)
When you exercise on a low-calorie diet, your body sends glucose to your muscles instead of your brain.
Day after day of dieting like this will cause you to feel weak, hungry, and brain foggy which will keep you in a cycle of craving more food.
When you switch to a very low carb, keto diet, your brain’s glucose requirements go way down. The brain prefers ketones as fuel. One of the first things you’ll notice on a ketogenic diet is the disappearance of brain fog. Your brain will begin using ketones for most of its energy. The brain still needs some glucose and the liver makes more than enough glucose to fuel the brain and the rest of the body.
Ketones to the Rescue
When you eat less than 20 grams carbs per day, your liver will start to make ketones for fuel. This decrease in carbs must be CONSISTENT for several days before the liver begins making ketones. This is ketosis. You’re probably going to feel like you have the flu for a few days while you wait for your metabolism to switch from being a sugar burner to a fat burner. Keeping your electrolytes in balance will make a huge difference in your transition (we’ll talk more about this later), and when you’ve switched from a sugar-burning metabolism to a fat-burning metabolism, you’ll feel better than ever.
Your body prefers using ketones and fat for fuel. When you’re in ketosis, you don’t crash after lunch or after a workout because you’re not dependent on a constant carb-fix.
How to become a fat-burner
Carbohydrates increase insulin.
Fat has virtually no effect on insulin levels.
When you eat a high-carb diet, your body uses glucose and insulin to maintain energy. You are a sugar-burner because your body is using sugar/glucose as fuel.
Remember, too much glucose in the blood is toxic and you should only have a teaspoon of sugar in your blood at once.
When there’s more than a teaspoon of glucose in the blood, there are 3 things that can happen.
1. Insulin brings glucose into the muscle cells for energy.
- This only happens until the cells have the energy they need.
- If someone is insulin resistant, the cells don’t let glucose in and one of the following happens instead.
2. Extra glucose is turned into glycogen and stored in the liver.
- Only about 1% of our muscle cells have glycogen in them; the rest is in the liver.
- Our body can only store a few hours worth of energy as glycogen.
3. Excess glucose is converted to fat for long term storage in the body.
- This is what happens to most of the extra glucose in the body.
If you eat a high carb diet, you must eat several times a day to keep your energy levels up. If your meal is high in carbs, those carbs will be turned into fat and stored. This creates a cycle of craving more and more carbs.
When you limit your carb intake below 20 grams per day, glucose and glycogen levels stay low enough for the liver to begin to make ketones. Fat is broken down into fatty acids. Fatty acids are broken down into ketones in the liver.
The heart, brain, and muscle thrive on ketones as fuel.
When the body runs out of glucose, it switches to using the fat you eat, the fat stored in your body, and ketones for fuel. The body can store hundreds of thousands of calories as fat. This explains how our ancestors could go for days or weeks without food and still thrive.
Every part of your body will run more efficiently on ketones. Ketones are a cleaner fuel than glucose. When they enter the cell to make energy, they release less free radicals than glucose. The body experiences less stress and doesn’t have to use precious resources to clean up these free radicals.
The cell can create much more energy with ketones than it can with glucose.
There are many profound positive health benefits to ketosis.
Is the ketogenic diet a high-fat diet?
There’s a lot of confusion in the keto community around protein and fat recommendations. A medical keto diet is very high in fat, sometimes as high as 90%. By default, it is very low in carbs and protein. A medical keto diet is often implemented to correct disorders like epilepsy, cancer, and some auto-immune conditions.
It is important to understand that ketosis happens when carbs are restricted below 20 grams. NOT when you eat high fat. This is a predominant misunderstanding in the keto community.
A ketogenic diet for overall health and weight loss has different recommendations than a medical keto diet.
What about gluconeogenesis?
If you’re at all familiar with a keto diet, you have probably been warned about gluconeogenesis.
Gluconeogenesis (GNG) is a process in which the liver turns protein and other substances into glucose.
GNG is the reason your brain still has all the glucose it needs to function optimally on a keto diet.One of the main benefits of a keto diet is decreased glucose (sugar) in the blood. Therefore, many in the keto community are afraid to eat too much protein. They believe that excess protein will be turned to glucose and create the insulin response we’re trying to avoid. They think protein can switch them back from fat burner to sugar burner.
Protein does NOT stall fat loss
- Gluconeogenesis is a demand driven process. Chicken does not turn into cheesecake in the body. Scientific data currently on hand indicates that protein consumption does not affect the rate of GNG.
- GNG is always taking place in the body. Without GNG, you wouldn’t live very long because your body needs a constant level of glucose to keep the brain and red blood cells functioning optimally. The release of glucose from GNG is much smoother and slower than the release of glucose from carbs.
- You would literally have to eat several pounds of protein in one sitting to trigger a change in GNG.
Adequate protein is key to success
Emerging science shows strong evidence that insufficient protein leads to food cravings. Your body is made of protein. Protein fuels your metabolism and helps maintain, create, and repair muscle, tissue, and organs. If you don’t eat enough protein to fuel these functions, your body will continue to send “MUST EAT NOW” signals throughout the day.
This is why you can binge on a sugary or fat filled meal and still want to keep eating. No matter how much food you consume, you’ll still be hungry if you don’t eat enough protein.
Optimal protein requirements vary from person to person. It is important to track your daily food intake so you can learn what works for you and tweak what doesn’t. As a general guideline, you should consume between .8 to 1.2 grams of protein for every pound of lean body mass. Lean body mass is how much your body would weigh with no fat. There are many different ways to determine this number, and some are more reliable than others.
There are 3 macronutrients in the human diet. Protein, carbohydrates, and fat. All foods fall into these categories. You now have guidelines for the protein and carbs. Fat will be adjusted based on energy needs during the day.
Protein: .8–1.2 grams per pound of lean body mass
Carbs: Less than 20 NET grams per day
Fat: The rest of your daily calories will come from fat. Fat has more than double the calories in one gram as protein or carbs so it’s quite easy to get enough fat every day. When following the recommendations above, you should be getting about half your calories from fat every day. The more fat you eat, the less bodyfat you’ll burn. When you limit fat, your body will use it’s own fat stores from your hips and belly to fuel you during the day.
WARNING! The above statement does NOT give you permission to eat a low fat diet! Fat is your energy source and if you restrict fat too much you are setting yourself up for fatigue and failure. You can still lose weight quite rapidly when getting about half your calories from fat each day. However, if you use keto as an excuse to eat sticks of butter and pounds of cheese you will not lose weight.
It can be very helpful to measure and record your food every day. This will help you learn what works for your body. MyFitnessPal is an excellent app for recording daily calories and macronutrients (macros.)
There are no “cheat days” in keto
Ketosis can only happen when glucose is CONSISTENTLY limited in the blood. It will take a few days for your body to begin producing ketones and can take a couple of weeks to start experiencing the increase in energy, stamina, and mental clarity that accompanies ketosis. If you “cheat” now and then, or don’t limit carbohydrates enough, you will not enter ketosis and will be stuck in a perpetual cycle of craving carbs and feeling weak.
This is not a diet of moderation. Just as the general public in the 1600’s was duped into believing the earth is the center of the universe, we have been duped into believing we need “moderate” amounts of carbs for a healthy diet. Science has proven this is simply not true. Here is an excerpt from an article published by The National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Although some studies suggest that pre-exercise muscle glycogen stores determine capacity for prolonged exercise , there is no clear requirement for dietary carbohydrates for human adults . Current carbohydrate recommendations are based on 1) preventing ketosis, and 2) providing glucose beyond minimal needs. However, it is clear that ketosis is not harmful [14–16], except in the high levels seen in type 1 diabetes. Also, the need to provide glucose above minimal needs is exactly what has never been demonstrated . Indeed, the National Research Council has not established Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for carbohydrates, probably because the human body can adapt to a carbohydrate-free diet and manufacture the glucose it needs. Nevertheless, some nutritionists contend that the carbohydrate is an essential nutrient. For example, Mcdonald claimed that healthy, moderately active adults require at least 200 g of carbohydrate daily to sustain normal brain metabolism and muscle function . However, the author did not provide any evidence supporting this recommendation. Low-carbohydrate diets have been avoided because of the high-fat nature of the diets and the “predicted” associated hypercholesterolemia. However, serum lipids generally improve with the low-carbohydrate diet, especially the triglyceride and HDL measurements. In sharp contrast, high-carbohydrate diets, which reduce high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and raise triglyceride levels, exacerbate the metabolic manifestations of the insulin resistance syndrome . Finally, all fats raise HDL cholesterol. The relative potency of fatty acid classes in raising HDL cholesterol is saturated > monounsaturated > > polyunsaturated . Thus, it is clear that replacement of total fat (of any fatty acid distribution) with carohydrates results in significant reductions in HDL cholesterol . Indeed, recent studies of carbohydrate intake and its relationship to the development of CHD and type 2 diabetes have been rather revealing, showing that an increase in carbohydrate intake is related to increases in both conditions .
Attempting moderation on a ketogenic diet is a recipe for failure. If you decide to fly to Hawaii but only go half-way, you’re going to end up in shark infested water. If you follow a ketogenic diet half-way by cheating on the weekend or having “just a couple bites” of cake here and there, you will never end up in ketosis. You’ll do more harm than good because you’ll be depriving your body of glucose but never allowing it to start producing ketones.
Becoming keto-adapted takes time, but once you experience it, you will treasure that state. The increase in endurance and energy is incredible. The lifting of brain fog and depression is liberating. This all comes in addition to fat loss without hunger. You’ll find it’s just not worth it to eat the carby junk. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll begin to see carbohydrates as poison to your body.
The only carbs you’ll eat on a ketogenic diet will come from vegetables. Here’s why wheat and grains are not part of a ketogenic diet.
Wheat is toxic
Remember, all carbohydrates, except fiber, turn to glucose/sugar in the blood.
Some carbs turn into glucose more quickly than others. Carbohydrates that turn into glucose quickly cause a bigger spike in insulin.
The glycemic index measures the impact of different carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Pure glucose is 100 on the glycemic index. The GI (Glycemic Index) score for each carbohydrate is a measure of how much that food raises blood sugar levels in comparison to glucose.
In Dr. Perlmutter’s excellent book, “Grain Brain,” he gives the following example.
Picture the following 4 foods sitting side by side.
- A slice of whole wheat bread
- A Snickers bar
- A banana
- A tablespoon of pure white sugar
Which do you think will cause the greatest surge of blood sugar?
Here’s the answer.
- Slice of whole wheat bread — Glycemic index 71
- Tablespoon of pure white sugar — Glycemic Index 68
- Snickers bar — Glycemic index 55
- Banana — Glycemic index 54
It’s a prevalent belief that whole wheat is good for us. But the truth is, one slice of whole wheat causes a bigger sugar rush in the blood than a tablespoon of sugar.
Some people are gluten sensitive or intolerant. But this discussion about wheat is relevant to all humans, gluten sensitive or not.
The History of Modern Day Wheat
In the 1960s, the US Government invested in agriculture to learn how to generate higher yielding crops. There was a fear that a population boom would cause a food shortage down the road. Experimentation was done on soy, corn, potatoes, and wheat.
Scientists created a strain of wheat called the “Semi-Dwarf Strain.” This wheat stands 2 feet tall. Before the 60’s, wheat was 4–5 feet tall.
This new strain of wheat produces ten times the output of its ancestor. It turned famine into surplus within ten years and was thought to be a great success.
By 1985, just about all the wheat in the grocery store came from this dwarf strain. And now wheat is in almost every food in the grocery store.
Modern Day Wheat
Modern day wheat was created by crossing different strains to develop new characteristics. There are proteins present in the offspring that didn’t exist in either parent. Cross breeding was repeated to eliminate certain traits. Wheat was bred with non-wheat plants to introduce new genes to the mix.
Wheat was exposed to toxic chemicals, gamma ray radiation, and high-dose x-ray. This caused a mutation that passed onto offspring.
These experiments were more unpredictable than modern day genetic modification (GMO). The result is wheat that is toxic for human consumption.
Modern day wheat was generated to address the fear of starvation. There was no conspiracy. Norman Borlaug, the pioneer of the dwarf wheat development, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for saving a billion people from starvation.
But nutrition awareness was archaic in the 1960’s in comparison to today. The goal of these experiments was to increase production, not nutrition.
Decreased minerals in our soil
The Broadbalk Winter Wheat Experiment has been going on since 1843. For over 170 years scientists have been studying different farming techniques and fertilizers. They’ve been tracking the mineral content of the soil and the wheat grain for the better part of two centuries.
During the first 120 years of this experiment, the mineral content of wheat grain stayed constant. This included zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper. But in the mid-1960s, zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper began to decrease. This reduction directly coincides with the introduction of semi-dwarf wheat.
Two thousand years ago, grains like Einkorn and Emmer were used to make bread. These ancient grains were very different from modern day wheat. Modern day wheat has shallow roots that are unable to extract minerals from the soil efficiently. But modern wheat differs in many other significant ways from ancient wheat.
It’s not just about gluten
This is not just a discussion for the gluten sensitive or intolerant. Understanding the toxicity of modern day wheat is relevant to everyone. Remove gluten from the picture and many other toxic properties remain. Here are a few.
Gliadin changed when it was bred in the 1960s. Gliadin is the most plentiful protein in wheat.
When gliadin is digested, an opioid peptide forms. The opioid peptide crosses the blood-brain barrier and into breast milk. Gliadin can cause behavioral changes like outbursts in kids with ADHD and autism. It can also cause auditory hallucinations and social detachment in schizophrenics. And it can trigger the mania of bipolar.
Gliadin stimulates appetite. The more wheat you eat, the hungrier you are.
Gliadin causes Zonulin to rise.
Zonulin is a protein that opens up the tight spaces in the cells lining the intestines. The tight spaces in the intestine are weakened and allow nutrients, molecules, and even food particles to pass through. The immune system attacks these molecules that sneak through the intestine’s barrier. This is called “leaky gut.”
This attack creates an immune response that leads to food sensitivities. The immune response damages intestinal cells even more. The intestines become even more inflamed and leaky.
A study in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology showed that gliadin will have this effect on someone whether they’re gluten intolerant or not. Gliadin will still trigger zonulin to make the intestine open up to foreign invaders. This study concluded that 100% of patients with autoimmunity will likely benefit from a grain-free diet.
Elevated zonulin levels and leaky gut are associated with Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Asthma, Glioma, IBS, and cancer. Our intestines play an enormous role in our immune system. Allowing them to be vulnerable opens us up to a host of potential problems.
This article confirms the correlation between gliadin in wheat and increased zonulin levels.
Dr. Alessio Fasano has extensively researched celiac disease and autoimmune diseases. He discovered that gluten is not just a problem for celiacs. Gluten is a problematic common thread in ALL autoimmune diseases. (In this presentation, Dr. Fasano discusses zonulin specifically at 16:30 minutes into the video.)
In 2.5 million years of evolution, the human race has been gluten free 99.9% of the time.
Gluten is toxic to EVERYONE, but not everyone will get sick.
Gluten causes gut permeability in EVERYONE, but most people’s system will clean up the particles without a problem.
The immune system interprets gluten as a bacteria (an invader that can kill us.)
People with celiac disease and people with type 2 diabetes both have very elevated zonulin levels.
These studies ,  show that gliadin is not only harmful to those with celiac disease. It is detrimental to everyone. The entire human race will benefit from eliminating wheat from the diet, not just the gluten-intolerant.
Lectins in plants are meant to be toxic to insects, molds, and sometimes to mammals. Most lectins, like those in spinach, are harmless, but some lectins are toxic. Following are several particularly harmful lectins present in wheat.
Wheat Germ Agglutinin
This is a lectin that protects wheat from insects, yeast, and bacteria.
Humans cannot digest WGA (wheat germ agglutinin.)
WGA can unlock barriers to foreign substances and allow invaders into the bloodstream. This invasion can cause inflammation in other parts of the body like knees, hips, skin, thyroid, eyes, and sinuses. Arthritis, rashes, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, asthma, and sinus congestion are all linked to wheat germ agglutinin.
Wheat germ agglutinin can cause the pancreas to grow and the thymus to shrink. WGA will bond directly with insulin receptor sites just like insulin does. This study shows that WGA causes glucose to turn into fat and blocks the ability of stored fat to be released.
This is a complex carb that is digested quickly and sweetens the blood more than table sugar. This study suggests it also promotes the development of insulin resistance.
This is another anti-nutrient. Phytic acid is stored in many plants. Cows and other ruminants (cud chewers) can digest phytates just fine. Humans cannot.
This is a problem because phytates will bind to the magnesium, calcium, zinc, and iron in your intestines and remove them from the body. Many scientists believe this is a large factor in a worldwide epidemic of iron-deficiency anemia. This can also cause a magnesium deficiency which can contribute to PMS and muscle cramping. Zinc strengthens our immune system and helps us reproduce.
Wheat is Addictive
It’s not just in your head. Wheat can be physically addictive and cause full-blown withdrawal symptoms. When you eliminate wheat, you may well experience a host of symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, headaches, and depression.
Removing wheat from your diet isn’t about losing 20 pounds. It’s about changing your life and your health in ways you never dreamed possible. You can expect a dramatic increase in health and vitality after eliminating wheat.
What about other grains?
Grains are the hard seeds of grass-like plants. Some of the most common grains are wheat, corn, oats, and rice. All grains are associated with a glucose surge and are relatively high on the glycemic index.
But don’t we need fiber?
When you eat a ketogenic diet, you may be eating more vegetables than some vegetarians. All vegetables are rich in fiber. By eating real foods, you will easily get all the fiber you need. By eliminating grains as a fiber source, you will likely experience relief from intestinal distress.
What about the vitamins and minerals present in grains?
If you compare a colorful salad side by side with a serving of “healthy whole grains” the salad will win every time in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
The nutrients present in grains are almost always full of phytates. Remember, phytates take nutrients out of the body so they can’t be absorbed. This means many of the nutrients listed on the quinoa label are not absorbed by the body.
Many grains have toxic anti-nutrients like lectins, gluten, and phytates to act as protection from being eaten. Some animals can digest grains easily. Rodents, birds, and some insects process these anti-nutrients just fine. But humans do not. Grains have only been a part of the human diet for our very recent history. We have not developed the ability to protect ourselves from the harmful effects of lectins, gluten, and phytate.
What about beans and legumes?
Legumes include beans, peas, and lentils. These plant proteins are hailed as nutrient filled but are they?
They are far less nutrient dense than meat. They also contain phytic acid which prevents the body from absorbing nutrients. Eating significant amounts of beans and lentils can lead to nutrient deficiencies in the body.
Legumes also contain potentially toxic lectins and cause damage to the intestine wall, allowing foreign invaders to attack the body. Lectins are associated with digestive and autoimmune problems.
Peanuts are not nuts. They are legumes. They contain lectins and phytic acid, but they also contain aflatoxins.
Aflatoxins are produced by a mold that grows on peanuts. This mold is so prevalent that the FDA has declared it an “unavoidable contaminant.” Mold is still present in organic and all-natural brands of peanuts and peanut butter. You would have to pick your peanuts directly from the farm to avoid aflatoxins.
These are anti-nutrients found in almost all legumes. Saponins are lectins that punch holes in cells lining. The more saponins you eat, the more damaged your cells become. This leads to leaky gut that increases inflammation by allowing toxins and bacteria in the gut to enter the blood and create an immune response.
Cooking legumes does not destroy saponins. After boiling legumes for 2 hours, 85–100% of the saponins are still intact.
When legumes are a big part of your diet, you significantly increase the risk of leaky gut and the potential autoimmune diseases associated with it.
If you’re still unconvinced, I encourage you to read this article written by Dr. Loren Cordain.
What about soy?
Soy is a legume which also contains lectins and phytic acid. But soy is particularly harmful because it contains phytoestrogens.
Phytoestrogens mimic the action of estrogen in the body. They don’t do anything estrogen does in the body, but they trick the body into thinking it has enough estrogen when it doesn’t. This leads to hormonal problems in men and women.
It can cause men to develop feminine traits like larger breasts and fat deposits on the hips. In women, it can lead to fertility problems and all kinds of menstrual and reproductive problems.
Phytoestrogens are linked to breast cancer and thyroid problems.
The USDA reports that, as of 2015, 94% of all soy crops in the US are GMO. Here are two more studies pointing to the dangers of these Roundup ready beans. And here’s a final article by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. that further exposes the myth that soy is a nutritious food.
Grains and legumes are not part of a ketogenic diet.
You can eat a surprisingly large amount of veggies with every meal and still keep your carb consumption below 20 grams, but a single serving of most grains and legumes will take you above your daily carb allowance.
How to start a keto diet
There are many delicious food choices on a ketogenic diet. If you choose to implement a keto diet, it will be helpful to adopt a mindset shift about food and it’s purpose. Food is meant to fuel the body. To give you energy and health. You can still very much enjoy your food on a keto diet.
Think about all the delicious foods you CAN eat rather than mourning the loss of sweets and bread. A few days after eliminating grains and sugar it will become so much easier to abstain. The physical craving for these foods diminishes or disappears entirely.
Wild game Pork (watch for added sugar in ham, sausage, and bacon)
Fish of any kind
Seafood of any kind (watch out for added sugar and filler on packaged salmon, tuna, etc.)
Crab (not imitation)
Sausage (Check the label. It’s hard to find sausage without sugar)
Mayonnaise (watch out for added carbs)
Olive Oil (use cold only — not suitable for cooking)
Heavy Whipping Cream
Hard and soft cheeses: Look these up on Google or MyFitnessPal. Some cheeses are higher in carbs than others. Always choose the highest fat content possible.
Sour cream: Use in moderation and check labels to make sure you choose the highest fat/lowest carb option.
Fats to avoid:
These oils produce free radicals which cause inflammation and oxidative stress. Free radicals cause aging and many chronic degenerative diseases.
This is simple. Your carbs will only come from vegetables. The more you try to bargain your way around this, the longer you’ll be stuck in a cycle of craving more carbs. Putting “just a teaspoon” of sugar in your coffee will not help you cope. Rip off the band-aid. Eliminate sugar and see how much better you feel in a week.
You can eat lots and lots of non-starchy vegetables. Here’s the “yes” list.
Vegetables: Your ONLY carbohydrate source
There are too many varieties of vegetables to include all of them on this list. Notice most of these are green veggies which usually have a lower glycemic index and a lower net carb count. Net carbs are the amount of carbohydrate left when you subtract the fiber from the total carb count. Remember, your body lacks the enzyme to digest fiber. It just goes right through you. So fiber is not counted toward your daily carb allowance.
Any green leafy vegetable
Lettuces and salad greens
Sauerkraut (watch for added sugar)
Limit these veggies
The following vegetables are higher in carbs and can trigger cravings and keep you in sugar-burning mode. Listen to your body. Some people can tolerate these just fine, and others need to abstain. But do make sure you look up the carb count before eating. All of these veggies are triggers for me, so I avoid them.
Raw Onions: Cooking onions changes the sugar structure and will put more sugar in the blood than raw onions.
Avoid these veggies
Vegetables that grow beneath the ground tend to be very starchy (they keep your metabolism stuck in sugar-burning mode) and are not part of a ketogenic diet.
Potatoes of any kind
Corn/popcorn (Corn is not a vegetable. It’s grain.)
How do I know what veggies are ok?
If a vegetable is not listed here, you can find the carb count quickly with Google. Just type the name of the veggie and Google will show you a chart with that food’s nutrition information.
Cauliflower is higher in carbs than spinach, but still well below your daily limit. You can have large amounts of veggies every day if you choose carefully.
1 Cup Cauliflower:
5 grams total carbohydrate - 2.1 grams fiber = 2.9 net grams of carbs
So one cup cauliflower would be tracked as 3 grams of carbs.
1 Cup Spinach:
1.1 gram carbohydrate -.7g fiber = .4 net grams
One cup of spinach is less than 1 gram of carbohydrate.
Now compare a sweet potato and a banana and you will see why they are not appropriate for a fat-burning diet.
1 Cup Sweet Potato:
27 grams carbohydrate -4 grams fiber = 23 grams net carbs, 6 of which are sugar.
One cup of a sweet potato has 23 grams of carbohydrate.
This one cup alone will put you over your daily carb allowance.
1 Medium Banana:
27 grams carbohydrate -3.1 grams fiber = 23.9 grams net carbs, 14 of which are sugar.
I encourage you to look up the nutrition content of your foods. It’s empowering to have knowledge and understanding about what you’re putting in your body. There may be a part of you that would rather remain in the dark. But there’s freedom in understanding how food choices affect your body.
MyFitnessPal is an excellent app. At the end of the day, you can look at nutrition data and a pie chart that will tell you if your macronutrients are where they need to be to maintain ketosis.
You don’t need to log your food forever unless you enjoy doing so. But it is important to track for the first few weeks, so you understand what you’re really eating instead of just guessing.
What about fruit?
Fruit is high on the glycemic index. One serving of most fruits will use up your carb allowance for the entire day.
Fruit puts glucose into the blood very quickly which creates the insulin response you want to avoid. If you continue to eat fruit, you will continue to crave sweets. Scientific studies show that a sweet taste triggers hunger and insulin secretion.   
You do not need fruit to be healthy. Our ancestors had very little access to fruit. They ate it in moderation during certain times of the year.
If you choose to eat fruit, you remain in sugar-burning mode.
Berries are an exception and can be eaten once in awhile. No more than 1 or 2 small handfuls a week. But watch out. The sweet taste of the berries may make it hard to eat just a few. Be honest with yourself and avoid berries if they trigger cravings.
Your only source of carbohydrates will come from vegetables. Putting “just one teaspoon” of sugar in your coffee is going to keep you craving sweet things all day long. You can put a small amount of carb free heavy whipping cream or coconut oil or even butter in your coffee. But be careful because these calories add up very quickly.
When you start a ketogenic diet, it’s best to take baby steps. Your number one focus should be on eating less than 20 NET grams carbs per day. Remember to subrtract fiber from the overall carb count. Fiber is not used by the human body and does not count toward your daily carb allowance.
Total Carbohydrate — Fiber = NET carbs
Fine tune your diet
After you’ve been eating keto for awhile, you may wish to make some of the following changes. Do not try to make all of these changes at once or you’ll become overwhelmed and set yourself up for failure.
Switch to grass fed beef. Cows are supposed to eat grass. When cows eat corn and other grains, it changes the fat profile of the meat. Grass fed beef is significantly higher in omega 3s. You are not just what you eat. You’re what you eat eats. You don’t eat grains or corn and cows shouldn’t either. Another benefit of grass-fed beef is that it usually comes from cattle that have been treated more humanely and are free to roam in grassy fields. Grass fed beef is expensive, but much more nutrient dense and healthy than grain fed.
Eggs and poultry
Use free range eggs and poultry. Again, a chicken’s natural diet is not grains. If your eggs brag, “fed a vegetarian diet” run the other way. Chickens are NOT vegetarians. When the chickens live away from sunlight, in barns and roosts, they’re not able to get the nutrients they need from the sun. A chicken’s natural diet is seeds, green plants, insects, and worms. Their feet are designed to scratch at the ground and stir up bugs. Most factory farm birds live their entire lives inside in overcrowded barns or cages. These birds are fed things chickens aren’t meant to eat, like soy, corn, cottonseed oil, etc. When we eat eggs from malnourished chickens, it can affect our health.
I pay $7 a dozen for free range, pastured eggs. That’s outrageously high compared to the nutrient deficient eggs you can get for about $1 a dozen. At $7 per dozen, a single egg is only $.58.
When you crack a free range egg, you’ll notice the yolk is bright orange and not pale or fluorescent yellow. That’s a sign of a healthy, nutrient-dense egg. Never throw away the yolk. It’s the most nutritious part of the egg.
A free range egg has double the Omega 3 content of a factory-farmed egg and significantly more vitamin A, vitamin E, and beta-carotene.
Fish and seafood
Wild-caught is better than farm raised. Farm raised fish are smooshed together in too small containers and swim around in their own waste. They eat cheap food that fish aren’t meant to eat. A fish raised in an unhealthy environment isn’t going to promote health in your body.
This excellent article about bacon addresses “nitrate free” and “uncured” bacon and explains how to make the most informed decision possible when choosing your bacon. The bottom line? Look for the fewest ingredients possible.
Watch for hidden sugars in bacon and sausage. I spend more to get the healthiest bacon I can find, and I can tell right away if the bacon has been overly drenched in sugar and stop eating it after the first bite.
Perfectionism leads to failure
Listen. This is so so important. Do NOT try to change everything all at once. You will likely become overwhelmed if you try to make sure all your animal products are sourced according to the above recommendations right from the beginning. Start by focusing on your carb intake. This is what will help you switch from a sugar-burning metabolism to a fat-burning metabolism.
Take slow baby steps to continue to refine your diet over time. You can start with eggs since that will have the smallest effect on your pocketbook. I buy Vital Farms eggs from Whole Foods or King Soopers. If you can’t find these eggs and can’t get your hands on pastured eggs, just buy the best ones you can find, and move on.
Studies show that a sweet taste alone stimulates appetite. Artificial sweeteners cause just as much, if not more, weight gain than sugar itself.
The sweet taste of artificial sweetener stimulates insulin release in your body. Insulin encourages your body to store fat.
This study compared people who use artificial sweeteners with those who do not. The findings show that those who consume artificial sweeteners are more likely to be overweight, have a greater risk of metabolic syndrome, more than double the risk of type 2 diabetes, and increased risk of hypertension and heart disease.
It’s just not worth it. It will be hard at first, but abstaining from the sweetness will lead to freedom from craving that sweetness.
Read the Label
Check all labels for added sugars. Look at the carb count. You won’t be reading a lot of labels because most of your food won’t have labels. You’re shopping for meat, veggies, and healthy fats. That’s it. If you decide to buy cream for your coffee, make sure it’s pure fat like heavy whipping cream. Don’t add sugar.
The truth about saturated fat
“It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” — Mark Twain
Most of us “know” saturated fat is bad. We live in a society where this belief is deeply ingrained. We’ve been brainwashed to believe saturated fat is bad.
I ask you to open your mind to the possibility that we’ve been wrong.
Here are the facts about saturated fat.
Saturated fat is fat that’s solid at room temperature. A few examples are butter, lard, coconut oil, animal fat, and cheese.
About half of our cell membrane structure is made of saturated fat. Saturated animal fat, like butter and organ meat, contain significant amounts of vitamins K2, A, D and other vitamins.
Saturated fat is a fantastic energy source. Especially once you’ve switched to a fat-burning metabolism. When we burn our own body fat for energy, we’re consuming saturated fat. Your body treats the stored body fat it burns the same way it treats saturated animal fats you eat. If we believe saturated fat is evil, we believe our bodies are broken, because they create, store, and burn saturated fat for energy.
There have been multiple recent studies     in which large populations were followed carefully for decades. The studies examined what these people ate and why they died. There was no association between eating saturated fat and a risk of heart disease. In fact, there was no association between saturated fat in the diet and any cause of death. Some of the studies showed just the opposite. Saturated fat in the diet actually decreased the risk of atherosclerosis and stroke. The studies suggest that low-fat, high carb diets increase the risk of heart attack.
Why Saturated Fat has a Bad Rap
Fifty years ago, scientists realized that diseased arteries in the heart contained cholesterol and saturated fat. Professor Ancel Keyes created a hypothesis that eating too much cholesterol and saturated fat caused this buildup in the arteries. This is the “you are what you eat” theory.
But science has since proven this theory is wrong. You are not what you eat. You are what you save from what you eat. Current scientific evidence shows little to no relationship between the saturated fat you eat and the saturated fat in your body.
Ok, here’s the twist. There is solid research to indicate that the more carbohydrates you eat, the more saturated fat will be in the blood. Two research groups fed people diets high in carbs or moderate in carbs. In both studies, the levels of saturated fat in the blood went up dramatically on the high carb diets. These diets were low in fat so that couldn’t have contributed.
Remember, it’s carbohydrates that decide how your body stores fat. Eating carbs causes your body to make more insulin. Insulin escorts glucose into the cells. BUT, it also blocks protein and fat from being broken down by the body and stores it as fat instead. So when insulin is high, saturated fat is stored instead of burned as fuel.
Insulin stops the body from burning fat.
And here’s the crazy part. Remember, your body can only use glucose for the energy you need right away. Any extra glucose gets turned into little glucose packets called glycogen. But your body can’t store that much glycogen either. So guess what happens to the glucose that’s still left over. It’s turned into saturated fat!!
You are not what you eat.
When you eat carbs, you are encouraging storage of saturated fat. When you eat healthy fat, you’re fueling your body with the energy it needs.
Carbohydrates and insulin increase saturated fat in the blood. Not the fat we eat.
Here’s one more link if you’d like to do further research on your own.
Are you insulin resistant?
If you struggle with your weight, there’s an excellent chance you’re insulin resistant. Insulin resistance makes it hard for glucose to get into the cells for energy. Muscle cells can’t use the glucose, so it is sent to the liver and turned into fat.
You can’t get the energy you need from the food you eat, so you’re hungry shortly after eating. Carbohydrates are stored as saturated fat in your body. You’re eating more carbs than your body can efficiently manage.
The ideal amount of carbohydrates is different for everyone. It can also change as you age. The more difficulty you have losing weight and keeping it off, the more likely you’ll benefit from reducing the carbs in your diet.
In these two scientific studies, the subjects were fed moderate to very low carbohydrate diets. The low carb diets were naturally 2–3 times higher in saturated fat than the moderate carb diets. The results were astounding. Those on a very low-carb, high-fat diet had significantly decreased blood levels of saturated fat. This occurred because the low insulin levels allowed for all fats, especially saturated fat, to be burned as energy. Because there wasn’t a lot of carbohydrate/glucose in the blood, it didn’t get stored as saturated fat.
The study concluded that saturated fat levels in the blood went down when CARBS were reduced, irrespective of saturated fat in the diet.
Starting your keto diet
The first few days on a ketogenic diet may be a little rough. Grains and sugar light up the same part of the brain as cocaine and heroin. Your body will likely go through physical withdrawals you eliminate sugar and grains. This withdrawal period usually lasts 3 or 4 days.
Your body retains 4 grams of water for every 1 gram of carbohydrates you eat. When you stop eating carbs, your body will release this extra water. This can cause sodium depletion and dehydration. You must increase sodium consumption on a keto diet.
Here are some things you may experience in the first few days of eliminating carbs
Weakness or Shakiness
All of these “carb flu” symptoms will go away after a few days. You will especially notice the liberation from sugar cravings. When you go cold turkey off sugar, your body stops craving it.
Generously salt your food with Himalayan pink salt or Sea Salt. Commercial table salt won’t do the trick. You can also drink broth or bullion cubes once or twice a day. Drink at least 100 ounces of water each day. Doing these things will dramatically reduce your symptoms.
Guidelines for daily electrolyte intake on a ketogenic diet
Sodium: 5000–7000 mg (5–7 grams)
Potassium: 1000–3500 mg (1–3.5 grams)
Magnesium: 300–500 mg
Focus on getting enough sodium first. Having sufficient sodium will help your body naturally retain more potassium and magnesium.
Electrolyte supplementation is a requirement for success on a keto diet.
The goal of ketosis is to switch from being a sugar burner to a fat burner. To make this switch you have to let the body run out of the glucose and glycogen stores so it can start making ketones and burning fat instead of sugar. If you decide to have “just a couple bites” of refined carbs here or there, you stop this process in its tracks.
A small piece of fruit or a teaspoon of sugar in your coffee will keep your metabolism stuck in limbo, and you’ll never be able to make the switch to burning fat as fuel.
This is not a diet of moderation. The only carbohydrates you’ll put in your body will be low glycemic veggies. We have been brainwashed to believe moderation is healthy. A mindset shift will be helpful in choosing to abstain from carbs. Learn to see cookies, cakes, and candy bars as toxic, and it will be easier to stay away from them.
Too many choices decrease willpower
You will have more mental energy when you don’t have to make multiple decisions throughout the day. There’s no more bargaining when you see brownies in the breakroom at work. It’s just not an option, so there’s no more struggle.
Once you’ve experienced the energy and mental clarity that come from being in ketosis, you will realize it’s not worth it to eat “just one bite” of grains or sugar.
Your body will begin producing ketones within a few days of eliminating carbs from your diet. But it may take up to a month to experience keto-adaptation. This occurs when your body has fully adapted to using ketones and fat as fuel. You will notice you’re far less hungry than before. You no longer experience that weak, shaky feeling when you’re physically hungry. Your thoughts remain calm and clear, and your energy stays up, even if you aren’t able to eat for a few hours.
How do I track macros?
It is very helpful to record your meals for the first few days, so you get a feel for how much fat/protein/carbohydrate you’re eating each day.
I encourage you to use MyFitnessPal to track your macronutrients and make sure you’re truly eating under 20 carbs per day, getting enough protein every day and not eating too much fat. Be honest in entering what you eat. If you don’t record everything you won’t know what works for you and what doesn’t.
How do I know if I’m in ketosis?
My recommendation will differ from most of the keto community on this subject. There are several different methods of testing for the presence of ketones in the urine, breath, or blood but none of them indicates how much of your own body fat you’re burning. No matter what method of testing you use, when ketone levels are high, it’s an indication that you’re using ketones as fuel. There are so many extra ketones your body can afford to pee or breath them out. When you are using your own body fat as fuel, the ketone levels will naturally drop. High ketone readings indicate you’re burning the fat you’re eating, NOT body fat.
The more ketones show up in these tests, the more you’re using ketones and dietary fat as fuel instead of your own body fat. This is NOT the point of a keto weight loss diet.
If you decrease your daily carb intake below 20 NET grams, you WILL be in ketosis.
There is no reason to test for ketones. Yes, seeing that little square change colors can be rewarding. It’s like getting a star on your star chart in elementary school. If you’re motivated by charts and stars, add a star or checkmark to a paper calendar for every day you keep carbs below 20 NET grams.
You will know you’re in ketosis based on one factor alone. You’re eating under 20 grams NET carbs per day. It takes several days of consistently staying below 20 grams to enter ketosis and start using your body fat as fuel. This is why “just-this-once” indulgences are so devastating. A couple extra bites will set you back for days, weeks, or even months, not just a few hours. Every time you “cheat” with your carb count, you’re starting back at square one.
Once you’ve achieved ketosis, treasure it. Ketosis will take care of your cravings if you take care of it. A single carb heavy meal can throw you back into addictive food behaviors.
Ketosis is a natural, healthy side effect of restricting carbs below 20 NET grams per day.If you follow this recommendation, you WILL be in ketosis. No testing required.
Should I count calories?
Many health experts advocate eating until you’re full on a ketogenic diet, but these well-meaning professionals are usually people who have never been overweight and struggled with out of control behavior around food. If you tend to be obsessed with food, like I was, you may use this recommendation to go crazy and binge on ketogenic food.
If you’re insulin resistant, there’s an excellent chance you’ve turned off your body’s ability to feel full. Being aware of calories will help keep you accountable and aware of just how much you’re eating.
However, it’s important to understand that carbohydrates and insulin decide how fat is stored in our bodies more than anything else. When you eat under 20 NET grams of carbs per day, your body will not convert your food to fat in the same way. Calorie recommendations vary from person to person. Every “body” is different so measure and record your food for a few weeks to find what’s best for you. Follow the protein and fat recommendations in this article for a good start on finding the right amount of calories to lose weight and still have energy.
How do I stop overeating?
As a person who has been food-obsessed for 40 years, I have found the following to be very effective. It is a simple solution but it is not easy. You will face resistance when learning to implement this idea.
Focus all your attention on your eating experience. Sit alone while you eat if at all possible and focus on the way the food feels in your mouth. Count how many times you chew each bite. If you’re eating a rib eye steak, you may chew a small bite over 50 times before you’re ready to swallow.
Digestion starts in the mouth. Enzymes are secreted in the mouth and start to break down the food. These enzymes signal to your brain that you’re eating. When you pelican your food down and get it to your stomach as quickly as possible, you keep your body from recognizing when you’ve had enough to eat.
Refuse to eat mindlessly. Pay attention to your eating experience.
When you eat in a distracted state (while watching TV, driving, engaging in heated conversation, etc.) you keep your body and brain from realizing you’re eating. Neuroscience proves that we’re far less capable of multi-tasking that we think. When you try to do two things at once, you short change yourself. It is impossible to focus on eating and watching TV at the same time. Your brain will always be filtering out one experience or the other.
When you focus on eating, and slow down and chew your food thoroughly, you are setting yourself up for success. You’re sending your body a message, “I am eating” and it will back off sending you more cues to eat.
PS. My acid reflux symptoms disappeared when I started chewing my food to mush before swallowing. I had been making my stomach do the work my mouth enzymes and teeth were supposed to be doing, and it was rebelling by sending extra stomach acid up my esophagus.
Who will benefit from a Ketogenic Diet?
Different people tolerate carbohydrates differently. Some people do fine with high carbs, and some don’t. Individuals who thrive on a low fat; high carb diet today may very well develop carbohydrate intolerance as they age.
Does a low carb diet sound extreme? It violates society’s idea of moderation. But the human race has survived and thrived with very little access to carbs for 99.9% of our existence on earth. It’s not a stretch to imagine we’ve retained the metabolic machinery that allows us to thrive on very limited carb consumption.
The more carbs you eat, the more likely you are to develop metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. If you are overweight, there’s a good chance you’re insulin resistant on some level. Especially if you carry a lot of fat around your middle.
Summary: 6 Simple Rules
Keep this simple. The more rules and guidelines you have, the less successful you’ll be. If you follow these guidelines for the next 30 days, you will see a dramatic change in the way you feel. Please keep it simple and please do not compromise. You can do anything for 30 days. Zero cheating. Zero teaspoons of sugar in your coffee.
6 Simple Rules for Success
- Only eat whole foods. These are foods people would have recognized 200 years ago. Animal protein and fresh vegetables should make up 99% of your diet.
- Eat protein at every meal. No fancy preparations or complex recipes necessary. Just steam, boil, grill, or bake meat and eggs. Eggs, beef, chicken, turkey, pork, and seafood are the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Plant based protein will not retain muscle and nourish your body like meat. And protein sources like beans and quinoa are very high in carbs and are forbidden on a ketogenic diet.
- Eat fat. There will likely be plenty of fat in whatever protein source you choose. There’s no reason to go out of your way to add extra fat to your diet. You may cook your meat in small amounts of coconut oil, avocado oil, or butter or add a slice of cheese to your cheeseburger (wrapped in lettuce, not a bun) but avoid fat bombs, bulletproof coffee, and copious amounts of cheese.*
- Eat green veggies to add diversity and volume. You can make this as simple or complicated as you’d like. You can choose one veggie per week and use it as a side in all your meals or switch up different veggies at every meal.
- If it isn’t on the approved list in this article, it’s not allowed. No bargaining, no complex decision making. Just stick to meat and veggies.
- Measure and record everything you eat. Even the oils you cook your meat in. This is one of the most important aspects of success. By honestly recording every bite you take, you will learn what works and what doesn’t. Everybody is different. This is how you get in touch with your own body and learn what works for you.
* If you’re still experiencing cravings, cheese may be the culprit. Cheese triggers cravings in many people. It may break your heart to think of eliminating cheese but it can actually bring liberation and help you enjoy the natural flavors of your food.
If you follow these 6 rules for 30 days you will see a profound shift in the way you think about food. Complicated recipes only keep you obsessing about food.
Variety is not the spice of life. Find a few meals you like and eat them over and over.
Meat, veggies, water. Keep It Super Simple.
30 Day Challenge
You can do this! I dare you to go all in for 30 days. You’ll be astounded at the difference in your mental and physical health.