This blog post came about because I have been asked to compile information on the Ketogenic Diet for a few people. I decided to just write it once, then share the link. So much easier!
To begin, I should tell you that my darling husband (DH) and I began the Keto diet experience on 10 September 2017, after I watched a fantastic video provided by ZDoggMD (click here) about LDL, cholesterol, and oh, yeah, Keto! On 10 Sep, we both weighed in, he at 254 and me at 255. Both of us had been heavier, but that was our starting weight.
Currently, he is down to 207, and I hover between 206-210. Women do seem to be cursed to have more difficulty with weight loss, but I’m not griping, as I’m now down a minimum of 45 pounds. I’ve about 20 more to go to reach my target weight of 185-190. To note — I am 5’8″, wear a size 10-11 ring on my ring finger, and size 11 shoes. For me, 185-190 is actually skinny.
I would like to point out right off the ball that all I’ve done here is put, in an easily-referenced format, much of the information that I found when I was researching the Keto Diet to determine if it would be healthy for us. I cannot thank, enough, the bloggers, etc, whose information I’ve referenced. I accept none of the accolades for the information they compiled — they did it all, and they deserve all the credit. I just utilized it, and am now sharing it forward in a (hopefully) easily-perused document.
Terms & Important Information
These are not alphabetical, but rather, I think, logically progressive.
Ketogenesis: The biochemical process by which organisms produce a group of substances collectively known as ketone bodies by the breakdown of fatty acids and ketogenic amino acids.
Ketones/Ketone Bodies: An organic compound containing a carbonyl group bonded to two hydrocarbon groups, made by oxidizing secondary alcohols. The simplest such compound is acetone. (For more understanding of the role of ketones in the ketogenic diet, read this).
Ketosis: A metabolic state characterized by raised levels of ketone bodies in the body tissues, which is typically pathological in conditions such as diabetes, or may be the consequence of a diet that is very low in carbohydrates.
Ketoacidosis: A pathological metabolic state marked by extreme and uncontrolled ketosis. In ketoacidosis the body fails to adequately regulate ketone production causing such a severe accumulation of keto acids that the pH of the blood is substantially decreased. In extreme cases ketoacidosis can be fatal.
Keto Sticks: Useful, though inexact, tool for tracking ketone body levels. What we use: Oh, click me!
Keto Adapted: This is the state you are in when your body has been wholly converted from using glucose as its primary energy source to using fat as its primary energy source. This can happen after anywhere from one-three weeks, usually. Cheating (having more carbs than allowed) can throw you out of Keto adaptation, but it doesn’t usually take as long to re-adapt as the initial adaptation took.
Net Carbs/Actual Carbs: This one can be a bit confusing. The guidelines for Keto consumption indicate that no more than 20-50g of actual, or net, carbs should be consumed daily. This means, for instance, that 50g of an avocado has a total of 80 calories, 8g fats, 4g total carbs, and 3g of fiber. In determining net carb count, you subtract fiber from the carbs, which means our 50g of avocado above only has 1g of net, or trackable, carbs — the total carbs (4) minus the fiber (3).
Nuts & Bolts – General Information
In short, the Keto Diet changes your body’s energy consumption from sugar-based (glucose) to fat-based (ketones, ketosis, nutritional ketosis). Our current diets are heavy in foods that easily convert to glucose, and very low in fats. This is based on old information that is being questioned and reevaluated.
What does a day of Keto Diet consumption look like for me? I begin the day with two cups (20 oz each) of coffee (decaf, I drink it for the rich flavor, and can heartily recommend Fresh Thyme’s Fogcutter). In that coffee I’ve added a creamer I make, which is 1 part heavy cream and 2 parts coconut/almond blend milk. I add vanilla and stevia to the creamer for taste. I’m playing with the idea of going full-on coconut milk, since almond milk doesn’t have as much fat, but for now, this is working just fine for us.
Around 11ish, I start getting hungry, so I might have some bacon. Or I might have some deli meat wrapped in a slice of cheese. Or I might have a baked avocado, mixed with butter and sour cream and maybe cheese. Or I might have some leftover something from the night before.
After my DH gets home, we have supper, our “big” meal of the day. It could be something as simple as hamburger patties (Bubba Burgers ftw!) with butter and cheese on top, or it could be a roast, chicken, whatever — but cooked in a manner consistent with high fat cooking. I no longer remove fat from meats when I prepare them, and we use chicken thighs rather than breast meat, as the fat content (and flavor!) is higher in the thighs. I also make a lot of cream soups, or sometimes we have salads with a lot of high-fat dressing. Our salads usually contain avocado, small portions of tomatoes, lettuces and spinach, and other vegetables that don’t increase our carb intake. I also recently found out that all my butternut squash recipes, which I love so much, can be made with kabocha squash — less carbs, yay!
If we’re hungry throughout the day, we’ll have a fat bomb or two. Oh, did I not mention fat bombs? SUPER way of increasing your fat intake without seriously impacting your other nutrients. Find out more here: click me!
Another thing I love doing, when I feel that I’m not getting enough green stuff in my diet, is casseroles. I’ll make this with any of the approved vegetables, but so far, I’m loving them with shredded Brussels Sprouts. Yum! I really love olive oil as a base for many of my foods, especially considering I have to follow a FODMAPS Diet, so I infuse my garlic into my olive oil. Olive oil combined with butter? Major yum! Also, I’m learning to use a good deal of canned coconut milk or coconut cream. I’ve learned how to not be afraid to really pour in the oil (fat), which just makes everything taste better, as well as making it more filling.
I’ve found that the easiest foods for conversion to Keto, for me, are American, German, Hungarian, and some Eastern foods such as Indian. There’s still a great deal of leeway, and it’s not hard to find a Keto recipe for just about anything. Google is your friend! You can literally input “Keto Pork Recipes” and find a huge list of just about everything possible — see? Keto Pork Recipes! But clam chowder, made with a Roux base? Hello … here ya go — Keto Clam Chowder Recipes!
I, personally, have given up on finding a good bread recipe. They just don’t exist, aside from a flatbread I make from a pizza crust recipe (Fathead Pizza). There’s another recipe for this using coconut flour, which is cheaper than almond flour, and lasts longer as you use less coconut flour (Fathead Pizza – Coconut Flour). Bottom line on Keto Bread: The flours you use do not contain gluten, so they don’t bind together themselves. Further, you can’t use yeast to get them to rise. You end up using a great deal of eggs for the binding, and then tons of baking soda and/or powder for rising. I’ve tried several bread recipes, and they’re either too eggy, or too metallic, for consumption. One I had to throw away as soon as it came out of the oven; it was not edible. In general, the breads are dense, don’t rise well, sink fast, and taste eggy and/or metallic.
One of the first things to understand, and grasp, is that this diet will absolutely only work as long as you remain in ketosis. Any cheating, or going out of ketosis, throws you out of Keto Adaptation, at least for the short-term. It’s fairly easily recoverable, usually taking no more than a week for things to resolve themselves after only one cheat. However, I believe that if the Keto Diet is abandoned and you resume your previous way of eating once weight goals are achieved, then all benefits of the Keto Diet will be lost; in short, the weight will be regained, and fairly quickly, and you’ll be inundating your body, again, with bad-for-you stuffs. There are people who say “Keto for life!” and others who insist it should be a short-term solution specifically targeted to weight loss and physiological improvement. More on that, down below.
Another thing to be aware of is fat distribution in our bodies. At a high level, we can separate body fat distributions to visceral and subcutaneous. Visceral fat is the fat that’s packed in and around the abdomen, usually displacing and squishing internal organs. It’s most predominant in men, and it’s also the more dangerous fat. Subcutaneous fat is the fat that tends to be softer, and is more generalized over the whole body, since it’s distributed mainly under the skin level. Women are usually the ones with sub-cu fat, and it’s the less dangerous fat type to have. The kicker? Visceral fat is easier to lose, while sub-cu fat is more difficult.
Go figure, right?
Initially, using an app such as MyFitnessPal is absolutely invaluable to tweak the Keto Diet for each person. For instance, my DH can have more protein in his diet and maintain weight loss, where I require more fat, and a good bit less protein, than he can get away with. Using the MFP app, rather than the web-based PC version, gives you access to macro- and micronutrient levels and percentages more easily than the PC version does.
For me, maintaining my macronutrient levels at 75% fat, 5% carbs, and no more than 20% protein works, while my DH can fluctuate around 60-75% fat, 5% carbs, and the rest protein. Further, one hard-fast rule that we both follow is that we consume absolutely no more than 20-35g carbs per day. Period. We let the fat and protein take up the rest of our calories. For many people, only 60% fat, 5% carbs and 35% proteins works. If you wish to do this correctly, you’re going to want a food tracker, and you’re going to want a food scale. Both are necessary, trust me!
A happy sidenote we’ve both noticed is that our appetites have significantly reduced. We’re full, sooner, and we stay full, longer. In short, fat is a satiating factor in our diets, and our bodies have naturally adjusted themselves to lower calories. We did not have to do this for ourselves, our bodies just kinda stepped in and said, “Hey, you’re full! Stop eating!”
One of the more startling results I’ve noticed for myself is the dramatic decrease of my Fibromyalgia symptoms. I’ve been diagnosed with Fibro since the early 2000s. I, at one time, was on medications such as Lyrica and Gabapentin to manage the Fibro, though I still struggled with the fatigue that’s endemic with that illness. I found a doc willing to prescribe me Thyroid hormone since my Thyroid levels were .01 above being “low,” and my regular doctor preferred to prescribe me antidepressants rather than try the Thyroid. My symptoms resolved enough with the Thyroid treatment that I was able to come off the Lyrica/Gabapentin, and my fatigue decreased. I still struggled with flare-ups, and they could be as bad as without the Thyroid hormone. I was able to use Ibuprofin to manage the pain, which I saw as a better alternative to the previous medications. However, once we began Keto, I noticed that my pain level decreased significantly. The last couple of months, I’ve stopped taking IB more than once or twice a week, if that frequently. The reason for that is that the foods included on the Keto diet, by and large, are not foods that contribute to inflammation. That’s a whole separate area of research if you’d like to indulge — it’s fascinating. But I’ll share with you the following link, which kind of touches on it: click here!
Managing the Keto Diet
Ok, now, into the good stuff. As I stated above, the key components to weight loss on the keto diet is carbohydrate reduction and control, and significantly increased fat consumption. This meant the elimination of many of our favorite foods: potatoes, breads, pastas, rices, desserts, so on and so forth. It also meant that the regular intake of most fruits, and many vegetables, was tabled. Why is this? Let me list for you the carb levels per serving of many foods:
Apple: 1 medium apple contains 25g carbs, and 4g fiber, which equals 21g net carbs
Pear: 1 medium pear contains 26g carbs, and 6g fiber, which equals 20g net carbs
Orange: 1 medium pear contains 15g carbs, and 3g fiber, which equals 12g net carbs
Cucumber: 1/2 cup cucumber contains 1.9g carbs, and .3g fiber, which equals 1.6g net carbs
Tomato: 1 medium tomato contains 4.8g carbs, and 1.5g fiber, which equals 3.3g net carbs
Turnip: 1 medium turnip contains 8g carbs, and 2.2g fiber, which equals 5.8g net carbs
Potato: 1 medium potato contains 37g carbs, and 4.7g fiber, which equals 32.3g net carbs
Rice: 1 cup cooked white rice contains 44g carbs, and .6g fiber, which equals 43.4g net carbs
As you can see, if you’re not careful, those net carbs can add up quickly. Fairly safe vegetables for consumption include cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, rutabaga, many radishes including Daikon radish, eggplant, lettuces & leafy vegetables, and cabbages. Other, lower-net-carb vegetables can be used, but I recommend, at least initially, ONLY doing so when calculating percentages and tracking them via MFP, so that you can easily learn how to juggle the percentages. I cannot stress enough that finding, and then sticking to the correct percentages will be a huge component to successful implementation of the Keto Diet.
Another factor that the Keto Diet utilizes, but which my DH and I have not been able to pursue as diligently as we like is the use of GOOD food. Not the antibacteria-laden meats we generally buy, but actual organic vegetables, and grass-fed beef, and organic meats, as often as possible. The reason for this goes beyond just weight loss; it encompasses an overall healthy way of learning to eat. You can research for yourself the wholesale use of pesticides, herbicides, antibacteria, and other chemical processes which are now commonplace in our food production. We won’t even mention GMO in here.
The truth is that if you do any real research into what commonly comes across our tables (I recommend reading “The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Wal Mart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table” by Tracie McMillan if you haven’t already read it), you’re going to be horrified by what we’re regularly putting in to our bodies. From the preservatives which keep our foods on shelves longer to all the rest of everything else, it’s no wonder we’re seeing such an uptick in medical problems. We’re poisoning ourselves.
My DH and I are working on cleaning up our foods as much as we can, but due to financial constraints, that will be a long-term project. We do count every time we can move closer to that goal a good thing.
I guess this is as good a time as anything to make the following point — If you don’t cook, this will be difficult for you to follow. Myriad reasons for this exist: When you cook, you have absolute control over the ingredients and portion size. Further, when you go out to eat, while nutrition information is posted, you can’t count on it being completely accurate since most foods are prepared by people — well, those that don’t come pre-packaged. But we won’t even talk about those evil foods! Anyway, if I read a recipe I like, I always alter it to suit my tastes. Also, I take into account factors like scale weights being slightly off, or my desire to have just a bit more cream cheese in that dish … you get the idea.
The only way you can accurately know what you’re eating is to prepare it yourself, measuring and tracking it as you go. MFP allows you to enter recipes; I did that, for the first few months, with everything I prepared. I didn’t write out the directions, just entered the ingredients and allowed the computer to figure out our macro- and micro-nutrients. Another reason to maintain control over your food is the oils used for frying, etc. For instance, how many of you are still using partially-hydrogenated oils? Are you aware of them? Click here for more information on these. Anyway, my DH and I will eat out now, but only with restaurants where we know the quality of the food prepared; Panera, Red Robin, J. Gilbert, and Firebird’s are ones we’re usually pretty safe with.
Side note: Be aware that cheese can bind you up! Cheese is an easy way to increase your fat consumption; wanna make a casserole? Add cheese! However, Impaction is not unheard of, nor is high levels of constipation. For me, I’ve had to significantly cut my cheese intake down, which means I’ve had to learn how to use other fats to keep my fat intake high. This is problematic for me, ‘cuz it means I gotta actually think more, but I’d rather have more headache figuring this out than more constipation because I was lazy. Watch your cheese intake, and reduce if necessary! Increasing water and sodium can help, but as one person said, “Constipation isn’t about what you’re not eating (fibers, anyone?) but rather about what you are eating.” Can’t find that quote to correctly mark it, and it’s a bad paraphrase, but you get the idea. I used Flax and Chia seeds to try to “fix” my constipation, but nothing worked until I drastically reduced my daily cheese intake.
First of all, when you start Keto, your body will go through an adjustment process. This means that you can have flu-like symptoms. Further, once you’re firmly set on this path, your supplements will need to make up for missed nutrients in your foods. For my DH and I the two biggest ones have been Magnesium and Potassium for muscle action. In short, we began having horrible leg cramps. Increasing Mg and K intake is vital to continued health and well-being … and sleep! Waking up with leg cramps = major not fun.
Further, you will absolutely want to increase your water intake. I can’t stress this enough. Do research on artificial sweeteners currently used, and you’ll want to swear off sodas forever. My DH and I both use Stur in our water to enhance the flavor; while Stur does contain trace carbs, our carb intake per day is low enough to handle this. Also! Sodium will likely have to be increased. It’s crazy, but sodium levels seem to drop a lot when you begin Keto, so get used to adding slightly more salt to meals. I, as a rule, don’t salt while I’m cooking, so all salt is added at the time of consumption, to taste. Our measurable sodium levels do not appear to have increased at all.
Keto, and making it work, has to be different for every person. For instance, I found it easier to scour the web for information, then make my plan of action, implement it, test it, and go from there. For some people, it’s far easier to follow a menu plan that’s already been developed by other people. I can’t tell you what’s easiest for you, but I can tell you there are countless resources out there for getting started. Since I’ve planned on this becoming our new way of being from the start, it made more sense for me to really get in to the inner figurings of it and go from there, but every single person’s situation is different, so in the interest of helping you obtain more information, I’ve included some really good how-to-start guides at the end of this blog.
Note: Keto and sugars. Because sugars are carbs, and we’re reducing our carbs so drastically, many people lament they won’t be able to have sweets anymore. That’s simply not true! The types of sweets you can eat will change; I use fat bombs, or Endangered Species Chocolate Bars, for our sweets. Knowing what your sweets are sweetened with is a huge part of successful Keto Dieting. For instance, my DH and I eat this bar as a snack, consuming no more than three squares at a time. This contains natural cane sugar, but in a very small amount, and the carb/sugar count is low enough that it’s not a danger to spiking the A1C. For other things, such as cooking treats, etc, we use either Erythritol or Stevia. Also, as I indicated above, I do sweeten our coffee creamer. At the end of this blog I will include some links on sweeteners.
Once you’ve gotten started, figured out the nuts & bolts (again, this can be a couple of months), you’re ready to sit back and embrace your new way of being. Congrats! You’ve likely begun to notice some weight loss, and are beginning to feel better. Below, I’ll list some links for several theories on Keto and lifestyle.
To put it simply, there are a great many people who believe “Keto for life!” is, in fact, for life. My DH and I fall into this category. We will not go back to our previous way of eating. My DH, the other day, just looked at me and said “I will never weigh that much again.” As we’re both aging, obviously, being as healthy as possible has become important; important enough that we won’t allow ourselves to fall back into the high-sugar diets we were consuming. I’ve always cooked, and we ate well, but we did consume a lot of high-carb foods, including at the least potatoes & rice. We miss those, but we don’t miss being fat!
One proponent of short-term use of the Keto Diet is Dr. Axe, and he’s proposed several ways to transition off of keto and on to a more “normal” diet. You can find his proposals here: Dr. Axe – Transition off Keto. My DH and I have decided that Keto is going to be our long-term way of life, with occasional cheats allowed.
Proponents of long-term Keto Diets all say about the same thing — there’s not enough information yet to show that long-term Keto use is harmful, and the anti-inflammatory and other benefits are too great to give up. There is speculation that long-term adherence to the Keto Diet can actually be harmful; keep in mind much of that speculation comes from avid followers — both medical and layperson — of the current FDA Dietary Guidelines. For my view of the current and historical dietary guidelines? See this: Funny — but true — Video.
In short, you will have to decide for yourself whether this is a weight-loss gimmick that works, or whether it’s a total recommittment to eating right, and taking care of your body, and the body(ies) of your loved one(s).
Long-term options for some people can include what’s called Keto Cycling. This means that you cycle your carb count, varying the amounts on different days. I suppose my DH and I could consider this, if something comes up that shows that long-term ketosis is dangerous. In my opinion, though, there’s just not enough verifiable information out there for people to make an all-inclusive decision regarding remaining in ketosis or not. Again, for my DH and I, it was a decision we made together, and one we’ll continue to follow, as we feel the health benefits outweigh (ha!) the health detriments. Be assured we will also be following information as it becomes available. A link about Keto Cycling is listed below.
I’m going to wrap this up now with some good’ol fashioned links on many things Keto that I believe will answer the questions better than I can; those links will then be followed by recipe links. There are some absolutely amazing bloggers out there who’ve done a lot of the hard work for us! Yay!
Getting Started Links
General Info Links
Sweeteners – They’re not all Equal!
Aside from that, I can only imagine responding to any questions you may have. It’s difficult to try to make this everything about Keto, as there’s just so much information. Hopefully, however, this is a good start for you! Please do NOT hesitate to let me know if I can help more!