Bacon and butter may come to mind when listing the exclusive pillars of a ketogenic diet. The idea that we can subsist on those foods alone is one of many misconceptions about the low-carb, high-fat diet that we at Konscious Keto would like to dispel.
A well-rounded ketogenic diet consists of a wide variety of nutrition including grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish, and low-glycemic fruits and vegetables, all aimed at keeping glucose levels balanced and glycogen stores low.
But how do we reconcile all the conflicting information circulating in the health space, related to the ketogenic diet; and can we eat calories to our heart's content on keto and still lose weight?
The curiosity surrounding the benefits of a ketogenic diet continues to raise many questions related to best practices, with many receiving answers that appear in direct contradiction of each other.
We have heard some of the best and worst advice related to living a healthy keto lifestyle in our travels, and we'll share some of the least helpful tips below, to help you avoid some commonly-made mistakes.
Here are the top 10 worst keto tips or proclamations we've ever heard:
#1. Ketosis is required to lose fat.
It can prove incredibly frustrating if you haven't had a morsel of fruit or bread in a week, and are in ketosis, but the number on the scale is stalled or keeps rising.
Here's the thing, although reducing carbs and increasing ketone production provides many health benefits, we still need a caloric deficit in required energy (calories) to lose weight.
The misinformed may think that eating a ketogenic diet is a free-for-all, but certain dietary principles remain constant: a caloric deficit is needed to lose body fat, regardless of your metabolic state.
Suggestion: Create a dietary and activity plan that creates a caloric deficit to promote weight loss and select high-fat, low-glycemic, food options to eat to maintain hormonal health and further support metabolic function.
Fortunately, a ketogenic diet naturally suppresses the appetite and curbs cravings without any additional aid.
However, we can further support the hunger-suppressing nature of ketosis by doing the following:
- Eliminate all processed foods, especially sugary or high-carb snack foods
- Comprise your meal plan of quality fat and protein foods like fish, meat, eggs, and cheese
- Eat your dark leafy greens, and other low-glycemic veggies, to increase your fiber intake and aid in digestion
- Get moving! Take a brisk and energizing walk to stimulate the body and mind or pause during the day for a soothing stretch break. Exercise increases ketone production and boosts energy, so find something you enjoy and get going!
- Experiment with intermittent fasting
- Monitor your caloric intake daily and maintain a deficit to facilitate weight loss
- Use smaller plates to curb portion sizes and ask for a to-go container upfront to avoid overeating when dining out
- Fill your fridge and pantry with keto-friendly options and toss out all unhealthy foods; keeping junk food out of site can also keep it out of mind, and mouth
- Keep it simple. Some quit keto or any diet because it's too difficult to maintain within the context of their daily lives. Return to eating organic, whole, foods and avoid processed fare to achieve sustainable and consistent weight loss.
Strive to enter ketosis using some of the basic principles outlined in our detailed article, here, and consider implementing any number of tips noted above to maximize weight loss on a ketogenic diet, both in and out of metabolic ketosis.
#2. Keto is ideal for everyone.
The rise in popularity of the ketogenic diet has inquirers flocking to the protocol to improve their health, but a ketogenic diet may not be the best weight-loss approach for everyone.
The best weight-loss plan is the one we can adhere to as a lifestyle. Unfortunately, the restrictive nature of keto can make complying to the protocol more challenging for some.
While immediate weight loss is likely on keto, some may find long-term compliance difficult if the approach doesn't work with their overall lifestyle.
Consider whether significant carbohydrate restriction is something you can commit to for the long haul, or consider oscillating and eating a cyclical diet that allows for periods with either more significant or looser restriction of carb intake—an approach flexible enough to accommodate the special occasions in life, as well as its ebbs and flows.
# 3. Calories don't matter, restrict carbs.
A diet that allows followers to eat an unlimited amount of calories and still lose weight is a fantasy. Regardless of whether you're eating a plant-based diet or are a carb-crushing carnivore, again, a caloric deficit is essential to facilitate fat loss.
Suggestion: Use a free calculator like that provided by MyFitnessPal to determine the ideal caloric target that creates a deficit to produce fat loss—and comprise your meal plan primary of fats, with a moderate amount of protein, to experience the regenerative health benefits of metabolic ketosis.
Remember, ketosis doesn't always equal weight loss. So, if you notice the number on the scale stalling or rising, you may want to cut back on the fat bombs and return to tracking everything you eat until you're back on track.
#4. Avoid all net carbs because they make you fat!
Consuming carbs in excess that results in a caloric surplus or an interruption in healthy metabolic function can directly impair weight loss, no doubt.
But carbohydrates consumed sparingly and thoughtfully, being mindful of selecting low-glycemic options, is permissible and advisable on a ketogenic diet; we would otherwise eliminate the complex spectrum of vitamins and nutrients provided by foods like dark leafy greens or even the fat-fueled favorite, avocado.
Furthermore, completely banning carbs altogether can pose a formidable challenge because there are a form and portion of sugar in virtually all foods. With that being said, the idea of avoiding all sugar forever seems like a life filled with obsessive monitoring—not suited for long-term sustainability.
Suggestion: Limit the consumption of high-glycemic carbs like carrots and pineapples that will spike glucose and compromise the benefits of ketosis, and concentrate on eating a broad spectrum of low-glycemic fruits and vegetables, along with quality proteins and fats, each day.
Pack your plate with nutritious dark leafy greens or brighten a bowl of chia pudding with some ruby red raspberries for an abundant serving of nutrients delivered with a minimal glucose impact.
#5. Cholesterol numbers don't matter on keto.
Most people experience an improvement in cholesterol and blood lipid health when living in a ketotic state, but those with compromised cholesterol health may need special monitoring on a ketogenic diet to avoid complications.
Consult with your physician if you plan to begin a ketogenic diet with a pre-existing cholesterol disorder to design a dietary plan in consideration of your current health. Also, consider revisiting your blood lipid readings every four to five months to ensure appropriate level ranges.
But keep in mind, although we mention taking precautionary measures because of the small subset of individuals who may experience complications on keto related to cholesterol, the majority of those on the plan note significant improvement in cholesterol health.
Suggestion: Work with your physician to monitor your blood lipids and other vitals during your ketogenic journey to ensure that the approach is improving rather than compromising your health.
Concentrate your meal plan around eating fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, or sardines, along with grass-fed meats and an abundance of alkalizing dark leafy greens. Also, frequently correspond with your physician or medical team to monitor your progress and make dietary changes accordingly.
#6. Restrict protein intake because it'll disrupt ketosis.
Consuming large amounts of protein can decrease ketone levels in the body, and may even have an anti-ketogenic effect, but consuming moderate amounts of protein per the keto protocol should not impair ketosis.
Protein and fat are very satiating and eating both as the lion’s share of your meal plan will help you eat less as you'll feel fuller faster, and for a longer period.
Plus, protein is essential to the development, function, and repair of muscle tissue and consuming adequate amounts—especially if eating to create a deficit to facilitate fat loss—improves the preservation of muscle tissue.
Suggestion: Focus on consuming an amount of protein appropriate to your needs (e.g., the caloric demands on the body of a high-performance athlete versus someone working a sedentary desk job are entirely different).
Here's some information to use as a primary guideline for amino acid intake:
- If you are sedentary — consume 0.6 – 0.8g of protein per pound of lean body mass.
- If you're regularly active — have 0.8 – 1.0g of protein per pound of lean body mass.
- If you lift weights — eat 1.0 – 1.2g of protein per pound of lean body mass
Protein is essential in the development and function of all systems in the body, a building block of our entire physical form, and delving into ways to use protein to support fitness, and wellness goals are worth the read.
See our detailed article on the benefits of protein on keto for weight loss, here.
#7. Use ketone salts or ketone esters to increase fat loss.
Taking exogenous ketone supplements are a great way to deepen levels of metabolic ketosis and boost its related health benefits, including enhanced energy to help you power through fat-burning workouts. But exogenous ketones in and of themselves do not cause fat loss.
However, the impact of exogenous ketones can suppress ghrelin (our “hunger” hormone) and decrease appetite or a desire to eat, which can lead to weight loss without any other targeted effort—so, still a powerful weight loss tool on a ketogenic diet.
Suggestion: Focus on improving the quality of the foods you eat and maximize nourishment through diet before including supplements. However, when looking to add onto a foundationally sound diet, to enhance an already solid meal plan, Keto Activate, is an excellent option.
#8. You don’t need to exercise when you are on the keto diet.
It is possible to release body fat on a ketogenic diet without rigorous exercise, but coupling regular physical activity with eating healthy food offers benefits that go beyond a change in dress size.
In addition to burning additional calories, which contribute to creating the caloric deficit required to release fat, adding a brisk walk to your daily routine will get your blood pumping and boost endorphins, which offers a therapeutic mind-body effect that promotes holistic well-being.
Suggestion: Remember the full circle of health benefits of a ketotic state (e.g., increased energy, enhanced mental sharpness, accelerated fat loss, etc.) and consider including a form of physical fitness that you enjoy into your wellness regimen to boost ketone bodies throughout the day and support optimal vitality on a ketogenic diet.
#9. Not getting results with the keto diet? Cut more carbs!
A stall on the scale can relate to several factors, including energy output, in contrast to intake, or the quality of one's restorative sleep each night—but eliminating carbs or drastically restricting calories is probably not the answer.
Also, if the only solution is to restrict carbs and calories further to lose weight on keto during periods where weight loss plateaus, the plan may not be feasible long-term.
Consider tweaking your workout frequency or intensity and keep an eye on maintaining a caloric deficit to keep the scale progressively moving toward a decline rather than restricting to unrealistic levels.
Suggestion: Take some time to evaluate your entire regimen if you're noticing a plateau despite cutting the carbs.
Also, focus on centering yourself with meditation and other grounding practices to stabilize stress hormones like cortisol that can disrupt metabolic function and inform the body to store fat—especially around the abdomen.
#10. Keto is a Cure-all!
Cutting carbs can offer many powerful health benefits related to balancing blood sugar and mood, among with other things, for many.
But even with this being the case, there are instances where additional medical intervention or monitoring is necessary.
However, dietary choices still play a significant role in health.
Research shows that low-carb diets can help people with the following conditions:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Type 1 Diabetes
- High Blood Pressure
- High Blood Sugar Levels
- Heart Disease
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- Fatty Liver Disease
Also, emerging evidence even suggests that a keto diet may be more effective than low-carb diets that allow higher levels of carb consumption.
Furthermore, keto diets have been found to help patients with the following:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
The neuroprotective benefits of a ketogenic diet are well documented and established, proving especially helpful to children with epilepsy and autism. However, additional research is needed to gather clinical data on its holistic therapeutic benefits.
Fortunately, preliminary anecdotal findings in those suffering from disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and type 2 diabetes are promising—making it worth considering as a critical component of any wellness protocol.
Suggestion: Consult your medical practitioner and work with them to devise a comprehensive dietary and fitness program that offers regenerative benefits and aids in accomplishing your desired health goals—there are many ways to customize a ketogenic diet to suit your needs.
A single piece of advice when starting a ketogenic lifestyle can be a blessing to one and damaging to another; it's not a one-size-fits-all endeavor.
For instance, while low-glycemic nuts are an excellent dietary option for many on keto because of their high-fat, low-carb, content, someone on a very restrictive therapeutic ketogenic nutritional protocol may be advised to avoid these foods.
Remember, the foundation of the ketogenic diet is keeping carbs low even more so than maximizing fat intake, and some approaches may recommend lower fat intake based on an individuals' condition and goals.
That a ketogenic diet is malleable is good news to those interested in adopting the lifestyle.
Just remember that what's beneficial advice for one may not be that for another and that embracing keto requires an individualized approach to facilitate a pleasant transition and to formulate a program that one can sustain long-term.
We feel like we've heard and seen a lot related to the experiences of those starting, fumbling through, or thriving on a ketogenic lifestyle and know that knowledge can help others avoid some mistakes people make as a result of well-intentioned, but misguided, advice that's not right for them.
Read our guide on starting a ketogenic diet as a simple primer, a framework, to the dietary style and don't be afraid to make adjustments often on your journey whenever further refinement is needed.
A ketogenic diet is a marathon and not a sprint; it’s truly a lifestyle. Take the time to get to know how your body responds to different foods to determine which create feelings of peak performance and which not so much.
You'll become more attuned to what's working or not as you try new foods and activities on a ketogenic diet.
Take a mental note of how you feel after eating particularly wholesome, unprocessed, keto foods, and staying very active for a week versus how you feel when eating more processed foods and living more sedentary—the way to go will become crystal clear.
Finally, use how you feel, in general, to determine which advice and tactics to keep and which to ditch, along with the carbs, on keto—you staying dialed into how you feel is your most valuable gauge of success.
Newman, J. C., Kroll, F., Ulrich, S., Palop, J. J., & Verdin, E. (2017). Ketogenic diet or BHB improves epileptiform spikes, memory, survival in Alzheimer’s model. doi:10.1101/136226