Many people think that the ketogenic diet is the same as “low-carb,” which results in many mistakes keep them from benefiting from ketosis the way they should.
What are these benefits? How about:
- an improved immune system,
- increased longevity,
- lower inflammation,
- effortless weight loss,
- decreased hunger,
- reduced risk for disease
Here are the primary 10 mistakes people make with ketosis and how you can prevent them.
1: Not tracking protein consumption
By far the biggest problem with a Keto diet is not tracking how much protein you are eating. The majority of Keto dieters aren’t eating enough protein.
Protein can be metabolized into carbs by a process called gluconeogenesis, which means making new carbs. This triggers an insulin spike and reduces your ketone levels. Overconsumption of liquid protein shakes can knock you out of ketosis.
The easiest way you can avoid this mistake is by tracking your ketone levels to see how they respond to different amounts and types of meat. Everyone is different, so the only way you can tell is by tracking.
Are you going to lose your muscle mass by limiting protein? No, you need less protein than you think. You’ll be fine if you get it from real food sources.
- Track your protein consumption.
- Unless it comes from collagen, only eat protein from solid food.
- Eat fatty protein choices (fatty beef instead of lean chicken breast)
2: Not tracking carbs
The first and second rules of ketosis are not eating carbohydrates. Be aware though, carbs are in everything, so you can’t avoid them entirely.
An avocado can have enough carbs to kick some people out of ketosis. That’s some not all; how many carbs will interrupt your ketosis is different for everyone.
Everyone is different.
The factors that determine how many carbs will interrupt your ketosis.
How do you keep track of the“hidden” carbs in foods though? Many people find the easiest way is to use an application like MyFitnessPal. You enter everything that you eat. As with protein, the easiest way to check this out is to test your ketone levels. Also, you can check glucose levels to see how much your blood sugar (glucose) rises after eating. This increase should not be more than 15-20 points. A blood sugar spike on the lower side is ideal.
- Use an app like MyFitnessPal and track for at least a few weeks, keeping % of carbohydrates under 5% of total calories
- Track with blood glucose meter and ketone meter
- Adjust your diet as needed
3: You’re not eating enough fat
When you reduce carbs and protein, it can be hard mentally to eat enough fat. You know the fake news edict about consuming fat will lead to heart disease among other health problems.
If you decrease two macronutrient sources of food (carbs and protein) you need to drastically increase another source (fat).
Make sure you’re getting enough with an app like MyFitnessPal setting calories to what you need, you need to be getting 80-85% of those calories from fat.
Not eating enough fat will make you super hungry and can lead to problems like undereating (see below).
4: Not eating fat of high enough quality
You should be eating only high-quality fats. This is a huge mistake many new Keto dieters make. You can reach ketosis by eating a very low carb diet that’s very high in poor quality foods but this type of ketosis is unhealthy. As the saying goes, garbage in, garbage out.
Fats are the backbone for making new cells and brain tissue, neurotransmitters, hormones and most bodily functions. You need the highest quality fats as possible.
Since the diet you are eating is 80-85% fat, the quality of fats you eat matter even more.
Think of whole, non-processed food choices. This means grass-fed meats, wild fish, cold pressed oils, avocado, and nuts. Not frankenfood fats in brightly colored packages like low quality processed cheese and other dairy products, and other low nutrition food items.
- The quality of fat you eat matters even more on a ketogenic diet
- Make sure your fat is coming from a variety of whole food sources with as much omega 3 fats as possible
5: Not eating enough calories
When was the last time you heard someone say that about a diet? One of the things that happen when people start eating more fat and fewer carbs and less protein and aren’t used to it is to automatically reduce calories as well. This may work at the beginning but if you want to reduce body fat, this can throw hormonal processes off over time.
When you eat fat, you are more full, which makes it easy to eat fewer calories, but that doesn’t mean you should.
When your body eats far fewer calories, it lapses into starvation and hoarding mode. It expects the trend to continue, and it hoards resources (stored body fat, is used to make hormones and neurotransmitters) and doesn’t want to thrive.
- Don’t try to lower calorie levels initially
- Track that you are eating enough food consistently
- Eat to satiety
6: Not eating fermented foods
You can easily boost your gut and immune system by eating a generous serving of fermented foods. Many people ignore those types of superfoods because they focus on the fat. Nevertheless, fermented foods influence digestion and overall health.
Try including at least 2-3 servings of fermented foods daily from different sources. Some examples are a little bit of kefir or full-fat yogurt, a few tablespoons of sauerkraut or kimchi, or raw pickles.
Try to include a bite of fermented foods with 2-3 meals daily
7: Not getting enough micronutrients
When you start eating way more fat and fewer carbs, you end up getting less plant diversity, which leads to a micronutrient deficiency. This is one of the biggest mistakes people can make on the keto diet.
Because fat is so filling and some vegetables contain carbs, which can kick you out of ketosis, it can be difficult to balance veggies or no veggies.
A trick to get more diversity and get a lot of nutrition at once is to steam up a large pot of veggies or greens. Add in the fat to reduce the fiber’s impact on your blood sugar levels. The fat keeps you in ketosis and helps with nutrient absorption, and cooking or steaming the greens greatly reduces their bulk.
Another strategy to get micronutrients is to eat other types of animal meats besides the familiar muscles, especially organ meats. Organ meats (liver and heart) are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet and shore up nutritional deficiencies resulting from not eating enough plant diversity.
- Eat a variety of plant foods
- Add fat to steamed greens and to get more nutrition
- Eat organ meats for a nutritional power boost
8: Not testing blood chemistry
There are 3 primary ways to test ketone levels: through your breath, urine, or blood.
Urine tests detect initial spikes in ketone levels, but when your body becomes efficient at burning ketones, you won’t eliminate as many in your urine. That makes it seem like your levels are decreasing when they’re actually rising.
Breath tests are unreliable, slow and can be as good as guessing when it comes to ketone levels. Skip these entirely unless you couple with blood strips.
The gold standard is blood tests to find an exact level of ketones in your blood. This is the only way you can really see if something changes your ketone levels. With a specific reading (in mmol) you can test before and after meals, workouts or anything else you want to gauge. The only downside is the test strips are a little expensive.
Testing a couple times a day is usually good enough to see trends developing.
- You start out with a urine meter at the beginning and switch to a blood meter later
- At a minimum, test in the AM and PM to monitor trend patterns
9: Not eating enough fiber
Gut health is another facet of health that gets ignored when people adopt a keto diet.
Probiotics introduce new good bacteria to your gut, then fiber is the food for the existing (good) bacteria in your gut.
Make a “creamed” version of vegetables by simply blending some steamed spinach, cabbage, or kale, with 1/2 a can of coconut oil or cream with butter.
Another way is to make a fat smoothie using vegetables. If you toss in coconut milk, cream, nuts, eggs, and avocado to a smoothie with plenty of spinach, kale, and cabbage, you’ll remain in ketosis easily. You’ll think it’s a milkshake.
- Steam veggies to reduce bulk and boost fiber
- Make “creamed” veggies as sides
- Make fat smoothies with plenty of added veggies
10: Not tracking glucose along with ketones
High levels of ketones aren’t’ all you need to worry about. You should look at your blood sugar to see whether you’re still insulin resistant and whether your body is still trying to burn glucose as energy.
You might as well get a glucose meter since you’re already poking your finger for blood. Blood chemistry is a good indication of your metabolic state.
From this, you can see how meals are affecting your blood sugar, which gives you an idea of what you should eat and what you should avoid.
The Glucose Ketone Index gives you a good sense of really how deep into ketosis you are. What is the GKI? The most beneficial range of ketosis is when blood sugar is at the nadir and blood ketones are at the zenith. You won’t get all of the benefits of ketosis when your glucose and blood ketones are high at the same time. Testing is the only way to avoid this.
- Buy a blood glucose meter
- Test in the AM and PM and before and after eating
- Try to drive blood sugar down and ketones up