Those seeking to reclaim their overall health or wanting to release excess fat are likely hopeful around the potential of following a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet—and with good reason.
A ketogenic diet that’s rich in healthy fats and premium proteins is an amazing approach to reset your metabolism, boost energy, and promote mental sharpness. Plus, torching excess body fat, thanks to the metabolic benefit of nutritional ketosis, combines with the many perks of low-carb living to make the LCHF dietary approach beloved and praised by those adhering to the century-old protocol.
However, beginning a keto diet blindly can result in unfortunate outcomes like stalled weight loss, intense symptoms related to the infamous ‘keto flu’, and a lengthier transition to fat adaptation––where the body is reconditioned to relying on fat and ketones for energy rather than glucose––without the aid of some simple yet vital best practices.
Grab your keto coffee, snag a few fat bombs, and settle in for a sec. We’re going to share the 10 tips to consider when starting a keto diet to avoid the most common mistakes people face when eliminating simple carbs and sugars from their diet:
1 - Not Eating Enough Fat
Transitioning from a diet filled with starchy carbs and sugars, or recovering from addiction to the fat-free, sugar-filled packaged foods of day’s past could make you cautious of fat.
You may still be coming around to the once paradoxical notion of healthy fat, but adjusting to eating premium fatty fare is essential when adopting the low-carb, high-fat diet to ensure satiety and prevent cravings or frequent snacking.
Conventional dietary programming is responsible for your fears around eating fat and subsequently storing fat, but current wisdom points to the glucose-regulating and appetite-suppressing benefits of the metabolic ketosis achieved when limiting fast-acting carbs and sugars––as is the decided protocol on a ketogenic diet.
Source your fats wisely, predominantly enjoying omega-3-rich fatty fish, MCT oil, ghee, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, and other healthy fats to consume the highest quality foods possible, while keeping nagging sugar cravings at bay.
Here are some of the best fat sources to seek for clean energy on keto:
- Coconut Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Olive Oil
- Omega-3 Fatty Fish (e.g., mackerel, sardines, salmon, etc.)
- Coconut Butter (manna)
- Heavy Cream
- Coconut Cream
While getting the majority of your calories from fat is advised on a ketogenic diet, there’s no need to force yourself to eat more than your appetite demands to meet your fat macros. Use your calculated macros as a guideline as your body relearns its natural hunger and satiety signals––making it easier every day to eat intuitively without weighing or measuring every morsel of food you consume.
2 - Not Replenishing Hydration and Electrolytes
The body goes through various changes when it shifts from running on glucose to relying on fat and ketones for fuel. Hunger signals are often turned down, an increased thermogenic state occurs in the absence of overt sugars and carbs, and releasing increased water and electrolytes while in ketosis is more common.
Drinking eight, 8 oz. glasses of water a day is a good baseline, but you will need to increase water intake while curbing carbs to prevent dehydration––especially if you’re an athlete or otherwise physically active.
Plus, keep in mind that eating water-rich foods like cucumbers and berries all contribute to your body’s hydration level; so, pack your plate with hydrating foods along with sipping on plain, seltzer, coconut water––or a fermented water kefir––to keep well hydrated throughout the day and prevent or ease symptoms associated with fat-adaptation, like the ‘keto flu’, while supporting a healthy gut microbiome.
Also, drinking mineral-rich beverages like bone broth are the perfect way to boost electrolytes and hydration, while serving as an ideal base for various low-carb stews and soup recipes.
3 - Eating Too Many Calories
Enjoying delicious fatty foods, once likely forbidden in the days when low-fat reigned supreme, is advisable on a keto diet, but remember that calories still matter when you’re looking to create a targeted result. Regardless of the ease with which one can release excess fat on a low-carb diet, it’s impossible to lose weight without creating consistent caloric deficits with our dietary and exercise habits; so, choose wisely.
Use a weight-loss calculator to tabulate the best calorie and macronutrient budget to help you meet your goals in your desired timeline. Without obsessing over calories too much, take the time to establish a baseline and tweak your intake or activity level to support your needs as you go.
Remember that the necessary component to maintain ketosis and promote rapid weight loss is the limiting of carbs and not the increase of fat in our diet. While heavy cream is a lower sugar selection than whole milk often found in keto pantries, it’s still quite high in calories, so opting for almond or another plant-based milk is an alternative approach to help harness energy intake and promote the caloric deficits required for weight loss while adding variety to your meal plan.
4 - Eating Too Much Dairy, Sweeteners, or Hidden Carbs
Despite being admissible in limited amounts, consuming large portions of infamously inflammatory foods, like dairy, along with sugar-alcohol-based sugar alternatives, artificial sweeteners, and foods containing hidden carbs can easily throw off your macro count if not careful.
Dairy: While cheese is a keto-friendly food, you must remember that calories are still a factor in weight loss, so most people find they cannot achieve rapid weight loss while binging on cheddar, gouda and brie.
Feel free to include your favorite cheeses as accents in meals, to enjoy the flare they add to foods, but be mindful not to overload on calories and cholesterol.
Alternative Sweeteners: Substituting stevia for cane sugar is a no-brainer if you’re following a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet. But it’s essential to remain moderate when incorporating plant-based sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit, or a host of sugar alcohols which can create adverse effects when consumed in excess. Sweeteners like maltitol and sorbitol can agitate some and lead to digestive issues, so beware.
Check out our complete guide to keto sweeteners, their common side effects, and how they may impair weight loss––especially artificial sweeteners that act as endocrine disruptors––for a comprehensive guide to keeping life sweet while living low-carb.
Hidden Carbs: It takes effort to eliminate sugar in our diet because the sweet stuff seems to find its way into everything from store-bought ketchup to salad dressings. Stalk labels like a detective and scrutinize ingredients carefully as sugar mascarades under a plethora of names that may be less familiar to you.
Plus, it’s simple to surmise a higher carb count for foods like pizza or bagels made traditionally and commit to avoid them, but you’ll want to keep a particular eye on the following common sources of hidden carbs:
Watch your condiments and spices. Ketchup is known to contain loads of sugar, but it may surprise you to learn that it’s also vital to moderate the use of seasonings like garlic powder that actually contains more carbs per gram!!
Limit use of the following ingredients, or look for their low carb alternatives, to eliminate glucose-spiking sugars:
- Barbeque sauce
- Teriyaki sauce
- Soy sauce
- Balsamic vinegar
- Salad dressing
Choose veggies wisely. Your selection of side dishes can dictate whether it’s a low-carb cuisine or a dish likely to spike your blood sugar. And keeping an eye on carb counts and sugars remains relevant when selecting fruits and veggies to incorporate into your keto meal plan.
Take extra care to add low-glycemic produce like spinach, kale, and asparagus to your diet over higher-carb fare like sweet potatoes to encourage the depletion of your glucose stores to encourage metabolic ketosis.
- Limit packaged snacks. Increasing healthy fats and limiting carbs and sugars is part of a best practices approach to a ketogenic diet. Plus, opting for fresh, living foods, or peak-frozen foods is an ideal choice over composing your meal plan with mostly pre-packaged foods.
5 - Not Getting Enough Sleep
So much of weight-loss success is made in the kitchen, but committing to adequate restful sleep daily is a vital component to well-being and can make or break your efforts to shed the unwanted weight, as well.
Our bodies experience numerous regenerative processes while asleep and allowing ample time for rest and recuperation is needed to facilitate many functions and support our overall optimal performance. Plus, repairative rest is especially important for athletes who constantly break down and seek to recover and increase muscle mass.
Also, getting enough sleep helps support balanced hormones and aids in greater bandwidth to effectively manage stress without reaching for salty, crunchy, or sweet treats that can add up to unintentional caloric surpluses by the end of the week.
Plus, depriving the brain and body of the complete recovery cycle can produce damaging effects over time. So, create a consistent bedtime routine and commit to catching ample sleep every day––your mind and body will thank you.
6 - Miscalculating Carbs
You may feel frustrated if you’re filling your plate with healthy fats, packing your days with regular exercise, making getting sleep a priority and still find it hard to lose weight.
Pat yourself on the back for the genuine effort and then accept that you may need to make some tweaks to your macros or other aspects of your keto protocol to achieve your desired results. But there is still hope for you.
Throwing everything at weight loss and yielding limited results can prove discouraging, causing some to give up before even getting started, and that’s not the fate we want you to face. Nail down your ideal macros and track your energy intake and output for a few weeks until you see results to really keep yourself focused and accountable.
7 - Winging It Without a Plan
Approaching a ketogenic diet without intention may result in less than optimal results. Whereas, eating with an eye on accessing and assimilating significant amounts of dense nutrition in systematic ways to maximize performance is the best approach to reclaiming your health and vitality on a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet.
It’s important to consider your food preferences, energy needs, and activity level to craft a program that’s best for you, and realistic, based on your lifestyle preferences. Consider taking our 30-second quiz to access a tailored keto plan for weight loss to get started on the right track with a program customized to suit your needs.
8 - Eating Too Many Inflammatory Foods
Carefully composing the right mix of foods and ingredients in your low-carb meal plan is essential, and that’s a task that goes beyond minding macros. It’s crucial to consider the micronutrient as well as the macronutrient profile of ingredients to determine whether they’re best to include or limit in your diet.
Foods like red meat and dairy fit the bill as far as limiting carbs, but eating them as the primary source of fat and protein can pose a question around increasing levels of chronic inflammation and may serve better as an accent than your main fare––making more room for plant-based, low-glycemic complete proteins like the nutrient dense chia, hemp, or flax seeds.
Plus, while the foods noted provide notable nutrients, monitoring your intake as compared to your performance or state of well-being is always the most valid marker of whether your current plan is ideal for you.
Even if foods are lower in carbs, they may trigger chronic inflammation that can lead to several disorders and disruptions in optimal function. Check out our comprehensive piece for more on which inflammatory foods to avoid as well as the antioxidant-rich foods to enjoy, here.
9 - Skimping on Low-Carb Fruits and Veggies
Some may completely eliminate fruits and veggies, taking more of a carnivore approach to the low-carb, high-fat diet, but including low-glycemic fruits and vegetables in your keto meal plan is wise for the added fiber and abundance of nutrients they contain––all helping to prevent the damaging effects of oxidative stress in the body.
Again, choosing your carbohydrates wisely is always advised since not all produce is created equal along the glycemic scale. Stick to the following low GI options to boost nutrition while curbing carbs:
- Star Fruit
- Bell Peppers (capsicum)
- Bok Choy
- Green Beans
- Spaghetti Squash
10 - Poor Self-Care and Stress Management
Whether you’re overworked, fretting over work-life balance, or a mom managing your endless daily to-do list, elevated stress for extended periods can lead to potentially lasting physical and mental health consequences.
First, our bodies release increased levels of cortisol when stressed, causing us to accumulate excess weight in the body, especially about the abdomen, and making general weight loss more challenging.
The stress cycle in the body looks something like this:
Stress informs your adrenal glands to release cortisol to provide a jolt of energy you’d need to bolt from danger. In turn, cortisol releases stored glucose and elevates your blood sugar levels. At the same time, the increased glucose circulating in your system increases insulin sensitivity disrupting metabolic signals in the body that may lead to disorders like type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance when sustained chronically.
Carve out time in your day for mindful reflection and to center yourself despite the challenges of the day. Lowered stress levels aid in optimizing mental health as well as promoting your body’s ability to release excess fat with greater ease.
Beginning a keto journey is an exciting time. Renewing a commitment to your health and well-being is a hopeful period of new beginnings and an opportunity to recreate a healthy relationship with food.
Transitioning to a fat-adapted state takes time, and consistently limiting carb intake to maintain a state of metabolic ketosis. While some experience challenging symptoms associated with starting the diet, like the keto flu, others who opt to follow some of the best practices shared above can limit or eliminate the growing pains associated with curbing carbs and breaking up with sugar.
Approach the keto diet as a lifestyle rather than a quick fix, taking time to consider micronutrients and hydration, treating yourself to regular exercise and committing to improved sleep hygiene to allow the body time to repair, restore, and rejuvenate vital tissues and cells.
A well-balanced keto diet will place equal importance on all the various pillars of health, from eating fresh, whole organic fare, to finding creative ways to manage stress and recuperate daily with restful and restorative sleep.
Keeping a close eye on carbohydrate and sugar intake is obviously a top priority for anyone following a keto diet, but we invite you to consider the other areas of well-being mentioned and approach the sugar-free life with a well-thought-out plan to weight loss that completely honors and considers the unique and diverse needs of your mind, body, and soul.
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