Do you find yourself craving sugary treats and carbohydrates often?
As a beginner on the ketogenic diet, it isn’t uncommon for carbohydrate cravings to get the best of you. And while everyone slips up on their diet once in a while, these cheat meals could be ruining your keto efforts.
Fortunately, cravings can be minimized by strategically approaching your nutrition.
In this Keto Beginners Series, we’ll talk about the most effective ways to fight hunger and cravings.
What are Carbohydrate Cravings? Carbohydrate cravings are characterized by an extreme desire for foods like pasta, bread, rice, candy, donuts, pizza, and more.
These cravings typically occur as you’re first starting out on your ketogenic journey for several reasons.
Before you’re keto-adapted, your body is used to running on carbohydrates and sugar as a source of energy. So when you remove your body’s main source of energy, you’ll experience hunger pangs like no other.
Symptoms of Sugar Cravings Glucose from carbohydrates is your body’s preferred energy source because it’s fast-acting and can be stored in the body for later use[*].
But sugar (glucose) is a very bad source of fuel. Here’s why – the moment your body no longer has a full tank of glucose – you’ll start to experience the horrible effects of low blood sugar.
These side effects come in the form of:
Hunger pangs and thirst
Anxiety, fatigue, irritability
Extreme carb and sugar cravings
Luckily, following a low carb, high fat ketogenic diet and shifting your main energy source to fats, can get rid of these unpleasant symptoms of carb addiction.
How to Prevent Hunger and Cravings Most people who aren’t following a ketogenic diet are addicted to carbohydrates without realizing it.
That’s part of the reason why the sugar industry is a multi billion dollar market and people would rather eat cereal for breakfast rather than a healthy, keto meal like steak and eggs.
If you’re experiencing hunger pangs and cravings as a beginner ketogenic dieter, here are our top tips for preventing sugar addiction from getting the best of you...
#1. Eat Whole Foods The majority of your ketogenic diet should consist of nutrient-dense whole foods like fatty cuts of meat, eggs, beef, low-carb vegetables, and healthy fats.
It’s fine to enjoy a keto dessert like low-carb cookies every once in a while but you should use them as a treat.
Whole foods will help you stay full and give you the right amount of nutrients you need to prevent cravings.
#2. Restrict Carbs Almost Completely Instead of slowly tapering off from your carbohydrate intake, it’s best to just go cold turkey from eating carbs. While it may seem like the right thing to do to slowly remove carbs, this will only make it more difficult.
To start burning ketones effectively, your body must have empty glucose stores which means keeping carbohydrates under 30g of net carbs per day.
If you’re consuming more than 50g of carbs while you aren’t yet keto-adapted, it’ll be more difficult for your metabolism to adapt to fats for fuel.
#3. Stop Using Cheat Days Especially as a beginner, cheat days and cheat meals will only set you back during your ketogenic journey. Not only will your carb cravings come back even stronger, you will never be fully keto-adapted.
Every time you have a cheat meal, you’re interrupting ketosis and confusing your body as to what fuel source you should be running on. This will also re-introduce symptoms of the keto-flu.
#4. Drink More Water Make it a habit to drink a bottle of water first thing in the morning and anytime you start craving carbohydrates.
Often times, your hunger pangs just mean that you are dehydrated. A good way to determine if you’re drinking enough water is by gauging the color of your urine. If it’s light yellow to clear, then you’re drinking enough.
#5. Don’t Eat at a Calorie Deficit Yet Try to eat at a calorie maintenance or even a surplus as you start your ketogenic diet. Not only will this help you stay fuller, but you’re also allowing your metabolism to shift its main fuel source from glucose (from carbohydrate) to ketones (from fats).
If your main goal is to lose weight, eat at a calorie maintenance for at least one week to allow your body get used to this new way of eating. Then you can slowly start decreasing your calorie intake from there.
#6. Let Your Body Become Keto Adapted Allowing your body to become keto-adapted is a crucial step to conquering your hunger cravings. Since you’re used to eating carbohydrates your whole life, it’s important to give your body some time to adjust.
It will take around one to two weeks before your body is fully keto-adapted. Once this happens, sugar cravings will become almost non-existent.
Carb Cravings are a Temporary Side Effect of Keto Carb cravings are normal during the beginner stages of the ketogenic diet. It’s more important during this transition period than ever to keep your carbs as low as possible so your body adjusts to using fats for energy.
By simply following the steps above, you can minimize - or even mitigate - your carb cravings entirely!
One of the core principles of the ketogenic diet is to remove carbohydrates as much as possible.
For this reason, many athletes and bodybuilders avoid the low carb, high fat lifestyle because they’re worried it will hinder their performance.
Luckily, there are several variations of the ketogenic diet, making it suitable for just about anyone. In fact, the cyclical ketogenic diet is a type of keto diet that allows some carb consumption while still reaping the benefits of ketosis.
In this Keto Beginners Series, we’ll talk more about what the cyclical ketogenic diet is and how to follow it.
What is the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet? The cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD) is a variation of the ketogenic diet that involves eating clean carbohydrates one or two days out of the week.
The other five or six days will follow a standard ketogenic diet consisting of very low carbohydrates, moderate protein, and high fats.
During the one or two days of carbohydrates - also known as carb loading - you’re encouraged to eat large amounts of carbs such as rice, potatoes, oatmeal, pasta, and whole grains. But, it’s equally as important that you keep your fat intake low during your carb days to experience the best results.
Who Can Benefit from the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet? If your main reason for following a ketogenic diet is for health reasons such as hyperinsulinemia, epilepsy, or metabolic disease such as type II diabetes, the cyclical ketogenic diet is not recommended for you.
In addition, if you’re a complete beginner to dieting or keto in general, CKD should be avoided.
The cyclical ketogenic diet is known as an advanced eating protocol designed for people who are experienced with nutrition and live an active lifestyle.
CKD is a great keto dieting protocol for:
People who exercise frequently
Advanced dieters with experience in nutrition
Bodybuilders who want to build muscle
Athletics looking to improve workout performance
The Purpose of Carbs on Keto The entire goal of the cyclical ketogenic diet is to temporarily leave ketosis in order to fill up your body’s muscle glycogen to enhance your workouts or athletic performance for the remainder of the week.
During high-intensity exercise, your body relies heavily on glucose (from carbohydrates) rather than ketones (from fat).
When you incorporate one or two carb days, your body benefits from several different functions that allow you to increase muscle and build more strength. Here’s how:
Anabolic Hormones are Increased Testosterone, IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), and growth hormone are all responsible for improving your strength, physique and physical performance.
When you follow a CKD, your giving your body the necessary macronutrients it needs to optimize these hormones.
Insulin Is Necessary for Bodybuilders and Athletes This occurs because insulin is increased when you eat carbohydrates. When insulin is spiked during your carb days, it will replenish your glucose stores.
Your muscles are basically like tanks for glycogen. More muscle glycogen means you’ll have better performance in the gym and the one to two carb days will help you keep these stores full for the remainder of the week.
Standard Ketogenic Diet Days Increases Testosterone and Growth Hormone When insulin is high, growth hormone is blunted. But because you’re only increasing insulin during your carb days, your body will benefit from additional growth hormone increases when you consume a low carb, high fat macronutrient intake on the non-carb days.
Additionally, your non-carb days will be accompanied with high fat intake. Studies have shown that high fat intake increases overall testosterone levels[*].
How to Start the Cyclical Ketogenic Diet Now that you understand how beneficial CKD can be for athletes and bodybuilders, let’s give you a quick blueprint to getting started.
The goal is to re-enter ketosis as soon as possible after your carb days. This means your workouts after those carb-ups should be heavy, compound lifts that can help you deplete glucose and re-enter ketosis fast.
During your 1-2 carb days:
Carbohydrates should make up 70% of your total calorie intake for the day
15% of total calories should come from protein
15% of total calories come from fats
Carbohydrates should consist of whole grains, rice, potatoes, lentils, black beans, and pasta (try to avoid processed carbs as much as possible)
During the other 5-6 ketogenic days:
Fats should make up at least 65% of your total calorie intake
15-25% of total calories should come from protein
Less than 15% should come from carbohydrates
Consume your fats from healthy sources such as avocados, fatty meats, eggs, and coconut oil
Use The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet to Reach Your Muscle Building or Athletic Goals The CKD isn’t for everyone. As we’ve mentioned in this article, it’s only recommended for experienced dieters who want to build muscle, increase strength, and improve their overall athletic performance.
If you are a beginner to keto, overweight, or following the low carb, high fat lifestyle for medical purposes, the cyclical ketogenic diet should be avoided. Following a standard ketogenic protocol will be much more effective.
One of the main reasons why people experience ill-effects from the ketogenic diet is because they aren’t replenishing their electrolytes after carb restriction.
The several processes and changes that your body goes through as you adopt keto alters the way you handle electrolytes and water.
With that said, having electrolyte imbalances can make your ketogenic efforts a struggle.
Fortunately, knowing this can help you prevent it.
In this Keto Beginners Series, we’ll talk about the importance of electrolytes and why you need more than you think.
What are Electrolytes? Electrolytes are minerals found in the body that are important for just about every function including heart health, bladder regulation, allowing your muscles to contract properly, energy and brain functioning and more.
When you don’t have enough electrolytes, you’ll become victim to the dreaded “keto flu”. Many beginners on keto will feel flu-like symptoms if they are electrolyte deficient.
Some of the symptoms of the keto flu include:
Why You Need to Pay Close Attention to Your Electrolytes on Keto When you’re on the ketogenic diet, you’re removing carbs almost entirely which means your body will produce less insulin and glycogen stores (from carbs) are emptied.
As these carb stores are emptied, your body will shift from keeping water to excreting it through your urine, sweat, and breath. That’s why you’ll find that when you first start entering ketosis, you’ll have to use the bathroom more frequently.
You’ll also notice that you’re losing a lot of water weight and feel less bloated.
While this may seem like a good thing, your body is also excreting essential vitamins and minerals known as electrolytes along with the water.
The 4 Main Electrolytes to Track on the Ketogenic Diet Electrolytes are abundant in certain low-carb foods like green leafy vegetables, nuts, and dark chocolate.
To prevent the “keto-flu” from ruining your low carb, high fat efforts, make sure you consume ample amounts of the following electrolytes:
#1. Sodium Sodium is the most important electrolyte to monitor when you first go on the ketogenic diet. While in the past we’ve been taught to keep sodium low, this is only sound advice for people who are on a standard American diet filled with processed carbohydrates and sugar.
When your body excretes water after restricting carbs, sodium comes with it.
Make sure you consume around 5,000 to 7,000mg of sodium daily.
To do this, you can add pink himalayan sea salt to just about everything you eat. Additionally, many keto-ers like to drink bouillon cubes for additional sodium if they haven’t hit their daily intake.
If you workout frequently, you should consume the upper threshold as you’re excreting even more sodium.
#2. Potassium When you think of potassium, most people will refer to bananas as a great source (which should be completely avoided on keto). But what most people forget is, there are several low-carb foods with even more potassium than bananas.
Potassium is crucial for heartbeat regulation and having normal blood pressure levels.
Make sure you consume around 1,000 to 3,500mg of potassium daily.
But be careful, having too much potassium may have a toxic effect on your body. You can get ample amounts of it from avocados, nuts, dark chocolate, mushrooms, green leafy vegetables, and even meat.
#3. Calcium Everyone knows that calcium from milk helps you build strong bones. It’s also essential for maintaining proper muscle and nerve functioning.
Make sure you consume approximately 1,000mg of calcium daily.
Low-carb keto-friendly food sources with calcium include; dark leafy greens, broccoli, hard cheese, salmon, and sardines.
#4. Magnesium Magnesium is needed for more than 250 reactions in the body.
It helps with muscle function, testosterone regulation, aids in the production of energy and protein, and helps keep bones strong. It’s also been shown to help with cramping, food cravings, and constipation.
Make sure you consume 500mg of magnesium daily.
Natural food sources of magnesium include dark leafy greens like kale and spinach, nuts, and seeds.
We encourage using a magnesium supplement as it may be difficult to get enough magnesium through your diet alone.
The Importance of Increased Water Intake While electrolyte intake is crucial, drinking plenty of water is just as important.
As we mentioned previously, water is excreted when you restrict carbs so you need to replenish your body for it to perform at its best.
A good way to determine whether you’re getting enough water or not is by looking at the color of your urine. If it’s a light yellow or clear, then you’re most likely hydrated. The darker yellow your urine is, the more dehydrated you are and should consider increasing your water intake.
Prevent the Ill-Effects of Keto By Amping Up Your Electrolyte Intake Most of the flu-like symptoms you may experience as a beginner is more than likely due to an electrolyte deficiency.
Make it one of your priorities to keep your electrolyte levels in the right place as it could be the difference between a day of lethargy, brain fog, and headaches or an energetic, focused, rejuvenated one.
One of the core, fundamental principles of the ketogenic diet is keeping carbohydrate intake extremely low.
The purpose of keeping carbs low is so your body can start using fats for energy instead of relying on glucose from carbohydrates. This is also known as being in a state of ketosis.
But that doesn’t mean you have to completely remove all carb sources from your diet.
In this Keto Beginners Series, we’re going to talk about the carb sources you are allowed to eat on the low carb, high fat ketogenic diet.
How Many Carbs Can You Have on Keto? Everyone has slightly different levels of carbohydrate restriction on the ketogenic diet. While some people can get away with eating more while staying in ketosis, others may need to be more restrictive.
Most ketogenic diet guidelines recommend you stay between 25 - 60g of net carbohydrates per day.
Net carbohydrates = Total Carbohydrates - fiber - sugar alcohol
In general, if you’re a very active person who exercises 4 to 5 times a week, you can consume more carbohydrates without any repercussions.
But if you live a sedentary lifestyle and overweight, we encourage you to keep carb intake as low as possible.
Carbohydrates to Avoid on the Ketogenic Diet There are certain foods that contain extremely high amounts of carbohydrates that should be avoided at all costs.
During your ketogenic journey, avoid high-carbohydrate foods including: fruits, pasta, potatoes, chocolate bars, donuts, candy, soda, juice, rice, and bread.
List of Carbs You Can Consume on Keto Now that you understand which foods should be avoided at all costs, let’s talk about the best ketogenic-friendly carb sources you can still incorporate into your diet plan.
Some of the foods listed below still contain some carbohydrates so it’s best not to overdo it especially if you’re a beginner.
#1. Cocoa Powder and Dark Chocolate Cocoa powder and dark chocolate are great alternatives to eating sugary chocolate bars. They’re a great source of antioxidants and it’s even considered a “superfood” because they contain essential nutrients to help you stay healthy.
Dark chocolate also has flavanols which has been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease by lowering your blood pressure.
It’s important to only consume dark chocolate that contains 70% cocoa or more. Anything less usually contains other higher carbohydrate ingredients that could potentially interrupt ketosis.
Tip: A great low-carb snack you can make with cocoa powder or dark chocolate is a keto fat bomb. Simply add cocoa powder into a bowl with almond butter and coconut oil and put it in the microwave until it becomes a consistent liquid. Then, place it in the freezer for half an hour and now you have a tasty, sweet low-carb snack!
#2. Low-Carb Vegetables Non-starchy vegetables are low in both calories and carbohydrates and have a high nutrient value, making it the perfect keto-friendly carb source.
Most veggies contain fiber which means they don’t count towards your daily net carbohydrate goal.
You can consume large amounts of the following low-carb veggies on keto:
#3. Avocados Avocados should be a staple in everyone’s ketogenic diet. They are high in essential vitamins and minerals including potassium and magnesium.
Avocados make the keto-adaptation phase much easier because you’re replenish your body with the essential minerals it excretes during the initial fat-adaptation stage.
One avocado only contains 2g of net carbs per serving, making it the perfect ketogenic-approved fruit!
#4. Berries Most other fruits are too high in carbohydrates so they should be removed but berries are the one exception.
Berries are both low in carbs and high in fiber.
These fruits are packed with antioxidants and have been shown to provide anti-inflammatory effects and protect against disease.
Remember, they still have carbs so try to keep your berry consumption in moderation.
#5. Shirataki Noodles Shirataki noodles are great for keto-ers who miss eating pasta. These noodles contain less than 1g of carbs because they’re mostly water.
You can get them at your local health food store as a fettuccine, linguine, or rice shape.
If you want to make a pasta dish, substitute normal pasta for shirataki noodles for a delicious low-carb meal!
#6. Olives Research has found that olives can help prevent bone loss, reduce inflammation, protect cells from damage, and even decrease blood pressure.
Half of the carbs from olives are fiber so they make for a great carb source on keto.
A 14g serving of olives only contains 1g of total carbohydrates. This means around 7 olives come out to 1g of carbs!
A Little Preparation Will Guarantee You Stay Low-Carb on Your Ketogenic Journey While your carb cravings may feel very intense as a beginner on keto, keep in mind that this is only temporary until your body gets used to becoming an efficient fat-burner.
By replacing high-carb sources with the low-carb foods listed above, you’ll provide your body with the essential nutrients it needs to thrive.
Consuming these low-carb sources will also help you stay full so your cravings are drastically reduced!
The ketogenic diet has emerged into the nutrition industry as one of the most popular trends over the past couple years.
With the substantial amount of science-backed evidence proving tremendous health benefits that extend well beyond weight loss, going keto seems to be all the rage.
But some people (mostly beginners) may experience some negative side effects on the ketogenic diet. Luckily, they can be completely mitigated by addressing a few gaps in your low carb, high fat lifestyle.
In this Keto Beginners Series, we’ll talk about the most common keto side effects and why they occur.
Causes of Side Effects on Keto While there are several different symptoms that may occur after going keto, they’re mostly the cause of these three main side effects.
These causes are all related and taking the right steps to fix them will help you mitigate any ill-effects from keto altogether...
Keto-Adaptation When you first restrict carbohydrates, you’re depriving your body of its main energy source that you lived on throughout your whole life. During this time, your metabolism isn’t used to using ketones from fat for energy.
This means there will be an adjustment period of around one week where the body feels worn down because you just eliminated its main fuel source.
But don’t worry, once you become keto-adapted, your body will begin to use its preferred fuel source (ketones from fat) without having to depend on glucose from carbohydrates for energy.
Hypoglycemia Also known as low blood sugar, hypoglycemia is a result of keto-adaptation because your body has essentially been running on sugar for your whole life.
When you suddenly switch to fats for fuel, you’ll disrupt certain hormone functions such as cortisol (stress hormone).
Hypoglycemia - and the side effects that come with it - will soon subside once your body is officially keto-adapted.
Electrolyte and Mineral Deficiencies The drastic mitochondrial and metabolic changes that occur when you switch from carbs to fats for energy also comes with an excretion of essential vitamins and minerals.
Since carbs are known to hold water in your body, removing them altogether means your body will also get rid of crucial minerals like sodium, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
It’s extremely important to replenish these electrolytes as a beginner to help you overcome the slight discomfort that comes with becoming keto-adapted.
Most Common Side Effects on the Ketogenic Diet Most of these following side effects explained below are symptoms of not being keto-adapted and replenishing the minerals your body just excreted during the process.
#1. Keto Flu Displaying flu-like symptoms is one of the most common side effects when you first start the ketogenic diet.
These symptoms include physical and mental fatigue, nausea, headaches, and a runny nose.
The keto flu is a result of hypoglycemia which can be fixed by simply allowing your body some time to adjust to eating a ketogenic diet and maintaining proper electrolyte levels.
#2. Sugar Cravings Beginners to the ketogenic diet will find that they have an intense craving for sugary snacks.
These cravings are another response to hypoglycemia along with the previous addiction you probably had for carbohydrates and sugar.
Your brain goes into a “panic mode” temporarily when you’re making a drastic dietary change and you haven’t gotten adjusted to using fat for energy. But don’t worry, these cravings will diminish after ketones are properly flowing through your body.
#3. Strength and Athletic Performance Decreases Temporarily While your body is getting used to ketones for energy, you’ll most likely feel weaker in the gym. Remember, your body is still learning to utilize a completely new fuel source that it’s never used before.
But once you become keto-adapted, you’ll soon find that your strength and performance will return and in many cases improve.
#4. Trouble with Sleeping It isn’t uncommon for people to struggle with sleeping as a beginner to the ketogenic diet. This is because cortisol (stress) levels are skewed when you make extreme dietary changes.
Cortisol is the opposite of melatonin which is the hormone your body produces to help you sleep. When cortisol levels are high before bedtime, it’ll make falling and staying asleep more difficult.
#5. Urinating Frequently The most tell-tale sign that your electrolyte and mineral balance is having to go to the bathroom more often than usual. On the ketogenic diet, insulin levels will drop which makes you secrete sodium in your urine.
This is completely normal as a beginner on keto and it’s a good sign that tells you you’re on the right track with becoming a proper fat-burning machine.
These Side Effects Can Be Completely Mitigated With Time and a Properly Formulated Ketogenic Diet While some of these side effects may discourage you... don’t let it!
As long as you give your body some time to adjust to the ketogenic diet, take the proper steps to keep your stress levels low and maintain a proper electrolyte and mineral balance, you can drastically reduce - or completely eliminate - these keto side effects.
The majority of people who follow the ketogenic diet - or any low-carb diet - find that sugar cravings go away eventually. However, this process takes times and it may feel difficult for you to give up sweets right away.
Especially as a beginner on keto, you are bound to crave sweets every so often. This is completely normal and shouldn’t discourage you!
Luckily, there’s a way to stay low carb while still satisfying your sugar cravings.
In this Keto Beginners Series, we’re going to talk about the best low-carb sweeteners to use on a low-carb diet and which ones to avoid.
List of Keto-Approved Sweeteners It’s important to note that you shouldn’t make it a habit to use low-carb sweeteners as a total replacement for sugar.
Instead, use them as a tool to help you wean off sugar cravings until eventually you no longer have the desire for it.
#1. Stevia Stevia is one of the most popular zero-carb sweeteners on the market. It’s an herb also referred to as the “sugar leaf”. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) labels stevia as a non-nutritive sweetener which means it contains zero calories and nutrients.
Unlike regular sugar, some animal and human studies have found that stevia may actually help lower blood sugar[*].
Stevia is sold in both powdered and liquid form and can be used on any food or drink to help satisfy your sugar cravings.
We encourage people to get liquid drops whenever possible because some powdered stevia products may contain artificial sweeteners like maltodextrin or dextrose. If your local grocery store doesn’t have the liquid form, make sure to check the ingredients list for any hidden carbs before buying powdered stevia products.
#2. Monk Fruit Sweetener Monk fruit sweetener is another great zero-carb sweetener that contains compounds known as mogrosides. These are antioxidants that are responsible for the sweetness of monk fruit sweetener[*][*].
In fact, monk fruit sweetener is known to be up to 200 times sweeter than normal sugar. The mogrosides also help release insulin which helps move sugar out of the bloodstream.
Between the antioxidant properties of mogrosides and the zero-calorie content, monk fruit sweetener is one of the best keto-friendly sweeteners you can use.
#3. Xylitol Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that’s just as sweet as sugar and only contains 3 calories per gram.
It naturally occurs in the fibers of vegetables and fruits and is most commonly found in food products like sugar-free candy and gum.
Use xylitol sparingly because higher doses have been linked to digestive problems like diarrhea with too much use.
#4. Sucralose Sucralose, which you may know as Splenda, is an artificial sweetener that passes right through your body without getting digested which means it doesn’t provide any carbohydrates or calories[*].
Similar to other popular “low-carb” sweeteners, many products such as Splenda also contains dextrose and maltodextrin which can kick you out of ketosis. So while sucralose itself is zero-calorie, make sure you aren’t purchasing anything that contains hidden carbs.
Note: Sucralose is not an ideal sugar substitute for baking. There are some compounds that may release bad toxins after going through high temperatures.
#5. Erythritol Erythritol is another sugar alcohol that has zero calories and does not affect your blood glucose.
The molecular structure of erythritol is lighter which means it will not cause any digestive issues that are often reported with other sugar alcohols.
Erythritol is best used for cooking and baking and you may not want to use it to mix in your drinks because it’s harder to dissolve than other sweeteners.
Do NOT Use These Sweeteners on Keto Now that you know which low-carb sweeteners are keto-approved, let’s quickly go over some sugar substitutes that should be avoided at all costs.
The following sweeteners are known to kick you out of ketosis and spike your blood sugar.
Dates While some people think fruit is perfectly healthy, when you’re on keto you’ll want to avoid sugar at all costs. This dried fruit contains a large amount of carbohydrates directly from sugar.
Maltodextrin Maltodextrin is often found mixed in with low-carb sweeteners. It is highly processed from starchy plants and should be avoided altogether.
Coconut Sugar Coconut oil and coconut flour is perfectly fine on the ketogenic diet but, coconut sugar should be avoided at all costs. Even though it’s absorbed slower than regular sugar, it’s still high in fructose which can knock you out of ketosis.
Agave Nectar This sugar substitute is mostly fructose which is known to spike your blood sugar and also exacerbates insulin resistance.
Stick to Stevia or Monk Fruit Sweetener Out of all the zero-calorie sweeteners, stevia and monk fruit sweetener seem to have the best health benefit as well as containing zero carb content.
When you’re shopping for keto-friendly sweeteners, it’s extremely important to check the label for any hidden carbs.
And remember, use these zero calorie sweeteners only as a tool to help you wean off your sugar cravings rather than relying on them for consistent use.
The low carb, high fat ketogenic diet is most popular for its weight loss benefits. Just quickly browse the internet and you’ll see thousands of physique transformations after adopting the keto lifestyle.
But recent studies are showing that the benefits of keto extend well beyond weight loss…
In this Keto Beginners Series, we’ll dive into the additional health benefits you can expect from the low carb, high fat way of eating.
Significantly Decreases Inflammation Inflammation is a major determining factor and responsible for several health ailments. Some of them include:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Ketogenic dieting is considered an “anti-inflammatory” diet and has been shown to help mitigate the symptoms mentioned above. Researchers have found that the ketone body, BHB (beta hydroxybutyrate) helps decrease your body’s inflammation through the NLRP3 inflammasome.
Helps with Sleep Quality and Improves Energy Levels As a beginner on keto, you may feel fatigued and struggle with having a good night's rest. Fortunately, this only occurs when your body isn’t used to running on ketones for energy.
Once you become keto-adapted, most people experience a drastic increase in overall energy levels as well as improvements in sleep quality. This occurs because insulin levels are stabilized once your body is used to using fats as a primary fuel source. This gives you a readily available energy source for your brain and body.
Additionally, ketones help improve sleep by increasing slow-wave sleeping patterns and decreasing REM.
Enhances Brain Function The ketogenic diet was initially used as a treatment for children with epilepsy back in the early 1900’s.
More recent research has now discovered several brain benefits of keto that extend well past the treatment of epilepsy. Scientists are now seeing an increase in memory and cognition in adults as well as improvements in all stages of dementia.
Keto-ers without any memory impairments have experienced increased mental clarity and focus once their body is keto-adapted.
Preserves Muscle and Increases Endurance The ketone body, beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), not only promotes muscle gain but also preserve existing muscle mass.
In fact, many bodybuilders will adopt the ketogenic diet when they are trying to lose weight because ketone bodies help them maintain muscle while eating at a calorie deficit.
Similarly, ultra-endurance athletes are now utilizing the keto diet to boost overall endurance during long workout sessions like ultra-marathons.
Keto has gained the attention of marathon runners because fat-adaptation provides their bodies with a longer-lasting energy source so they don’t end up crashing mid-race.
Defends Against Some Cancers Recent studies are now looking at the effects of ketone supplementation on cancer with promising results.
Scientists have found that cancer cells feed off of glucose (carbs). When glucose is restricted (by relying on ketones for energy), cancer cells are unable to use ketone bodies for energy so they die off.
While it’s important to listen to your physician’s advice, following a ketogenic diet may be a helpful aid in cancer treatment and could be worth bringing up to your doctor during your next checkup.
Helps with Kidney Function (and Prevents Gout) Gout and kidney stones are usually caused by elevated uric acid, oxalate, calcium and phosphorus levels as a result of sugar consumption, genetics, and dehydration.
While uric acid levels may temporarily increase on keto, these levels will come back down and regulate after your body has become keto-adapted (typically one month).
The decreased sugar consumption on keto helps regulate your body’s kidney function so it can perform optimally.
Improves Digestion Since you’re restricting processed carbs and inflammatory foods like grains on the ketogenic diet, your digestive system will thank you.
Many people have seen tremendous digestion improvements after adopting keto. In addition, some researchers are now also seeing a positive change in the gut microbiome in people who follow the low carb, high fat diet.
If you have any gastrointestinal problems, the ketogenic diet may be a great way to help with digestive issues.
Prevents Diabetes and Obesity People with type II diabetes cannot process glucose from carbs correctly to convert into energy.
Over 150 research papers have proven that the ketogenic diet is extremely effective in treating diabetes because it allows the body to run on ketones from fats rather than glucose from carbohydrates.
The ketogenic diet has also proven to be a great treatment for obesity for the same reason. It helps regulate hormones and improve your metabolism by becoming a fat-burner so the body can properly turn food into energy rather than stored as body fat.
The Ketogenic Diet is Much More Than a Weight Loss Regimen With all of the new science-backed studies showing how healthy the ketogenic diet can be, it’s no wonder that this way of eating has garnered the attention of the masses in the nutrition industry.
If you want to improve your overall health, adopting the ketogenic lifestyle may be the answer you're looking for. Make sure to consult with your doctor beforehand if you have any serious health complications.
When you first adopt the ketogenic diet, significant weight loss usually occurs within the first week. But don’t get too excited...
This is mostly water weight loss that gets flushed out after removing carbohydrates from your diet. While keto is known as one of the most effective weight loss strategies, some people may find themselves hitting a plateau.
Don’t worry, in this Keto Beginners Series we’re going to help you blast through any keto weight loss plateaus you may be having.
Why You’re Experiencing a Weight Loss Plateau There are many factors that must be considered when it comes to weight loss.
In general, you will lose weight when you eat fewer calories than your body needs to maintain its current weight.
For example, if your body needs 2,000 calories to keep your current weight, eating 1,900 calories will help you slowly but surely drop fat. This is known as being in a “calorie deficit”.
Additionally, your body’s metabolism and hormonal function (or lack thereof) significantly affects your ability to lose weight. Fortunately, the ketogenic diet does a great job in regulating these hormones to help you achieve a lean physique.
Exercising and moving more frequently will also help you overcome your weight loss plateau because you’ll burn off more calories, allowing you to stay in a caloric deficit.
How to Break Through Your Weight Loss Plateau These 6 tips will help you restore proper hormone function, eat less calories, and become an efficient fat-burner:
#1. Track Your Calories The most accurate and effective way to know how much you’re supposed to eat to start losing weight is by counting your calories. This helps you understand how much you should be eating to stay at a caloric deficit.
If you are a beginner to tracking calories, using a calorie counting app like Carb Manager will help you throughout the entire process.
All you have to do is weigh your food, record it on the app, and it’ll take care of the rest.
#2. Utilize Intermittent Fasting Intermittent fasting (IF) is a nutrient timing strategy where you restrict yourself from having food for a specific time period followed by a shorter “eating window”
The most common approach is the 16:8 fasting method. With this strategy, you will fast for 16 hours then allow yourself an 8 hours to eat. A great way to get used to IF is by simply skipping breakfast and having your first meal during lunch time.
#3. Incorporate Cardio and Weight Lifting Exercises Both low-intensity steady state cardio and compound lifts like squat, bench, deadlift, rows, and presses are great for overcoming weight loss plateaus.
When you lift weights, you’re improving your metabolism and insulin sensitivity well after your workout session. This means you’ll burn more calories even while resting after an intense lifting workout.
#4. Be Mindful of Hidden Carbohydrates When you’re first starting out with keto, you must be extremely careful with what you eat. There are hidden carbs in common foods and condiments.
For example, watch out for certain salad dressings that contain sugar. Many condiments like ketchup also contain carbohydrates where an extra two tablespoons can kick you out of ketosis.
Make sure you check the nutrition label for any packaged food products you’re eating.
#5. More Protein is Better Than Less Eating too little protein can cause a weight loss stall because it messes up your hormones and makes you hungrier.
Many keto-ers believe that too much protein can be bad for people on the ketogenic diet because gluconeogenesis can kick you out of ketosis since it fuels your body with glucose.
This has been debunked and higher protein intake is a much healthier approach, especially when it comes to overcoming weight loss plateaus.
#6. Keep Fat Intake High If you’re following the ketogenic diet correctly, fat intake should make up at least 60% of your total calories. When you don’t eat enough healthy fats, it’s much easier to end up having multiple cheat days and binging on junk food.
Additionally, high fat intake (from healthy sources) will help regulate your hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin. When you’re in ketosis, many people find themselves able to go the whole day without getting hungry or even thinking about food.
Don’t Get Discouraged by Weight Loss Plateaus! Everyone who begins their weight loss journey will have some hurdles along the way, even those who follow the ketogenic diet.
While sheer will can only get you so far, it’s important to take a step back and look at your current exercise schedule, nutrition regimen, and lifestyle. If you’ve hit a weight loss plateau on keto, following the tips above will help you overcome it in no time!
Is alcohol strictly prohibited on the ketogenic diet?
The answer is, it depends. While you obviously don’t need alcohol to live, many people like to have a drink or two to wind down after a long day of work.
In this Keto Beginners Series, you’ll learn more about whether or not alcohol is okay to consume (and which ones you should drink on keto).
How Alcohol Affects Us Alcohol is known as the fourth macronutrient which provides our body with 7 calories per gram.
But since alcohol is a macro that isn’t required to live, it’s considered toxic.
When we consume alcohol, our body starts metabolizing it to produce energy. We break down alcohol before any other macro because it’s a toxic substance so it tries to get rid of it as soon as possible.
The drunk feeling we get after drinking alcohol comes from the metabolization of it.
How Alcohol Metabolization Affects the Fat Burning Process Most people who drink alcohol will find that their weight loss efforts stall. While we know that sugary drinks like sweet cocktails are filled with carbs that can knock you out of ketosis, even straight liquor can cause issues.
Why? It’s not necessarily the calories, but how our body processes the liquor.If you’re on a ketogenic diet, your body is running on fats for energy.
As you drink alcohol, your liver will prioritize the byproducts of metabolized alcohol instead of fat.
Ketone production is temporarily stopped until all alcohol is fully processed.
This means the more frequently you drink alcohol on keto, the longer it’ll take for your body to start burning fat for energy because it has to metabolize alcohol first.
The Ketogenic Diet WILL Make You Drunk Faster Carbohydrates do a great job in reducing the effects of alcohol because your metabolism processes glucose quickly, which slows down the metabolization of alcohol.
But when you’re on the ketogenic diet, you have depleted glycogen stores which means alcohol is processed much faster.
You’ll find that it takes nearly half the amount of alcohol to experience the same effects as if you were to eat carbohydrates and drink.
Be very careful not to drink a lot while you’re on the low carb, high fat ketogenic lifestyle.
Keto-Approved Alcoholic Drinks While we know that alcohol hinders ketosis, there are some beverages that keto-ers encourage over others because they don’t contain additional carbohydrates.
Here are our keto-approved recommendations:
Hard Liquor Stick to liquors that contain zero carbs and zero sugars. Clear liquors at about 40% alcohol is your safest bet. These include:
Note: If you cannot drink it straight, make sure you’re using a chaser that contains zero calories. For example, get a vodka club instead of a vodka with soda.
Wine Stick to wines that have little to no sugar. Dry red or white wine consumed sparingly is perfectly okay on keto. Just be very careful when choosing your wine because most cheap wine contain large amounts of sugar.
Here are our keto-approved wine recommendations:
Italian pinot grigio
Beer Similar to wine, there are several types of beer that you should avoid at all costs on the ketogenic diet. Beer is a dangerous alcohol drink to consider because most of them have a high carbohydrate content. After all, beer is known as “liquid bread”.
If you really want to drink beer on keto, stick to these low-carb options:
Rolling Rock Green Light
Alcohol to Avoid on Keto Any alcohol beverages with tons of sugar should be strictly avoided. If you’re going to drink straight liquor, make sure the chaser you mix it with contains zero calories.
Avoid these sugary drinks:
Whiskey sour mix
Syrups added into liquor
Fruit add-ins like cherries
Drink Alcohol Sparingly On the Ketogenic Diet There’s no problem with enjoying a drink or two every once in a while to ease the stresses of your day while you’re on the ketogenic diet.
If your main goal is to lose weight and stay in ketosis, alcohol is best to be avoided altogether.
But, if you’d still like to drink alcohol, make sure you choose a beverage from our keto-approved list above and avoid sugary drinks at all costs.
Eating healthy and following a diet - no matter what kind - requires a decent amount of willpower and discipline, especially as a beginner.
When times get tough and the cravings kick in, eating junk food is almost inevitable.
After all, it’s virtually impossible to eat healthy 100% of the time.
Most diets - including keto - allow you to have a couple cheat meals here and there as it’s been shown to help you stick to your goals in the long term.
In this Keto Beginners Series, you’ll find out whether cheat meals are necessary on keto (and the effect it has on your body).
The Downsides to Cheat Meals on Keto Having cheat meals every once in a while won’t set you back too much in the long-term, as long as they aren’t a regular occurrence.
On the ketogenic diet, the more you cheat at the beginning, the harder it will become to turn this way of eating into a sustainable lifestyle.
Here are the disadvantages to having cheat meals on keto:
Hinders Your Fat Adaptation Your body has to make specific changes in the body to ensure effective fat-burning on the ketogenic diet. It can only run on one fuel source at a time:
Glucose from carbohydrates
Or ketones from dietary and stored body fat
The more you eat carbohydrates, the less you efficient your body becomes in using fats as a primary source of energy.
This means more frequent cheat meals make it more likely to lessen the health benefits that come with being in a state of ketosis.
Causes Cravings Your taste buds get used to certain foods the more they’re exposed to it. That’s part of the reason why following the ketogenic diet gets easier over time.
The more you eat real food sources, the more your taste buds get used to eating healthy foods…
Conversely, eating unhealthy, processed junk food has a similar effect. When you eat junk food, it can interrupt all the work you’ve done to get used to enjoying real food sources.
That’s why if you’re a beginner, cheat meals should be avoided at all costs until you’re fully fat adapted.
Increases Keto Flu Symptoms Symptoms of the keto flu like headaches, brain fog, and low energy are likely to exacerbate when you teeter between eating lots of carbohydrates and back to the ketogenic diet.
Cheat meals can cause you to fall into a vicious cycle of going back and forth between eating keto and junk food. This constant teeter can worsen your keto flu symptoms.
Knocks You Out of Ketosis The only way to get stay in a state of ketosis is by keeping glucose stores empty. When you cheat with carbohydrates, you’re temporarily refilling your body’s glycogen storages.
Getting kicked out of ketosis constantly will delay your health and fitness goals on the low carb, high fat diet.
The Right Way to Have Cheat Meals on Keto There are a few ways to approach cheat meals when you’re eating a low carb, high fat diet.
Here are three effective methods that will allow you to enjoy a cheat meal here and there without having to sacrifice your ketosis efforts.
#1: Eat Keto Foods During Your Cheat Meals Instead of binging on processed carbs like donuts and bread to satisfy your cravings, consider eating ketogenic-friendly foods instead.
For example, if you have sugar craving, make yourself a quick keto fat bomb instead of reaching for cookies.
#2: Incorporate a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet The cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD) allows you to eat carbohydrates one to two days out of the week to help with athletic performance.
If you’re experienced with keto and live an active lifestyle, adopting a CKD is a great way to backload your cravings for one day out of the week while still experiencing the benefits of a fat-burning state.
#3: Exercise After Cheating Your body’s insulin sensitivity is dramatically improved after working out. This means you can tolerate and deplete glucose (from carbs) more effectively by exercising.
If you accidentally had a large cheat meal, exercising a couple hours later will help you burn off those carbohydrate calories so you can start burning ketones for energy again.
Cheat Meals Should Be a Rare Occurrence As you’ve seen in this article, regular cheat meals can be detrimental to your ketogenic goals.
If you’re a beginner, it’s best to avoid cheat meals until your body is fully keto-adapted. We suggest waiting at least a month of strict ketogenic eat before having a cheat meal.
Following the steps above will help you enjoy the occasional cheat meal without ruining your health and weight loss goals.