The Konscious Keto diet is super trendy, and you might have heard a lot of conflicting advice like ‘eat fat to lose fat’ or ‘eating less often makes me feel less hungry.’
The keto diet could be called the conundrum diet because it often feels very unintuitive to the brain. However, as is the case with many things in science, the facts will surprise you.
Not only is the keto diet not a fad, but it is also an excellent choice for many people with a spectrum of fitness goals.
Whether you’re looking to rip it up at the gym or bounce back from a baby, the ketogenic diet has a wealth of surprising and beneficial impacts on health.
The ketogenic diet was devised by doctors and has been praised for its ability to help patients reduce inflammation, minimize seizures, and soon became an aid to weight loss.
At its core, the keto diet is not about what you eat, but instead, how you feel.
You see, the human body is a complex machine. Every mood, thought, and emotion you have has a direct impact on your health.
If you’re stressed about losing weight, for example, your body will release cortisol, the stress hormone.
This rings an alarm bell, so your brain says, “Hold onto that fat, we are in a crisis!” In crisis mode, your body is only interested in survival.
All other mechanisms like weight loss are dropped.
Our recommendation is to choose a level of the keto diet that is right for you and work from within your zone of comfort and happiness.
We understand that some of you have done keto and others haven’t.
Depending on your level of commitment and experience, you can choose to follow one of the three levels below.
These will help you gauge where to start and how to advance at your leisure, to make ketosis an enjoyable and worthwhile endeavor.
The 3 Levels of Konscious Keto
For those who are new to the ketogenic diet, we recommend you ease into this diet and not overdo it right away.
As such, we’ve created a simple tiered system so that you can find your station and hop in.
Depending on your experience of low-carb diets, you may feel comfortable starting at a level 1 or 2.
For people who have been around the block, and who are ready to take it to the next level, you may think the third option is for you.
However, we do think everyone will stand to learn something about their body by starting at the first level.
The ketogenic diet is all about changing your body from using glucose, to fat for fuel.
Unless you have tried the ketogenic diet and have been in a state of ketosis, it can be a bit tricky to appreciate how complex of a change this is for your body.
We can’t stress this enough; go slow, and you will go far on keto.
In every other diet, the first step is to be told what you can’t eat. You can’t have this or that; it’s awful.
Level 1 is a perfect introductory spot that can help you feel the effects of ketosis, and get you more energized and prepared.
This is a delicious time where you will be encouraged t o eat more healthy fats, like avocados and macadamia or Brazil nuts, and experiment with green leafy vegetables and fatty, prime cuts for the meat eaters.
In fact, in level 1, you are about to learn how you can still eat all those incredible foods you love like modified pizza and bagels, without gaining a pound!
Level 1: Reducing Your Carbs
If losing fat and eating delicious foods sounds too good to be true, think again. In the keto diet, you will be introduced to delicious and indulgent foods that can help your body learn to use fat for fuel.
To trigger this process, you’ll want to start reducing your carbs.
Now, many people get hung up on going 100% keto right off the mark. And in our experience, this tends to yield poor results, especially in the long-term.
Instead, keep reading as we walk you through how to start, and reduce your carbs stress-free.
How to Cut Carbs
If you’ve never cut carbs before, we recommend gradually lowering your daily carb intake.
For the most part, this doesn’t mean missing out on all the delicious foods you enjoy; it means switching some of your meals to a lower carb version.
There are now keto versions of pizza, bread, pasta, noodles, and so on. You may need to order them online, but many grocery stores are opening up their fares to include low-carb and keto options.
You’ll be surprised by the number of keto alternatives. Miracle rice and noodles are great (so long as you wash them thoroughly), and cauliflower pizza is a thing.
You can buy many of these at stores, but we prefer to make our own to reduce the number of fillers added to processed foods.
The best part of the ketogenic diet is the desserts. It’s hard to believe you can make just a few small tweaks to your favorite dessert recipes like tiramisu, cheesecake, chocolate mousse, etc. and turn it into a keto-friendly dessert!
That’s right, after years of being told to stop eating fat and fat makes you fat, it’s time to celebrate healthy fats and eat them lavishly.
Don’t get overwhelmed with keto information, or trying to make massive changes to your current diet.
Progress at your own pace and when you either hit a plateau, or you feel like a challenge, progress to the next stage.
We recommend you listen to the occasional audiobook or read some blog posts about the ketogenic diet.
One of our favorites is Oh She Glows Every Day: Quick and Simply Satisfying Plant-based Recipes by Angela Lidden.
Remember, progress not perfection is the name of the game.
And don’t forget, if you have any questions or concerns along the way, you are invited to our Facebook Group where you can get real-time advice and support from people just like you.
Should I Count Calories?
At level one, you don’t need to worry about counting calories or carbs, reduce your intake of high-carb foods such as bread, potatoes, pasta, etc.
This isn’t a phase to be stressed; changing foods should be fun and explorative.
Look to cut out high carb processed foods like cereal, donuts, soda and so on, and replace them with more nutrient-dense foods.
These could be nuts, jerky, peppers, pickles, berries, nut butter, and other yummy keto snacks.
Please don’t stress if you occasionally indulge in “bad foods.”
All food is food and changing how you view food is critical.
For most people, lowering carbs can be life-changing, and it’s ok if you are not perfect.
No one is - and even people who do keto long-term can benefit from the occasional indulge (more on that soon).
The point is that you need to start changing your relationship with food, and become more optimistic and encouraged by food.
Also, don’t let keto snobs put you off taking a less pure version to start with; if you overdo it with bacon, cream, and butter and it helps you cut carbs under 20 grams a day, then go for it!
Over time it is recommended to switch to a higher energy version of keto, but to begin with, focusing just on doing what works for you and what is easiest and most straightforward.
The less pressure you put on yourself, the better your experience will be and the more likely you are to stick to it.
As you get results, your confidence will boost, and you’ll have the motivation to make further improvements along the way.
Weight loss is often a momentum and feels good as much as anything. Boosting delicious natural fat is necessary, and you’ll love it.
Begin by googling keto versions of all the meals and recipes you already love to eat.
Start to experiment with heavy whipped cream, high-fat cheeses, and full-fat dairy products, as well as higher fat cuts of meat, like ribeyes.
We also recommend eating some low carb nuts like pecans, almonds, and walnuts for a taste of what’s to come.
Incorporate Healthy Fats & Oils
Experiment cooking with high-quality oils like coconut, olive, avocado, macadamia, butter, and tallow or lard.
MCT oil is one of the best sources of fat you can get on the keto diet.
It’s great for boosting energy and is a unique oil that you can’t get from food.
It is the only fat that your body does not store as fat and instead, uses it immediately for energy.
We highly recommend putting a teaspoon of MCT oil in your morning coffee, with some grass-fed ghee.
Ghee is clarified butter that won’t raise your cholesterol like ordinary butter can.
Another great trick for boosting your daily fat intake is adding these oils to your salad.
You’ll notice they become more delicious and you’ll feel satiated for much longer than usual.
The most important thing to do in Stage 1 is to start becoming aware of how many carbs are in foods. Don’t get overwhelmed though. Just start looking at labels and googling carbs in various foods and menu items.
Remember that net carbs are the total carbs in food minus the fiber. It’s net carbs we ultimately want to consume under 20 grams a day.
At first, that may sound tricky, but after a short while you’ll only see the keto-friendly foods out there, and it will become more natural and easy.
Level 2: Carb-cycling
The next stage of doing the keto diet is where things get a little more serious. You’re going to begin doing carb cycling.
This is where you’ll do the keto diet 5 or 6 days a week, and on the other days, you’re free to eat what you want.
On the keto days, you’ll want to lower your carbs to under 20 grams per day.
For those who exercise often, your daily carb intake can be around 30-50 grams.
This is also the time that we recommend you start learning about the foods you eat.
Start with googling the fruits, vegetables, and proteins you eat to learn their carb-counts.
You will be so surprised when you see the massive variations.
As a rule, you want to stick to dark green, leafy vegetables and only a handful of berries occasionally.
Light and bright fruits and veggies tend to be much higher in carbs, and you’ll want to eat those only in moderation.
We use this tracking App to support our goals.
Tracking Apps are excellent when used causally to learn about food; what you don’t want to do is end up with is a habit of micromanaging your diet.
That’s not healthy.
Instead, use it as a tool to make yourself more keto knowledgeable.
You should never “eat your macros” or try to hit precise numbers.
Instead, go by how you feel and create goalposts for you to hit that are safe and calorically correct for your needs.
To find out the recommended range for your sex, fitness, activity level, and weight, check out this ketogenic macro calculator.
Science Supports Carb-Cycling
Many people have great success on diets that limit carbs, but does that make carbs strictly our enemy? No!
Even on a ketogenic diet, we’re advised to reduce our carb intake, not give them up entirely.
Carbs play a crucial role in metabolizing fat, albeit in an unexpected way.
Carb cycling is an approach where you alternate carbs on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Some people adjust their carb intake day-to-day, while others may do more extended periods of low, moderate and high-carb diets.
Reason people carb-cycle include:
- One popular approach is a higher carb intake on training days and a lower carb intake on rest days.
- Some will reduce carbs during a diet, then add them back during a "muscle building" or performance phase.
- Many individuals will cycle their carbohydrates based on their level of body fat. The leaner they become, the more high-carb days or blocks they include.
- Another popular approach is to do 1 or several days at a very high-carb intake to act as a "refeed" during a prolonged diet.
Carb-cycling is crucial because it helps your body match its need for calories and glucose (for example, on days when you workout).
Strategic high-carb periods may also improve the function of the weight and appetite-regulating hormones, leptin, and ghrelin.
On low-carb days the body switches to use fat for fuel, but scientists have discovered if you add carbs on periodic days you can improve your metabolic flexibility on all days.
This means if you predominantly burn fat as fuel, using the ketogenic diet, and add in carbs, your body will still prefer to burn fat over the long-term.
If you plan to lose a lot of weight or be on the keto diet for a long time, this is super important.
If you do not use carbs strategically, you will not correct your bodies insulin response, and if you go off keto, you’ll gain back your weight very fast.
When you add in carb-cycling, you can improve your insulin response to accommodate some higher carb days.
Over time, as you hit your goal weight, you can add in more carb days and still be a fat-burning machine; thus making the keto diet a sustainable long-term nutritional plan.
How to Carb-Cycle on Keto
This is how carb-cycling works: On your carb day, you’ll dedicate 60-70% of your calories to carbohydrates, 15-25% on protein, and 15% on fats.
This type of carb cycling can help refill glycogen stores in your muscles.
Once you’re back in low-carb mode, your body will switch back into ketosis.
Now, this doesn’t mean you can dedicate a whole day to engorge on sugary, carby treats, though! You’ll feel pretty awful if you do.
Instead, pick one day a week (let’s say Sunday) to eat more high-quality, low-sugar carbs.
This includes whole foods like:
- Sweet potato
- Whole grains
- Lentils and legumes
- Citrus fruits
- Berries (blackberries, blueberries, strawberries)
While little has been studied on this, many have found that cycling in and out of ketosis like this can help break through a weight loss plateau.
There’s a good chance that your body reacts to an extended period in ketosis the same way it does with too few calories: it triggers that starvation response.
But the more times you switch in and out of ketosis, the better the body seems to be at doing it.
Here are three sample meal plans for low, moderate and high-carb days.
- Breakfast: 3 boiled eggs, three slices Ezekiel bread, tomatoes, mushrooms and a side bowl of fruit
- Lunch: 6 oz sweet potato, 6 oz lean meat or fish, mixed vegetables
- Pre-Workout: 1 serving oatmeal, almond milk, 1 cup berries, one scoop whey protein
Dinner: 1 serving wholemeal rice, 6 oz lean chicken, homemade tomato sauce, 1 serving kidney beans, mixed vegetables
- Breakfast: Grass-fed high-protein yogurt, 1 cup mixed berries
- Lunch: 6 oz chicken salad with 4 oz diced potatoes
- Pre-Workout: 1 banana with whey protein shake
- Dinner: 1 serving sweet potato fries, 6 oz lean beef, homemade tomato sauce, 1 serving kidney beans, mixed vegetables
- Breakfast: 3 eggs with three slices bacon and mixed greens
- Lunch: 6 oz salmon salad with one spoon olive oil
- Snack: 1 oz mixed nuts with 1 serving turkey slices
- Dinner: 6 oz steak, half avocado, mixed vegetables
You can read our complete guide to carb-cycling here.
Why It’s Important to Stay Hydrated
The main thing to remember in ketosis, whether carb-cycling or not, is to stay hydrated.
You’ll need to drink lots of water when doing keto and also take electrolytes. This is not optional.
Your body needs water to process the ketone bodies, so you'll find that you’ll need to drink a lot more water.
Electrolytes are salts and minerals (think calcium, potassium, magnesium, table salt, etc.), and are the tools you need to feel energized.
To continue progressing in Level 2, you’ll also need to boost your fat intake significantly.
Fats are what make the magic happen.
Many people think keto is all about low-carbs, but that’s just Atkins and other variations.
Keto is a high-fat diet and teaches your metabolism to run on stored fat.
If you eat healthy fats, your body is forced to metabolize fat for fuel.
When you eat carbs, your body has the option to be lazy or “efficient” and use that cheap, easy energy.
In ketosis, your body learns to look for fat as a quality source of sustainable energy.
You will feel energized and no longer slump in the afternoon. You may also sleep less and be more awake during the day.
This is the cognitive effects at play and why so many people love the rush of being in ketosis. It’s thrilling.
As suggested, healthy oils help to boost your daily fat intake and will give your body an easy way to fuel itself.
At this stage, using keto test strips to monitor your ketone levels is a good idea, even just for your benefit.
These keto test strips are available on Amazon for under $10.
They are not entirely essential though, and typically you’ll know when you are in ketosis because of how you feel.
It should be noted these only work for a few weeks until you become fat-adapted, but to get into keto, they are great. They’ll tell you if you’re doing it right.
At level 2, you should feel amazing. You’ll likely feel more energetic, alert and focused.
You’ll also notice rapid weight loss and improved sleep quality. How could it get better?
Level 3: Fasting
This is for the fans out there who want to take keto to the ultimate level.
This is usually suited to experienced dieters or people that have already done a low-carb or keto diet before and want to achieve as many benefits as possible during this 30-day period.
However, we do also encourage people to try a fast if they are looking to drop fat or want to get into ketosis.
This is a great way to deplete your glycogen more quickly and get faster results.
Keep in mind; fasting is not starvation.
For this level, you’ll keep your carbs around 20-30 grams a day, as well as fasting for periods of time (anywhere from 12-24 hours).
This is called Intermittent Fasting and is a way of eating your allocated calories in a smaller timeframe than you may be accustomed.
You’ll also use a calorie calculator based on your situation and goals.
This is important, as we never recommend eating under your caloric needs.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is very popular in the ketogenic world as it compliments the benefits of a high-fat diet.
It aids in weight loss, mental clarity, reducing inflammation, and even stabilizing insulin response.
Generally speaking, when fasting, you will eat fewer meals, which is why it is important to eat nutrient-dense foods and healthy fats, which allow you to hit your macros comfortably (a plate of fat is much smaller than a plate of bloated carbs).
If fasting seems overwhelming to you, that’s normal. People are usually only ready for this stage after six to twelve months of low-carb dieting.
Fasting, in particular, tends to overwhelm people.
It’s recommended to start off slowly by doing a 12 hour fast. This allows your body to get used to not eating for an extended period.
If you experience hunger during your fasting period, know that this will quickly pass.
Intermittent Fasting on a Keto Diet
Many people go too far when starting a fast, and leap to not eating.
A better way to begin fasting is to have an earlier dinner and a later breakfast the next day, so that works out to be a 12-14 hour fast with minimal effort.
If you find yourself hitting a weight loss plateau, try adding some occasional fasting to your day.
It can be extremely beneficial to your progress, and many people love the feeling and clarity.
If you want to try a full 24-hour fast, we recommend doing it once every couple of weeks. Just make sure to drink a lot of water.
Black coffee and tea are considered to be ok but do not add anything to these drinks.
For purists, water only is the ideal method of fasting as any intake of nutrients can have a metabolic response.
As always, however, electrolytes are crucial and should be consumed when fasting in ketosis.
When using intermittent fasting on a keto diet, you’ll want to add extra water and electrolytes to your daily regimen.
We like the Ultima brand as it’s natural and tastes great.
You can also make your mix at home using lemon juice, water, pink Himalayan salt, and balancing out different essential minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and B12.
However, most people prefer to do the self-serve route as it’s much easier and more reliable.
How Intermittent Fasting Works
“Intermittent fasting is allowing the body to have a prolonged period of rest without calorie intake,” explained Dr. Adam Perlman, an internist at the Duke Center for Integrated Medicine in Durham, North Carolina.
It’s like having the best of both worlds.
You get to stay in ketosis and boost your ketone production, but you also get to eat lots of delicious foods and hit your calorie goal so you won’t be starving yourself.
Many keto-ers report an expedited fat loss when using intermittent fasting or overcoming a fat loss stall.
Below are some of the most popular techniques (these are not strictly keto):
- The 16:8 Method: This structure involves consuming your meals within an eight-hour window and giving your body a break from food for the next 16 hours.
- The 5:2 Diet: Also known as the “Fast Diet,” this type of intermittent fasting includes two nonconsecutive days of a strict 500-calorie diet and five days of low-carb, healthy food.
- Alternate Day Fasting: This, according to Petre, is becoming a popular way to kick-start weight loss. The practice involves fasting every other day but eating whatever you want on the non-fasting days.
In most cases, however, many people find a ketogenic diet with carb-cycling the most useful tool in their arsenal.
Fasting can promote fat loss in an unhealthy way if you don’t follow a strict protocol and is not intended for long-term use.
Make Sure Your Calories Count
At level 3, you do need to ensure you are eating enough calories and your macros are correct (the opposite of how you started at level 1).
Don’t stress though, some apps take the math and difficulty out of it, like Carb Manager. Just put in your age, gender, weight, and goals, and they figure out the rest.
This is the way to moving towards your perfect weight and body composition (which is a fancy term for looking great in the mirror). If you’re wondering why people fast, you’re about to find out.
At the level 3 stage, you realize the keto diet seriously suppresses your hunger.
A lot of people in the first few months of keto have the exact opposite problem; they have trouble eating enough calories, due to how filling keto foods are since fat satiates your hunger.
So it’s important to eat nutrient-dense foods and make the quality of your calories count.
No matter what level of keto you begin at, we’re sure you’ll find it an exciting and transformative experience that will help you in all aspects of your life.