The ketogenic diet (or keto diet) has become one of the hottest trends due to all the new research showing how beneficial a low carb diet can be to your health.
It requires you to cut out a large portion of carbohydrates in your diet and replace it with healthy fats.
When you restrict carbs from your diet, you re-adjust your body to run off dietary and body fat as its main energy source.
Adopting a low carb, high-fat diet has provided several health benefits like reduced inflammation, improved brain function and rapid weight loss.
But just cutting carbohydrates out of your diet can discourage many people from following this way of eating.
Luckily, there are several tricks you can implement immediately to help you start the low carb, high-fat diet with minimal effort.
Here are 18 tips to help you on your keto journey:
- Try intermittent fasting
- Decrease stress
- Prioritize sleep
- Increase your salt intake
- Exercise frequently
- Don’t drink diet soda
- Batch Cook
- Drink plenty of water
- Consume carbs from vegetable sources
- Use MCT oil regularly
- Improve your gut health
- Invest in a food scale
- Use exogenous ketones
- Count your carbs
- Measure your ketones
- Always have convenient keto-friendly snacks on hand
- Clear your kitchen of carbohydrates
- Be prepared when going out to restaurants
1: Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) is arguably the most effective tip you can put into action to get into ketosis and help you lose weight — if that’s the goal.
IF means you don’t eat or drink anything that contains calories for an allotted period.
A Harvard study has shown that intermittent fasting can manipulate your body’s mitochondria similarly to the ketogenic diet to increase your lifespan.
When you don’t consume calories for a few hours, your body starts depleting all of the excess glucose stored in your body from eating carbohydrates.
To start burning fats for energy — the whole point of a keto diet — your body needs to first burn through any glucose present in your body.
Several types of intermittent fasting protocols will help you enter ketosis faster.
If you are a beginner to IF, skipping breakfast in the morning is great.
If you are already keto-adapted, fat fasting is a common way to help with a weight loss plateau. This is when you consume 80-90% of calories from fat for a set period (no more than three to five days) while limiting everything else. Doing so will allow your body to speed up its metabolism to burn more fat.
2: Decrease Stress
Chronic stress will severely hinder your body’s ability to enter ketosis. This is because the stress hormone cortisol elevates your blood sugar levels, which prevents your body from burning fats for energy. After all, there is too much sugar in the blood.
If you are currently going through a high-stress period in your life, starting the ketogenic diet may not be the best idea.
It’s best to begin this nutrition plan when you can keep stress to a minimum and devote a large portion of your waking hours to staying in ketosis.
If you want to start a keto diet now, it’s still doable. Just be sure to take steps to reduce the stress in your life, such as getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, doing something you enjoy (like listening to your favourite podcast) or adopting relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
3: Prioritize Your Sleep
Poor sleep will increase levels of your stress hormones. As we explained above, that can prevent you from getting into fat-burning mode.
Maintaining a proper sleep schedule on a keto diet where you go to bed simultaneously every day will help improve your quality of sleep.
It’s critical to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep every night. But if you’re currently getting way less than that, try scaling back by a half-hour every night until you hit your sleep goal.
Numerous studies have found that not getting enough sleep can greatly hurt your ability to lose weight.
Sleeping in a relatively cold room (around 65 degrees) and keeping a dark room will help you get into a deep, restorative sleep more frequently.
Supplementing with a natural sleep aid like melatonin can also work wonders if you have trouble sleeping.
4: Add More Salt To Your Diet
Many people have a negative stigma regarding how much sodium they should be consuming daily. We have been taught that our sodium intake should be very low, but this is typically only the case on high carbohydrate diets.
This is because a higher-carb diet means naturally higher levels of insulin. When insulin levels are high, your kidneys begin to retain sodium.
When you adopt a low carb, high-fat diet like the keto diet, insulin levels are much lower, and your body excretes more salt since there are no carbohydrates present to spike insulin and hold onto the podium.
Add an extra three to five grams (3,000 to 5,000 mg) of sodium to your diet in ketosis.
This will help you avoid electrolyte imbalances. The healthiest ways to get more salt in your diet include:
- Adding Himalayan sea salt (or pink salt), which contains natural trace minerals, to your water throughout the day
- Drinking organic bone broth every day
- Sprinkling pink salt on each one of your meals
- Eating low carb foods that naturally contain sodium, like cucumbers and celery
- Eating salted macadamia nuts
5: Exercise Frequently
Maintaining a regular exercise schedule while on the keto diet can boost your ketone levels and help you transition into a low carb, high-fat lifestyle much quicker than without exercise. To get into ketosis, your body needs to get rid of any glucose present in the body.
Exercising uses different types of energy for fuel, including carbohydrates, fats and amino acids. The more frequently you exercise, the quicker your body depletes its glycogen stores.
Once your body has gotten rid of its glycogen stores, it will seek out other forms of fuel and will turn to fat for energy through ketosis.
Incorporate a workout regimen that includes high-intensity and low-intensity steady-state exercises like walking or jogging. This will help you balance your blood sugar and aids your body in entering ketosis.
This is a beginner workout for people who want to incorporate an effective exercise program to aid with their journey to ketosis.
6: Stop Drinking Diet Soda and Using Sugar Substitutes
Just because diet soda has zero calories doesn’t mean it fits into your ketogenic diet plan.
Diet sodas use several sugar substitutes that can signal to your body that a large amount of sugar is entering the body. This can lead to increased blood sugar levels.
Studies have shown that the body may react similarly to some sugar substitutes to regular sugar.
Plus, when you load up on zero-calorie sweeteners, you’re only going to increase your cravings for sweet foods and drinks in the future. One of the big benefits of a keto diet is that you re-calibrate your taste buds to crave healthy, low carb whole foods — but this can’t happen if you’re constantly bombarding them with sweet-tasting foods.
Instead of diet soda, sparkling water can be a great alternative without the unnecessary sugar substitutes.
7: Batch Cook
Batch cooking delicious keto meals will help you stay on track with your keto macros throughout the week. If you engineer your environment to support your goals rather than sabotage them, you’re giving your willpower a break because it doesn’t have to be strong in the face of temptation.
Batch cooking sets you up for a week of keto dishes, so you don’t slip up when lunch or dinner time comes around.
8: Drink Plenty of Water
Staying hydrated is important no matter what diet you’re on, but you must pay extra attention when starting the ketogenic diet. This is because your body excretes more water from your body when carbohydrates aren’t present.
Aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water at the minimum.
Be sure to drink more on days you are sweating more often, such as hot summer days or after intense workouts.
9: Consume Carbs From Vegetable Sources
It’s important to incorporate vegetables in your diet to ensure you’re consuming all necessary nutrients, including fibre, which is crucial for maintaining a healthy gut (more on that later!).
It would help if you aimed for nutrient-dense, non-starchy vegetables like:
- Brussel sprouts
Non-starchy vegetables are generally low-calorie, too. So if you’re the type of person who likes to feel physically full after a meal, it’s important to include plenty of these vegetables in your diet, so you’re not eating an entire bag of macadamia nuts in one sitting.
While that would be delicious, it wouldn’t be helpful if you’re using a keto diet to lose weight.
10: Use MCT Oil Regularly
Supplementing with MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil will help you get into ketosis even if your glycogen storage isn’t fully depleted.
MCTs are immediately metabolized into ketone bodies and used for energy instead of going through your stomach for digestion.
While many people think coconut oil is the same as MCT, they are molecularly different.
MCT oil comprises 100% medium-chain triglycerides — caprylic and capric acids — while coconut oil contains 35% long-chain triglycerides and 50% lauric acid. Coconut oil is only made up of 15% medium-chain triglycerides. So your body has to go through its digestive tract to turn coconut oil into energy, whereas MCT oil is converted directly into energy.
11: Improve Your Gut Microbiome
Gut health is linked to just about every system in the body. Several studies have proven that your gut microbiome affects everything from your mental health to your digestive system and several other systems in the body.
Your body’s hormones, metabolic flexibility, and insulin sensitivity become more efficient when you have healthy gut flora. These processes directly affect your body’s ability to transition from carbohydrates to fats for energy.
When your metabolic flexibility functions optimally, your body can seamlessly adapt to a low carbohydrate, high-fat diet. But when your body is metabolically inflexible, it has difficulty utilizing fats for energy. Instead, it will convert into body fat. Focusing on improving your gut health will greatly impact the health of your body’s metabolic flexibility.
Eating a low carb, high-fat ketogenic diet also helps your gut health. When you eliminate carbs from your diet, you’re getting rid of processed foods that harm your gut microbiome.
Focusing on improving your gut health can greatly improve your body’s ability to become a more efficient fat burner.
12: Invest in a Food Scale
Weighing the food you eat can be a huge difference in the ketogenic diet, especially as a beginner.
Many people like to eyeball the amount of food they’re eating but doing so can cause you to overeat and kick you out of ketosis.
The difference between burning glucose or ketones as your primary source of fuel can be that one extra tablespoon of almond butter that you eyeballed.
For comparison, just two extra tablespoons of almond butter come out to an additional 200 calories and 6 grams of carbs.
Once you get used to what proper portions look like, then you can begin to eyeball your meals.
13: Use Exogenous Ketones
Like MCT oil, consuming exogenous ketones is like a shortcut to getting into ketosis.
The most popular exogenous ketones on the market contain beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), the active form of ketones that flow freely in the blood and are easily used by your body.
Taking a ketone supplement will drastically help during the initial phases of your ketogenic journey because you are signalling your body to start using ketones for energy instead of carbohydrates.
You still have to adopt a high fat, low carb diet to benefit from this way of eating fully. Still, exogenous ketones can kick you back into ketosis even after an unintentionally high carbohydrate meal.
It is also an effective tool for avoiding the keto flu common in beginners.
While your body is still getting used to using ketones, you can use an exogenous ketone to help eliminate all of the flu-like symptoms that come during the induction phase of the ketogenic diet.
Here are more helpful ways to avoid or cure the keto flu.
14: Count Your Carbs
Measuring your carbohydrate intake is extremely important. Avoid hidden carbohydrates in certain foods that may seem keto-friendly but are loaded with sugars.
Here are some examples of keto foods that may have hidden carbohydrates:
- Chicken wings loaded with barbecue or buffalo sauce
- Most fruits (blueberries are fine in small amounts)
- Low-fat foods like yoghurt
- Breaded meats
Look at the nutrition facts of everything you eat until you understand where those hidden carbs are coming from.
It would help if you only consumed 50 grams maximum in carbohydrates on the ketogenic diet.
When calculating your carb count, you want to determine the net carbs of your total daily intake.
Total carbs – Fiber = Net Carbs
The general rule is to consume 20 to 30 net carbs daily. If you exercise more frequently, you can get away with the upper threshold and stay in ketosis.
Here’s a genius 5-minute hack that allows you to calculate your net carbs on MyFitnessPal.
In the beginning, it may seem like the only thing you do is count and track carbs all day, but we promise, it becomes more intuitive.
15: Measure Your Ketones
Using keto sticks or a glucose meter will give you feedback on whether or not you’re following the diet correctly and actually in ketosis.
The most accurate measuring tool is a glucose meter. It’s also the most expensive alternative, so most people are deterred from using them daily.
Keto sticks are also a good alternative because they are cheap. Keep in mind that many people claim that the keto sticks are not entirely accurate because the longer you stay in ketosis, the more your body can utilize ketones for energy rather than excreting it through your urine. So you’re ketone count may appear low when it’s not.
16: Always Have Convenient Snacks on Hand
Time is a huge factor in sticking to the ketogenic diet. Many people are discouraged due to the number of homemade meals you have to make.
A great remedy is to prepare as many keto-friendly snacks as possible so you aren’t turning to convenient, carb-heavy snacks when you are short on time.
Here are some examples of keto snacks you can take on the go:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Beef jerky
- Premade guacamole
- Keto MCT Matcha Fat Bombs
- Pre-cooked bacon
17: Clear Out Your Kitchen
Most people can stick to a healthy keto diet if they only have access to healthy keto foods. Most people fall prey to carbohydrate-laden foods simply because they’ve failed to remove them from their homes.
Cleaning out your kitchen and pantry of all carbohydrates, including bread, pasta, sodas, candy, and rice, will force you to stick to your ketogenic diet.
It may sound drastic at first, but replacing all of your carbs with keto-friendly foods, except for non-starchy vegetables, will help you stay on track. So when those carb cravings kick in, you won’t have any comfort foods to turn to.
18: Be Prepared When Eating Out at Restaurants
When you first start the ketogenic diet, it can be not easy to distinguish what’s keto-friendly and what’s not.
But it gets easier with time. Almost every restaurant you go to will have a ketogenic diet-friendly meal, and with a little creativity, you will never have to resort to a carb-heavy meal just because you went out to eat with friends.
Here are some of the best ways to stay keto when eating out:
- Breakfast — Always opt for eggs and bacon. Instead of going for pancakes or toast, substitute it with more eggs and a green salad on the side.
- Lunch — There are always salad alternatives in almost any restaurant. Replace the sugar-filled dressings with strictly olive oil and vinegar.
- Dinner — Every restaurant will have a dominant meat meal. If you are going out for dinner, ask for their fattiest cut of steak (such as rib-eye) and replace the potatoes with an extra serving of vegetables.
It’s also a great idea to look at the menu beforehand to know what the best alternatives are.
Follow These Tips and Start Benefiting From the Ketogenic Diet
People who are just starting on the ketogenic way of eating need every trick in the book to stick to the diet.
After all, carbohydrates have been a major part of everyone’s diet. It’s not your fault that the carb urges are so strong.
As long as you steer clear from carbohydrates and incorporate the keto tips listed in the article, you will be well towards a healthier, focused life.