Top 10 Keto Diet Common Mistakes
Contrary to what is advertised, there are often issues that can roadblock you when trying to follow the Dieting method that seems to be working for everyone else.
Most people will need constant vigilance and willpower to not fall back into what I would term as an “INGRAINED comfort foods trap” where you can potentially slip and fall down on your diet.
Thousands of people have tried Keto diets and have ended up loving it. However, there are also a large number of people who don’t see the results that they are hoping for.
While some of the try and fail approaches can be chalked up to a lack of follow through. There are a large number of people that have just made some simple, yet common mistakes that happen when they are trying something for the first time.
Without further ado, here are 10 of the most common “Pitfalls” to avoid when venturing into a Ketogenic diet system.
1.) Not Tracking your intake of Carbohydrates and Protein
While winging it is often a gung-ho excuse for not following the macronutrient breakdown of high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrates. However, the basis of Keto diets is ALL about that low intake of carbohydrate. So in order to be successful, it really is important to track and you use whatever device or app or approach that works for you.
Carbohydrates are in and around most foods, so its difficult to exempt them completely from your diet. And while carbohydrates account for up 5% of your diet on keto, your body is unique and staying in ketosis will vary depending on how successful you are at lowering those carbohydrates that seem to be in every drink, dessert, fruit, and condiment.
It’s a good idea to use a device or app or whatever approach that monitors what Carbohydrates you are ingesting, at least for a few weeks so you can see how you react to different foods. Apps are perfect because you can carry them with you anywhere, such as the popular MyFitnessPal which keeps a running tally for you.
[Gluconeogenesis is a process where your body breaks down protein (as opposed to fats) to make glucose. Therefore, gluconeogenesis can reduce your ketone levels and dramatically increase your insulin and drain your body’s lean muscle. The most prevalent problem that can occur is that your body to alternate between burning fat for fuel and using protein, this is often diagnosed as “keto flu” which creates varying levels of fatigue.]
2.) Not Testing Blood Ketone Levels
Tracking your carbs, protein, and calories are necessary to ensure your body is entering ketosis and using the buildup of fats for fuel. However, to really be sure that you’re actually entering and staying in ketosis after eating nothing beats measuring ketone levels.
There are several ways to test ketone levels in your body, however, blood testing is the considered the most accurate method. Nutritional ketosis is achieved when your blood ketones are between 0.5 and 3.0 mM. Values higher than that have no additional benefits.
- Nova Max Plus: This meter from Nova Biomedical is often provided free with the purchase of two boxes of test strips. You don’t have to enter a code to switch it from blood glucose to ketone testing; it does that automatically when you insert a ketone test strip. If you are using it primarily for blood glucose, it will remind you to test for ketones if your blood sugar level is 250 mg/dL or higher. The test strips for the Nova Max are less expensive but also flimsier and can give more error messages than the glucose test strips.
3.) Not Delving into your Nutritional intake
A lot of people focus only on the high-fat and low-carb portion of the ketogenic diet. It should be noted that for the best results, you’ve got to think about the types of foods you’re eating too.
A. Eat Quality Fats
For those of us growing up, it was often said that “Fat is Bad” and will clog our arteries which will lead to increased risk of strokes/heart attacks. This widespread alarm started decades ago with Ancel Keys, and it has prevailed until today.
Feeling full is an important benefit to eating healthy fats. You will likely notice if you are consuming enough healthy fats that you are less likely to snack in between meals. This is because our bodies thrive on using healthy fats because our livers will break down fat into ketones which is the foundation of the ketogenic diet.
And as most of us well know; it’s difficult to stay the course if you are hungry. Eventually, people will often find that they will intermittently fast and only eat within a 6-8 hour window which leads to a wide array of other health benefits.
Some High-Quality Fats are:
Fatty grass fed beef
Cold-pressed unrefined oils
Wild fatty fish
If your diet previously fell under the category of Processed food (raises hand) glucose eater, you would often eat more frequently because your body could only store so much of it at a time.
A history of frequent snacking can, therefore, be a difficult (but not impossible) habit to break. The good news is new habits can be relearned with a little work and practice.
While people starting out on the Keto diet will often want a daily snack. I believe that there is a transition period where having snacks will help you adapt to the ketogenic diet, but this needs to be one of the first things you cut out.
You will notice that after a transition period, you will not have the desire to eat as frequently and might even unknowingly skip a meal or move it back to a later time once you are fat adapted.
This is because when you are burning ketones and fat regardless if you are big or small; humans can store tens of thousands of calories of fuel all over their body in the form of fat. The key is being able to access these fat reserves and use them as fuel instead of decorating your hips (and elsewhere) with unwanted extra layers.
[Side Note on Veggies]
Eat your veggies steamed. They’ll shrink down, which allows you to eat a lot at once.
Use Keto-approved vegetables like arugula, avocado, asparagus, broccoli rabe, bok choy, celery, kale and spinach.
If you’re still concerned about the carbs, just make sure you’re also eating nutrient-dense animal products like organ meats.
[Side Note on Fermented Foods]
Speaking of gut health, fermented foods are an amazing way to heal your gut of some of your past food indiscretions that were high in gluten, sugars/high fructose corn syrup, or an endless amount artificial chemicals that were masquerading as food ingredients. Some of you might even be recovering from food sensitivities and allergies and have decided to try the Ketogenic diet as a way to recover your bodies from the various symptoms of eating unhealthy.
Some Healing Fermented Foods are:
5.) Not Enough Salt
You shouldn’t be afraid of salt in the ketogenic diet. You actually need more salt (a reasonable increase of course) in order to limit the loss of electrolytes through your kidneys which are increased on a Ketogenic diet.
This is because ketones are a much cleaner burning fuel, and they don’t require a massive quantity of water. Therefore, your body starts purging itself of excess water which is how people are able to lose more weight in a shorter period of time.
However, this side effect of electrolyte loss is the most common cause of what people call “keto flu”. Which is often indicated by having constipation, headaches, heart palpitations, fatigue and/or lightheadedness. Ketogenic practitioners recommend counteracting this by increasing sodium consumption with good Sea salts or Himalayan pink salts. The added benefit is they both have extra minerals which are healthy.
6.) Too Much Dairy
Butter, hard cheeses, heavy cream and cream cheese are considered a great nutritional source on the Keto diet. The problem is not everyone can tolerate dairy (lactose) and this can cause some problems with Ketosis especially if your body is producing Cortisol to fight the inflammation from the dairy.
This is because, under stressful conditions like inflammation from dairy, Cortisol provides the body with glucose by tapping into protein stores via gluconeogenesis in the liver.
[Gluconeogenesis is a process where your body breaks down protein (as opposed to carbs) to make glucose. Therefore, gluconeogenesis can reduce your ketone levels and dramatically increase your insulin and drain your body’s lean muscle. The most prevalent problem that can occur is that your body to alternate between burning fat for fuel and using protein, this is often diagnosed as “keto flu” which creates varying levels of fatigue.]
So for people who have a morning routine of cream in their coffee or cheese on their foods, they might find it difficult to lose weight because their body has switched from burning fat to protein.
Food sensitivity and allergy specialists will often recommend going dairy free for 30 days. Then slowly add back in some dairy to see how you feel and how it affects you. Sometimes the exemption of Dairy from your diet can make you feel like a whole different…. well…. you.
7.) Too Much Stress
Few of us are able to escape having work stress and/or at home personal stress (Oh! Calgon take the stress away!) which can often lead to worsening cycles of sleeplessness or even staying up late watching television just to relax.
If you aren’t getting enough sleep, it puts your body under varying levels of stress. Ideally, for people who are getting a good 7-8 hours of sleep each night, the results have shown a significant improvement towards weight loss and feeling healthy/energized.
The prevalent theory is that if you’re constantly under/around/permeated in stress, then your body is producing Cortisol almost constantly. Just like how physical stressors such as inflammation from food sensitivities, emotional stressors can produce Cortisol which then switches away from fat glucose by tapping into protein stores via gluconeogenesis in the liver.
Also, when we are tired and/or more stressed, we have a greater tendency to make lapses in judgment. Studies show an increased impulse to grab the processed food (chips/ice cream/etc) in order to give ourselves a little boost or pick-me-up.
So get to bed within a 30 min window each night (1-2 hrs late is Not helping your positive Keto diet lifestyle). Practice some meditations or work to resolve stressful situations. Take some time to see what stress relieving activity works best for you.
[Side Note on Mindfulness Meditation]
Insomnia sufferers, this is an interesting technique adapted from Buddhist Vipassana meditation. It basically teaches you to be mindful of your emotions, thoughts and sensations that are present in your daily environment. The part that requires openmindedness is taking a few minutes to take these emotions or thoughts and review/accept them in an objective and non-judgemental way. It is often practiced sitting, with eyes closed, cross-legged on the floor or cushion with your back straight.
As you become more attuned to this technique, it is beneficial to your meditation to include a focus on your abdomen when breathing in and out along with an awareness your breathing as you inhale and exhale through your nostrils.
Beginners often start with short periods of 10 minutes or so a day, and increase the time with practice. This method helps to clear one’s mind of negative thoughts and tensions. Stress-induced anxiety is a leading cause of insomnia (or restless disturbed sleep) and Mindfulness meditation addresses the cause, hopefully leading to better and more restful sleep.
8.) Having a Cheat Day
There are a few popular diets that have what is known as a “cheat day” built into them. Basically once a week you get to relax the restrictions on what you should Not eat. The idea is that it motivates you to stick to your diet throughout the week by holding off cravings and temptations with a reminder that at the end of the week you get a reward for being good.
If you go into the Keto diet with the mindset of having cheat days or meals, there is a likelihood of failure long term because it throws your body out of ketosis. It can take days up to a week to get back into regular ketosis. And just about the time you are into a regular cycle of ketosis, you have another cheat day scheduled.
While part of what makes us human is making mistakes (such as smelling your favorite carb enriched meal when meeting friends) and indulging when you shouldn’t. Since there is a good chance it will happen, the important thing is to get right back on track and do your best to limit being exposed to what is your own particular Unhealthy Food Kryptonite.
9.) Not Planning Your Meals
The keto diet definitely requires some planning, especially in the beginning, until you get the hang of it. It’s definitely better to track your food before you eat it. As the saying goes, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.
For a few weeks, I would highly recommend that you plan your meals in advance (or do meal prep in advance), this should help prevent issues that can arise such as“I have 75 calories left but need to consume 50 more grams of protein”. Also, there are plenty of Keto meal planning resources for people who don’t want to do the math.
10.) Expecting Only Weight Loss
On a keto diet, early weight loss results can happen quickly (especially for those who start the diet overweight). However, I think the greater overall long-term benefits has to do with feeling healthier, alert and more energized. Typically, weight loss will start to level out as your body becomes more acclimated to maintaining the state of ketosis. Therefore, making weight loss the only goal is an unreasonable expectation over the long-term.
I think we can all agree that Diets high in healthy fats and protein also tend to be very filling, which can help prevent the bad habit of eating readily available empty calories, junk foods and sweets. For most people eating a healthy low-carb diet, provides a wide range of benefits beyond just looking slimmer.
Therefore, concern over the scale isn’t a reasonable long-term goal, because it will discourage you when you don’t continue to see the number you expect. Progress should be measured by inches and how much healthier you feel, not just the numbers on the scale. Hopefully, the feeling o
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